The Symbolist Movement in Literature
Eliot’s criticisms of Symons, however, may also be representative. Although Joyce became indebted to Symons for aid in publishing his fi rst collection of poems, Chamber Music, he expressed doubts about him privately. Eliot’s sense of obligation was strong enough for him to credit Symons on a number of occasions, both in public and privately: he even made a point of expressing his ‘his peculiar debt of gratitude’ directly, while corresponding with Symons as editor of the Criterion.5 But on each occasion that he acknowledged Symons’ infl uence in print, Eliot qualifi ed his praise, noting that ‘it was a very good book for its time’, but expressing the hope that Peter Quennel’s Baudelaire and the Symbolists would render it obsolete;6 remarking subsequently: ‘as criticism I cannot say that Symons’ book stands the test of time’.7 Eliot was scrupulous on these occasions to credit Symons with stimulating his desire to read more about the writers discussed in The Symbolist Movement (‘it did make the reader want to read the poets Mr. Symons wrote about’), but also to point out the limits of Symons’ study, observing the absence of Tristan Corbière from the book and querying the inclusion of Villiers de l’Isle Adam and Maeterlinck.8
Eliot’s critical response to The Symbolist Movement both confi rms its importance and sheds some light on the relative neglect of Symons’ work in the twentieth century. While scholars are aware of his work, Symons’ writings have generally languished after their brief period of popularity at the start of the twentieth century. His prose has found a small amount of space in anthologies, but otherwise remained out of print: this volume is the fi rst new print edition of The Symbolist Movement in over 50 years and the only version to pay much attention to the accuracy of the text since Symons fi rst published it. This may be attributed to the kinds of fault identifi ed by Eliot: it may stem from the adverse effects upon
5 T.S. Eliot to Arthur Symons, 14 November 1923, in The Letters of T.S. Eliot:
Volume 2. 1923–1925, ed. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton (Yale: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 275. The fi rst part of the letter rejects two short stories by Symons for publication in the Criterion. 6 T.S. Eliot, ‘Review of Peter Quennell Baudelaire and the Symbolists’, Criterion
9 (January 1930), p. 357. 7 T.S. Eliot, ‘Foreword’, in Joseph Chiari, Contemporary French Poetry (1952),
quoted in Inventions of the March Hare, ed. Christopher Ricks (London: Faber, 1997), p. 402. 8 Eliot, ‘Baudelaire and the Symbolists’, p. 357.
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