Algernon Charles Swinburne

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Algernon Charles Swinburne (London, April 5, 1837 - London, April 10, 1909) was an English poet, controversial in his own day. He invented the roundel form, wrote some novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. From 1903 to 1909 he was constantly nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[1]

Contents

Biography

Swinburne was born at 7 Chester Street, Grosvenor Place, London, on 5 April 1837. He was the eldest of six children born to Captain (later Admiral) Charles Henry Swinburne and Lady Jane Henrietta, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham. He grew up at East Dene in Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight and attended Eton College 1849-53, where he first started writing poetry, and then Balliol College, Oxford 1856-60 with a brief hiatus when he was rusticated from the university in 1859, returning in May 1860, though he never received a degree.

He spent summer holidays at Capheaton Hall in Northumberland, the house of his grandfather, Sir John Swinburne, 6th Baronet (1762–1860) (see Swinburne Baronets) who had a famous library and was President of the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle upon Tyne. Swinburne considered Northumberland to be his native county, an emotion memorably reflected in poems like the intensely patriotic 'Northumberland', 'Grace Darling' and others. He enjoyed riding his pony across the moors (he was a daring horseman) 'through honeyed leagues of the northland border'. He never called it the Scottish border.

In the years 1857-60, Swinburne became one of Lady Pauline Trevelyan's intellectual circle at Wallington Hall and after his grandfather's death in 1860, would stay with William Bell Scott in Newcastle. In December 1862, Swinburne accompanied Scott and his guests, probably including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, on a trip to Tynemouth. Scott writes in his memoirs that as they walked by the sea, Swinburne declaimed the as yet unpublished 'Hymn to Proserpine' and 'Laus Veneris' in his lilting intonation, while the waves 'were running the whole length of the long level sands towards Cullercoats and sounding like far-off acclamations'.

At Oxford Swinburne met several Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. After leaving college he lived in London and started an active writing career, where Rossetti was delighted with his 'little Northumbrian friend', a reference to Swinburne's diminutive height - he was just over five feet tall[2].

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