The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne

By Edmund Gosse | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
OXFORD (1853-1859)

ALGERNON SWINBURNE left school in the summer of 1853, and he matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, on the 24th of January 1856. How he spent these two years and a half is not at present very clear. He was sixteen when he left Eton and he was nearly nineteen when he went to the University. These are important years in the life of most active and original minds, but we have no evidence that they left much trace upon his. There is reason to believe that at the back of his head, when he made further stay at Eton impossible for him, was the passionate wish to be trained for the army. He would have turned out to be a singular field-officer, it must be presumed, yet cavalry was what he was after. He saw himself galloping to the destruction of kings on a charger as black as night. He said himself that the Balaklava Charge ( Oct. 25, 1854) "eclipsed all other visions," and the date of this proves that the desire to be a beau sabreur was no passing one. "To be prepared for such a chance as that was the one dream of my life." And, so late as 1891, he told Edward Burne-Jones that "the cavalry

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