Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage

By Clyde K. Hyder | Go to book overview
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SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE

1871


15.

Unsigned review, Saturday Review

14 January 1871, xxxi, 54-5

Notable for captiousness and unfairness, the following review begins with a comparison which Swinburne referred to in Under the Microscope.

It was once our fortune, in one of our walks, to come upon a naughty little boy who was challenging the admiration of a small knot of his playfellows. He stood by the side of a large puddle and announced his attention to walk boldly into it. It was in vain that the little girls of the company reminded him of the precepts of virtue, and held the wrath of his nurse and mother over his head. In contempt of all such exhortations and threats he dashed in, scattered the muddy water about, and splashed himself and all the rest from top to toe. Finding that this daring action, even if it was regarded with disapproval, yet met with no small amount of admiration, he went to still further lengths. He danced about in the puddle, he then stooped down and dipped his head into it, and at last, rising (or sinking) to a pitch of heroic defiance of all law and custom, he lay down and had a good roll in it. Greatness could go no further than this. He was like Alexander when he had no lands left to conquer, and he saw that there was nothing remaining for him to do but to have a second and a third roll. The reproofs which he received from the more timid and proper among his playfellows, and the applause which he received from the more daring and turbulent spirits, produced the same effect. They only urged him on to revel more than ever in his muddy puddle. He evidently delighted in the thought that he was the naughtiest of the

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