Algernon Charles Swinburne

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Swinburne, Algernon Charles

 

Born Apr. 5, 1837, in London; died Apr. 10, 1909, in Putney (London). English poet, playwright, and critic.

Swinburne studied at Eton and at Oxford University, where he became closely associated with D. G. Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelites. His first series of verse collections, Poems and Ballads (1866), was fiercely attacked by bourgeois conservative critics for its daring treatment of “forbidden” (erotic) themes and for its pagan hedonism. In his later works—which included tragedies, novels, and literary monographs, as well as poems— Swinburne coupled his call for moral freedom with an appeal for political freedom. In A Song of Italy (1867) and Songs Before Sunrise (1871), for example, the poet reveals himself to be a confirmed republican and enemy of the church. The theme of man’s struggle against the supreme divine will runs through his verse drama Atalanta in Calydon (1865). Swinburne’s collections of the 1870’s are marked by their romantic, pastoral, and philosophical lyrics; fatalism and the impossibility of happiness occur there, too, as themes. Swinburne reformed English prosody and imparted a special beauty of sound to his poetry. He was also the author of tragedies, dramas in verse, novels, and literary criticism.

WORKS

Complete Works, vols. 1–20. London, 1925–27.
Letters, vols. 1–6. New Haven, Conn., 1959–62.
New Writings. Syracuse, N.Y., 1964.
In Russian translation:
Antología novoi angliiskoi poezii. Leningrad, 1937.

REFERENCES

Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1958.
Fuller, J. O. Swinburne: A Critical Biography. London, 1968.
Swinburne: The Critical Heritage. London, 1970.
Raymond, M. R. Swinburne’s Poetics. The Hague-Paris, 1971.