The Dragon School, Bardwell Rd, Oxford OX2 6SS
Rugby School, Lawrence Sheriff St, Rugby CV22 5EH
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ, UK
Dallywaters, Forest Dr, Bromley, Keston BR2, UK
Frank Sidgwick (7 july 1879 - 15 august 1939) was an English publisher, writer, scholar and literary editor known for his 1902 article about Sherlock Holmes titled "The Hound of the Baskervilles" at Fault (An Open Letter to Dr. Watson).
His father, Arthur Sidgwick (brother of Henry, the philosopher, who married the sister of Arthur Balfour), was a Cambridge man who migrated to Oxford, where for several years he was reader in Greek to the university. Frank, the eldest son, who was born on July 7, 1879, was brought up at Oxford in a household which tempered the academic routine with a lively sense of fun and a sturdy devotion to losing causes. From the Dragon School at Oxford he went, like his father and uncle, to Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge. Students of undergraduate journalism in the late nineties soon learned to look out for contributions signed “Sigma Minor” in the Granta. They were varied in scope. Along with plenty of playful verse of a standard much above the average, there were the inevitable parodies of Kipling and other favourites, gaily fanciful paradigms of Greek irregular verbs, and, on the occasion of the Greek play in 1900, an essay in dramatic criticism in the style of Artemus Ward. The play was the Agamemnon, and Sidgwick himself was the dignified leader of the chorus in a performance made memorable by the queenly Clytemnestra of F. H. Lucas, the moving Cassandra of Mr. J. F. Crace, of Eton, and the ambitious Watchman of a future Secretary of State for India, E. S. Montagu.
Sidgwick's father and uncle had been famous classics at Trinity; other kinsmen, including Archbishop Benson and his sons, had reached high academic honours. Frank had modestly to confess that he was the sole member of his family to fail to achieve a first-class in the Tripos, though he had no difficulty winning the Chancellor’s Medal for English Verse in 1900. On leaving Cambridge he served a five years’ apprenticeship to publishing as junior partner to A. H. Bullen, the Elizabethan scholar who contributed many fine articles to the “Dictionary of National Biography.” In 1904 the firm embarked on a special edition of Shakespeare to be printed in Stratford-on-Avon at the “Shakespeare Head Press.” If the undertaking brought no tangible profit, it took the junior partner for considerable periods into the Warwickshire countryside, to which he was devoted, and gave him leisure to produce a judicious text of the morality play Everyman, and a sound critical study of George Wither, the seventeenth-century poet best known by his lyric beginning “Shall I wasting in despair.”
In 1907, when his time with Bullen was up, he set up the existing firm of Sidgwick and Jackson. Solidly grounded in the printing and other technical knowledge which a publisher requires, he was content with a standard discerningly competent rather than commercially competitive. Among other well known books the firm produced the poems of Rupert Brooke and the early narrative verse and plays of Mr. Masefield. Its restricted range of fiction included the novels of Miss Ethel Sidgwick, the publisher’s sister, which won their own public, particularly in the United States. Another member of the family, his younger brother Hugh, showed by his “Walking Essays,” and by an amusing analysis of the joys to be derived from a season ticket to London concerts, a brilliant promise cut off by untimely death during WWI.
Frank Sidgwick himself wrote two novels, Love and Battles in 1909, a high-spirited story of healthy young people linked by somewhat complicated genealogical ties, and, a few years later, Treasure of Thule, a romance of Orkney. The name of “B. D. Steward” appeared on the title-page of the latter. That pseudonym paid tribute to many happy odysseys in the Blue Dragon when the author (and in the later years his wife also) had been part of the small crew of that cheerfully adventurous skipper, his old headmaster, Lynam, of the Dragon School. In more studious vein he had also compiled selections of carols, and of early ballads and lyrics, one volume of which, Early English Lyrics, was made in collaboration with Sir Edmund K. Chambers. He had kept up, too, the lighter verse-making of his Cambridge days. A devotee of Savoy musical comedy, he wrote a libretto about a family called Smith which was sufficiently Gilbertian to have deserved a Sullivan. Some Verse and More Verse were happy collections of the best of his fugitive pieces, and his friends were often cheered at Christmastide by a poem, perhaps hand-printed, in the style of the old ballads, his lifelong love of which bore fruit in an excellent edition in four volumes. His last book was a wholly admirable primer, The Making of Verse, the result of an almost accidental collaboration with Mr. Robert Swann, English master at Cheltenham College. It explained in simple and attractive language with exhilarating illustrations the mysteries of anapest and spondee, the rules of rhyme and scansion, the structure of a sonnet and much else which the nascent poet ought to know. A final chapter by Sidgwick in vers libre, described by The Times as bracing advice to over-sanguine amateur versifiers, contained the candid reminder that “Much more poetry is written than ever gets into print, Even in the local paper, Because the supply is greater than the demand.”
A man of wide literary learning, a discriminating but encouraging critic of others, Frank Sidgwick is one whom his old friends at Oxford, Rugby, Cambridge, and elsewhere, however rarely they encountered him, found ready to begin again where the acquaintance last left off. Happy in his home life at first at Great Missenden and afterwards at Keston in Kent, he kept himself young while watching with a tolerant eye the efforts of the next generation, whether in scholarship at Cambridge or in literary adventure.
In 1911 he married Mary Christina, daughter of the late Mr. Albert Crease Coxhead. They had two sons and four daughters.
Frank Sidgwick died at his home at Dallywaters, Keston, Kent, after a brief illness.
My published books:
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