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Arthur Symons (1865-1945), from Poems, 1912. Courtesy Internet Archive.

Arthur William Symons (28 February 1865 - 22 January 1945), was an English poet, literary critic, and magazine editor.


Symons was born in Milford Haven, Wales, of Cornish parents.

He was educated privately, spending much of his youth in France and Italy.[1]

In 1884-1886 he edited 4 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,[1] but his major editorial feat was his work with the short-lived Savoy.

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

In 1892, The Minister's Call, Symons's first play, was produced by the Independent Theatre Society – a private club – to avoid censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's Office.[2]

Arthur Symons

Symons in 1906, by Alvin Langdon Coburn. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

From late 1895 through 1896, Symons edited The Savoy, a literary magazine which published both art and literature. Noteworthy contributors included 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 Verlaine and had many attractions for Symons.[1]

In 1909 Symons suffered a psychotic breakdown, and published very little new work for a period of more than 20 years.


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 Baudelaire, and especially of Paul Verlaine. He reflects French tendencies both in the subject-matter and style of his poems, in their eroticism and their vividness of description.[1]

Pall Mall Gazette: "Mr Arthur Symons is a very dirty-minded man, and his mind is reflected in the puddle of his bad verses. It may be that there are other dirty-minded men who will rejoice in the jingle that records the squalid and inexpensive amours of Mr Symons, but our faith jumps to the hope that such men are not." [3]


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Collected editionsEdit

  • The Collected Works. London, Martin Secker, 1924.
  • Poetry and prose (edited by Roger Victor Holdsworth). Cheadle, UK: Carcanet Press, 1974.
  • Selected Writings (edited by R.V. Holdsworth). New York: Routledge, 2003.


  • Letters to W.B. Yeats, 1892-1902. Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1989.
  • Selected Letters, 1880-1935 (edited by Karl E. Beckson & John Murchison Munro). Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1989; Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 1989.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Symons, Arthur," Encyclopædia Britannica 1911, Volume 26. Wikisource, Web, Mar. 5, 2017.
  2. Arthur Symons: 1865–1945 - A Chronology accessed 15 January 2009
  3. Pall Mall Gazette, 2 Sep, 1895. Arthur Symons, Snakeskin Poetry Webzine. Web, Nov. 28, 2013.
  4. Search results = au:Mathilde Blind, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Jan. 30, 2017.
  5. Search results = au:John Clare, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 21, 2013.
  6. Search results=Arthur Symons, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Web, July 28, 2012.

External linksEdit

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