Arthur Symons

Arthur Symons

Selected Letters, 1880-1935

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321 pages, 20 photos, 4 drawings

"[Symons's] letters are crammed with literary gossip, the stuff of a man intent on pushing his way forward. Ambition and frustration undermine his attempts at being high-minded…Symons struggles, abrasive and vulgar but alive. The Symons letters are wonderfully edited: the editors preface each section of Symons's life with biographical essays, and the footnotes are full and informative."—Sewanee Review

Once regarded as little more than a daring hothouse poet and the author of several volumes of impressionistic criticism, Arthur Symons is now recognized as one of the most influential critics of the 1890s. Ezra Pound contended that Symons's criticism was "worth all the Freudian tosh in existence," and Symons's analysis of the French Symbolists exerted a profound effect on several major writers of his time.

This first published volume of Symons's letters includes extensive correspondence with an extraordinary variety of literary and artistic figures, such as Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Paul Verlaine, Edmund Gosse, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats, Augustus John, and many others. Most previously unpublished, these letters reveal the fascinating world of literary London in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the development of early Modernism, and Symons' sudden mental breakdown in 1908.

Because of the variety and number of his friendships, Symons's letters are studded with celebrated names, and for this reason alone they make wonderful reading. From them we learn what it was like to be a literary journalist at the turn of the century and what pressures were greatest for Symons and his colleagues. We inevitably hear gossip of writers and their books, of the lives led by the great, the near-great, and the obscure whose paths crossed Symons's in the course of his long life.

Supplementary material in this engrossing volume includes a long, previously unpublished letter about Symons by Havelock Ellis, his friend for over forty years. Biographical prefaces and annotations place the correspondence in context, and a bibliography of Symons's major works and a general index conclude the volume. These long-awaited letters reveal the development of one of the most complex personalities and perceptive minds of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.