Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta, Edmund Wilson, Garden of Proserpine, Harold Bloom, Itylus, Mirrored Images: An Anthology of Sri Lankan Poetry, Oscar Wilde, poems, Poetry, Sappho, T S Eliot, Thomas Stearns Eliot
Swinburne might not seem an obvious choice to be included in a collection of significant poets. Harold Bloom does treat him as one of his hundred exemplars of Genius, but notes that he is ‘now the most unfashionable’ of all those he discusses in his book. He was certainly not considered a poet of consequence when I was growing up, in the middle of the last century, having been, as Bloom puts it. ‘slain by T S Eliot and Edmund Wilson, both distinguished hatchet men’.
Swinburne’s extinction in the last century is understandable. His manipulation of language was brilliant, but this led to the impression that he did not really bother too much about substance. Then, his private life was easily criticized, given that he was an unashamed masochist – though Oscar Wilde suggested that he deliberately exaggerated other elements, characterizing him as ‘a braggart in matters of vice, who had done everything he could to convince his fellow citizens of his homosexuality and bestiality without being in the slightest degree a homosexual or a bestialiser’.