Arthur Symons
Poet, Critic, Vagabond

Edited by Elisa Bizzotto and Stefano Evangelista

Studies In Comparative Literature 44


25 May 2018  •  208pp

ISBN: 978-1-781884-97-3 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85

ISBN: 978-1-781884-98-0 (paperback, 23 December 2019)  •  RRP £9.99, $12.50, €12.50

ISBN: 978-1-781884-99-7 (JSTOR ebook)

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In addition to its original library hardback edition, this title is now on sale in the new student-priced Legenda paperback range.

'If I have been a vagabond, and have never been able to root myself in any one place in the world, it is because I have no early memories of any one sky or soil. It has freed me from many prejudices in giving me its own unresting kind of freedom; but it has cut me off from whatever is stable, of long growth in the world.' — Arthur Symons

Arthur Symons (1865-1945) was a central figure in the cultural and social networks of the British fin de siècle. He was an often controversial poet and critic who introduced British readers to French Decadence and Symbolism and had an equally important if largely unacknowledged influence on the development of modernism. In 1908 – the year of a mental breakdown that had a disastrous effect both on his career and posthumous reputation – W.B. Yeats referred to him as ‘the best critic of his generation.’ Symons’s vast body of work also includes fiction and writings on the visual arts, music, theatre and the popular stage, as well as translations of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine and D’Annunzio. The essays in this volume reflect the breadth of Symons’s interests, reassessing this dynamic writer who played a key mediating role between English and European literatures, and between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


  • ‘The MHRA's recent commitment to publishing works by or on Arthur Symons was sus=tained in 2017 with selections edited by Nicholas Freeman and by Jane Desmarais and Chris Baldick. That commitment continues with a volume of essays on Symons’s life and work, many of which discuss his personal, intellectual, and artistic relations with aspects of European culture... In their short but excellent introduction, Bizzotto and Evangelista argue that their collection, “the first ... entirely dedicated to Symons[,] ... aims to project a new, nuanced view of Symons into the twenty-first century.”’ — Ian Small, English Literature in Transition 1880-1920 62.3, 2019, 599-606
  • ‘Once consecrated by Pater as a successor to Browning, Symons ranged far beyond poetry to practise literary and art criticism, aesthetic theory, drama, travel writing and translation; and he wrote prolifically, if self-cannibalistically, until his death in 1945.’ — Ellen Crowell, Times Literary Supplement 7 June 2019, 35
  • ‘A book devoted to the work of Arthur Symons is timely and much needed; and this carefully fashioned and integrated collection of essays offers an excellent response to that need... This is a well-crafted collection; a thoughtful and integrated multi- authored study of a writer, and one that has been put together both to confirm his significance to many of our current scholarly preoccupations while simultaneously unsettling what it might mean to think of a writer as ‘central’ to any of those debates.’ — Marion Thain, Comparative Critical Studies 17.1, 2020, 161-64 (full text online)
  • ‘The book is clearly a timely contribution to our knowledge of Symons and represents a significant milestone in his ongoing critical retrieval.’ — Rob Harris, Studies in Walter Pater and Aestheticism 5, 2020, 140-44
  • ‘Gives Symons the meticulous attention that such a pivotal cultural figure deserves. One of the most insightful aspects... is its analysis of the wandering obliqueness of his Decadent perspective as it reflects his philosophical commitment to freedom of expression, experience, and lifestyle.’ — Dennis Denisoff, Victorian Studies 62.4, 2020, 686-88 (full text online)


Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista
List of Illustrations
Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista
Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista
Chapter 1 the Rhythms of Life and Art: Symons and the Interrelationship Between Rodin’s Sculpture and Modern Dance at the Fin De Siècle
Lene Østermark-Johansen
Chapter 2 Symons, Beardsley, and the ‘Minims and Crotchets’ of Art
Jane Desmarais
Chapter 3 ‘A New Art of the Stage’: Edward Gordon Craig and the Seven Arts of Arthur Symons
John Stokes
Chapter 4 Symons and D’annunzio: Decadence in Translation
Stefano Evangelista
Chapter 5 the Sinister Guest: Arthur Symons, Villiers De L’isle-Adam, and Post-Victorian Decadence
Matthew Creasy
Chapter 6 Arthur Symons, A Mediator of Belgian Symbolist Writers
Clément Dessy
Chapter 7 Arthur Symons in France: Transnational Journalism and the French Reception
Bénédicte Coste
Chapter 8 ‘They Keep Mad People There’: Symons and Venice
Nicholas Freeman
Chapter 9 Symons On Italy and the Metamorphoses of Aesthetic Travel Writing
Elisa Bizzotto
Chapter 10 ‘Against Civilisation’: Symons, the Gypsy Lore, and Politicised Aestheticism
Katharina Herold
Chapter 11 ‘Serious in the Reality of His Devotion To Art’: the Genealogy of Symons’s Assessment in A Study of Oscar Wilde
Laura Giovannelli
Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista
Elisa Bizzotto, Stefano Evangelista

Bibliography entry:

Bizzotto, Elisa, and Stefano Evangelista (eds), Arthur Symons: Poet, Critic, Vagabond, Studies In Comparative Literature, 44 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2018)

First footnote reference: 35 Arthur Symons: Poet, Critic, Vagabond, ed. by Elisa Bizzotto and Stefano Evangelista, Studies In Comparative Literature, 44 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2018), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Bizzotto and Evangelista, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Bizzotto, Elisa, and Stefano Evangelista (eds). 2018. Arthur Symons: Poet, Critic, Vagabond, Studies In Comparative Literature, 44 (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Bizzotto and Evangelista 2018: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Bizzotto and Evangelista 2018: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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