The son of a Brighton doctor, Sydney-Turner attended Westminster School and then read classics at Trinity College, Cambridge where he was a contemporary of Leonard Woolf, Thoby Stephen and Clive Bell. He was very well read and fiercely intellectual. Although he did not socialise easily, he was elected a member of the Cambridge Apostles where he spoke very little at meetings. He had wide intellectual and aesthetic interests: poetry, painting, puzzles and music (particularly Wagnerian opera).
Through his university friendships, Sydney-Turner became a member of the Bloomsbury Group where his intellectual erudition could be intimidating. However, he sometimes would spend many hours at their discussion meetings without saying anything at all. In 1917 he joined in a scheme to purchase The Mill House, Tidmarsh, the place lived in by Lytton Strachey, Dora Carrington and Ralph Partridge and which he occasionally visited.
Sydney-Turner never married and, unlike many associated with Bloomsbury, it does not seem he was sexually active. He fell in love with the artist Barbara Hiles, a friend of Dora Carrington, but, when she decided to marry Nick Bagenal,[note 2] Sydney-Turner refused her offer to stay as her lover. He remained a close friend of Hiles and her children.
He was a kind and unambitious person whose friend Leonard Woolf described as "an eccentric in the best English tradition who wrote elegant verse and music and possessed an extraordinary supple, and enigmatic mind". However, Gerald Brenan called him "one of the greatest bores I have ever known" and Lytton Strachey, although a friend at Cambridge, later said of him "there was probably no one less entertaining in the world".
Sydney-Turner gambled away nearly all his money on horse racing. By the end of his life he had become reduced to living in a meagre flat.
Notes and references
- Middle name sometimes spelt, seemingly deliberately, as Arnoll
- Barbara Hiles, 1891–1984; Nicholas Bagenal, 1891–1974.
- "Saxon Sydney-Turner – biography". Mantex Tutorials. Mantex Information Design. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
- Holroyd 1994, p. 401
- Holroyd 1994, p. 176
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