Richard Aldington

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(The Richard Aldington Newsletter)


Vol. 42, No. 2-3                  Summer-Autumn 2014

Editor: Andrew Frayn, English and American Studies, Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester,
Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL. UK. E-mail:

Associate Editor: Justin Kishbaugh, Department of English, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15282  USA

RA and H.D. Website:
Correspondent and website editor: Paul Hernandez
Correspondents: Michael Copp, Simon Hewett, Stephen Steele, F.-J. Temple, David Wilkinson, Caroline Zilboorg.
Bibliographer: Shelley Cox. Biographers: Charles Doyle, Vivien Whelpton.

Member Gemma Bristow noted that the historian Amanda Vickery, a prominent figure on television documentaries in the UK, posted on Twitter that in the process of recording a programme for BBC Radio 4 on Smuggling she had paid a visit to the Mermaid Inn at Rye (CTRL+click all links). The hostelry was, of course, run by Jessie May Aldington for many years from just before the First World War.

[The programme is still available to listen online.—AF]




Correspondent Simon Hewett noticed the following reference to RA in the recently-published T. E. Lawrence, More Correspondence With Writers (Castle Hill Press, 2014), part of Castle Hill’s ongoing T. E. Lawrence Letters series. Referring to Aldington’s introduction to The German Prisoner by James Hanley in a letter to Kenneth Marshall, a London bookseller, dated 9 March 1931, Lawrence writes ‘But why in God’s name an introduction by Richard Aldington? Honestly, that’s low. Hanley writes a damn sight better than R.A. and doesn’t pule in print. Why not an intro. by Sir A. Quiller-Couch. Why not let it rip without any chaperone?’

[Aldington’s introduction speaks to the cachet he had as both an author of war fiction and a literary critic at the time, following the successes of Death of a Hero and Roads to Glory in the preceding eighteen months. However, the role of the introduction in this instance is less certain, as The German Prisoner was first published privately by Hanley. Perhaps the prestige Aldington’s name would offer by association was still felt needed, just as Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon offered more direct assistance in the publication of Frank Richards’s Old Soldiers Never Die, a rare account of the conflict by a working-class private, two years later.—AF]




Several members of the society spoke at the English Association conference on British Poetry of the First World War at Wadham College, Oxford from 5–7 September 2014. Member Adrian Barlow is chair of the organisation.

Editor Andrew Frayn and Correspondent Michael Copp both gave papers in a panel on Aldington discussing, respectively, traces of the war in Aldington’s city poems and form and fact in Aldington’s war poetry. The panel was well attended, and a lively discussion followed in which both society members worked hard to persuade some sceptical but open-minded attendees of the value of Aldington’s poetry. The panel was chaired by Elizabeth Vandiver, a Professor of Classics at Whitman College in Washington State, USA, who is currently working on Aldington and H. D. Professor Vandiver gave a paper on her current Aldington research in a panel that also included RA biographer Vivien Whelpton’s talk on the British poetry of the Gallipoli campaign. (Professor Vandiver has since become a member of the NCLS.) Whelpton also spoke in a roundtable on war poets and biography. There was a pleasingly wide variety of papers throughout the three days of the conference, taking in both canonical war poets and lesser-known names.

            The plenary events at the conference were thought-provoking, focusing by and large on the intractable problem of communicating the ‘truth’ of war. This topic was most evident in the concluding roundtable featuring Professors Stuart Lee, Tim Kendall, Edna Longley and Jay Winter, billed as (to my mind) a rather false opposition: ‘The historians vs. the poets’. As I opined in the session, both make claim to truth, but of a very different kind and using very different methodologies. Also notable was the Saturday evening recital of settings of 18 war poems set to music throughout the course of the twentieth century; poems by authors from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Wilfred Owen, with music by composers from Ivor Gurney to Ralph Vaughan Williams, sung expertly by the baritone Roderick Williams.

            The conference was well attended, convivial and pleasant, with well-known scholars of the period happy to talk at length with more junior scholars and interested amateurs. A concern for me was the demographic of the conference, with a relatively small number of early-career scholars in attendance. It’s worth thinking about how we can help these vital works endure and ensure, as far as we can, that these centenary celebrations are a comma, rather than a full stop in the history of First World War poetry.




Correspondent Michael Copp also draws attention to the fact that there is a short section devoted to RA in Professor Vandiver’s Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War (Oxford University Press, 2010). Copp describes the book as ‘remarkable and wide-ranging’, while Tim Kendall praises it as ‘enthrallingly written’ on his War Poetry blog.




Correspondent Michael Copp writes: For admirers of H.D. the latest Enitharmon Press Rare Books catalogue includes "Images of H.D." / from The Mystery by H.D., by Eric W. White, first published in 1976. The first half of the volume is a reminiscence by White, and the second half comprises extracts from The Mystery, since published in full in a scholarly edition by the University Press of Florida (ed. Jane Augustine, 2009). There are 50 numbered and signed copies of this 62 page book at £50.00, and 350 more reasonably priced unsigned copies at £20.00.




Correspondent David Wilkinson observes the following item listed in R. A. Gekoski’s Catalogue 33 (2009).

122. POUND, EZRA. Typed Letter Signed to T.E. Lawrence, two pp., 5 Holland Place Chambers, Kensington W., August, 1920. The letter begins with a characteristic Poundian salvo: “Being neither a Christian, nor an Oxonian, nor even an Englishman, the idea that people ‘ought not to exist on one earth’ merely because they differ one from the other is strange to me. Doubtless you have very bad taste; not that I mind the romantic, or even the academic and idyllic, if they can be free of mental paralysis...” A terrific letter in which Pound goes on to allude to many of the major writers of the day, and in particular to Conrad. Writing as an editor of The Little Review he notes: “I have just sent over one hundred delicious pages of Manning, which I know will in due course be printed,” and adds that “Conrad has said he will probably send on something some day or other, but has too many unfulfilled promises hanging over him to make anymore ... Is Yeats any worse than the last volume of Conrad’s?” There are further provocative and interesting references to Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, and Richard Aldington. In very good condition in collector’s cloth case. £4000




In the recently-published international anthology of conflict from 1914 to the present, The Hundred Years War: Modern War Poems, ed. Neal Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2014), Correspondent Michael Copp has contributed eleven translations of French poets of the First World War: Guillaume Apollinaire (2), Jean Cocteau (1), Francois Porche (1), Marcel Martinet (2) and Henry-Jacques (5).




Member Joanna Marston, of the Aldington Estate’s literary agent Rosica Colin, writes to inform us that the Sunday Mirror’s First World War commemorative poetry website was launched on 27 July 2014, and contains Aldington’s ‘Bombardment’, read by the former England football (soccer) captain Terry Butcher.




Vladimir Pankov’s The War had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2014. The ‘sound drama’ is billed as being based on RA’s Death of a Hero, Nikolai Gurnilyov’s Notes of a Cavalry Officer and Homer’s The Iliad. Editor Andrew Frayn wrote a piece on RA for the programme. The essay comprised a brief account of his life, literary reputation and the impact of the war upon him, and a discussion of Death of a Hero and the ways in which it is particularly suited to inspire a ‘sound drama’ as a self-declared ‘jazz novel’ ostensibly structured and paced by the tempo instructions that head the sections. Aldington was, as readers will know, acclaimed in Russia, from which he benefitted late in life, and it is good to see that his influence endures.




Carolyn Broomhead, Research Community Manager at the New York Public Library, writes with news of three less-often-seen photographs of Aldington in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature portrait file, which also contains photographs of a vast number of other prominent authors. The photographs can be accessed by searching the NYPL Digital Collections, an ongoing project. There are three images in sequence in the alphabeticised collection image book. In the first of these, #6 in the particular volume, RA is seated at the base of a column wearing a singlet; in #7 he is posing with his foot on the running board of a car; in #8 he is seated in a more formal pose (not least in terms of dress). Separately, there is also the photograph of RA—in fetching geometric-patterned pullover, cigarette in hand—that adorned the front of Charles Doyle’s biography.

[I’d be very grateful if anyone could provide further information about where these pictures were taken.—AF]




Following on from the comment in the previous newsletter about an article on the subject in the Times Literary Supplement, Lucy McDiarmid’s Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The Literary History of a Meal has now been published by Oxford University Press.

The book details the famous pilgrimage to pay homage to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt on 18 January 1914. The publisher’s blurb promises ‘a new kind of literary history derived from intimacies rather than “isms.” [...] Through close readings of unpublished letters, diaries, memoirs, and poems, in an argument at all times theoretically informed, McDiarmid reveals the way marriage and adultery, as well as friendship, offer ways of transmitting the professional culture of poetry. Like the women who are absent from the photograph, the poets at its edges (F.S. Flint, Richard Aldington, Sturge Moore, and Victor Plarr) are also brought into the discussion, adding interest by their very marginality. This is literary history told with considerable style and brio, often comically aware of the extraordinary alliances and rivalries of the 'seven male poets' but attuned to significant issues in coterie formation, literary homosociality, and the development of modernist poetics from late-Victorian and Georgian beginnings. Poets and the Peacock Dinner is written with critical sophistication and a wit and lightness that never compromise on the rich texture of event and personality.’ McDiarmid’s work has been widely praised in review. Thanks to Correspondent Michael Copp for drawing attention to this publication.


Editor Andrew Frayn would like to follow up on Correspondent Michael Copp’s description of Aldington’s ‘War Yawp’ in his piece for the last newsletter (42:1) as ‘unsatisfactory’. It’s interesting to think about the grounds on which we make such aesthetic judgments, particularly as popular texts come to be recuperated as objects of interest. (You might listen to, for example, Jane Potter’s podcast on popular fiction and the First World War and look for some of her very good previous work.) Aldington’s ‘War Yawp’ is certainly a document of its time. It appeared in the November 1914 issue of Poetry and, given lead times, was presumably composed very shortly after war’s outbreak. The poem seems to me an immediate response to the war that doesn't fit with the way we think about it now, both in terms of the general response to the conflict and Aldington’s developing position. It’s worth remembering, though, that he did try to enlist at the Honourable Artillery Company and was not, perhaps, as immune to war fervour as his later recollections lead one to believe. For me, it doesn’t detract from the other poetry RA produced, and perhaps heightens the sense of his self-control in 1914-16. Of course, he would later come to believe that overstatement in talking about the war was impossible, writing to H. D. On 6 June 1929 that it had been ‘so brutal that its brutality cannot be exaggerated.’ (Their Lives in Letters, ed. Zilboorg, p. 219)


The Eliot-Aldington Letters                                       (Part IV)

Volume 4 of The Letters of T.S. Eliot covers the years 1928-1929, and includes just seven letters from TSE to RA – a considerable reduction compared to the two previous years.

3 January 1928. TSE writes to RA, telling him he has heard from Frederic Manning that Alec Randall was seriously ill with typhoid.

29 February 1928. TSE thanks RA for letting him know that Alec Randall was out of danger. TSE notes that RA is going to Paris, and offers to effect an introduction to the Princess de Bassiano. He informs RA that he has no immediate translation work for him at the moment, and wonders if RA could cope with Italian should the opportunity arise.

6 March 1928. TSE informs RA that he regrets not being able to come to Paris to visit him there. He tells him: “There does not seem to be much market in this country for French Translations except the market with which you are already in touch.”

8 March 1928. TSE mentions various people RA might enjoy meeting in Paris: Princess Bassiano, Natalie Barney and André Rouveyre. TSE thanks RA for the piece he has written on Rémy de Gourmont, “the best thing that has ever been written about Rémy and certainly the only thing in English.” TSE indicates that he intends to “devote a long review to Rémy and yourself; and if possible I will write it myself. You know Gourmont much better than I do and I expect that you will surprise me with innumerable good things that I do not know. After all, I owe a tremendous debt to him.”

16 March 1928. TSE repeats his regrets about the reception of Gourmont in England: “I don’t expect that Gourmont, any more than any other serious French writer will be read with any enthusiasm in England. I have been so well disillusioned myself.” TSE promises that “if the Criterion continues, you may be sure that we will devote a good deal of space to Gourmont when your anthology appears.” TSE suggests two more people whom RA might care to contact in Paris: Charles Maurras and Charles du Bos.

23 April 1928. Ezra Pound had written to Bruce Richmond to complain about RA’s review of his Poems in the TLS. On 22 April RA begged TSE “to put me right with Bruce if you get the chance.” TSE assures RA “that Bruce is completely unconcerned about the matter, supports you entirely, considers E’s letter impossible but amusing; and that neither he nor I can understand why you should be in the least disturbed. I mentioned that I had read your review and considered it remarkably favourable towards E. You have NOTHING to worry about.” Earlier RA had informed TSE that Routledge had asked him to translate Julien Benda’s La Trahison des Clercs. TSE encourages RA to go ahead with the translation.

10 July 1928. TSE tells RA (now back in England) that he has just received a copy of RA’s Rémy de Gourmont: A Modern Man of Letters. Later, in The Monthly Criterion of 7 July 1929, TSE was to rate it “the best critical introduction to the work of Gourmont that has been written. Mr Aldington places Gourmont very judicially. [. . .] No one is so well qualified as Mr Aldington to expound the ideas and explain the place of this critic and moralist who occupied an important position in the literary world of Paris during the latter part of the last century.” TSE is also pleased to receive RA’s letter of 8 July in which RA had written: “It was good to see you in London, and I felt more deeply than I can say the friendship and sympathy in your look and handclasp”.

Thus, at this stage, their friendship and respect for each other, on both the professional and personal levels, remain firm and unaltered.

Michael Copp




Editor Andrew Frayn writes: On an inevitable round of modernist link-clicking, I ended up finally on RA’s Wikipedia page. I’d like to suggest that members of the society work to edit the page to make it a more complete and fitting entry. Indeed, perhaps we should also look to work on associated pages such as those for his novels and volumes of poetry – but the biographical information seems the best place to start.

The capsule biography at the top of the entry would benefit from extending to give a more rounded picture of his career and life; the section on Imagism focuses more on his associations than on his own work; the section on the First World War is very brief; his novelistic career is given very short treatment. The conclusion, in particular, works to reinforce the impression of RA as abrasive and cantankerous. I will start to work on this in the coming weeks and months; it would be to the great benefit of RA’s reputation if the society could put its collective knowledge and writing style together to improve the most visible public repository of information about our protagonist.




As ever, the editors remain very grateful for any relevant material about RA and his circle to populate the newsletter. Mentions in the press, related conferences, publications about or talks about other Imagists or war writers—like RA, our interests are many and varied. The information in the recent newsletters has mostly come from our UK members and correspondents, and we would be very grateful for any news from North American colleagues and comrades in order to give a clearer idea of the extent of global activity on RA. The Newsletter requires your support to continue!