Loading...

In Cynara’s Shadow

Collected Essays on Ernest Dowson

by Alice Condé (Volume editor) Jessica Gossling (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XVIII, 288 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • List of Illustrations
  • Foreword (R. K. R. Thornton)
  • Acknowledgements
  • A Note on the Text
  • Introduction (Alice Condé / Jessica Gossling)
  • Part I Texts
  • 1 Tainted Medievalism: Ernest Dowson and Courtly Love (Kostas Boyiopoulos)
  • 2 ‘Non sum qualis’: Three Comparative Readings (Alex Wong)
  • 3 From the Drawer to the Cloister: Ernest Dowson’s ‘Poésie Schublade’ (Jessica Gossling)
  • 4 ‘For the life of me I cannot say!’: Ernest Dowson’s Dilemmas (Bénédicte Coste)
  • Part II Contexts
  • 5 ‘Slimy Trails’ and ‘Holy Places’: Dowson’s Strange Life in Context (Jad Adams)
  • 6 Dowson, French Literature, and the Catholic Image (Robert Pruett)
  • 7 Ernest and Aubrey: Friendship and Rivalry at the Fin de Siècle (Joseph Thorne)
  • 8 ‘The pale roses expire’: Dowson’s Decadent Diminuendo (Alice Condé)
  • 9 ‘The quintessence of a quintessence’: Music and Musicality in Ernest Dowson’s Verse (Jane Desmarais)
  • Select Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

In Cynara’s Shadow

Collected Essays on Ernest Dowson

Alice Condé and Jessica Gossling (eds)

About the editors

Alice Condé is an Associate Tutor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London where she has been teaching since 2011.

Jessica Gossling is a Fractional Lecturer in the English and Comparative Literature Department at Goldsmiths.

Alice and Jessica work as part of the Decadence Research Unit at Goldsmiths and are members of the British Association of Decadence Studies.

About the book

In the 120 years since the publication of his final poetry collection, Decorations: In Verse and Prose (1899), Ernest Dowson has become something of a Decadent legend, much anthologized and referenced in almost every study of English Decadent literature, but still is considered a minor figure of the fin de siècle. He is, in fact, an important intermediary between late nineteenth-century Decadence and literary Modernism. This first collection of critical essays devoted solely to Dowson draws him out of the shadows and acknowledges his talent and legacy. The essays in this volume by established and emergent Dowson scholars offer new perspectives on some of the most noteworthy aspects of Dowson’s oeuvre, including Catholicism and Paganism, desire and sexuality, space and place, his relationships with Decadent contemporaries including Paul Verlaine and Aubrey Beardsley, and his poetic resonance in twentieth-century literature and music.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Illustrations

Frontispiece ‘Blind Chivvy’, drawn by Edmund Trueman for Dowson Day 2016. © <http://nevercomedowncomix.blogspot.com>

Figure 5.1. Ernest Dowson drawn by Charles Conder, c.1897.

Figure 5.2. William Clarke Hall drawn sleeping by Edna, 1906. By kind permission of the Masters of the Bench of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn.

Figure 5.3. Edna Clarke Hall, a self-portrait, 1896. From the exhibition catalogue of her work, D’Offay Gallery, 1971.

Figure 5.4. Man/girl relationships in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Figure 7.1. Aubrey Beardsley, cover design, Ernest Dowson, Verses (London: Leonard Smithers, 1896). Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

Figure 7.2. Aubrey Beardsley, ‘Portrait of Himself’, The Yellow Book, 3 (October 1894), 51. Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

Figure 7.3. Aubrey Beardsley, ‘The Death of Pierrot’, The Savoy, 6 (October 1896), 33. Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

Figure 7.4. Aubrey Beardsley, ‘Frontispiece’, Ernest Dowson, The Pierrot of the Minute (London: Leonard Smithers, 1896). Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.←ix | x→

Figure 7.5. Aubrey Beardsley, ‘The Abbé’, The Savoy, 1 (January 1896), 157. Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

Figure 7.6. Aubrey Beardsley, ‘Cul-de-Lampe’, Ernest Dowson, The Pierrot of the Minute (London: Leonard Smithers, 1896). Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

Figure 7.7. Aubrey Beardsley, ‘The Return of Tannhäuser to the Venusberg’, A Second Book of Fifty Drawings (London: Leonard Smithers, 1899), Plate 43. Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library.

Figure 9.1. Cover page of Frederick Delius, Songs of Sunset (Leipzig: F. E. C. Leuckart, 1911). © The British Library Board, F585.hh.(36)←x | xi→

R. K. R. THORNTON

Foreword

In a letter of 1914, Theodore Wratislaw described to his friend Miss S. M. Watt how he had met Stuart Marsh Ellis (an author who was to publish Mainly Victorian in 1925). Ellis knew Olive Custance (by this time Lady Alfred Douglas), and Wratislaw had been keen to meet her since she and her mother had bought two copies of his Orchids (1896) so he went to the British Museum to read her books in case they ever encountered one another. While he was there, he also put in an application for Dowson’s poems. He reported in the letter:

Well, I waded rather drearily through Lady Douglas, and then picked up Dowson, and had a shock. Do you know I now think that Dowson was the finest poet of the time, and that some of his poems rank in the very first line of English poetry? I had known some of his stuff when he was alive – but not much, and I could not read then – nor could I yesterday – the ‘Pierrot of the Minute’. I saw him fairly often – a slight, frail, illusive, boy, and I had not appreciated him as I ought to have done. So it came as a shock to find how intensely good are some of his poems.

I had to put the book down once or twice – to think what a fool I had been in not seeing his value before: and at last I had to shut it and come away. It may be that my mood now is more attuned to his, or that his tragic life and death have put a stamp of sincerity on what perhaps seemed to be insincere. When I saw him, he always seemed to be light-hearted, a casual, frivolous, yet charming, boy whose chief ambition was to make one go to a cabman’s shelter for coffee – which I never did – or to a night-club, which I did once or twice in his society …

Some day, some one will discover that Dowson was one of the finest English poets.1←xi | xii→

Wratislaw’s experience must speak to many of the writers and readers of the present volume, describing as he does the realization that Dowson’s work, which seems at first like a collection of lyrics to which the description of ‘slight, frail, illusive’ might aptly apply, is in fact a body of work that occupies a place among the most memorable of literary creations, and lingers in the mind long after many more famous works have been forgotten.

That Dowson’s quiet claim to fame has kept its place among much louder and more assertive demands is due in no small part to a select number of lovers of his work who have reminded us of its attractions. When I first encountered Dowson’s work in the 1960s, a few names stood out: in particular, Arthur Symons, who, for good or ill, created his image of Dowson as a poète maudit, painting an enticing picture of the poet and starting a number of false trails in the process, and Victor Plarr, who, in trying to downplay the sensational and suggest that Dowson was nothing out of the ordinary, succeeded only in missing what makes him special. Most important, however, was Desmond Flower, who edited Dowson in 1934, and added the manuscript poems from what has become known as the Flower Notebook, now in the Pierpont Morgan library in New York. His small book was a constant companion of mine during my university years. Mark Longaker’s biography and editions of the poems and short stories ensured a transatlantic interest in the middle years of the century. Desmond Flower in collaboration with Henry Maas published the splendidly informative Letters in 1967. It was the consciousness that the originals were difficult to get hold of that prompted me to go back to the Flower Notebook and re-edit the poems and the short stories at the turn of the century.

There have always been enthusiasts for Dowson’s work, and one comes across them in odd places. I remember the surprise in finding Dowson’s name as one of the five poets in the bookcase of the Tyrone household in the stage-direction to the first act of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, written in the early 1940s but first published in 1956.

It is a pleasure now to see the exploration of Dowson’s work being carried on by a group of younger scholars, newly committed to examining the fascination of his work. And it is a greater pleasure to see that the interest is not limited merely to the lyrics – although that is an essential core of the study – but, remembering that he thought of himself as a writer of←xii | xiii→ prose, exploring his stories alongside the poems. The background too has an essential part in understanding the nature of his art, his character, his psychology, and his appeal.

Identifying the strange allure of these self-effacing works has occupied critics at regular intervals, though it has eluded a conclusive judgement. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that they have inspired a variety of judgements, some dismissive, some lukewarm, and many enthusiastic. But their music will not be denied: they have continued to demand attention and it is a pleasure to see a new group of scholars probing, explaining, and speculating about their nature and their power.

Half a century after Wratislaw made his discovery I found myself reading Dowson and began work on the English 1890s. In the half century that followed, I have edited Dowson in a variety of forms. I thought I knew him quite well; but this collection has sent me back to the texts to reconsider, refresh, and rediscover. What could one ask more?←xiii | xiv→ ←xiv | xv→

Summary

In the 120 years since the publication of his final poetry collection, Decorations: In Verse and Prose (1899), Ernest Dowson has become something of a Decadent legend, much anthologized and referenced in almost every study of English Decadent literature, but still is considered a minor figure of the fin de siècle. He is, in fact, an important intermediary between late nineteenth-century Decadence and literary Modernism. This first collection of critical essays devoted solely to Dowson draws him out of the shadows and acknowledges his talent and legacy. The essays in this volume by established and emergent Dowson scholars offer new perspectives on some of the most noteworthy aspects of Dowson’s oeuvre, including Catholicism and Paganism, desire and sexuality, space and place, his relationships with Decadent contemporaries including Paul Verlaine and Aubrey Beardsley, and his poetic resonance in twentieth-century literature and music.

Biographical notes

Alice Condé (Volume editor) Jessica Gossling (Volume editor)

Alice Condé is an Associate Tutor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London where she has been teaching since 2011. Jessica Gossling is a Fractional Lecturer in the English and Comparative Literature Department at Goldsmiths. Alice and Jessica work as part of the Decadence Research Unit at Goldsmiths and are members of the British Association of Decadence Studies.

Previous

Title: In Cynara’s Shadow