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A Short Biographical Sketch of ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE (1837 to 1909)

by John W. Cousin

SWINBURNE, ALGERNON CHARLES (1837-1909). —Poet, s. of Admiral S. and of Lady Jane Ashburnham, dau. of the 3rd Earl of A., b. in London, received his early education in France, and was at Eton and at Balliol Coll., Oxf., where he attracted the attention of Jowett, and gave himself to the study of Latin, Greek, French, and Italian, with special reference to poetic form. He left Oxf. without graduating in 1860, and in the next year pub. two plays, The Queen Mother and Rosamund, which made no impression on the public, though a few good judges recognised their promise. The same year he visited Italy, and there made the acquaintance of Walter Savage Landor (q.v.). On his return he lived for some time in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, with D.G. Rossetti (q.v.), and G. Meredith (q.v.). The appearance in 1865 of Atalanta in Calydon led to his immediate recognition as a poet of the first order, and in the same year he pub.Chastelard, a Tragedy, the first part of a trilogy relating to Mary Queen of Scots, the other two being Bothwell (1874), and Mary Stuart (1881). Poems and Ballads, pub. in 1866, created a profound sensation alike among the critics and the general body of readers by its daring departure from recognised standards, alike of politics and morality, and gave rise to a prolonged and bitter controversy, S. defending himself against his assailants in Notes on Poems and Reviews. His next works were the Song of Italy (1867) and Songs before Sunrise (1871). Returning to the Greek models which he had followed with such brilliant success in Atalanta he produced Erechtheus (1876), the extraordinary metrical power of which won general admiration. Poems and Ballads, second series, came out in 1878. Tristram of Lyonnesse in heroic couplets followed in 1882, A Midsummer Holiday (1884), Marino Faliero (1885), Locrine (1887), Poems and Ballads, third series (1889), The Sisters (1892), Astrophel (1894), The Tale of Balen (1896), Rosamund, Queen of the Lombards (1899), A Channel Passage (1904), and The Duke of Gandia (1908). Among his prose works are Love's Cross Currents (1905) (fiction), William Blake, a Critical Essay (1867), Under the Microscope (1872), in answer to R. Buchanan's Fleshly School of Poetry, George Chapman, a Critical Essay (1875), A Study of Shakespeare (1879), A Study of Victor Hugo (1886), and A Study of Ben Jonson (1889).