Arthur Symons  

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"Born under the influence of passionate and perverse stars, my life has been utterly unlike that of any man I have ever known." -- Arthur Symons

“Now that Arthur Symons is no longer active in English letters, Mr. James Huneker alone represents modernity in criticism.”--Eliot

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Arthur Symons (1865 - 1945) was a British poet and critic. He was the author of The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899) and founded the periodical The Savoy.


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 Irving" Shakespeare. He became a member of the staff of the Athenaeum in 1891, and of the Saturday Review in 1894, but his major editorial feat must be 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 Baudelaire and especially of 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 book on The Symbolist Movement in Literature. From late 1895 through 1896 he edited, along with Aubrey Beardsley, The Savoy, a literary magazine which published both art and literature. Noteworthy contributors included W. B. Yeats, Bernard Shaw, and Joseph Conrad.

In 1902 he 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 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.


  • Days and Nights (1889)
  • Silhouettes (1892)
  • London Nights (1895)
  • Amoris victima (1897)
  • Images of Good and Evil (1899)
  • Poems (2 vols.), (1902)
  • A Book of Twenty Songs (1905)
  • Knave of Hearts (1913). Poems written between 1894 and 1908)
  • Love's Cruelty (1923)
  • Jezebel Mort, and other poems (1931)


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