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by George J. Dance


Frank Pearce Sturm (1879-1942). Courtesy Elfin Dog.

Dr. Frank Pearce Sturm (18 June 1879 - 23 February 1942) was an English poet and translator, who worked as an otolaryngologist.


Youth and education[]

Sturm was born in Longsight, Manchester, on 18 June 1879, the son and eldest of 3 children of Bessie and William Pearce Sturm. His father was a shipping merchant, who later lost everything in the Boer War.[1]

Sturm's sister Dorothy later recalled that he was schooled in Didsbury, and then apprenticed to a chemist for 2 years before entering university. He entered the University of Aberdeen in 1902, aged 22, to study medicine.[2]

He was a prodigious writer in early adulthood.[3] Through his university years he wrote and published in the local newspapers, doing hackwork of all kinds to earn money to support himself in the face of his father's financial troubles.[4] He was publishing his own poetry by January 1903.[5]

On 30 May 1904 he married Charlotte Fanny Augusta Schultze (born 1884), a fellow student of medicine at Aberdeen.[2] A son, Matthew Gerard de Lisle, was born in 29 June 1905.[6]

Literary career[]

Sturm spent a few months of 1904 in London,[7] where he showed his poetry to W.B. Yeats (who advised Sturm that, without a private income, he should stick to medicine), and arranged to have a collection of it printed by Elkin Mathews.[8]

Sturm's collection, An Hour of Reverie was published in 1905, as #32 of Elkin Mathews' Vigo Cabinet series. It met with no success and brought in little money; in fact, Sturm was required to pay the publication costs.[8]

However, Sturm's translations of Charles Baudelaire received some attention, and he was given the commission of translating a volume of Baudelaire poems for the Canterbury Series, edited by William Sharp.[9] The volume, The Poems of Charles Baudelaire, was published by Walter Scott in London and New York in 1906.[10]

An American edition was published in 1919 by Brentano of New York, but with Sturm's name and introductory essay on Baudelaire omitted.[11]

Medicine and World War I[]

Little came of the 1906 publication,[11] and the Sturms returned to Aberdeen,[6] where Sturm found work as an assistant to the professor of anatomy at the university. His wife graduated on 25 July 1906, as did he on 9 July 1907. In 1909 the family moved to Leigh, Lancashire, as assistants to a Dr. Auden.[12]

In August 1909 Sturm published his 1st article in a medical journal;[12] over the years, he would publish many articles on his specialty in various journals. In 1909 he also becan studying for the degree of master of surgery at nearby Victoria University in Manchester, submitting his thesis in 1911. In 1914 he became a fellow of both the Otological-Laryngological Society and the Royal Society of Medicine.[13]

After World War I broke out, Sturm joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, being appointed a lieutenant on 15 May 1915,[13] and a captain on 15 September. He served in Ireland in 1916, and in 1917 in France, where he was gassed at the front.[13] He retired with the rank of honorary captain on 24 April 1918.[14]

During the War, with his medical career interrupted, Sturm resumed his creative writing.[15] He began writing poetry again as early as 1916 in Ireland.[14]

After returning from France, Sturm was in London as often as possible, pursuing his interests in both literature and the occult, and becoming a frequent visitor to the Theosophical Society headquarters.[15] (The Society invited him to give a lecture series on Rosicrucianism, but he gave it up after the 1st lecture, finding the audience to be "moronic and stupid.")[16]

He was a regular patron of Watkins' bookshop in London, frequently in the company of Yeats.[15]

In 1921 Sturm published another book of poems, under the title Eternal Helen.[17] The book was widely reviewed,[18] including a notice in the Times Literary Supplement.[19]

Sturm and Yeats[]

Over the decade following the war, Sturm collaborated and corresponded with W.B. Yeats, particularly in matters of astrology.[20] The 2 men had seen much of each other during the war years, and their friendship had grown. Sturm spend a weekend at Oxford with Yeats in February 1921.[21]

In a 1918 letter, Yeats told Sturm that "you have the rare gifts of a poet," and praised the "strange and vivid metaphor" of his recent verse.[22]

After the publication of A Vision, Yeats referred to Sturm in correspondence as "a very learned doctor in the North of England who sends me profound and curious extracts from ancient philosophies on the subject of gyres," and in another letter as:

a certain doctor in the North of England who sits every night for one half hour in front of a Buddha lit with many candles – his sole escape from a life of toil.[23]

Yeats wrote, on the bookplate of Sturm's copy of A Vision, that he had "written A Vision for two people one of whom was a learned doctor in the North of England, that doctor was the man to whom I have given this book."[24]

Later years[]

After the war, Sturm had returned to Leigh and devoted more time to his medical career, becoming consulting surgeon for diseases of the ear and throat to the Leigh Maternity and Child Welfare Service and the School Medical Service in June 1921. He kept in touch with Yeats, and wrote poetry occasionally, but all of his work following his last book's publication has been lost.[25]

His readings in the mystical-occult tradition continued, and led to meetings of with a small and select circle (that included his wife) at his home on Brunswick Street.[26]

Over the years Sturm became more and more of a recluse, withdrawing from the world in favor of meditation and mysticism.[27] He even refused to talk of his literary work, as that might reflect badly on his medical competence.[27] He kept an air of mystery about his past; even his 2 closest friends failed to learn any details of his backgound. His poem in the Oxford Book of Modern English did not even give his birthdate.[1]

His friends knew him as "a man of great charm, and even greater irreverence for the things that interested.him.",[16]

Suffering from an incurable heart condition, Sturm retired from medical practice in 1938.[28] The couple moved to Southport, where Mrs. Sturm died of cancer on 18 November 1940.[29]

Sturm died of cerebral hemmorhage and coronary thrombosis at Hollies Nursing Home, Leyland Road, Southport, on 23 February 1942. He was buried 3 days later beside his wife in Southport's Birkdale Cemetery.[30]


Poems of baudelaire


Sturm is best known for his 1906 book of translations, The Poems of Charles Baudelaire.[20]

All but 11 of Sturm's translations, and his introductory essay, were included in Baudelaire: His prose and poetry (1919), edited by Thomas H. Smith, who wrote in his own introduction: "F.P. Sturm's effort with The Flowers of Evil and the Prose Poems is always accurate, sometimes inspired, and often a tour de force of translation."[31]

Matheil and Jackson Mathews included 20 of Sturm's translations in their 1955 edition of Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, which was meant to showcase "the best English translations of Baudelaire's poems done in these past hundred years." In their introduction they expressed the opinion that:

F.P. Sturm, whose work was done about 1905, is still one of the finest of Baudelaire's translators; his understanding of the poems, his sense of workmanship, his poetic sense prevail over any softness or old-fashioned diction in his work.[32]

Richard Taylor, who wrote a thesis on Sturm in 1966, says that Sturm's "interpretation is a fine one and many of the poems do recreate in English the feeling and intention of the originals:"[33]

The quality of much of Sturm's work is obvious [Taylor adds] and the fact that he was able to recreate so faithfully such different poetic tempers as those found in 'To a Brown Beggar-Maid', 'The Eyes of Beauty' and 'The Corpse', and 'The Seven Old Men' and 'The Little Old Women' speaks highly of his ability.[11]

Original poetry[]

Taylor says that Sturm's early poems "are very uneven, and many of them are incredibly bad," a fault which he attributes to their being "often turned out against a weekly deadline and at a time when Sturm was supposed to be devoting himself to the study of medicine."[34]

Of Sturm's later poetry, Taylor says: "Sturm's own sense of rhythm and style is graceful, and the lyric quality of his later verse is, I think, something of a poetic achievement, at least in the sense of its development and promise."[35] In a 1918 letter, Yeats told Sturm that "you have the rare gifts of a poet," and praised the "strange and vivid metaphor" of his recent verse.[22]

Taylor calls the poems of Eternal Helen (1921) "the best [Sturm] had ever done."[36] Of this book, the Times Literary Supplement said: "His images and the invocation to his love are dreamlike visions clothed in stately moving verse, or figures as of an illuminated manuscript or a tapestry."[19]


Yeats included Sturm's short poem, "Still-heart," in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892-1935, 1936.[37]




Collected editions[]


Except where noted, bibliographical informtion courtesy WorldCat.[38]

Poems by Frank Pearce Sturm[]

  1. Still-heart

See also[]


  • Richard Dean Taylor, Frank Pearce Sturm: His life, literary friendships, and collected work. Durham University (Durham thesis). Available at E-Durham online: Volume I.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Taylor 1966, I, 18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Taylor 1966, I, 19.
  3. Taylor 1966, I, 16.
  4. Taylor 1966, I, 20.
  5. Taylor 1966, I, 35.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Taylor 1966, I, 49.
  7. Taylor 1966, I, 39.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Taylor 1966, I, 40.
  9. Taylor 1966, I, 40-41.
  10. Taylor 1966, I, 41-42.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Taylor 1966, I, 47.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Taylor 1966, I, 50.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Taylor 1966, I, 51.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Taylor 1966, I, 53.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Taylor 1966, I, 53.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Taylor 1966, I, 15.
  17. Taylor 1966, I, 76.
  18. Taylor 1966, I, 81.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Taylor 1966, I, 79.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Frank Pearce Sturm, Wikipedia, July 10, 2017. Web, May 12, 2018.
  21. Taylor 1966, I, 81-82.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Taylor 1966, I, 60.
  23. Taylor 1966, I, 12.
  24. Taylor 1966, I, 13.
  25. Taylor 1966, I, 76.
  26. Taylor 1966, I, 102.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Taylor 1966, I, 17.
  28. Taylor 1966, I, 125.
  29. Taylor 1966, I, 126.
  30. Taylor 1966, I, 128.
  31. Taylor 1966, I, 47-48.
  32. Taylor 1966, I, 49.
  33. Taylor 1966, I, 42.
  34. Taylor 1966, I, 36.
  35. Taylor 1966, I, 62.
  36. Taylor 1966, I, 95.
  37. The Oxford book of modern verse, 1892-1935, UNSW Library, University of New South Wales. Web, May 12, 2018.
  38. Search results = au:Frank Pearce Sturm, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Mar. 14, 2015.

External links[]

  • Richard Dean Taylor, Frank Pearce Sturm: His life, literary friendships, and collected work. Durham University (Durham thesis). [Available ae E-Durham online]: Volume I.
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