Friday, 1 January 2016

'Myrtle'

Published in 1925 by Sydney Schiff, writing under his nom de plume Stephen Hudson, 'Myrtle', dedicated 'To my friend Frederick Delius', whom Sydney Schiff had befriended at some time before March, 1920. It follows a format of nine chapters:
1. Nanny
This is written as though from the viewpoint of a working class woman in the employ of Mr and Mrs Vendramin — alias Mr and Mrs Beddington, parents of Violet Schiff, his wife. It is a story from the Beddington family of Violet's youth that she must have told him. There is a reference to her sister Evelyn's marriage to Walter Behrens ["Mr Hildebrand Moreton"] of Paris.
2. Jane Grey
This is another tale of the Beddington family, with an account of the character of Violet's ["Myrtle"] father, of her sisters, and the death of her brother.
3. Sylvia
The story of Violet's sister's unhappy marriage, her husband's affair, her own affair with an artist, the attempt at reconciliation and his consequent suicide.
4. Adrian
More stories of the Vendramins, with mentions of the suicide, and of Sir Michael O'Halloran {Sir Arthur Sullivan] and his proposal to 'Myrtle".  The death of Sydney's mother in 1896 is mentioned, their home in Nice, his father's trip to Egypt with Sydney's sisters. There is the developing romance between Sydney and Violet. I surmise that 'Adrian' may in fact be Sydney Schiff — or is it Max? Sydney's brother Ernest — alias 'Tony' — appears, with a reference to his liaison with the famous courtesan Liane de Pougy. There is a Cécile, who I guess may be Sydney's mistress, referred to elsewhere in his fiction as Marguérite.
5. Marcel
This starts with a quote from T.S. Eliot's "Prufrock" i.e. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", published in 1920. Sydney and Violet Schiff had become friends in 1919 with the Eliots, and even took them on holiday that year. Sydney had written to Eliot about the poem, carefully analysing it. The title is presumably a reference to Marcel Proust: Sydney's wife Violet had introduced him to Proust's first book "Du Côté de Chez Swann" in 1916, and he had devoured it, and was inspired tremendously by it, so that he attempted to become an English Proust. Sydney Schiff's first book, "War Time Silhouettes', was published in 1916.
6. Sir Michael O'Halloran
This is the account of Sir Arthur Sullivan's proposal to Violet Beddington written as though from his viewpoint.
7. Basil Moriarty
This appears to be an account of a previous amour of Violet beddington.
8. Block
Miss Vendramin, Moriarty, Marcel and Evangeline, a performance of "Delilah", Paris, a closing letter in French... I didn't get this story.
9. Kurt
This is an essay that Sydney Schiff included in his omnibus edition of The Kurt Saga as a postscript. It concerns his uncle, Charles Schiff, "Theo", and his American wife Mary Burch, "Aunt Kate". Then follows an account of the early days of his romance with "Myrtle": Violet Beddington. He details his personal love life over twenty years, ending with the decision to part.

The book ends with an essay by Edwin Muir, Sydney Schiff's friend, entitled "The Art of Stephen Hudson", originally printed in the "New York Evening Post". It deals mostly with the novel "Tony", published in 1924. Another essay on the same subject was published by Edwin Muir the following year in his book "Transition". 


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