Richard Swinburne

Swinburne, Algernon Charles

Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1837–1909, English poet and critic. His poetry is noted for its vitality and for the music of its language. After attending Eton (1849–53) and Oxford (1856–60) he settled in London on an allowance from his father. His first published volume, containing two blank verse plays entitled The Queen Mother and Rosamond (1860), attracted little attention, but Atalanta in Calydon (1865), a poetic drama modeled on Greek tragedy, brought him fame. In 1866 he published Poems and Ballads. The poems in this volume were savagely attacked for their sensuality and anti-Christian sentiments, but almost as excessively praised in other quarters for their technical facility and infusion of new energy into Victorian poetry. The poet's enthusiasm for the dreams for Italian unification of Giuseppe Mazzini (whom he met in 1867) found expression in A Song of Italy (1867) and Songs before Sunrise (1871). Swinburne had certain masochistic tendencies that, combined with his chronic epilepsy and his alcoholism, seriously undermined his health. By 1878 he was near death. He was restored to health under the supervision of Theodore Watts-Dunton, with whom he lived after 1879. For the final 30 years of his life he lived a closely supervised and highly ordered existence. Swinburne is equally famous as a poet and as a critic. Although many of his lyrics are weakened by verbosity and excessive use of stylistic devices, these flaws do not obscure the vigor and music in such pieces as the choruses from Atalanta, "The Garden of Proserpine," "The Triumph of Time," "A Forsaken Garden," "Ave atque vale" (an elegy on Baudelaire), and "Hertha." Swinburne also wrote three closet dramas on Mary Queen of Scots—Chastelard (1865), Bothwell (1874), and Mary Stuart (1881). His long poem Tristram of Lyonesse (1882) presents an intensely passionate vision of the medieval legend. Swinburne's critical work is marred by exaggerated vituperation and praise, digressiveness, and a flamboyant style, but he performed useful services in stimulating just appreciation of older English dramatists and of William Blake.

See his complete works (ed. by E. Gosse and T. J. Wise, 20 vol., 1925–27, repr. 1968); his letters (ed. by C. Y. Lang, 6 vol., 1959–62); biographies by G. Lafourcade (1932, repr. 1967), J. O. Fuller (1971), M. Panter-Downes (1971), and P. Henderson (1974); studies by S. C. Chew (1929, repr. 1966), E. Thomas (1912, repr. 1970), and C. K. Hyder, ed. (1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Reason and the Christian Religion: Essays in Honour of Richard Swinburne
Alan G. Padgett; Richard Swinburne.
Oxford University, 1994
Is There a God?
Richard Swinburne.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Responsibility and Atonement
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1989
The Christian God
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1994
The Evolution of the Soul
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1997 (Revised edition)
Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1992
Faith and Reason
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1983
Providence and the Problem of Evil
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1998
The Existence of God
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1991
Epistemic Justification
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 2001
The Resurrection of God Incarnate
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 2003
The Coherence of Theism
Richard Swinburne.
Clarendon Press, 1993 (Revised edition)
God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science
Neil A. Manson.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Argument to God from Fine-Tuning Reassessed" by Richard Swinburne
God and Time: Essays on the Divine Nature
Gregory E. Ganssle; David M. Woodruff.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Swinburne's Principles about Time" begins on p. 157
Atheism: A Philosophical Justification
Michael Martin.
Temple University Press, 1990
Does God's Existence Need Proof?
Richard Messer.
Clarendon Press, 1997
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