Sunday, 1 January 2017

Sydney Schiff: my research library



This book proved extremely useful. as an overview of the life and work of Sydney and Violet Schiff. I would have dearly liked to have contacted the author as I am able to give him extra information, but this proved impossible.



This is the table of contents of Stephen Klaidman's book. I'd love to add to it, but I do appreciate his ground-breaking work.


Rather out of sequence, this is a copy of Sydney Schiff's translation of the last volume of Proust's great novel. Schiff and his wife were amongst the earliest fans of Proust and his work.



This is the English edition of Davenport-Hines's book; I also have the American edition which is much classier in format and presentation. However, the text is the same, and displays Davenport-Hines's strong English middle class antisemitic animus against the Schiffs.





Interestingly, 'Myrtle', published in 1925, is dedicated to Frederick Delius, Sydney Schiff's friend. 1925 was quite late in Delius's career, at a time when he was beginning to suffer from the effects of syphilis.




'Concessions' was Sydney Schiff's first published work, and the only one published under his own name. Its date of publication, 1913, reflects his divorce in 1911 from Marion Canine Fulton, ending an unfortunate and deeply unhappy relationship, and his marriage to his muse and inspiration, Violet Beddington. The dedication of the book to Violet reflects his new found happiness and sense of fulfilment.



'Tony' was published in 1924, five years after his brother's death, and this is an accurate but fictionalised account of his brother Ernest's life.


'Richard Myrtle and I' was published in 1926 and again is very autobiographical. Almost all Sydney Schiff's books were romans à clef



'The Other Side' is a late novel by Sydney Schiff, published in 1937, only seven years before death, and it fills in a gap in his autobiographical series of novels, covering the period of his youth, when he went to America to work under his uncle Charles, named Theo in this fictionalised version, and leading to his disastrous marriage.  It s dedicated to Samuel Koteliansky, the Russian Jewish immigrant of humble origins who came to play a significant part in the world of 1920s English art and letters.


The omnibus version of Sydney Schiff's autobiographical series of novels was named 'A True Story'. This early version, originally published in 1930, does not include 'The Other Side', but I believe the included text of 'Richard Kurt' is more complete than in later editions.


This 1962 edition of 'Richard, Myrtle and I' is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of Sydney Schiff, his work and life. It was edited by his widow who cut it very heavily. We know that Violet was a stern critic of her husband's work, and that she examined everything he wrote, insisting on many cuts and changes. I wish his original manuscripts had survived, but she appears to have destroyed everything: manuscripts and letters included. 


This 1948 edition is comparatively poor in appearance and binding, but it is the much extended version incorporating 'The Other Side' and including an epilogue.


This edition appears to have been published in 1965, and appears to be complete and uncut.


This edition does also include a glowing appreciation by Sydney's friend Dame Edith Sitwell, at that time a famous and respected poet.


'Céleste' was published in 1930 in an attractive edition illustrated by the wood engravings of John Nash. Typically of Sydney Schiff this is a limited edition. Several of his books appeared in special editions, with special paper and bindings, especially those translated into French.



The first story, which gives its title to the volume, is a fictionalised account of his friendship with Marcel Proust. Céleste was Proust's housekeeper.


A paperbook of the French translation of 'A True Story'. Here are parts I and II.


A third part of the French translation of 'A True Story': 'Richard Kurt'. Richard Kurt was the name Sydney Schiff used for himself in these autobiographical novels.


This is one of Sydney Schiff's much loved special editions of his novels: the French translation of 'Richard Kurt', half bound in maroon Morocco with marbled paper, and marbled endpapers. This is copy number 169 of 315; this is one of 210 copies in this series reserved to Sélections Ardanchet and printed on alfa Navarre paper.


Published in 1932 this volume recognises the work of ten authors considered important at the time, but now almost completely forgotten. Sydney Schiff's self criticism is of interest.




The volume was designed and planned as an aid to the collector of first editions. The bibliography to this effect is a useful listing of Sydney Schiff's publications.











Printed in 1976, Clémentine Robert's study of Sydney Schiff's correspondence with Aldous Huxley introduces us to Sydney Schiff's correspondence, which was donated to the British Library by his widow Violet Schiff:
Schiff PapersScope: Correspondence, etc. mainly literary and personal, of Sydney Schiff al. 'Stephen Hudson' (b. 1868, d. 1944) and of his wife, Violet, née Beddington (d. 1962) 1907-1961, n.d.Location and Catalogue: 52916-52923.
These are a valuable resource for literary historians of the period. However, I suspect that Stephen Klaidman did not personally inspect this valuable collection in his important book on Sydney and Violet Schiff, but made use of items from the collection that were published elsewhere. 




Edwin and Willa Muir were writers and translators, and friends of the Schiffs. These letters are from the Sydney Schiff collection in the british Library.



Sydney Schiff supported and encouraged Isaac Rosenberg. Several letters from Isaac Rosenberg to Sydney Schiff are printed in this volume, printed in 1979.




Jean Moorcroft Wilson's book of 2008 usefully shows Sydney Schiff in the context of his generous, if resented and unappreciated, patron of artists and the arts.


This is a book not about Sydney Schiff, but about his three aunts in Hamburg and their friendship with the young Gustav Mahler.






Sydney's aunt, Frau Henriette (alias Emma Alessandria) Lazarus, née Schiff, was also a friend of the conductor Hans von Bülow. Bülow and Henriette's mutual friend Toni Petersen, relation of my wonderful friend Claudia Petersen of Hamburg.


The correspondence with Marcel Proust needs updating. Proust's letters have been printed, but in this edition they are from typescripts produced by Sydney Schiff and have deliberate omissions. The full edition of Proust's correspondence by Philip Kolb is unfortunately inaccessible: I have yet to find copies I can consult.


Franz Willnauer very finally assisted me with my research into Sydney Schiff's three aunts in Hamburg, sharing copies of original documents and other information. I was happy to purchase a copy of his book.



Violet's nephew Edward Beddington-Behrens wrote these memoirs which cast some light upon the Schiffs. I did here a rumour that it was he who was responsible for the suicide of his cousin Rosemary Cooke during the war, but I cannot substantiate this.




T. S. Eliot was a close friend of the Schiffs, and their letters are published.



This is the Samuel Koteliansky to who Sydney Schiff dedicated his late book 'The Other Side'.



Schiff's friendship with Proust has been sneered at and dismissed by English writers, but his admiration for Proust is beyond question, and his friendship sincere. He was able to reach Proust in a way that was obviously the envy of others who saw it as merely sycophantic adulation.


Wyndham Lewis is very representative of that particularly English brand of nasty antisemitism. In fact it was Wyndham Lewis who was the nasty piece of work.




Schiff is mostly famous for the meeting he engineered at the Majestic in Paris of some of the great minds of 1920s Europe, chiefly Joyce and Proust. This was sufficiently famous to merit a reference in Alain de Botton's book.



I was surprised to discover that Sydney Schiff was aware of Picasso and his work. Sydney Schiff certainly championed many British artists, such as Mark Gertler and Wyndham lewis, amongst many others, and when I was taken ill in 2016 it was when I was working on the correspondence between Sydney Schiff and Richard Eurich in the Tate Archives. 



There is an excellent account of Sydney Schiff's literary achievements in this essay by his friend Edwin Muir.



The correspondence with T. S. Eliot, and the Schiffs' friendship with the Eliots, is scattered through two large volumes of Eliot's published correspondence.



Katherine Mansfield was also a member of the Schiffs' circle, but she too could be quite disparaging of them.



Ada Leverson was Violet Schiff's sister, a fellow member of a large and illustrious family.



Mina Curtiss is generally kinder to Sydney Schiff, as an American outside English snobbery and antisemitism, and she was herself jewish. Sydney Schiff, of course, had a father of Jewish origin but his mother was completely English, although born in Vienna by some quirk of history. As well as David Garnett it should be mentioned how Clive Bell also demonstrated his profound English antisemitic snobbery in relation to Sydney Schiff.

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