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Introduction xiii

Joyce and Eliot to read nineteenth-century poetry and form their own judgements, but its signifi cance also extends beyond this. Murray Pittock, for example, has claimed that Symons’ infl uence is not to be found in ‘explicit endorsements, but in the amount of critical writing which agrees with its theoretic assumptions’.15 The Symbolist Movement, then, does not simply mediate between French literature and English speakers; it mediates between the fi n de siècle and Modernism.


Eliot is unlikely to have been ignorant of The Symbolist Movement before he read it. Although it was the fi rst version published in the United States, the copy he picked up in the Harvard Union was not the fi rst edition, which had been published in London eight years earlier. What’s more, by the end of the nineteenth century, its author had a reputation as a Decadent poet as well as a critic. In 1895, reviewing Symons’ second collection of poems, London Nights, an anonymous critic in the Pall Mall Gazette had dismissed him as ‘a very dirty-minded man’ who recorded his ‘squalid and inexpensive amours’ in verse.16 His poem ‘Stella Amaris’, which purports to recall a one-night stand with a prostitute in terms invoking comparisons with the Virgin Mary, came in for particular censure. His reputation in the 1890s as a Decadent writer may seem a long way from Symons’ roots as the son of a dissenting Wesleyan minister and his fi rst literary obsession with the works of Robert Browning. Encouraged in his literary pursuits early by a young schoolteacher, Charles Churchill Osbourne, Symons joined the Browning Society aged 16 and published an essay on ‘Robert Browning as a Religious Poet’ in the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine aged 18. Through his new connections to the scholarly founder of the Browning Society, Frederick J. Furnivall, Symons then found editorial work, writing introductions to Shakespeare’s plays and longer poems. This led to further editorial work with Havelock

15 Murray G.H. Pittock, Spectrum of Decadence: The Literature of the 1890s

(London: Routledge, 1993), p. 70. 16 Quoted in Karl Beckson, Arthur Symons: A Life (Oxford: Clarendon Press,

1987), p. 118.

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