SWINBURNE, ALGERNON CHARLES (1837-1909)
AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT OF THE SECOND SONNET OF THE PAIR FOR HIS POEM 'AFTER LOOKING INTO CARLYLE'S REMINISCENCES' (untitled herein), 14 lines, with autograph revisions and deletions preserving reconsidered readings, with four apparently unrelated lines at the foot beginning, 'Where this man lies grass never should grow green' and on the verso a four-line draft epitaph ('Stop traveller, take care for fear you tread on / Alfred beast who made the filth he fed on') and the opening three lines of another poem ('Walks yet on earth; for death my silence not...'), 2 pages, folio, the right-hand side torn away and professionally repaired [c. 1881]
Sweet heart forgive one for thine own sweet sake
Whose breath blew music once thro' reeds of Cam,
And for my love's sake, powerless as I am
For love to praise thee, or like thee to make
Music of mirth where hearts less pure wd break...
The final form of the sonnet is resolved in this draft except for the second line, which in the printed version reads: 'Whose kind blithe soul such seas of sorrow swam'.
Swinburne admired Carlyle for many years, but Carlyle's opinion of Swinburne was 'There is not the least intellectual value in anything he writes', and that he was 'a man standing up to his neck in a cesspool and adding to its contents.' On 4 April 1882, Swinburne expressed his real view of Carlyle's Reminiscences in a letter to E.C. Stedman, when referring to his own sonnets: 'my own sonnets on Carlyle's venomous Reminiscences have excited most amusing and gratifying amount of wrath among the posthumous sycophants of that virulent old sophist...'
Swinburne wrote to John Morley on 17 May 1880: 'Copying would be impossible to me - I never could learn the art of transcription - and I always blunder. I used always to think it and I do now, the heaviest, brutallest, and stupidest of school punishments'.
Given Thomas Wise's earlier ownership, his suggestion to Gosse is worth recording: 'that his [Swinburne's] physical difficulty in writing, and his habit of composing, revising, and working up his complete sentence before struggling with the unwelcome pen, had something to do with the artificial and ponderous character of his later prose.'
PROVENANCE: Thomas J. Wise.
REFERENCES: Philip Henderson, Swinburne, 1974; Swinburne: The Critical Heritage, edited by Clyde Hyder, 1970; T. Earle Welby, A Study of Swinburne, 1969; The Swinburne Letters, volume 4, edited by Cecil Y. Lang, 1960; Edmund Gosse, The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1919.