A. C. Swinburne on dealing with trolls and other internet low-lifes

Quite by accident I stumbled over the following interesting passage[1], by which we all might profit:

The attitude which Swinburne took up and, except for a few spasms of irritation, steadily maintained was one of great dignity.  The best statement of it is not in any surviving correspondence of the time but in a letter written later to Watts-Dunton, who had very properly reported some libel to him.

His position, and none could have been wiser, was this.  He wished to be acquainted with any allegation so dishonouring that self-respect would necessitate its definite refutation; but for the rest, he preferred to remain in ignorance of libels.

For the weakness which led Byron to catalogue the infamies attributed to him, Swinburne expressed contempt; at the weakness which, after 1870, left Rossetti’s peace of mind at the mercy of every hostile scribbler, he expressed astonishment.  And towards worthier opponents he was prepared to exhibit magnanimity.

It may be natural for us to be upset when we are the target of vicious and venomous personal attacks.  But it is surely unwise for us to allow this to happen.   Let us cultivate a due contempt for the anonymous and malicious scribbler, such as the great men of past times had to do.

  1. [1]A study of Swinburne, (1926) p.29