Lord Byron; Arnold and Swinburne (Classic Reprint)by H. J. C. Grierson
It will next year be forty years since Matthew Arnold, in the preface to a selection from the Poetry of Byron, made the claim for Wordsworth and Byron which awakened in Swinburne a fury of eloquent anger, and served for the time to depreciate rather than to enhance the reputation of the younger but far more widely
Excerpt from Lord Byron; Arnold and Swinburne
It will next year be forty years since Matthew Arnold, in the preface to a selection from the Poetry of Byron, made the claim for Wordsworth and Byron which awakened in Swinburne a fury of eloquent anger, and served for the time to depreciate rather than to enhance the reputation of the younger but far more widely celebrated poet. 'Wordsworth and Byron,' he told us, 'stand, it seems to me, first and pre-eminent in actual performance, a glorious pair, among the English poets of this century. Keats had probably a more consummate poetic gift than either of them; but he died having produced too little, and being as yet too immature to rival them. I, for my part, can never even think of equalling with them any other of their contemporaries, either Coleridge, poet and philosopher, wrecked in a mist of opium; or Shelley, beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain. Wordsworth and Byron stand out by themselves. When the year 1900 is turned, and our nation comes to recount her poetic glories in the century which has then just ended, the first names with her will be these.'
The immediate effect of Arnold's challenge was not to enhance the reputation of Byron, but rather to dispel the glamour which still for many minds invested his almost legendary name. 'Byron is dead,' Carlyle and Jane Welsh had written to one another in 1824, in a tone of awe; 'Byron is dead,' Tennyson scratched 'on a rock, on a day when the whole world seemed darkened for me.'
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