Thomas Thackeray Swinburne

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Thomas Thackeray Swinburne ThomasTSwinburne.jpg
Thomas Thackeray Swinburne

Thomas Thackeray Swinburne (April 21, 1865 – December 17, 1926) was an American poet from Rochester, New York. He has been called "Rochester's poet laureate" [1] He wrote a number of books of verse which he printed himself; one of these—By the Genesee: Rhymes and Verses—contains a version of the poem which, set to music by Herve D. Wilkins, has become the alma mater of the University of Rochester [2] The Genesee. [3]

Rochester, New York City in Western New York

Rochester is a city on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in western New York and the seat of Monroe County. With a population of 208,046, Rochester is the third most populous city in New York state, after New York City and Buffalo. The metropolitan area has a population of just over one million people. It is about 73 miles (117 km) east of Buffalo and 87 miles (140 km) west of Syracuse.

Herve Dwight Wilkins, was an American organist and composer.

University of Rochester private, nonsectarian, research university in Rochester, New York, United States

The University of Rochester is a private research university in Rochester, New York. The university grants undergraduate and graduate degrees, including doctoral and professional degrees.


Swinburne attended the University of Rochester as a member of the class of 1892, but never graduated. [4] He was a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity. [5]

Theta Delta Chi American social fraternity

Theta Delta Chi (ΘΔΧ) is a social fraternity that was founded in 1847 at Union College, New York, United States. While nicknames differ from institution to institution, the most common nicknames for the fraternity are TDX, Thete, Theta Delt, Thumpers and TDC. Theta Delta Chi brothers refer to their local organization as charges rather than using the common fraternity nomenclature of chapters.

One critic compared Swinburne and Rochester in Song and Verse to Edgar Lee Masters and his Spoon River Anthology. [6]

Edgar Lee Masters American writer

Edgar Lee Masters was an American attorney, poet, biographer, and dramatist. He is the author of Spoon River Anthology, The New Star Chamber and Other Essays, Songs and Satires, The Great Valley, The Serpent in the Wilderness, An Obscure Tale, The Spleen, Mark Twain: A Portrait, Lincoln: The Man, and Illinois Poems. In all, Masters published twelve plays, twenty-one books of poetry, six novels and six biographies, including those of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Vachel Lindsay, and Walt Whitman.

<i>Spoon River Anthology</i> book by Edgar Lee Masters

Spoon River Anthology (1915), by Edgar Lee Masters, is a collection of short free verse poems that collectively narrates the epitaphs of the residents of Spoon River, a fictional small town named after the real Spoon River that ran near Masters' home town of Lewistown, Illinois. The aim of the poems is to demystify rural and small town American life. The collection includes 212 separate characters, in all providing 244 accounts of their lives, losses, and manner of death. Many of the poems contain cross-references that create an unabashed tapestry of the community. The poems were originally published in the St. Louis, Missouri literary journal Reedy's Mirror.

In December, 1926, distraught over the death of his sister Rose, to whom he had dedicated By the Genesee and Rochester in Song and Verse, he committed suicide by jumping from a bridge into the Genesee River. [4] [7] A body was found in June, 1927 at Forest Lawn, on the shore of Lake Ontario in Webster, New York was identified as Swinburne's by his clothing, [8] however, later some doubt was cast on the identification. [9]

Genesee River river in New York and Pennsylvania, United States

The Genesee River is a tributary of Lake Ontario flowing northward through the Twin Tiers of Pennsylvania and New York in the United States.

Lake Ontario one of the Great Lakes in North America

Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is surrounded on the north, west, and southwest by the Canadian province of Ontario, and on the south and east by the American state of New York, whose water boundaries meet in the middle of the lake. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, was named for the lake. Many of Ontario's most populous cities, including Toronto, Canada's most populous city, and Hamilton, are on the lake's northern and western shores respectively. In the Huron language, the name Ontarí'io means "great lake". Its primary inlet is the Niagara River from Lake Erie. The last in the Great Lakes chain, Lake Ontario serves as the outlet to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. It is the only Great Lake not to border the state of Michigan.

Webster, New York Town in New York, United States

Webster is a town in the northeast corner of Monroe County, New York, United States. The town is named after orator and statesman Daniel Webster. The population was 42,641 at the 2010 census. The town's motto is "Where Life Is Worth Living." The town contains a village also named Webster.

"Swinburne Rock" - memorial to Thomas Thackeray Swinburne Swinburne Rock, Rochester NY.jpg
"Swinburne Rock" - memorial to Thomas Thackeray Swinburne

The University of Rochester and the Rochester community honored Swinburne with a memorial, Swinburne Rock, placed "beside the Genesee" near the University's Interfaith Chapel. The memorial, proposed in 1927 and dedicated in 1933, is a 26 ton glacial boulder holding a bronze plaque with verses from The Genesee sculpted by Alphonse A. Kolb. [6] [10] [11] According to local legend Swinburne's ashes were interred under the rock, but when it was moved in 1968 no remains were found. [12] News reports, however, indicate that the poet's ashes were scattered on the Genesee River in July, following his death. [13]

Alphonse Anton Kolb (1893–1983) was a German-American artist known for creating sculptures and other art works ranging in size from medals to statues. For many years he worked for Bastian Brothers of Rochester, New York, and was the semi-official sculptor of the Rochester Numismatic Association.


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  1. Shilling, Donovan. "An Ode to the Genesee" . Retrieved Dec 17, 2013.
  2. "Symbols at Rochester". University of Rochester. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  3. Swinburne, Thomas T. (1900). By the Genesee: Rhymes and Verses.
  4. 1 2 Slater, John R. "Tom Swinburne, Poet-Philosopher of the Genesee". Rochester Review. Retrieved Dec 17, 2013.
  5. University of Rochester (1911). General Catalogue of the University of Rochester, 1850-1911.
  6. 1 2 "College Friends Will Dedicate Memorial to Thomas T. Swinburne" (PDF). Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. December 17, 1927. Retrieved Dec 26, 2013.
  7. "Poet of Genesee suicides". Reading (PA) Eagle. Dec 19, 1926. Retrieved Dec 17, 2013.
  8. "Laundry Marks on Collar Prove Body Found in Lake Swinburne's". Democrat and Chronicle. 5 June 1927. Retrieved Nov 16, 2019.
  9. "Teeth Prove Body found in Lake Ontario not Swinburne's". Democrat and Chronicle. 4 June 1927. Retrieved Nov 16, 2019.
  10. University of Rochester. "The Swinburne Rock". Landmarks. Retrieved Dec 17, 2013.
  11. "Thomas Thackeray Swinburne". Rochester's Hope. Retrieved Dec 17, 2013.
  12. Pieterse, Janice Bullard (2014). Our Work is But Begun: A History of the University of Rochester, 1850-2005. Boydell & Brewer. p. 208. Retrieved Nov 14, 2019.
  13. "Ashes of Swinburne will be scattered on the Genesee at Service". Democrat and Chronicle. 8 June 1927. Retrieved Nov 16, 2019.