John Ruskin did not approve of all of Swinburne’s poems but consistently showed himself to be friendly and generously recognized his genius.
(i) From a letter to C. E. Norton, 28 January 1866 (Letters of John Ruskin to Charles Eliot Norton [1904, i, 157]): Have you read Swinburne’s Atalanta? The grandest thing ever yet done by a youth—though he is a Demoniac youth. Whether ever he will be clothed and in his right mind, heaven only knows. His foam at the mouth is fine, meantime.
(ii) Letter to Swinburne, 9 September 1866 (Lang, i, 182; this and the following letter are quoted by permission of the Yale University Press): I did not like to thank you for the Poems before I had read them, and their power is so great, and their influence so depressing, that I can read but very little at a time. I have been ill, besides, and unable to read anything.
It is of no use to tell you what you, like all good artists, know perfectly well of your work; and from my own manner of later work you know also very well that I can understand yours, and think of it as I ought, which is all that needs to be said between us, it seems to me, as to the art of the book.
For the matter of it—I consent to much—I regret much—I blame, or reject nothing. I should as soon think of finding fault with you as with a thundercloud or a nightshade blossom. All I can say of you, or them—is that God made you, and that you are very wonderful and beautiful. To me it may be dreadful or deadly—it may be in a deeper sense, or in certain relations, helpful and medicinal. There is assuredly something wrong with you—awful in proportion to the great power it affects, and renders (nationally) at present useless. So it was with Turner, so with Byron. It seems to be the peculiar judgment-curse of modern days that all their greatest men shall be plague-struck. But the truth and majesty which is in their greatest, causes the plague which is underneath, in the hearts of meaner people, smooth outwardly, to