SWINBURNE (ALGERNON CHARLES) Early unpublished autograph letter signed ('A.C. Swinburne'), to his sister Alice, [1864]
Lot 148
SWINBURNE (ALGERNON CHARLES) Early unpublished autograph letter signed ('A.C. Swinburne'), to his sister Alice, [1864]
Sold for £1,250 (US$ 2,101) inc. premium
Lot Details
Early unpublished autograph letter signed ('A.C. Swinburne'), to his sister Alice ('My dearest Ally'), written from Tintagel, reacting to the death of his great hero Walter Savage Landor ('...The news of his death of course gave me pain but as you say it would have been no kindness to wish for the prolongation of a life which could no longer be capable of action or enjoyment. I wonder what biography (if any) will be written of him; I do not suppose there are any very old intimates of his surviving; & so much of his life seems to have been capricious & solitary...') and mentioning the infirmity of Landor's eldest son; Swinburne gives some insight into the circumstances of the injury to his right foot that has forced him to be housebound, and then gives a fine description of the place where it occurred, 7 pages, 8vo, area below signature on recto of fourth leaf, torn away, Tintagel, 14 October [1864]


  • '...The scene of the calamity is the most beautiful I have seen, I found it out for myself: a large bay facing due east, with shallow sands running far out & an opening in the cliffs down by which boys & men come with donkeys to gather sand; on the left a huge split between two rocks or rather (for the whole height of the cliff almost), a long narrow hole in one thro' which the light fell sharp & full; & ripples fighting in against the wind from an outer sea of such a green that one's mouth waters to think of it & I could cry to remember the lonely days I have lost in this hole when I might have been bathing there is the one good place there is about; & long indented rocks, & capes without any beach or sand & huge broken rocks one beyond another standing close in shore but deep in sea, sometimes with cliff facing cliff so closely that it looks as if one wd be jammed between them...'

    When in Tintagel, Swinburne finished Atlanta, of which Landor had accepted the dedication, although he would now never read it. Swinburne claimed for Landor that he 'had won for himself such a double crown of glory in verse and in prose as had been won by no other Englishman but Milton'. In March 1864 he had first met Landor in Florence and threw himself at his feet and covered his hands with kisses so that 'the most ancient of the demi-gods' was utterly bewildered and Swinburne had to retreat and send a letter of apology. Landor invited him to call and Swinburne, so ecstatic, wrote afterwards on seeing his 'god... indubitable and incarnate' before him that he wanted to become his valet ('...I should black his boots if he wore any - moi!...'). Landor was not able to bear a third visit and subsequently deflected Swinburne. On learning of his death, Swinburne wrote a poem in memory of Landor, which perhaps contains one allusion to Tintagel: 'By this white wandering sea, / Far north, I hear / One face shall never turn to me / As once this year...' Only one letter from Swinburne's stay in Tintagel in 1864 is printed by Cecil Y. Lang, The Swinburne Letters, volume i. -- to Mary Gordon. See illustration overleaf.
  1. Simon Roberts
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, SW7 1HH
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879
Similar items
BINDINGS - VICTORIA SACKVILLE-WEST and KNOLE CHRISTINA (Queen of Sweden) Pensées de Christine, reine de Suède, NUMBER 42 OF 42 COPIES no image RACKHAM (ARTHUR) SWINBURNE (ALGERNON CHARLES) The Springtide of Life, NUMBER 573 OF 765 COPIES, SIGNED BY RACKHAM,  William Heinemann, [1918]; STEPHENS (JAMES) Irish Fairy Tales, Macmillan, 1920--Arthur Rackham's Book of Pictures, William Heinemann [1913]; ARNOUX (ALEXANDRE) La Légende Du Roi Arthur, NUMBER 987 of 1500 COPIES, Paris, H. Piazza, [1920]; LA MOTTE-FOUQUÉ [FRIEDRICH H.C. DE] Undine, William Heinemann, 1909; ROSSETTI (CHRISTINA) Goblin Market, George G. Harrup [1933] (6) SWINBURNE (ALGERNON CHARLES) KELMSCOTT PRESS SWINBURNE (ALGERNON CHARLES) Atalanta in Calydon, LIMITED TO 250 COPIES RACKHAM (ARTHUR) SHAKESPEARE (WILLIAM) A Midsummer-Night's Dream, 1908--[BARHAM (RICHARD HARRIS)] The Ingoldsby Legendss, 1907--WAGNER (RICHARD) Siegfried & the Twilight of the Gods, 1930; and others, all Rackham (11)