Algernon Swinburne, the scandalous Victorian poet, was born in London, but was early removed from it and disliked it throughout his life. The son of an admiral, he was brought up on the Isle of Wight, but spent a good part of each summer at Capheaton Hall, the house of his grandfather, Sir John Swinburne (1762-1860) who had a famous library and was President of the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle until 1837. Swinburne considered Northumberland to be his native county, ' the crowning county of England - yes the best!'
Despite Swinburne's later fame as a poet, it is in his novel Lesbia Brandon that we find the spell of the North at its strongest. Capheaton Hall is described, as is the splendid landscape and seascape - what Swinburne called 'the joyful and fateful beauty of the seas off Bamburgh', while Herbert's exhilarating contact with the sea mirrors the pain which for Swinburne was notoriously inseparable from pleasure.
Swinburne's abiding love for the region (his favourite word for the North is 'bright') is also memorably reflected in poems like the intensely patriotic "Northumberland', 'Grace Darling', 'The Tyneside Widow', 'Winter in Northumberland' and 'A Jacobite's Exile', with its haunting echoes of the Till, the Wansbeck and the Tyne. Swinburne was fond of reciting as he rode across the moors (he was a daring horseman) 'through honeyed leagues of the northland border'. He never called it the Scottish border.