A.C. Swinburne: A Poet's Life, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A.C. Swinburne

A Poet's Life, 1st Edition

By Ricky Rooksby


336 pages

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Hardback: 9781859280690
pub: 1997-07-28
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Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) was one of the literary sensations of the Victorian period. His iconoclastic poetry and prose challenged attitudes to sex, politics, religion and censorship. Not only writing some of the most original lyric poetry of the time and pioneering criticism, Swinburne became a cultural icon. In the 1860s his very name was a symbol of progressive forces emerging in a repressive age. Readers across the world identified with the paganism and humanism of his poetry. Swinburne's was a turbulent life lived against a backdrop of beautiful settings in the Isle of Wight and Northumberland, and shared with a host of Victorian luminaries, or artists and writers such as D G Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, Burne-Jones, Morris and Simeon Solomon. It is a life touched by early tragedy and romantic disappointment, by extraordinary fame and abject loneliness, by masochism and alcoholism, but above all by an unquenchable vivacity. At the centre was the charmingly spoken, excitable genius whom Burne-Jones described as 'quite the most poetic personality I have ever known.' the artistic prodigy who seemed to have read almost everything, who was as happy revelling in the sea as in literary discourse. Based on new research and many unpublished letters, Rikky Rooksby sheds light on Swinburne's personality and relationships, and discusses how Swinburne's poetry develops from early pessimism to a recovered joy in the energies of the natural world. This biography is a sympathetic and fresh account of one of the most colourful figures in English literature.


’…a well written, thoroughly readable book, accurate, judicious, sympathetic, and sure to add to its author’s reputation as one of our leading authorities on Swinburne…All in all this is an excellent book..’ English Literature in Transition ’This is a readable, swiftly moving biography filled with meaty quotations from letters and poems, presenting a vibrant portrait of a charming man…A Poet’s Life is a readable, entertaining biography ideal for lay readers interested in Swinburne or British poetry.’ Nineteenth-Century Literature ’This book is beautifully produced and…is also generously illustrated with photographs…Rooksby’s enjoyable study will be required reading for all Swinburnians and students of Victorian poetry, and would be an excellent introduction to anyone new to Swinburne.’ Modern Language Review ’…a milestone of Swinburne studies in the 1990s.’ Symbolism

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; A Small Satisfied Pagan; The River and the Block; Commoner Swinburne; ’Such Fair Green Seasons’; ’And None be Grievous as This to Me’; A Temple of Lizards; The Libidinous Laureate; The Church of Rebels; ’Glory to Man in the Highest!’; ’A Rain and Ruin of Roses’; The Puppet-Show; ’Closer than a Brother’; ’The Measureless Music of Things’; ’Deep Silence Answers’; Notes; Select Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature