Swinburne: A Literary Biography

By Georges Lafourcade | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
OXFORD

NOT only are we in the dark about the reason why Swinburne left Eton, but also about where he went. Some biographers state, not without exaggeration, that the years 1853-56 are, in Swinburne's life, 'almost a blank'. Others have conjectured that he spent those three years 'climbing and swimming'--a remarkable feat of endurance, even if we allow for some intervals of rest. Others there are who believe that he was from the first coached for Oxford. Sir George Young told me that, after so many years, he remembered having heard that Swinburne 'had gone to France with a tutor'. But the poet himself stated that he 'never was out of England till he was eighteen'. Moreover, had he been abroad he would have sent letters home, and it is probable that his very inaccurate but understanding and devoted editor, Mrs. Disney Leith, would have published some extracts from them. We must be content with what evidence there is, but we cannot afford, as many of our predecessors have, to reject or ignore any. A few facts emerge; they will be briefly stated.

In October 1853 Swinburne did not return to Eton; in October-November, 1854, when the news of the Balaklava charge reached England, he was at East Dene, and still fostered hopes that he might be allowed to enter the army; it was in the 'Christmas

-51-

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Swinburne: A Literary Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • By the Same Author ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Chapter I Semel Et Semper 1
  • Chapter II Childhood 15
  • Chapter III Eton 31
  • Chapter IV Oxford 51
  • Chapter V Ballads and Poems (1860-1866) 84
  • Chapter VI Songs After Sunset (1866-1872) 145
  • Chapter VII the Coming of Watts (1872-1879) 207
  • Chapter VIII 'Where the Wet Hill-Winds Weep' (1879-1909) 263
  • Bibliographical Note 304
  • Index 309
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