Monday, 2 April 2018

Sydney Schiff

This is an outline of what I would like to have written about Sydney Schiff

His parents relationship. His Father. His Mother.
Birth of his sister.
His birth.
His childhood: Prince Hempseed.
His adolescence and youth: The Other Side.
[When is the discussion about a career?]
His marriage.
His life at Blevio.
The end of his marriage.
Violet Beddington.
His writing.
Dates for books…
His involvement with the arts: names and dates
Poets, artists
  1. Eliot: Letter 16 July 1919 from TSE
  2. Wyndham Lewis: portrait Violet started 1922
  3. Mansfield: 1918 in south of France (Klaidman says 1st April 1920) 
  4. Proust: Spring 1919
  5. Muir: letter May 1924
  6. Sitwells: Sydney appointed Osbert co-editor of Art & Letters November 1918
  7. Eurich, 
  8. Rosenberg: met May 1915 at Café Royal
  9. Koteliansky: pre 1926
  10. Epstein, 
  11. Delius, 
  12. Huxley, 
  13. Joyce, 
  14. Murry, 
  15. Beerbohn, 
  16. Garnett? 
  17. Woolf?, 
  18. Sculptor ?
  19. Had paintings by Gauguin and Picasso at Roquebrune 
  20. Bomberg? 
  21. Gertler

Patronage: Lady Drogheda, 'Eleanor' [Joan Carr]
Editorships and support
Sources: BL

  • Concessions (1913, as Sydney Schiff)
  • War Time Silhouettes (1916)
  • Richard Kurt (1919)
  • Elinor Colhouse (1921)
  • Prince Hempseed (1923)
  • In Sight of Chaos by Hermann Hesse (1923, as translator)
  • Tony (1924)
  • Myrtle (1925)
  • Richard, Myrtle and I (1926)
  • A True Story in Three Parts and a Postscript, All of Them Facile Rubbish (1930)
  • Celeste and Other Sketches (Blackamore Press, 1930)
  • Time Regained by Marcel Proust (1931, as translator)
  • The Other Side (1937)

Schiff, Sydney Alfred [pseud. Stephen Hudson] (1868–1944), novelist, translator, and patron of the arts, was born in London, the illegitimate child of Alfred George Schiff (c.1840–1908), a stockbroker, and Caroline Mary Ann Eliza Cavell, née Scates (1842–c.1896). Caroline had married John Scott Cavell in 1861: he filed for divorce in 1867 on the grounds that Caroline had committed adultery with an unknown person in 1865 and had borne a daughter (Carrie Louise) from this relationship, and that she had cohabited with Alfred Schiff since November 1865. Sydney Schiff's birth was registered under another, untraceable name; the date which the family used as his birthday, 12 December 1868, cannot be confirmed. Caroline married Alfred Schiff in 1869, and they had four further children, one son and three daughters.

Schiff was educated at G. T. Worsley's Preparatory School at Hillingdon, Middlesex, and at Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire. In 1886 he was unsuccessful in his efforts to enter Oxford to read law, and in 1887 he travelled first to Canada, to work for a friend of his father, and subsequently to the United States, to work for his uncle Charles. Travelling in the States, Schiff met Marion Fulton Canine (b. 1867/8, d. after 1932), whom he married on 29 August 1889 in Ontario. The couple returned to Europe, but the marriage was not a success. In spite of the family wealth, Marion's expectations of luxury were not fulfilled; moreover, she antagonized her mother-in-law, and mocked Sydney's literary aspirations. The couple separated in 1908; Marion filed for divorce in June 1910, and the decree absolute was declared on 8 May 1911.

Schiff married Violet Zillah Beddington (1874–1962) on 10 May 1911. Violet and her family were more encouraging of artistic endeavour than Schiff's parents or his first wife, and he turned his attentions to writing fiction and to patronage of the arts. His first novel, Concessions (1913), was published under his own name, but War-Time Silhouettes (1916) and subsequent works appeared under the name Stephen Hudson. The pseudonym was adopted in anticipation of the appearance of Richard Kurt (1919), the first of a sequence of autobiographical novels. Schiff had begun work on these in 1911, but during the First World War he and Violet had enthusiastically read Proust's Du côté de chez SwannÀ la recherche du temps perdu provided a precedent for the scale, if not the manner, of Schiff's autobiographical sequence. Schiff later extensively revised and combined several of his novels as A True Story (1930). His championing of Proust in British literary circles also led to his translating Time Regained (1923) after the death of C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

During the war Schiff developed his role as a patron of the arts, supporting Isaac Rosenberg with small gifts of money and painting materials. He subsidized the short-lived but influential periodical Art and Letters (1918–20), as well as contributing to it and editing one issue. In the post-war period he encouraged and supported other modernist artists and writers through purchases and gifts of money, and through correspondence, hospitality, and conversation. His manner was recalled by Jacob Isaacs as being ‘fastidious, punctilious’ and ‘exquisitely courteous’, while his appearance, on account of his moustache and conservatively tailored jackets, was that of a military man (Beddington-Behrens, 59–60). His circle included Wyndham Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, John Middleton Murry, and Frederick Delius. Though the Schiffs retained a base in London, they frequently travelled and lived elsewhere in the south of England and on the continent, and in consequence a substantial body of correspondence has survived. They became more settled with the move to Abinger Manor, near Dorking, in 1934. Their house was damaged by a stray German bomb in August 1944, and the shock may have been a contributing factor in Schiff's death at the Sackville Court Hotel, Kingsway, Hove, Sussex, from heart failure on 29 October 1944.

Michael H. Whitworth


T. E. M. Boll, ‘Biographical note’, Richard, Myrtle and I, ed. V. Schiff (1962), 15–40 · T. S. Eliot, ‘Mrs Violet Schiff’, The Times (9 July 1962) · E. Beddington-Behrens, Look back, look forward (1962) · Cavell v. Cavell, TNA: PRO, J77/76/485 · Schiff v. Schiff, TNA: PRO, J77/1003/459, J77/1011/678 · M. Proust, Correspondance, ed. P. Kolb, 21 vols. (1970–93) · m. certs. · The Times (13 Nov 1944) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1945)


BL, papers · BL, corresp., Add. MSS 52916–52923 |  Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Wyndham Lewis papers · Harvard U., William Rothenstein papers · Merton Oxf., letters to Max Beerbohm · Tate collection, corresp. with Richard Eurich


W. Lewis, portrait, 1922–3, repro. in W. Michel, Wyndham Lewis: paintings and drawings (1971) · M. Beerbohm, caricature, 1925, repro. in M. Beerbohm, Observations (1925) · photograph, c.1930, repro. in Beddington-Behrens, Look back, look forward, facing p. 60 · photographs, c.1930–1933, repro. in Schiff, ed., Richard, Myrtle and I 

Wealth at death  

£2221 9s. 10d.: probate, 30 Jan 1945, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
Oxford University: Merton College Library
See Location Register of C20 English Lit MSS, British L, 1988
Tate Gallery Archive
NRA 38655
Imperial War Museum Department of Documents
See Location Register of C20 English Lit MSS, British L, 1988
British Library, Manuscript Collections

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