The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne

By Edmund Gosse | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
CHILDHOOD -- ETON (1837-1853)

IT would be interesting to see what light a man of penetration, who, like the late Sir Francis Galton, had made a scientific study of the principles of heredity, could throw upon the somewhat extraordinary lineage of Algernon Swinburne. The poet himself was inclined to dwell on the notable character of his parentage on both sides, and to claim to be the efflorescence of two tough and redoubtable races. It is, however, clear that whatever their adventures had been neither the Swinburnes nor the Ashburnhams had produced a poet or a scholar before. They were pure types of the aristocratic class in its moods for producing sportsmen, soldiers, and county magnates. The traveller Henry Swinburne ( 1743 1803) was the sole member of either family who had sought distinction with his pen. This detachment from letters must be dwelt upon, because it was an object of constant interest to the poet himself, who took a considerable' pride in the supposed chivalry and violence of his forbears. In a letter to Stedman, in 1875, after expatiating on the deeds of his ancestors, he wrote

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