Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage

By Clyde K. Hyder | Go to book overview

13.

Alfred Austin: ‘Mr. Swinburne’

1870

Austin’s critique originally appeared in Temple Bar, July 1869, xxvi, 457-74; it was reprinted, with very slight changes, in his Poetry of the Period (1870), the text of which is followed here. Austin’s leading idea is that the age made great poetry impossible. Most of the poets are compared unfavourably with Byron, a comparison leading Browning to allude to Austin in ‘Pacchiarotto’ as ‘Banjo-Byron’. In Under the Microscope Swinburne discusses Austin’s views (see Introduction, section IV).

In my essay on Mr. Browning I have shown how dissatisfaction with the poetry of Mr. Tennyson, as an exponent of the age, has driven even his once frantic admirers to hearken for yet another voice, and how, in their ignorance of what it is in Mr. Tennyson that fails to satisfy them, they have pitched upon Mr. Browning of all people to supply the omission. What Mr. Tennyson wanted, I said, was loftiness; what Mr. Browning possessed, I observed, was depth; and I added that, this distinction once made, it was obvious that the one could not possibly supplement the other, having no earthly affinity with it. But there exists another distinction between them, which, though in complete harmony with the one I have already drawn, sets the matter in another, and for my present purpose still more important, light. If I were asked to sum up the characteristics of Mr. Tennyson’s compositions in a single word, the word I should employ would be ‘feminine’, and if I had to do the same for Mr. Browning’s genius, the word inevitably selected would be ‘studious’. The pen of the latter is essentially the pen of a student; the muse of the former is essentially—I must not say the muse of a woman, for I should be rendering myself liable to misconception, but—a feminine muse. And in these two salient qualities they are unquestionably representative men, and typify two of the prominent tendencies of the time. We have just had, from a much revered source, an essay on the Subjection of Women; but I think it would not be

-92-

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Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Notes xlv
  • Acknowledgments l
  • Note on the Text li
  • The Queen-Mother and Rosamond 1
  • 1 - Unsigned Notice, Spectator 1
  • 2 - Unsigned Notice, Athenaeum 2
  • Some Views of the Young Swinburne 3
  • Atalanta in Calydon 9
  • 4 - Unsigned Review, Saturday Review 9
  • Chastelard 17
  • 5 - Unsigned Review, Athenaeum 17
  • Poems and Ballads 22
  • 6 - John Morley, Saturday Review 22
  • 7 - Robert Buchanan, Athenaeum 30
  • 8 - Unsigned Review, London Review 35
  • 9 - Buchanan: 'The Session of the Poets', Spectator 39
  • 10 - Henry Morley, Examiner 42
  • 11 - Swinburne Defends His Poems 49
  • 12 - W. M. Rossetti, Swinburne's Poems and Ballads 57
  • 13 - Alfred Austin: 'Mr. Swinburne' 92
  • Obiter Dicta by Contemporary Men of Letters 112
  • 14(a) - Alfred Tennyson 112
  • 14(b) - Robert Browning 114
  • 14(c) - Matthew Arnold 116
  • 14(d) - Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson 118
  • 14(e) - John Ruskin 120
  • 14(f) - William Morris 123
  • 14(g) - George Meredith 124
  • 14(h) - Edward Lytton Bulwer-Lytton 125
  • Songs Before Sunrise 127
  • 15 - Unsigned Review, Saturday Review 127
  • 16 - Unsigned Review, Edinburgh Review 133
  • 17 - Franz Hüffer, Academy 139
  • 18 - Swinburne on Robert Buchanan's Self-Revelations 146
  • 19 - A. C. Hilton: 'Octopus' 156
  • 20 - E. C. Stedman on Swinburne 158
  • Erechtheus 163
  • 21 - John Addington Symonds, Review, Academy 163
  • 22 - W. K. Clifford on Songs Before Sunrise 170
  • Poems and Ballads: Second Series 177
  • 23 - Theodore Watts, Athenaeum 177
  • 24 - Maupassant on Swinburne 185
  • 25 - F. W. H. Myers on Swinburne's Weltanschauung 188
  • 26 - George Saintsbury: 'Mr. Swinburne' 198
  • 27 - William Morton Payne: 'Algernon Charles Swinburne' 207
  • 28 - An Imaginary Correspondence 213
  • 29 - Swinburne: a Backward Glance 215
  • 30 - Oliver Elton: 'Mr. Swinburne's Poems' 218
  • 31 - Max Beerbohm: 'No. 2 the Pines' 233
  • Index 251
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