Swinburne: A Literary Biography

By Georges Lafourcade | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
ETON

'VERY generally and admirably ignorant'; if we accept this as an accurate description we must admit that during the four years he spent at school Swinburne achieved a complete transformation. When he left Eton in August 1853 he had attained to a fairly extensive knowledge of Greek and Latin poetry, a good acquaintance with some French and Italian classics and a truly remarkable reading in English Literature, and he had begun to write poetry of real merit, though purely imitative in character. From the academic point of view, he had a very fair record. In this light one is inclined to interpret the numerous goodhumoured references to Eton in his works and correspondence and the Ode on the 450th anniversary of the College as tokens of a well-founded gratitude. We have however already had warnings that in writing a biography of Swinburne it is just as dangerous to paint the facts in too dark as in too rosy a hue. The purely idyllic or the cynical standpoint will never do. One must rather aim at striking a middle course, and the facts cannot too carefully be considered. What is the precise extent of Swinburne's debt to Eton?

From an intellectual point of view he owed Eton something but not as much as might be expected. He no doubt benefited by the double education imparted on different lines according to the Master and Tutor system: the frequent change of the former combined

-31-

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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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