She and I quarrelled & differed about almost every thing,-she calls me a democrat, & can not bear Tennyson- but we like each other heartily I think & I hope we shall ripen into friends. (EG to Charlotte Freude, 25 August 1850)
And it is also true that Charlotte Brontë disliked Tennyson's In Memoriam (the poem that the poet devoted to his late friend Arthur Henry Hallam (1811-33), published in 1850).
But it is also true that Tennyson was not a rara avis in the Parsonage. After the failure of the Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, the sisters decided to send some of the unsold copies to well-known poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, De Quincey and Tennyson (16 June 1847)(1)
Sir—My relatives, Ellis & Acton Bell and myself, heedless of the repeated warnings of various respectable publishers, have committed the rash act of printing a volume of poems.
The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken us; our book is found to be a drug; no man needs it or heeds it; in the space of a year our publisher has disposed but of two copies and by what painful efforts he succeeded in getting rid of those two—himself only knows.
Before transferring the edition to the trunk-makers, we have decided on distributing as presents a few copies of what we cannot sell. We beg to offer you one in acknowledgement of the pleasure and profit we have often and long derived from your works.
I am sir, yours very respectfully,
Currer Bell (MS is at the Beineker Library at Yale)
And Tennyson was popular enough with at least Emily Brontë as to be chosen as a gift to her sister when Charlotte and Anne were in London in their famous July 1848 visit. They chose the recently published The Princess (1847). The familiarity of Charlotte Brontë with Tennyson is unquestionable: In February 1849 William Smith Williams (WSW) sent Charlotte a parcel of books including Tennyson's Poems, which Charlotte informed him she already possessed(2); in October 1850 reviewing for WSW Sydney Dobell's(3) The Roman, she praised him with a
You hear Tennyson indeed sometimes and Byron sometimes in some passages of the 'Roman'. (CB to WSW, 25 October 1850)
Fortunately, recently some scholars have begun to re-examine Tennyson's influence on Charlotte Brontë. We are thinking of Alison Hoddinott, who in a recent issue of Brontë Studies(4) exposed the so-called Perils of Biography: Charlotte Brontë and Tennyson:
It has been generally accepted by biographers that Charlotte Brontë thoroughly disliked Tennyson's poetry. This belief is based on a remark made by Elizabeth Gaskell in a letter written shortly after her first meeting with Charlotte. This article challenges the accepted view and explores the literary connections between The Princess and Shirley and between In Memoriam and Villette and argues that Tennyson had a complex influence on Charlotte Brontë's last two novels.
We don't know for sure, of course, if Charlotte Brontë felt the influence of Tennyson or loathed him, but what we do know is what Tennyson himself thought of the Brontës. According to his son and biographer Hallam Tennyson who printed Charlotte's letter to his father in his book: Alfred Lord Tennyson: A memoir (1897):
For the sisters Brontë my father had the highest admiration. (p. 262)
(1) Curiously enough in a review of the 3d edition of Jane Eyre (which included a reissue of The Poems), the Standard of Freedom's reviewer (21 Oct 1848) commented
"We meet wandering echoes of Wordsworth" (as in Acton Bell's Memory) and of Tennyson.