## Columbia Library columns (v.33(1983Nov-1984May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )

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  The Critic and the Actress: The Troubled Lives of Arthur and Rhoda Symons KARL BECKSON IN the late summer of 190S, Arthur Symons, \\'hom his friend W. B. Yeats called "the best critic of his generation," suf¬ fered a sudden mental breakdown while in Italy with his wife, Rhoda. Describing his aimless wanderings in the country¬ side, his confinement (at one time in a prison, handcufi^ed), and his final return to F.ngland, Symons wrote in his Confessions: A Study in Pathology (1930) that he was "utterly and absolutely unprepared for so unimaginable a crisis as that which befell me. . . ." His career disrupted, his mind seeminglv destroyed, and his future doubtful, Symons spent two years in and out of mental institutions, alternating between periods of luciditv and episodes of paranoia and pathological grandiositv. The devotion of his wife during this period and in the years that followed until her death in 1936 has been largely ignored in accounts of Symons, but in more than two thousand letters ex¬ changed between Arthur and Rhoda, now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (the gift of Kenneth A. Lohf), the story may be told in detail: of extraordinary devotion in the face of great stress and of Rhoda's attempts to establish herself as an actress, as well as a progressive emotional instability in her life, the result of her husband's hopeless condition and the sense of her own failure in life. Opposite: Arthur S\nu)ns in his study at Iskind Cottage, ca. 1920; his ■wife Rhoda in a theatrical pose, ca. 1915; and Island Cottage, Wittershani, Kent, the late seventeenth century timbered house where Arthur lived from 1906 until hi.s dcatii in 1945. 3