For many years Swinburne admired Carlyle, but Carlyle’s opinion of Swinburne was more unfavourable than Arnold’s. William Allingham reported his saying, ‘There is not the least intellectual value in anything he writes’ (A Diary, p. 258). Since more than one person has hinted that Carlyle made harsher remarks than this, the phrasing attributed to him in an interview (first described by the editor of this volume in ‘Emerson on Swinburne: A Sensational Interview’, Modern Language Notes, March 1933, xlviii, 180-2), outrageous as it is, may be less inaccurate than one would prefer to believe. We cannot be sure that the interviewer quoted Emerson accurately, but, since he did not disavow the interview, Swinburne assumed that Emerson was responsible for what he was reported to have said.
From an interview appearing in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 3 January 1874, 275: He [Emerson] condemned Swinburne severely as a perfect leper and a mere sodomite, which criticism recalls Carlyle’s scathing description of that poet—as a man standing up to his neck in a cesspool, and adding to its contents. Morris, the author of The Earthly Paradise, is just the opposite of Swinburne, and will help to neutralize his bad influence on the public.
[Swinburne’s letter to the New York Daily Tribune is given in Lang, ii, 274-5. One sentence will indicate the tone: ‘A foul mouth is so ill matched with a white beard that I would gladly believe the newspaper scribes alone responsible for the bestial utterances which they declare to have dropped from a teacher whom such disciples as these exhibit to our disgust and compassion as performing on their obscene platform the last tricks of tongue now possible to a gap-toothed and hoaryheaded ape, carried at first into notice on the shoulder of Carlyle, and who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his
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Publication information: Book title: Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage. Contributors: Clyde K. Hyder - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 118.
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