107. (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

Though Wilde mocked his pronouncements of sexual deviance,  Swinburne quarried queer desire for a reinvention of the metaphysical tradition. Even among Victorianists, Swinburne is not written on or read much nowadays, but looking back nearly one hundred years, to the critics who were weaned on the poet of Putney (Swinburne in his later years) and who weaned off him into the dazzle of Donne, may … Continue reading 107. (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

47. (Andrew Marvell)

Even Christopher Ricks, whose criticism is chary in its courtship of the political, feels that Marvell, in one of the crucial aspects of his style, responds to the strife disemboweling the nation in the time of Civil War. Ricks sets Marvell alongside a set of Ulster poets, no coterie themselves, so as to show that the self-reflexive simile is not only a matter of a … Continue reading 47. (Andrew Marvell)

29. (Anne Bradstreet)

How nice, on a sunny morning, to roll away from Lawrence in disgust and find unexpected pleasure. Mistress Bradstreet takes possession first by rhythms, the most elusive element of literature, most resistant to analysis and discussion.  Reading “Contemplations,” there are anticipations of Wordsworth, echoes of Herbert:  “Here sits our Grandame in retired place” or “When I behold the heavens as in their prime” (“Behold the … Continue reading 29. (Anne Bradstreet)

23. (William Empson)

Of his drafting and redrafting process, he explained: “the careless ease always goes in last.” The ease was his affectation, an affectation in part of manners and class. Perhaps the affected ease was essential to the performance of Tory squire (Geoffrey Hill says he “liked the High Tory Empson very much”; Empson’s politics, however, were consistently strong left), inherited and cultivated in the familial residence, Yokefleet Hall, … Continue reading 23. (William Empson)

19. (John Milton)

The wryly and slyly passionate William Empson in Some Versions of Pastoral, at the end of the chapter on Milton and his eighteenth-century editor, the classicist Richard Bentley: Like so many characters in history our first parents may be viewed with admiration so long as they do not impose on us their system of values; it has become safe to admit that in spite of what … Continue reading 19. (John Milton)