Contemporaries of Shakespeare

by Algernon Charles Swinburne


Algernon Charles Swinburne was born on April 5, 1837 in London. Having been born into a wealthy family, he enjoyed extensive education, learned multiple languages, such as French and Italian, and knew them well enough to win awards for writing poetry in those languages. Swinburne did attend college, but did not graduate. Rather, he went on to become a member of intellectual circles that were open to him due to his background, such as the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle upon Tyne, and Lady Pauline Trevelyan’s intellectual circle at Wallington Hall. Swinburne was talented and wrote many critically acclaimed pieces of prose and criticism. He touched on many subjects that were not often written about publicly, such as BSDM and lesbianism.

Swinburne unfortunately battled with ill health throughout his life. His love of drink and algolagnia did not help. He spent time in the French Riviera to reduce his dependency on alcohol. Swinburne created a larger than life persona arguably, and many stories about his exploits circled society. However, Oscar Wilde put a damper on such, stating Swinburne was “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 bestialiser.” By age 42, he ended up in the care of friends, who helped him regain his health. He lived until the age of 72, passing away on April 10, 1909. He wrote enough to fill numerous collections. Archival material on his life can be found at the Leeds University Library.