Leonard Smithers

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Leonard Smithers (19 December 1861 – 19 December 1907)[1] was a London publisher associated with the Decadent movement. Born in Sheffield, he worked as a solicitor, qualifying in 1884,[2] and became friendly with the explorer and orientalist Sir Richard Francis Burton. He published Burton's translation of the Book of One Thousand and One Nights in 1885. He collaborated with Burton in a translation from the Latin of the Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus and Priapeia, a collection of erotic poems by various writers. He also published a limited edition of the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter.

Smithers published works by Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Aleister Crowley, Ernest Dowson, Arthur Symons and Oscar Wilde and lesser known figures such as Vincent O'Sullivan and Nigel Tourneur. With Symons and Beardsley, he founded The Savoy, a periodical which ran to eight issues in 1896. In partnership with Harry Sidney Nichols, he published a series of pornographic books under the imprint of the "Erotika Biblion Society":[2] he was notorious for posting a slogan at his bookshop in Bond Street reading "Smut is cheap today".

When Beardsley converted to Catholicism he asked Smithers to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings...by all that is holy all obscene drawings." Smithers ignored Beardsley’s wishes, and continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley's work.

After the trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895, Smithers was one of the few publishers prepared to handle "decadent" literature, such as Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 1898, and The Savoy.[3]

He went bankrupt in 1900, and died in 1907 from drink and drugs. His naked body was found in a house in Parson's Green on his 46th birthday, surrounded by empty bottles of Dr J. Collis Browne's Chlorodyne.[4] He was buried in an unmarked grave, paid for by Lord Alfred Douglas, in a cemetery in Fulham Palace Road.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Find-a-Grave: Leonard Smithers
  2. ^ a b Jon R. Godsall, The Tangled Web: A Life of Sir Richard Burton, Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2008, ISBN 1-906510-42-3, p. 396
  3. ^ Sweet 204
  4. ^ Sweet 98
  5. ^ Sweet 206

Sources[edit]

Translations[edit]

Leonard C. Smithers and Sir Richard Burton. PRIAPEIA sive diversorum poetarum in Priapum lusus or SPORTIVE EPIGRAMS ON PRIAPUS by divers poets in English verse and prose. 1890 [2]