A collection of eight short stories, Spiritual Adventures was Symons’ only published work of fiction and is a significant achievement in its own right, at once beautifully written and autobiographically revealing.
As well as suggesting how Symons’ career might have developed had he not suffered a calamitous nervous breakdown in 1908, the book is also an important staging post in the evolution of prose fiction during the fin de siècle. Dedicated to Thomas Hardy and heavily influenced by Walter Pater’s Imaginary Portraits (1887), its sophisticated delineation of psychology, evocative settings (London, Cornwall, the Mediterranean) and audacious combination of character study and aesthetic philosophising make Spiritual Adventures a radical work which retains a capacity to surprise more than a century after its original publication.
Nicholas Freeman is a senior lecturer in English at Loughborough University.
‘How gratifying it is, then, to have not one but two new volumes of Symons’ work published by the Modern Humanities Research Association’s Jewelled Tortoise imprint, thoroughly edited and placed in both a biographical and cultural context. The volumes’ editors are all wise enough to balance their informative footnotes with letting Symons’ work shine on its own.’ — Heather Marcovitch, Review of English Studies 2017
‘These excellent critical editions of Symons’s poetry and prose… Symons emerges much clearer for their informative and well-judged notes.’ — Kate Hext, Times Literary Supplement12 January 2018, 3-4
‘The great service these two editions do to the study of Symons, and more broadly in developing our understanding of the contours and development of fin de siècle culture as it was negotiated during the period between Victorianism and modernism. We are left with the impression that the Jewelled Tortoise series is a vital scholarly project for researchers working on the period, and the hope that they will continue to publish such important scholarly editions.’ — Giles Whiteley, Notes & Queries September 2018, 459-61
‘Freeman’s brilliantly researched Introduction makes a compelling case for these stories as an ‘intriguing example of early modernism, providing further evidence of that movement’s evolutionary development rather than implying a clean break from earlier conventions’... Freeman’s footnotes and introductions to each story are a model: concise, judicious, and enhancing the reading experience without imposing interpretation... Under the expert eye of Catherine Maxwell and Stefano Evangelista, this series is setting a new standard in fin-de-siècle textual scholarship... Just as importantly, these texts are very reasonably priced, which means they can be set in courses on Decadence and fin-de-siècle culture, bringing Symons’s work—enriched by rigorous scholarship—to a new generation of critics.’ — Alex Murray, Modern Language Review 113.4, October 2018, 867-70 (full text online)