Swinburne's Literary Career and Fame

Swinburne's Literary Career and Fame

Swinburne's Literary Career and Fame

Swinburne's Literary Career and Fame

Excerpt

"For some students of art there is an especial interest in the study of a faded fame," wrote the young Swinburne in Théophile. Though its author's fame is certainly not faded, the passage might serve as an epigraph to this volume. The poet who made of his hero-worship a religion would have agreed that the impress a man leaves upon the world is highly significant.

In a universe where absolutes baffle the most Platonic dreamer, the student of literature may be excused for harboring curiosity in regard to the problem of what an author has meant to mankind. What various ages have thought of Shakespeare may indeed tell us more of the judges than of the great dramatist at the bar of judgment, but the verdict is not the less important.

There are reasons why a study of Swinburne's reputation is of particular interest. Such a study has some bearing upon literary history and may serve to illuminate works like Notes on Poems and Reviews, Under the Microscope, the Dedicatory Epistle of 1904, as well as numerous short passages and allusions in the poet's writings. To see Swinburne as he was, we must look at him in the midst of enemies, in the heat of battle, giving and receiving blows; out of such warfare grew the incomparable Swinburnian invective. I wish, though I scarcely dare hope, that my record might help to destroy some of the critical traditions which still becloud the fame of a great poet. Possibly, too, students will find this book useful for its notes and bibliography. Incidentally, I may remark that in spite of checking and repeated verification the enormous mass of material makes the avoidance of all error improbable.

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