S. Matthewman (b. Leeds, 18 January 1902; d. reg.
**updated 7 January 2016**
**updated 7 January 2016**
Sydney Matthewman was the only child (per the 1911 UK Census) of John Matthewman (1879-1946), a printer, and Matilda Wardman (1878-1965), who were married in
Leeds in the spring of 1901. He was educated at the Leeds
and the . Throughout the 1920s Matthewman was especially
associated with the poetry scene in Leeds, as well as in University
of Leeds London.
He was the founder and editor of Yorkshire
Poetry from 1922-24, while also the associate editor of Poetry Review (1921-23) and assistant
editor of The Decachord from 1923-29.
In 1921 Matthewman began to produce booklets of poetry out of his father’s printing business in
calling his imprint The Swan Press. His first book was a small pamphlet of his
own poems, together with a verse dialogue, entitled The Gardens of Meditation (1921). Within a few years he proceeded on
to more substantial works by friends and others with whom he had come into
contact at . Besides publishing his own writings (all as
“S. Matthewman”), the Swan Press also published collections by Catholic poet
and Leeds professor Wilfred Rowland Childe (1890-1952), and anthologies like A Northern Venture: Verses by Members of the
Leeds University English School Association (1923) and Leeds University Verse: 1914-1924 (1924), which include poems by
J.R.R. Tolkien, then also on the faculty at Leeds. Many of the Swan Press books
were published in small editions. The first printing of A Northern Venture, published in June 1923, was a mere 170 copies,
and the reprint in July was of another 200 copies. This title was an exception,
for most of the Swan Press booklets were not reprinted at all. Leeds University
|Decoration by Albert Wainwright, |
for The Crystal Casket
Most of Matthewman’s own small books were published between 1921 and 1930. These include poetry, The Lute of Darkness (1922), Two Poems of the Road (1924), Six Epigrams (1924), The Harlequin (1925), Poems 1927 (1927), Orchard Idyll (1927), Strange Garden (1928), Epithalamion: An Ode (1929); a small essay collection, Sketches in Sunshine (1926); and a few prose fantasies, The Crystal Casket (1924), and The Vision of Richard concerning the Chapel of the Sword and the Rose (1926). The Crystal Casket is a short original fairy tale of merit. A third prose fantasy is How Brother Theodosius Beheld a Vision: A Little Tale of the Springtime (1928), printed privately in an edition of fifty-seven copies. In an entry for a writer’s directory, Matthewman listed a few further titles that cannot presently be verified, including Interlude (1929), as well as some planned translations: Plum Blossom and Nightingale from the Japanese, The Rubai yat of Sarmad (with B. Ahmed Kashmi), and The Complete Poems of Meleager. None of these seem to have been been published. For High House Press in Shaftesbury, Matthewman translated Hylas: The XIIIth Idyll of Theokritos (1929), and wrote The High House Press: A Short History and an Appreciation (1930). Four Country Poems (1932) came out from Red Lion Press in an edition of fifty copies. Many of Matthewman’s books have decorations by Albert Wainwright (1898-1943).
Matthewman served as secretary to various scientific societies, and joined the Leeds Civic Playhouse in 1927. He played the part of Hannan in the first British production of The Dybbuk by S. Ansky (1863-1920). Matthewman married Phyllis Barton (1896-1979) on 22 February 1930. They had no children and moved around frequently, and sometime in the 1930s
had some sort of breakdown. Phyllis
Matthewman took up writing with Chloe
Takes Control (1940), published by the Girls Own Paper Office in London. Over the next three decades, she would
publish over seventy books, most of them novels, many of them published by
Mills & Boon. In the mid-1940s she published two novels under the pseudonym
Kathryn Surrey. Her final books appeared in 1974.
In 1944, Sydney and Phyllis took temporary refuge from the bombings around their home in Surrey by removing to
Hereford, where they
became close friends of the writer Elinor Brent-Dyer (1894-1969), author of the
popular “ ” series for girls. Phyllis and Brent-Dyer had known each other
as children, but hadn’t been especially close. Chalet School
In 1946, after a long hiatus,
published two small books of poetry, Gabriel’s
Hounds, a tale in verse, and Christmas
Poems. He also served as editor for The
Bookmart in 1946-47.
*Thanks to Michael Green for the scan of the photograph of Matthewman, the frontispiece to Poems (19 27)