ISBuC (v7) 2012
Algernon Charles Swinburne

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In 1857 the brilliant, but excitable poet Swinburne climbed Bla Bhienn, accompanied by a Professor Nicol.

Nicol may well have been one of his university professors. At the time of the ascent Swinburne was a 20-year-old student at Balliol College, Oxford, and it was there, later the same year, that he met Dante Gabriel Rossetti (with whom he was to enjoy a long friendship) and Edward Burne-Jones. He also formed friendships with William Morris and George Meredith.

No other details of his time on Skye are known to ISBuC. Most likely he was one of the many Victorian proto-tourists who traveled to Skye. More specifically climbing may have provided a channel for an almost demonic energy which belied his frail, five-foot frame. He was the first to climb Culver Cliff on the Isle of Wight.

Swinburne became famous for his choral verse drama Atalanta in Calydon, an ambitious conjuring of Greek tragedy exemplifying his absolute command of sustained verbal melody. His libertarian themes and sadomasochistic allusions shocked the establishment and Poems and Ballads, celebrating physical love, was at the centre of one of the most famous literary scandals of the time. Among Swinburne's other poetic works include a dramatic trilogy about Mary Queen of Scots.

Weakened by epilepsy and alcoholism, he was nursed for the last 30 years of his life.

Courtesy of Geoff Holman