4 August 1866, 137-8
The author of this unsigned review, Robert Buchanan, asks, ‘How old is this young gentleman?’ Like John Morley, who was more than a year younger than Swinburne, Buchanan was Swinburne’s junior. Now almost forgotten except for his attack (later renounced) on Rossetti and ‘the fleshly school’, Buchanan, in 1866, had already gained recognition as a poet and was to be prolific as versifier, dramatist, and novelist. He became involved in several squabbles, late in life attacking Kipling as vehemently as he had earlier attacked ‘the fleshly school’. Published on the same day as Morley’s review, Buchanan’s differs from Morley’s in its allegation of insincerity and its almost unqualified denial of literary merit in Poems and Ballads.
Mr. Swinburne commenced his literary career with considerable brilliance. His Atalanta in Calydon evinced noticeable gifts of word-painting and of music; and his Chastelard, though written in a monotone, contained several passages of dramatic force and power. In the latter work, however, there was too open a proclivity to that garish land beyond the region of pure thinking, whither so many inferior writers have been lured for their destruction—the land where Atys became a raving and sexless maniac, and where Catullus himself would have perished had he not been drawn back to the shadier border-region by the sincerity of his one grand passion. The glory of our modern poetry is its transcendent purity—no less noticeable in the passionate sweetness of Keats and Shelley than in the cold severity of Wordsworth; a purity owing much to the splendid truth of its sensuous colouring. More or less unavailing have been all the efforts of insincere writers to stain the current of our literature with impure thought; and those who have made the attempt have invariably done so with a view to conceal their own literary inferiority. Very rarely indeed a mighty physical nature has found utterance in warmer, less measured terms than are commonly employed