July 1871, cxxxiv, 94-9
‘Swinburne’s Poems’ in the Edinburgh Review (cxxxiv, 71-99) begins with unfavourable consideration of all Swinburne’s earlier volumes except Atalanta in Calydon before discussing Songs before Sunrise. It anticipated Robert Buchanan’s ‘fleshly school’ by identifying Swinburne as belonging to ‘the sensational school’ and ‘the corrupted school of French art and French poetry’. According to The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, the article was the work of Thomas Spencer Baynes. In 1864 Baynes had been elected to the chair of logic, metaphysics, and literature at the University of St. Andrews. As editor of the ninth edition of the Encyclopœdia Britannica he enlisted Swinburne as a contributor, and between 1875 and 1883 the two men were occasional correspondents.
It is true that in all periods of art, both ancient and modern, there have been some who, in violation of its higher requirements, have given an extreme and exaggerated prominence to the physical details of human suffering. But it was reserved for the modern sensational school to reverse the great and pervading law which holds alike in nature and in art—to make, that is, bodily suffering an end to itself, instead of employing it as a means for the attainment of higher and nobler ends. The writers of this school appear to delight in extreme physical experiences—ecstasies and horrors—for their own sake, or rather for the sake of the morbid appetite they create and help for the moment to gratify. One of the worst but most inevitable results of this sensational literature is, indeed, to be found in the diseased appetite for artificial mental stimulants it produces, and which takes away the relish for wholesome and nourishing literary food. All coarse and violent stimulants deaden the finer sensibilities on which they act, and thus not only destroy the natural capacity for enjoyment of a more refined and satisfying kind, but produce a restless and intensely selfish craving
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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: 133.
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