A long overdue biography of the power couple that nurtured and influenced the literary world of early twentieth-century England
"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." --T. S. Eliot, in a letter appended to Violet Schiff's obituary, Times of London , July 9, 1962
Largely forgotten today, Sydney and Violet Schiff were ubiquitous, almost Zelig-like figures in the most important literary movement of the twentieth century. Their friendships among the elite of the Modernist writers were remarkable, and their extensive correspondence with T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Proust, and many others strongly suggests both intimacy and intellectual equality. Leading critics of the day considered Sydney, writing as Stephen Hudson, to be in the same literary league as Joyce, Eliot, and D. H. Lawrence. As for Violet, she was a talented musician who nurtured Sydney's literary efforts and was among the first in England to recognize Proust's genius and spread the word. Sydney and Violet tells the story of how the Schiffs, despite their commercial and Jewish origins, won acceptance in the snobbish, anti-Semitic, literary world of early twentieth-century England, and brings to life a full panoply of extravagant personalities: Proust, Joyce, Picasso, Mansfield, Wyndham Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and many more. A highly personal, anecdote-filled account of the social and intellectual history of the Modernist movement, Sydney and Violet also examines what divides the literary survivors from the victims of taste and time.