He died at Rome, April 19th, The thirty-three years between the taking of his degree and his death were occupied chiefly with study, and with the production of works of criticism. Many of these deal with Italian men of genius; with the period of the Renaissance, and with those personages in whom the Renaissance spirit found most significant embodiment. His poetical temperament, his sensitiveness to beauty, above all, his intense interest in human development, fitted him peculiarly to understand the temper of Italy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
This monumental book is in five parts. He portrays a great age, as it can only be portrayed, through the medium of personality. He sees the individualism of the Renaissance expressed in Dante, in Petrarch, and in Boccaccio; he sees its strength in Michaelangelo, and its sweetness in Raphael. To Mr. Symonds the man is the age. As was natural with a student of the Renaissance, Mr.
The Life of John Addington Symonds
Symonds was also a student of Greek life and thought. It is a book requiring little scholarship in the reader, and it is therefore popular in the widest sense. It tells of the Greek poets as of men whose individuality gave color to their age. The reader is brought into contact with them rather than with remote historical conditions. Over the whole record lies the beautiful light of a fine and penetrative sympathy. The author loses readily his nineteenth-century temper of the desire of the impossible, and enters with full harmony into the mellow objective world of Greece, into its reasonableness and its temperance.
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His style attains its greatest perfection in this book. It is warm and pulsating with his sympathies. The poetical and appreciative side of Mr.
Symonds, John Addington 1840-1893
His culture was broad enough to make of him a complete critic, living his artistic life in the Whole as well as in the Good and in the Beautiful. Yet he maintains that the scientific spirit, the outgrowth of the rediscovery of the world, must be subordinate to the humanistic spirit, the outgrowth of the rediscovery of man. This is so because man is greater than the universe in which he lives.
He is also a subtle critic of his contemporaries.
We are not in the real region of reality, but in the region of the constructive imagination, from the first to the last line of the novel. Besides the works already referred to, Mr. In his life was in danger. His recovery at Davos Platz led him to believe this was the only place where he was likely to enjoy life. Symonds became a citizen of the town; he took part in its municipal business, made friends with the peasants and shared their interests. There he wrote most of his books: biographies of Shelley , Philip Sidney , Ben Jonson and Michelangelo , several volumes of poetry and essays, and a translation of the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini There, too, he completed his study of the Renaissance , the work for which he is chiefly remembered.
He was feverishly active throughout his life. Considering his poor health, his productivity was remarkable. His activity was unbroken to the last. He had a passion for Italy and for many years resided during the autumn in the house of his friend, Horatio F Brown , on the Zattere , in Venice.
Symonds, John Addington [WorldCat Identities]
He died in Rome and was buried close to the grave of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Symonds left his papers and his autobiography in the hands of Brown, who wrote an expurgated biography in , which Edmund Gosse further stripped of homoerotic content before publication. In , upon coming into the possession of Symonds' papers, Gosse burned everything except the memoirs, to the dismay of Symonds' granddaughter. Symonds was morbidly introspective , but with a capacity for action. In Talks and Talkers , the contemporary writer Robert Louis Stevenson described Symonds known as "Opalstein" in Stevenson's essay as "the best of talkers, singing the praises of the earth and the arts, flowers and jewels, wine and music, in a moonlight, serenading manner, as to the light guitar.
This side of his nature is revealed in his gnomic poetry , and particularly in the sonnets of his Animi Figura He portrayed his own character with great subtlety. His poetry is perhaps rather that of the student than of the inspired singer, but it has moments of deep thought and emotion.
It is, indeed, in passages and extracts that Symonds appears at his best. Rich in description, full of " purple patches ," his work lacks the harmony and unity essential to the conduct of philosophical argument. His translations are among the finest in the language; here his subject was found for him, and he was able to lavish on it the wealth of colour and quick sympathy which were his characteristics. In , Symonds wrote A Problem in Greek Ethics , a work of what would later be called " gay history.
Chaddock for introducing "homosexual" into the English language in , Symonds had already used the word in A Problem in Greek Ethics.
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Symonds also translated classical poetry on homoerotic themes, and wrote poems drawing on ancient Greek imagery and language such as Eudiades , which has been called "the most famous of his homoerotic poems". The same year, his translations of Michelangelo 's sonnets to the painter's beloved Tommaso Cavalieri restore the male pronouns which had been made female by previous editors. In November , Symonds' homoerotic poem, 'The Song of the Swimmer', written in , was published for the first time in the Times Literary Supplement.
By the end of his life, Symonds' homosexuality had become an open secret in certain literary and cultural circles. His private memoirs, written but never completed over a four-year period from to , form the earliest known self-conscious homosexual autobiography. Symonds' daughter, Madge Vaughan, was probably writer Virginia Woolf 's first same-sex crush, though there is no evidence that the feeling was mutual.
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Woolf was the cousin of her husband William Wyamar Vaughan. Another daughter, Charlotte Symonds, married the classicist Walter Leaf. Henry James used some details of Symonds' life, especially the relationship between him and his wife, as the starting-point for the short story " The Author of Beltraffio " Sussex, England Soldier Love , or Soldatenliebe since it was limited to a German edition. Symonds' English text is lost. This translation and edition by Dakyns is the only version ever to appear in the author's own language.
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