‘Wild with petulance and impatience’: Swinburne, Gosse, and music.

My essay on Edmund Gosse’s malign influence on Swinburne studies, both biographical and critical, is available in the latest issue of the International Walter Pater Society’s journal.

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‘“A Genius for Inaccuracy”: Edmund Gosse and the Case of Swinburne’s Missing Musical “Ear”’ overturns claims that the poet was unable to appreciate music on its own terms, was tone deaf, or even musically illiterate. The original source of these claims was Gosse, Swinburne’s first biographer, who claimed the poet was driven ‘wild with petulance and impatience’ on hearing a ‘performance on any instrument’, a bizarre comment about a poet whose work is so often likened to musical production. My essay examines Gosse’s musical anecdotes about Swinburne and includes a look at the poet’s collaboration with the composer Arthur Sullivan, Love Laid His Sleepless Head, a song written for an 1874 London production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The essay is available in Studies in Walter Pater and Aestheticism, No. 6 (Autumn 2021). The issue also contains essays on Pater’s moustache by Joseph Bristow, on Vernon Lee and colour by Claudia Tobin, on Pater, Max Beerbohm and William Rothenstein by Lene Østermark-Johansen, and on Pater and Schelling by Giles Whiteley. The issue is available here: SWPA.

Later this year, my chapter ‘“Let us Adore Spilled Blood”: Swinburne and the Scandal of Poems and Ballads’ is to be published in the Routledge Handbook of Victorian Scandals in Literature & Culture, ed. by Brenda Ayres & Sarah E. Maier.

Categories: music, poetry

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1 reply


  1. English and Drama Newsletter – May 2022 Edition - All Things SED

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