Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage

By Clyde K. Hyder | Go to book overview

27.

William Morton Payne: ‘Algernon Charles Swinburne’

1897

William Morton Payne (1858-1919) became associate editor of the Chicago Dial, a periodical to which he contributed some reviews of Swinburne’s books. In 1905 he published Selected Poems of Swinburne and in 1907 The Greater English Poets of the Nineteenth Century, in which the last chapter is devoted to the poet, and which once more emphasized the value of Swinburne’s later work.

Library of the World’s Best Literature, ed. Charles Dudley Warner.

Early in the eighties, there were living in England six great poets, whose work had given to the later Victorian era of English song a splendour almost comparable to that of the Elizabethan and later Georgian periods. All of these poets but one have now passed away (Rossetti in 1882, Arnold in 1888, Browning in 1889, Tennyson in 1892, and Morris in 1896), leaving Mr. Swinburne in solitary preeminence. In this year of the Queen’s Jubilee he is left with no possible rival among the living; and stands as the Victorian poet par excellence in a peculiarly literal sense, for he was born in the year of her Majesty’s accession to the throne, which makes his sixty years conterminous with the sixty years of her reign. So little has been made public concerning that life, that his personality has remained even more closely veiled than was that of Tennyson; and the facts at the command of the biographer are of the most meagre description. He was the son of a distinguished officer of the Royal Navy; and on his mother’s side, descended from the third Earl of Ashburnham. He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, but left in 1860 without taking a degree. A journey to Italy followed; made chiefly for the purpose of paying a tribute of affectionate admiration to the old poet Landor, then nearing the close of his days in Florence. The greater part of Mr. Swinburne’s life has been

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