Thursday, 11 August 2016

Christina Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne

At the end of July, a team of Swinburnian scholars organised a two-day conference at St John’s College Cambridge to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Algernon Swinburne’s notoriously pagan and pan-sexual Poems & Ballads, which shocked and thrilled  Victorian readers in equal measure, thanks to blasphemy and indecency.

It prompted me to offer a paper, remembering my research into Christina Rossetti’s life and work, when I realised that Poems & Ballads was published in the same season as her second volume The Prince’s Progress, whose reception was quite overshadowed if not wholly eclipsed by Swinburne’s collection.

The text of that paper is now  here 

I had  forgottten how the personal and poetic relationship between the two poets is a lot more interesting than might be supposed.  As the conference showed, those who study Swinburne generally ignore Rossetti, no doubt consigning her work to the Tennysonian/devotional camp.  But as contributors to the emergence of Aestheticism in literature and art, they repay attention.

The conference was full of new scholarship and insights into Swinburne's work and influence - as the
programme indicates     There is also a case display at Cambridge University Library outlined here, though it would be good if the display items were listed, as only those with access to CUL can actually see the display for themselves. It's notable for an open copy of the Saturday Review in which John Morley violently and lengthily attacked Poems & Ballads for its 'mixed vileness and childishness' - ironic when Morley later changed into one of Swinburne's greatest admirers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment