Symons, Julian, 1912-1994

Alternative names
Birth 1912-05-30
Death 1994-11-19

Biographical notes:

Julian Symons was an English novelist, poet, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, historian, and biographer.

From the description of Julian Symons collection of papers, 1933-1967. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122531794

From the guide to the Julian Symons collection of papers, 1929]-1967, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

British poet, novelist, historian, and critic Julian Symons was born on May 30, 1912, in London, England. Symons was recognized for his crime and detective novels and his critical writing about this genre.

From the description of Julian Symons papers, 1944-1994 (bulk 1970-1990). (University of Delaware Library). WorldCat record id: 630115968

English poet, critic, biographer, and historian; best known for his crime novels.

From the description of The Barsetshire novels : holograph manuscript, 1975 January. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34364327

Julian Symons, 1912- , English author and critic, with a special interest in detective stories.

From the description of Papers, 1980-1985. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122684786


From the description of Julian Symons papers, 1940. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70980773

Epithet: writer

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000205.0x0001ba

British poet, novelist, historian, and critic Julian Symons was born on May 30, 1912, in London, England. Symons was recognized for his crime and detective novels and his critical writing about this genre.

Symons’s formal education ended in 1927 when he completed study as a shorthand typist at a commercial school. Prior to becoming a full-time writer in 1947, Symons worked as a secretary (1929–1941) and later, as an advertising copywriter (1944–1947).

Many of Symons’s ideas about the literary value of crime and detective novels and the changes in this genre during the 20th century were recorded in his book, Bloody Murder: from the detective story to the crime novel (1972). In Bloody Murder, Symons traced the history of detective and crime novels. He also explained the difference between the formulaic detective story and the more complex crime novel. Symons firmly believed in the value of crime fiction, suggesting that its emphasis on character and motive provides a social commentary. Symons wrote over twenty-five detective and crime novels, beginning with The Immaterial Murder Case (1945) and continuing through Death’s Darkest Face (1990). Symons’s own novels document the pattern from detective stories to crime novels. Although he was most often associated with detective and crime fiction, Julian Symons was also a respected editor, biographer, historian, and poet. He founded and edited the literary magazine Twentieth Century Verse (1937–1939), and was editor of the Penguin Mystery Series from 1974 to 1979.

Symons also edited the selected works of Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Johnson, A. J. A. Symons, Edgar Allan Poe, and Wyndham Lewis. As a biographer, Julian Symons chronicled the lives of Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Horatio Bottomley, and his own brother, noted biographer A. J. A. Symons. Symons’s critical writing encompassed war poetry, historical events in England, the history of crime, and the 1930s. He served as a reviewer for Manchester Evening News (1947–1956), The London Times (1958–1968), and The Sunday Times (1958–). He contributed reviews to The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times, as well as other newspapers and magazines. Most of his reviews were of books; however, he also reviewed movies, television and radio programs, and theater productions. Confusions about X (1939), Symons’s first published book, was one of his five books of poetry. Symons’s continued to write poetry throughout his life and reviewed the work of other poets in The Sunday Times . Symons was also the author of several collections of short stories, such as The Tigers of Subtopia and other stories (1982); two radio plays, Affection Unlimited (1968) and Night Rider to Dover (1969); and several television plays, including Miranda and a Salesman (1963), The Pretenders (1970), and Whatever’s Peter Playing At? (1974). In 1976 Julian Symons became the President of Great Britain’s Detection Club, an organization previously presided over by crime literature notables G. K. Chesterton, E. C. Bentley, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie. This symbolic honor recognized Symons’s contribution to making crime writing a serious literary genre.

Benstock, Bernard and Thomas F. Staley (eds.) Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Mystery and Thriller Writers since 1940. Volume 87. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989. 333-343. Lesniak, James G. (ed.) Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 33. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991. 414-418. “Obituary Notes.” AB Bookman’s Weekly. January 30, 1995. 378.

From the guide to the Julian Symons papers, 1944–1994, 1970–1990, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Detective and mystery stories


  • Critics--20th century.--England
  • Authors
  • Authors, English--20th century


  • England (as recorded)