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Papers of Algernon Charles Swinburne


Biographical information

Born in London 5 April 1837; eldest son of Admiral Charles Henry Swinburne.

Education : Eton . Balliol Hilary 1856-1859; Taylorian Scholar 1858; 2nd Classical Moderations 1858; member of "Old Mortality Society". Left Balliol in 1859 (apparently Benjamin Jowett thought it would be best if he left Oxford for a while); read history at Navestock with William Stubbs (1825-1901, historian and bishop, Honorary Fellow of Balliol; see the D.N.B.), Trinity term 1859. Did not take a degree. Despite his early departure from Balliol and his subsequent unorthodox lifestyle, he remained on good terms with Jowett in later life: he sometimes joined Jowett on his reading parties and visited him at Malvern.

Career Poet. Publications: see the D.N.B.

Died 10 April 1909.

For further information :

Balliol College Register 1833-1933.

The Dictionary of National Biography.

R.A.B. Mynors, Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Balliol College Oxford (1968): MSS 415-417, 421.

Balliol has a portrait of Swinburne by William Bell Scott (1860); see John Jones, The Portraits of Balliol College: A Catalogue (1990).

In the Modern Manuscripts collections, see the Jowett papers.


images online here

  • MS 415 ‘Essays written while an undergraduate.’ 2 vols. images begin here and here
  • MS 416. ‘By the North Sea.’ images begin here
  • MS 417. ‘Social verse’ Review of F. Locker’s ‘Lyra Elegantiarum.’ images begin here
  • MS 421, item 63: notes on Jowett. image here
  • MS of ‘The Nightingale.’ 1 vol. given by Mrs Madan, 1963 images begin here
  • Individual MS poems (fasciculed):
    • ‘The Triumph of Time.’ given by Mrs Madan, 1963. images here
    • ‘A Swimmer’s Dream.’ 4p. from the estate of John Bryson images here
    • ‘To William Bell Scott’ .1p. from the estate of John Bryson images here
    • ‘To John Nichol.’ 1p. from the estate of John Bryson. images here
    • ‘Chanson de Marie Stuart.’ 1p. given by Mrs Madan, ?1965. images here
  • Collection of 20 letters, c.1875-1886 (fasciculed). 19 to Prof. TS Baynes, 1 to Messrs A&C Black. Given by PA Spalding, 1967. The letters have been published in Lang, CY (ed) The Swinburne Letters. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1959-1962. 6 vols. Also a further letter to Baynes, in a different hand (? from Theodore Watts-Dunton.) images begin here

Lang - Balliol corresponding numbers:

Lang Balliol
620A 10
624A 20
634A 01
634B 18
669A 02
683A 03
903A 04
989A 05
991A 06
1049A 07
1069A 08
1069B 09
1075A 16
1086A 10
1110A 11
1129A 12
1142A 13
1148B 14
1213A 15

The 20th letter to Messrs A&C Black is no. 1363A in Lang and 15 in the Balliol fascicule.

Letter from Swinburne, 1 May 1887, to Mr Cook, tipped into the front of Balliol’s copy of the pamphlet Swinburne AC: A Record of Friendship. London: TJ Wise, 1910. Images here Also tipped in at the back of this pamphlet, a letter from DG Rossetti to ‘ Watts’ (probably Theodore Watts-Dunton). Both letters probably inserted by Wise.

Jowett Papers, Box E, item K. Letter from Swinburne to Jowett, 24 July 1892.

Other related material

‘Undergraduate Papers.’ The printed journal of the Old Mortality Society (1857-1858); one of only seven copies. Includes contributions by Swinburne: ‘The early English dramatists,’ ‘Queen Yseult,’ ‘The Monomaniac’s tragey,’ ‘Church Imperialism.’ Given by Mrs Madan 1963.

Photocopies of 4 University certificates (matriculation and examinations): 24 Jan 1856, 10 Dec 1856, 5 June 1858, 5 May 1860. Given by JS Mayfield 1945.

Copy of Lucan: Pharsalia; recognovit... JA Amar. Paris: Lefevre, 1882. Swinburne’s ownership inscription and date on flyleaf, and his bookplate inside front cover. Given by Miss Elaine Austin in 1983.


Further reading

For a list of Swinburne’s published works in Balliol Library, see Wise, TJ. A bibliography of the writings in prose and verse of Algernon Charles Swinburne. London: Richard Clay, 1919-1920. 2 vols. Balliol’s copy has annotations by Roger Mynors concerning some of the items in the collection.

  • Rooksby, R. ‘The Swinburne Collection at Balliol.’ Victorians Institute Journal vol. 17, 1989.
  • Rooksby, R. ‘The Case of Commoner Swinburne.’ RES (Review of English Studies) New Series, Vol. XLI, No. 164 (1990)
  • Rooksby, R. AC Swinburne: a poet’s life. Aldershot: Scolar, 1997.
  • Schuldt, EP. ‘Three unpublished essays of AC Swinburne.’ RES. New Series, Vol XXVII, No. 108 (1976). 422-430.

- Rachel Kemsley, Modern MSS Asst, March 1995

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Updated 17.iii.15
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