Sue Young Histories

Arthur William Symons 1865 - 1945

September 22, 2008

Arthur William Symons 1865 – 1945 was a British poet, critic and magazine editor.

Arthur William Symons was an advocate of homeopathy (Roger Lhombreaud, Arthur Symons, a critical biography, (Unicorn Press, 1963). Page 321). His friend Paul Marie Verlaine was an advocate of homeopathy as was Theophile Gautier whose works Symons translated. Arthur William Symons was also a friend of Aubrey Vincent Beardsley.

From ‘… Born in Wales, of Cornish parents, Symons was educated privately, spending much of his time in France and Italy. In 1884-1886 he edited four of Bernard Quaritch’s Shakespeare Quarto Facsimiles, and in 1888-1889 seven plays of the Henry IrvingShakespeare.

He became a member of the staff of the Athenaeum in 1891, and of the Saturday Review in 1894, but his major editorial feat was his work with the short-lived Savoy.

His first volume of verse, Days and Nights (1889), consisted of dramatic monologues. His later verse is influenced by a close study of modern French writers, of Charles Pierre Baudelaire, and especially of Paul Marie Verlaine. He reflects French tendencies both in the subject-matter and style of his poems, in their eroticism and their vividness of description.

Symons contributed poems and essays to the Yellow Book, including an important piece which was later expanded into his (almost astonishingly important) book, The Symbolist Movement in Literature, which would have a major influence on William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot.

From late 1895 through 1896 he edited, along with Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, The Savoy, a literary magazine which published both art and literature. Noteworthy contributors included William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Joseph Conrad.

In 1902 Symons made a selection from his earlier verse, published as Poems. He translated from the Italian of Gabriele D’Annunzio The Dead City (1900) and The Child of Pleasure (1898), and from the French of Émile Verhaeren The Dawn (1898). To The Poems of Ernest Dowson (1905) he prefixed an essay on the deceased poet, who was a kind of English Paul Marie Verlaine and had many attractions for Symons.

In 1909 Symons suffered a psychotic breakdown, and published very little new work for a period of more than twenty years.

Arthur William Symons was born into a Cornish Wesleyan family. His father was a Wesleyan minister.

Symons moved to London to become a critic and a poet, a translator and a leading theorist. He was a friend of William Butler Yeats and a member of the Rhymer’s Club who met at the Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet Street from 1891 to read their work.

Symons was a champion of William Blake and William Butler Yeats, and he brought Paul Marie Verlaine to England and translated the works of Theophile Gautier and Stephane Mallarme** **and brought to the to attention of the English speaking World.

Arthur William Symons was an English poet and critic. He contributed to Yellow Book, an avant garde journal, and edited The Savoy (1896). His Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899), the first English work championing the French Symbolist movement in poetry, summed up a decade of interpretation and influenced William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot.

His poetry, mainly disillusioned in feeling, appears in such volumes as Silhouettes (1892) and London Nights (1895). He also translated the poetry of Paul Marie Verlaine and wrote travel pieces.

After a nervous breakdown in 1908, he produced little apart from Confessions (1930), a moving account of his illness…

A leader of the symbolists in England, Symons interpreted French decadent poetry to the English through translations, criticism, and his own imitative poems. He was editor of The Savoy (1896) until a period of insanity, movingly described in his Confessions (1930), incapacitated him from 1908 to 1910. After that time he was forced to live very quietly.

His chief critical work is The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899); others are The Romantic Movement in English Poetry (1909) and studies of Charles Pierre Baudelaire, William Blake, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. His poetry includes Days and Nights (1889), Poems (1902), and Love’s Cruelty (1923).


Any views or advice in this site should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment, especially if you know you have a specific health complaint