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Algernon Charles Swinburne Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: ASE
Date: May 1994

Biographical History

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) was a Victorian era English poet. He was born in London to Admiral Charles Henry Swinburne and Lady Jane Henrietta, a daughter of George, 3rd Earl of Ashburnham, but grew up on the Isle of Wight. Swinburne attended Eton college and then Balliol College, Oxford where he took several prizes for French and Italian but was "rusticated" (temporarily expelled) from the university in 1859. He is considered one of the Pre-Raphaelites, a collective term for a group of English artists, poets, critics and writers which included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and William Holman Hunt. Two early works, Atalanta in Calydon (1865) and Poems and Ballads, First Series (1866), established him as England's premier poet, though critics have noted with disfavor his florid style and his tendency to choose words for their fitness to rhyme scheme rather than their contribution to the meaning of a piece.

Besides his poetry, Swinburne was active as a critic, and authored several volumes of literary criticism including Note on Charlotte Brontë (1880), Study of Shakespeare (1877), and The Age of Shakespeare (1909). His criticism was less reasoned than passionate, being strongly influenced by his personal likes and dislikes.

His personal life was chaotic owing to his excitable temperament, which was not improved by his excessive drinking, and a fondness for portraying himself as a master of vices of all kinds (though Oscar Wilde alleged that Swinburne's vices were all invented fictions, calling him "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 bestializer."). In 1879 his legal advisor Theodore Watts-Dunton persuaded him to adopt a healthier lifestyle; as a result of this and of his increasing deafness he saw less of those of his friends who were a negative influence. Swinburne lived the rest of his days at "The Pines," Watts-Dunton's house outside London. He died of influenza in 1909.

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from "A. C. Swinburne: Biography" by Glenn Everett, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee at Martin.]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1858 to 1948, the Algernon Charles Swinburne Collection consists of Correspondence, Writings, and Miscellany pertaining to the 19th century English poet and author (1837-1909). The Correspondence comprises 76 outgoing letters, 10 incoming letters, and 32 letters, some referring to Swinburne, written by his contemporaries. Manuscript poems and miscellaneous writings (41 items), writings by others (6 items), and assorted material relating to Swinburne constitute the remainder of the collection. Cecil Y. Lang's The Swinburne Letters (1959-1962), as well as the curatorial files of John S. Mayfield housed in the Department of Special Collections, were used to establish many of the names and dates found in this inventory.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Allingham, William, 1824-1889.
Alma-Tadema, Laurence, -1940.
Burne-Jones, Edward Coley, 1833-1898.
Gosse, Edmund, 1849-1928.
Hugo, Victor, 1802-1885.
Jowett, Benjamin, 1817-1893.
Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822-1898.
Locker-Lampson, Frederick, 1821-1895.
Pellegrini, Carlo.
Rossetti, William Michael, 1829-1919.
Shepherd, Richard Herne, 1842-1895.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 1837-1909.
Terry, Ellen, Dame, 1847-1928.
Trevelyan, Pauline, 1905-


Authors, English.
English literature -- 19th century.
English poetry -- 19th century.
Poets, English.

Genres and Forms

Letters (correspondence)
Manuscripts (document genre)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Algernon Charles Swinburne Collection
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Assembled through gifts by John S. Mayfield and Library purchases.

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