Harold Acton

February 27 2014

Sir Harold Acton died twenty years ago today.

Tribute by Luca Vidmaker. L’ultimo grande inglese sull’Arno. Music Schumann, Piano Quartet.

I visited the great aesthete at La Pietra, above Florence, the villa in which he was born and died, twice in the ’70s: a story for another time.

A bibliography:

I  History

The Last of the Medici, Florence, G Orioli, 1930 (translation of a lubricious eighteenth-century memoir, by whom?, of Gian Gastone de’ Medici, the last Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, introduction by Norman Douglas)

The Last Medici, Faber and Faber, 1932 (a study of the later Medici Grand Dukes and the first of his own historical works)

The Bourbons of Naples (1734-1825), Methuen, 1956

Ferdinando Galiani, in Art and Ideas in Eighteenth-Century Italy, Rome, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1960 (lectures by various people given in English at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Londra in Rome, 1957-58)

The Last Bourbons of Naples (1825-1861), Methuen, 1961

The Pazzi Conspiracy, Thames and Hudson, 1979

Three Extraordinary Ambassadors, 1983 Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture, Thames and Hudson, 1984 (Sir Henry Wotton in Venice, Sir Horace Mann in Florence, Sir William Hamilton in Naples)

II  Florence and Tuscany

Florence, Thames and Hudson, 1960 (photographs by Martin Hürlimann)

Tuscan Villas, Thames and Hudson, 1973 (photographs by Alexander Zielcke)

Edward Chaney, editor, Florence: A Travellers’ Companion, Constable, 1986 (Introduction to anthology)

III  Translations from the Chinese; Acton lived in China from 1932 to 1939

With Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, 1936 (young poets)

With LC Arlington, Famous Chinese Plays, illustrated with a drawing by Thomas Handforth and with photographs, Peiping, Henri Vetch, 1937 (thirty-three plays, ancient and modern)

With Lee Yi-Hsieh, preface by Arthur WaleyGlue and Lacquer: Four Cautionary Tales, illustrated with drawings by Eric Gill interpreted on copper by Denis Tegetmeier, The Golden Cockerel Press, 1941 (selections from the seventeenth-century writer Feng Menglong’s Tales to Rouse the World)

With Ch’en Shih-Hsiang and Cyril Birch, The Peach Blossom Fan, illustrated [detail tba], Berkeley, University of California Press, 1976, apparently not earlier (K’ung Shang-jen’s play)

IV  Poetry

Aquarium, Duckworth, 1923

An Indian Ass, Duckworth, 1925

Five Saints and an Appendix, Holden, 1927

This Chaos, Paris, Hours Press, 1930

V  Fiction

Cornelian, The Westminster Press, 1928 (prose fable)

Humdrum, The Westminster Press, 1928 (novel)

Peonies and Ponies, Chatto and Windus, 1941 (novel about expatriate life in China)

Prince Isidore, Methuen, 1950 (novel)

Old Lamps for New, Methuen, 1965 (novel)

Tit for Tat, Hamish Hamilton, 1972 (stories)

The Gift Horse
A Modern Vestal
The Operation
“A Sketch, Lent by Miss Temple”
Araby
“O Thou I”
Anticlimax
A Monopolist
Resting on His Laurels
An Old School Pal
Tit for Tat
Palladian Pizzicato
The Machine Is Broken Down
His Serene Highness

The Soul’s Gymnasium, Hamish Hamilton, 1982 (stories)

The Marchesa Carrie
Leo’s Ivory Tower
St Gabriel
Fin de race
Flora’s Lame Duck
The Soul’s Gymnasium
Codicil Coda
A Phantom Botticelli
A Morning at Upshott’s
The Narcissus Elegy

VI  Autobiography

Memoirs of an Aesthete, Methuen, 1948

More Memoirs of an Aesthete, Methuen, 1970

VII  Biography

Nancy Mitford: A Memoir, Hamish Hamilton, 1975

Festschrift

Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie, editors, Oxford, China and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on His Eightieth Birthday, Thames and Hudson, 1984 (contributions by John A Wood, David Rundle, John Betjeman, Iris Origo, Sacheverell Sitwell, Anthony Powell, Joan Haslip, John Lehmann, Antony Lambton, Cyril Birch, Charles Wilson, Peter Quennell, Christopher Sykes, AL Rowse, Laurence Sickman, Amanda Lillie, Nicolai Rubinstein, Anna Maria Crinò, Maurice Cranston, Peter Gunn, Edward Chaney, Michael Grant, John Fleming, Francis Haskell, Carlo Knight, Hugh Honour, Denys Sutton, John Pope-Hennessy and Neil Ritchie)

8 Responses to “Harold Acton”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Galiani in a letter to Madame d’Epinay quoted by Acton in his lecture:

    Nous serons donc chinois dans cent ans tout au plus.”

    Is that the earliest utterance of that belief?

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Chinese in Naples:

    http://davidderrick.wordpress.com/2008/12/05/chinese-in-naples-september-19-1823

    That edition of Lady Blessington’s journals has an Introduction by him. There are other forewords and introductions that I haven’t mentioned.

  3. davidderrick Says:

    Acton’s stories are better than Coward’s. Coward’s collections:

    To Step Aside, Heinemann, 1939

    The Wooden Madonna
    Traveller’s Joy
    Aunt Tittie
    What Mad Pursuit
    Cheap Excursion
    The Kindness of Mrs Radcliffe
    Nature Study

    Star Quality, Heinemann, 1951

    A Richer Dust
    Mr and Mrs Edgehill
    Stop Me If You’ve Heard It
    Ashes of Roses
    This Time Tomorrow
    Star Quality

    Pretty Polly Barlow, Heinemann, 1964

    Pretty Polly Barlow
    Me and the Girls
    Mrs Capper’s Birthday

    Bon Voyage, Heinemann, 1967

    Solali
    Mrs Ebony
    Penny Dreadful
    Bon voyage

    Acton’s stories, like Coward’s, were a modest sideline. Former’s talent was himself and history, latter’s himself and plays or songs.

  4. davidderrick Says:

    Modern Chinese Poetry was, in a way, Acton’s own last book of verse.


  5. […] Kêng, Summer Rain in Harold Acton with Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, translators, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, […]


  6. […] Wang-shu, Anxiety in Harold Acton with Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, translators, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, […]


  7. […] Kêng, Shanghai Rainy Night in Harold Acton with Ch’en Shih-Hsiang, translators, Modern Chinese Poetry, Duckworth, […]


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