I really should know more about Swinburne than I do, after all he lived at Cheyne Walk and knew Fanny well (and disliked her with a vengeance)....
|Swinburne attempted to remain nonchalant as his chair sunk into the lawn....|
It struck me that I really did not know enough about the little rascal, and so here is a little history of one of the best connected men in Victorian poetry. Really, there is more than naked banister-sliding....
|Swinburne and his Sisters (1843) George Richmond|
|Swinburne at Oxford. I love how easy he is to spot...|
|Algernon Swinburne William Bell Scott|
|Swinburne (1861) D G Rossetti|
|Swinburne in 1865|
|Swinburne and Adah Menken, the American actress|
He went through cycles of drinking, debauching, de Sade and degeneration, at which point his family would swoop in and carry him back up North until he was better. He would then return back to London, strip off with a bottle in one hand and a whip in the other and the cycle would begin again. He was tarred with the same brush as Rossetti in terms of the 'Fleshly poets' but his behaviour made it impossible for any defence to be made. He was wreckage.
Move forward to 1897, and look who is Mr January in the Modern Poets calendar! How on earth did the tiny, masochistic drunk become the 'Modern Poet'? The answer is this gentleman...
By the late 1870s, Swinburne had almost killed himself with his lifestyle. Instead of his family swooping in, his legal advisor (and friend of Rossetti) Theodore Watts-Dunton came and removed him, taking him to live in his home outside London. There he dried Swinburne out and changed his behaviour. His poetry which had been in decline, had a new, gentler flourish in the last years of his life. Swinburne became detached from his former friends, and people accused Watts-Dunton of holding him prisoner, but in truth Swinburne had grown deaf and just wanted to stay at home and not have his belongings whipped. Swinburne finally got respectable...
|Swinburne (1900) Robert Ponsonby Staples|
|Swinburne (1974) David Levine|
Friends don't let friends read Swinburne while drinking....