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Sir Harold Acton (Sir Harold Mario Mitchell Acton) Biography

(1904–94), (Sir Harold Mario Mitchell Acton), Aquarium, This Chaos, Peonies and Ponies, Prince Isidore

china volume oxford aesthete

British art historian, poet, and aesthete, born in Florence, educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. His early volume of poems Aquarium (1923), which appeared while he was at Oxford, was followed by further volumes including This Chaos (1930). Acton travelled widely from 1932, in America, Europe, and China. His fascination with China led to the publication of several books on its theatre, culture, and poetry and his novel Peonies and Ponies (1941), set in China. Other works include Prince Isidore (1950), a fantasy; Tit for Tat and other Tales (1972); The Last Medici (1932) and The Bourbons of Naples (1956), both historical studies. Shortly after service in the RAF during the Second World War Acton began writing the work for which he is best known, Memoirs of an Aesthete (1948), his first volume of autobiography which vividly records the first 35 years of his life; More Memoirs appeared in 1970. Acton spent most of his life in his family home, ‘La Pietra’, in the hilly outskirts of Florence. Evelyn Waugh's character Anthony Blanche (in Brideshead Revisited) is thought to be based on Acton.

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