The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne

By Edmund Gosse | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
SONGS OF THE REPUBLIC (1867-1870)

WHEN 1867 opened Swinburne was still in a selfconscious state of upheaval, still, as he put it, "the centre of such a moral chaos that even our excellent Houghton maintains a discreet and consistent neutrality." His late publishers pretended ignorance of his address, and dismissed all his correspondence to the Dead Letter Office. This and other impertinences produced in him a sort of reckless dejection. He had braved public opinion, and now he shrank from an obloquy which he had courted, and the extent of which he exaggerated. Yet he had no intention of pacifying his enemies; he even planned a more determined attack on their susceptibilities. On the 11th of January he wrote to Burton, who was now consul at Santos in Brazil:

I have in hand a scheme of mixed verse and prose,1 -- a sort of étude à la Balzae plus the poetry -- which I flatter

____________________
1
Swinburne carried out this scheme in a disjointed romance called, from the name of its heroine, Lesbia Brandon. After keeping it for nearly ten years in MS., he had it set up in type in 1877. The original MS. is lost, but a single galley-proof, lacking both the beginning and the end, was kept by Mr. Andrew Chatto, and is now in Mr. T. J. Wise's collection. In his opinion and mine this mélange of prose and verse, which Swinburne thought he had completely suppressed, ought never to be published.

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