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Sydney and Violet: Their Life with T.S. Eliot, Proust, Joyce, and the Excruciatingly Irascible Wyndham Lewis

Stephen Klaidman.
Publisher Nan A. Talese  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.6 x 1 inches
ISBN 9780385534093
Pages/Publication Date 268/2013
Daedalus Item Code 53395
List Price: $27.95
Sale Price: $5.98 $4.98
You Save: $22.97
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Even the most brilliant writer is nothing without the right reader. To many of the most creative minds in pre–World War II Britain, those readers included Sydney and Violet Schiff. Sydney, himself a novelist (under the pseudonym Stephen Hudson) and Violet famously brought together Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Sergei Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, and Pablo Picasso at a 1922 party in Paris, and though the event was not a happy one for some of these passionate personalities, it symbolizes much of what made the Schiffs vital to the arts of their time. In Violet's 1962 obituary in London's Times, T.S. Eliot wrote, "I write primarily to pay homage to a beloved friend, but also in the hope that some future chronicler of the history of art and letters in our time may give to Sydney and Violet Schiff the place which is their due." Stephen Klaidman does just that with this endlessly intriguing double biography.

"Klaidman writes about the formidable Violet and fussy Sydney with affection and even, on occasion, a bit of dry wit ... [in this] fast-moving, anecdote-rich book.... If you enjoyed Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes or Ben Downing's Queen Bee of Tuscany: The Redoubtable Janet Ross, and are wondering what to read next, you might try Stephen Klaidman's Sydney and Violet ... an informative and entertaining look at one of modernism's most ubiquitous, if now half-forgotten, power couples."—Washington Post

"The world of Arts and Letters is often enriched by the lives of those who did not create lasting work of their own but who helped to make it possible for the legendary figures of their time to do so, and Sydney and Violet Schiff were just such a couple. To read about their adventures is to be transported back to the magical and mythical early years of Modernism and to appreciate the role this incredible pair played in bringing it about. They encouraged their friends in their creative pursuits, as they did T.S. Eliot during the grim years of his first marriage, and tolerated the outrageous behavior of their circle's more difficult members, chief among them Wyndham Lewis. Stephen Klaidman has finally given the Schiffs their just due."—Deirdre Bair

"Sydney and Violet Schiff were rare creatures: people Proust the recluse was willing to dine with.... Klaidman recovers the many-chaptered lives of the couple who worshipped Proust; befriended T.S. Eliot, Katharine Mansfield, and Aldous Huxley; and supported the vicious painter and writer, Wyndham Lewis. When they met, Violet was single at 34, and Sydney, 40, was stuck in a doomed-from-the-start marriage to a grasping woman from Louisville, Kentucky. Married two years later in 1911, Sydney and Violet rode the modernist wave in homes full of art and illustrious guests until Sydney died 33 years later. Guided by his beloved muse, editor, and champion, Sydney wrote eight novels as Stephen Hudson, a pseudonym Proust initially thought was Violet's. Klaidman's crisply written, deliciously gossipy, often hilarious, and painstakingly assembled double portrait celebrates the generous, influential Schiffs as 'intellectually curious, passionate about literature ... and connoisseurs of human nature'."—Booklist

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