Shakspere's Predecessors in the English Drama.

By John Addington Symonds

Printed: 1900

Publisher: Smith Elder & Co. London

Edition: New edition

Dimensions 15 × 20 × 4 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 15 x 20 x 4

Condition: Very good  (See explanation of ratings)

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Full tree calf binding with gilt banding, decoration and title on the spine. Gilt college emblem on the front board. Gilt decorative edging on both boards.

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                       A new edition in a presentation binding.

These men, George Chapman, John Lyly, George Peele, Robert Green, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Kyd, are often styled the predecessors of Shakespeare; but they were more properly the contemporaries of his early literary life. The careers of these men were the same in general outline.


                                          Symonds by Carlo Orsi

John Addington Symonds Jr. (5 October 1840 – 19 April 1893) was an English poet and literary critic. A cultural historian, he was known for his work on the Renaissance, as well as numerous biographies of writers and artists. Although married with children, Symonds supported male love (homosexuality), which he believed could include pederastic as well as egalitarian relationships, referring to it as l’amour de l’impossible (love of the impossible). He also wrote much poetry inspired by his same-sex affairs.

Symonds was born at Bristol, England, in 1840. His father, the physician John Addington Symonds (1807–1871), was the author of Criminal Responsibility (1869), The Principles of Beauty (1857) and Sleep and Dreams. The younger Symonds, considered delicate, did not take part in games at Harrow School after the age of 14, and he showed no particular promise as a scholar.

Symonds moved to Clifton Hill House at the age of ten, an event which he believed had a large and beneficial impact towards his health and spiritual development. Symonds’s delicate condition continued, and as a child he suffered from nightmares in which corpses in and under his bed prompted sleepwalking; on one such occasion he was almost drowned when, sleepwalking in the attic of Clifton Hill House, he reached a cistern of rainwater. According to Symonds, an angel with “blue eyes and wavy, blonde hair” woke him and brought him to safety; this figure frequented Symonds’s dreams and was potentially his first homosexual awakening.

In January 1858, Symonds received a letter from his friend Alfred Pretor (1840–1908), telling of Pretor’s affair with their headmaster, Charles John Vaughan. Symonds was shocked and disgusted, feelings complicated by his growing awareness of his own homosexuality. He did not mention the incident for more than a year until in 1859, when a student at Oxford University, he told the story to John Conington, the Latin professor. Conington approved of romantic relationships between men and boys. Earlier, he had given Symonds a copy of Ionica, a collection of homoerotic verse by William Johnson Cory, the influential Eton College master and advocate of pederastic pedagogy. Conington encouraged Symonds to tell his father about his friend’s affair, and the senior Symonds forced Vaughan to resign from Harrow. Pretor was angered by the younger man’s part, and never spoke to Symonds again.

In the autumn of 1858, Symonds went to Balliol College, Oxford, as a commoner but was elected to an exhibition in the following year. In spring of that same year, he fell in love with William Fear Dyer (1843–1905), a Bristol choirboy three years younger. They engaged in a chaste love affair that lasted a year, until broken up by Symonds. The friendship continued for several years afterwards, until at least 1864. Dyer became organist and choirmaster of St Nicholas’ Church, Bristol.

At Oxford University, Symonds became engaged in his studies and began to demonstrate his academic ability. In 1860, he took a first in Mods and won the Newdigate prize with a poem on “The Escorial”; in 1862 he obtained a first in Literae Humaniores, and in 1863 won the Chancellor’s English Essay.

In 1862, Symonds was elected to an open fellowship at the conservative Magdalen. He made friends with a C. G. H. Shorting, whom he took as a private pupil. When Symonds refused to help Shorting gain admission to Magdalen, the younger man wrote to school officials alleging “that I [Symonds] had supported him in his pursuit of the chorister Walter Thomas Goolden (1848–1901), that I shared his habits and was bent on the same path.”  Although Symonds was officially cleared of any wrongdoing, he suffered a breakdown from the stress and shortly thereafter left the university for Switzerland. In Switzerland, he met Janet Catherine North (sister of botanical artist Marianne North, 1830–1890). They married at Hastings on 10 November 1864. They settled in London and had four daughters: Janet (born 1865), Charlotte (born 1867), Margaret (Madge) (born 1869) and Katharine (born 1875; she was later honoured for her writing as Dame Katharine Furse). Edward Lear wrote “The Owl and the Pussycat” for the three-year-old Janet.

While in Clifton in 1868, Symonds met and fell in love with Norman Moor (January 10, 1851 – March 6, 1895), a youth about to go up to Oxford, who became his pupil. Symonds and Moor had a four-year affair but did not have sex, although according to Symonds’s diary of 28 January 1870, “I stripped him naked and fed sight, touch and mouth on these things.” The relationship occupied a good part of his time, including one occasion he left his family and travelled to Italy and Switzerland with Moor. The unconsummated affair also inspired his most productive period of composing poetry, published in 1880 as New and Old: A Volume of Verse.

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