Ah the singing, ah the delight, the passion!


April 10 this year marked the centenary of the death of Algernon Charles Swinburne at the age of seventy-two. The anniversary went largely unremarked, though an observation to that effect in the Guardian provoked an “Oh no it didn’t” letter, announcing that there was to be a centenary conference at the University of London and a collection of academic essays later in the year. Swinburne has indeed been well served within the professional enclave of Victorian studies. The distinguished critic and editor Jerome McGann, in particular, has been an unstinting advocate, from his early Swinburne: An experiment in criticism (1972) to an exemplary edition of the selected Major Poems and Selected Prose (2004). In the wider culture Swinburne is now no more than a name, if that. Early biographical records are usefully gathered in Lives of Victorian Literary Figures VI, Volume Three: Algernon Charles Swinburne, edited by Rikky Rooksby (Pickering and Chatto, 2008). Rooksby is also the author of the most recent Life of Swinburne (1997): it is a highly informative work, as is Swinburne: The portrait of a poet by Philip Henderson (1974). But what is lacking is a biography that really gets under his skin in the manner of Richard Holmes’s Shelley: The pursuit, while his copious poetic output has long languished on the shelves of second-hand bookshops.

more from Jonathan Bate at the TLS here.