Lesbia Brandon

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Lesbia Brandon is a fragmentary sadomasochistic novel by the English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne .

The novel was begun in the mid-1860s, almost at the beginning of Swinburne's writing career. Several attempts to complete and publish the novel were unsuccessful, however, especially since Swinburnes friend Theodore Watts tried to prevent the publication by all means and went so far as to "lose" parts of the manuscript. Details of the course of action can no longer be reconstructed today, the text of the fragment was first published posthumously in 1952 by Randolph Hughes, who also gave the text the title. The central theme is sadomasochism , here in the form of flagellation . Swinburne's interest in de Sade and his writings was relatively fresh around 1865 and he pays tribute to the “divine marquis” in the attempted novel, among other things, by a chapter title quoting the subtitle of de Sades Justine (“Les Malheurs de la vertu”).


Lesbia Brandon begins with the childhood story of Herbert Seyton, who after the death of his father is taken in by his sister Margaret, who lives with her husband, Lord Wariston, in a stately, secluded mansion called Ensdon. The boy enjoys swimming in the sea, from which he draws a pagan sensual pleasure and horror at the same time. But this idyll ends when Mr. Denham, the new tutor, is given the task of ensuring the boy's success in school. Denham sees corporal punishment as the best way to guarantee this. Occasions for such chastisements are found by Denham in the smallest transgressions, and the chastisements become more numerous and cruel when Denham's developing passion for Lady Margaret is not reciprocated by her.

The situation is further complicated by violent kisses between Herbert and his sister and the appearance of the title character Lesbia Brandon towards the end of the remaining part. Lesbia Brandon, the beautiful daughter of Sir Charles Brandon, falls in love with Margaret, Herbert falls in love with Lesbia, and it turns out that Lesbia is the half-sister of the slide-wielding Head of House. Eventually Lesbia poisons herself and Herbert follows her final moments in a state of conflicting emotions. According to Rikky Rooksby, this death is supposed to be a literary reflection of the death of Swinburne's sister Edith. In addition, one saw in the numerous and intense flagellation scenes an ambivalent processing of Swinburne's own experiences during his school attendance in the exclusive British boys' boarding school Eton .


  • Randolph Hughes (ed.): Lesbia Brandon by Algernon Charles Swinburne. An historical and critical commentary being largely a study (and elevation) of Swinburne as a novelist. Falcon Press, London 1952
  • The Novels of AC Swinburne: Love's Cross Currents. Lesbia Brandon. Single by Edmund Wilson. Farrar et al. a., New York 1962. Reprinted: Greenwood, Westport et al. a. 1978, ISBN 0-313-20010-6
  • There is no German translation of Lesbia Brandon outside of private fan editions.


  • Gaëtan Brulotte, John Phillips: Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. Routledge, New York 2006, ISBN 978-1-57958-441-2 , pp. 1268-1270, limited preview in Google book search
  • Jonathan Alexander: Sex, Violence and Identity: AC Swinburne's Uses of Sadomasochism. In: Victorian Newsletter 90 (1996), pp. 33-36
  • Rikky Rooksby: AC Swinburne's "Lesbia Brandon" and the Death of Edith Swinburne. In: Notes and Queries 40 (1993), pp. 487-490
  • John Vincent: Flogging is Fundamental: Applications of Birch in Swinburne's "Lesbia Brandon". In: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (ed.): Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction. Duke Univ. Press, Durham et al. a. 1997, ISBN 0-8223-2040-1