The Florio Society meets to appreciate its members’ own poems: the traditional form of the meeting invites anonymous contributions on a set theme and/or subject. These are duplicated, circulated at the meeting and read aloud. Critical discussion follows. There have been, and still are, occasional departures from this procedure (prose meetings, no set requirements, waiving of anonymity, etc) but they have been proved to work less well. There is an annual feast cooked by the members themselves, and an annual punt outing. In the 1960s and 1970s the Society invited famous guests to a different sort of annual dinner (Auden, Pinter, Porter, Murdoch). In the 1980s several hand-printed booklets of Florio poems were published by the Sycamore Press. The Secretary appoints his or her successor in Hilary Term.
Our records go back only to 1956, but there is evidence that the Society existed before then. It lapsed in 1960 and was revived in 1968 and again in 1972 (after an interval of three years), since when it has had a continous and vigorous existence. Many of its former members have proceeded to distinguished literary careers, either as poets (Jon Stallworthy, James Fenton, Adam Thorpe, Mick Imlah), novelists (Jonathan Keates, Alan Hollinghurst, David Profumo, Fernanda Eberstadt), journalists (David Pryce-Jones, Pico Iyer, Daniel Johnson), academics (Peter Heyworth, Ian Donaldson, Claude Rawson) and even politicians (John Redwood). There are many more names in the pipe-line.
John Florio was an old member (1553?-1625) of the College, principally known for his translation of the Essays of Montaigne (1603) and for his Italian dictionary, entitled ‘A Worlde of Wordes’ (1598). Shakespeare drew on his work in ‘The Tempest’ and he may be the intended object of ridicule in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’. His friend Samuel Daniel paid tribute to him as a translator in terms that may equally be applied to the present creative and critical efforts of the members of the Society:
“Wrap Excellencie up never so much,
In Hierogliphicques, Ciphers, Caracters,
And let her speake never so strange a speech,
Her Genius yet findes apt discipherers.”
You can contact the secretary of the Florio Society via email.