Richard Aldington

1892–1962
Richard Aldington
Richard Aldington was prominent in several literary capacities; most notably as a founding poet of the Imagist movement and as a novelist who conveyed the horror of World War I through his written works. He was also a prolific critic, translator, and essayist. Though he considered his novels to be his most important works, he received much critical attention for his biographies of such contemporaries as Lawrence of Arabia and D. H. Lawrence. Aldington began his literary career in London as a part-time sports journalist after leaving college and quickly became part of an influential circle of British writers that included William Butler Yeats and Walter de la Mare. However, he became disillusioned with the literary scene after returning from battle in World War I, and he moved to France and lived the life of an expatriate writer abroad.

Aldington first received critical attention as a poet whose works were dubbed Imagist, a style marked by a minimalist free verse that incorporated succinct and vivid images. This movement became prominent around 1912 primarily because Aldington's friend, the poet Ezra Pound, promoted it and its practitioners tirelessly. Other popular poets of Aldington's circle who participated in the movement included H. D. (Aldington's wife, Hilda Doolittle), James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and William Carlos Williams. Aldington's strain of Imagist poetry is heavily influenced by Japanese art and contains many references to Greek tragedies and myths. These Greek influences are especially prominent in The Love of Myrrhine and Konallis, a prose piece describing a “Sapphic” love affair, which critic May Sinclair of the English Review says contains “the most exquisite love poems in the language.” Glenn Hughes in Imagism & the Imagists characterizes Aldington's poems as being full of “long and voluptuous” cadences that exhibit “imagery weighted with ornament.” Douglas Bush in Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry compares Aldington's poetry with H. D.'s by noting that “in intention and technique his early Hellenic-Imagist poems were much the same as H. D.'s, but with a more diffuse softness, a more openly Victorian weariness and nostalgia.”

Aldington interrupted his writing career to serve in the army during World War I. The trauma of modern trench warfare affected him deeply, and his post-war writings convey an extreme pessimism that some critics have attributed to shell shock. Aldington's writing shifted “from Imagism to verse of the Pound-Eliot kind, and then to the novel,” according to Bush. Noting the effect of the war on Aldington's writing, Bush concludes that he “made a career of disillusioned bitterness.” His first writings about his war experiences were the poetry collections Images of War and Images of Desire, both published in 1919. Still evident are Aldington's earlier Greek influences, but they are now infused with a melancholy tone. A Times Literary Supplement reviewer notes that in these poems Aldington increases the contrast “between the integrity and cleanliness of the Greeks ...and the dingy muddle of the present.” Hughes remarks that in Images of War that we “see and feel the cataclysm of bombardment, the loneliness of ruined fields and villages.” Critics note that Aldington's bitterness affected his nonfiction writing as well. Though perhaps unfairly biased by his close friendship T.E. Lawrence, Robert Graves in a review of Aldington's biography Lawrence of Arabia, noted that, “instead of a carefully considered portrait of Lawrence, I find the self-portrait of a bitter, bedridden, leering, asthmatic, elderly hangman-of-letters.”

Aldington's somewhat autobiographical novel, Death of a Hero, published ten years after the war, graphically depicts the impact of war on a soldier's civilian life. The story explores the alienation and isolation of a young soldier, George Winterbourne, upon his return home on a leave of absence. Readers know from the outset that Winterbourne is eventually killed in battle, and the book outlines the events and social conditions that lead up to the tragedy.

Death of a Hero is regarded as an important first-hand account of war on par with Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. London Times critic Kay Dick calls Death of a Hero a “very angry” and “virulent” work that demonstrates Aldington's “near paranoic hatred of his fellow man.” Despite this, Aldington's account of the horrors of trench warfare seems accurate, Dick concludes; “the mud, the rats, the gas.... It is gruesome and shocking, but it is true.” Though L. P. Hartley of the Saturday Review calls the novel a failure for its “grotesquely unfair” portrayal of the Victorian middle classes and its exaggerated characters, A. B. Parsons of the Nation says that Death of a Hero “takes its place among the half dozen superb stories of the war that will not let men forget.”

Many critics in retrospect forgive Aldington's pessimism and the negativity of his work. Clifton Fadiman, in a New Yorker review of Aldington's autobiography, Life for Life's Sake, calls Aldington's reminiscences “good gossip,” the work of the “typical literary man” in the first half of the twentieth century. Though Aldington does not enjoy as widespread a popularity today as some of his contemporaries, his writings remain a good example of the thoughts and style of his generation. Terry Comito writes in Dictionary of Literary Biography that Aldington “had a gift for evoking with considerable fluency large, uncomplicated emotions that readers have often found easy to share, and his champions frequently cite Aldington's verse in order to argue that contemporary poetry need not be obscurely intellectual.”

Bibliography

WRITINGS:

POETRY

  • Images, 1910-1915, Poetry Bookshop, 1915 , revised edition published as Images, Old and New, Four Seas, 1916.
  • Images, Egoist Ltd., 1919.
  • Images of War, Allen & Unwin, 1919.
  • Images of Desire, Elkin Mathews, 1919.
  • War and Love, Four Seas, 1919.
  • Exile and Other Poems, Allen & Unwin, 1923.
  • A Fool i' the Forest, a Phantasmagoria, Allen & Unwin, 1925.
  • The Love of Myrrhine and Konallis, and Other Prose Poems, P. Covinci, 1926.
  • Hark the Herald, Hours Press, 1928.
  • Collected Poems, Friede, 1928, AMS Press, 1981.
  • The Eaten Heart, Hours Press, 1929.
  • A Dream in the Luxembourg, Chatto & Windus, 1930.
  • Love and the Luxembourg, Friede, 1930.
  • Collected Poems, 1915-1923, Allen & Unwin, 1933.
  • The Poems of Richard Aldington, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1934.
  • Life Quest, Doubleday, 1935.
  • The Crystal World, Heinemann (London), 1937, Doubleday, 1938.
  • The Complete Poems of Richard Aldington, Wingate, 1948.
  • The Poetry of Richard Aldington: A Critical Evaluation and an Anthology of Uncollected Poems, edited by Norman Timmins Gates, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975.
  • An Imagist at War: The Complete War Poems of Richard Aldington, selected with an introduction and notes by Michael Copp, Associated University Presses (London, England), 2002.

NOVELS

  • Death of a Hero, Friede, 1929, Telegraph Books, 1986.
  • Heldentod, P. List (Leipzig, Germany), 1930.
  • The Colonel's Daughter, Doubleday, 1931.
  • Stepping Heavenward: A Record, Chatto & Windus, 1931, Doubleday, 1932.
  • All Men Are Enemies: A Romance, Doubleday, 1933.
  • Women Must Work, Doubleday, 1934.
  • Seven against Reeves: A Comedy-Farce, Doubleday, 1938.
  • Reflected Guests, Heinemann, 1939.
  • Romance of Casanova, Duell, Sloan, & Pearce, 1946.

EDITOR

  • (And translator) A Book of `Characters' from Theophrastus: Joseph Hall, Sir Thomas Overbury, Nicolas Breton, John Earle, Thomas Fuller, and Other English Authors; Jean de La Bruyere, Vauvenarques, and Other French Authors, Dutton, 1924.
  • (And translator) Voltaire, Letters of Voltaire and Frederick the Great, [England], 1927.
  • (And author of introduction) Marie de Rabutin Chantal Sevigne, Letters of Madame de Sevigne to Her Daughter and Her Friends, Dutton, 1927.
  • (And translator) Remy De Gourmont: A Modern Man of Letters, University of Washington, 1928.
  • (And translator) Fifty Romance Lyric Poems, C. Gaige, 1928, Folcroft, 1973.
  • (With G. Orioli and others) D. H. Lawrence, Last Poems,[England], 1932, new edition edited by Aldington with introduction,[England], 1933.
  • Lawrence, Selected Poems, Secker & Warurg (London), 1934.
  • (And author of introduction) Lawrence, The Spirit of Place: An Anthology, [England], 1935.
  • The Viking Book of Poetry of the English-speaking World, Viking (New York City), 1941, revised edition, 1958.
  • (And author of introduction) Oscar Wilde: Selected Works, [England], 1946, Arden Library, 1983.
  • (And author of introduction) Great French Romances, Pilot Press, 1946.
  • Walter Horatio Pater, Selected Works, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1948.
  • (With Stanley Weintraub) Oscar Wilde, The Portable Oscar Wilde, Viking, 1963, revised edition Penguin (London), 1981.
  • (And author of introduction) Kangaroo, Viking, 1974.
  • Lawrence, Apocalyse, Penguin, 1974.
  • (Translator) Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Random House (New York, NY), 1992.
  • (Translator, with Ernest Dilworth) Candide, Modern Library (New York City), 1992.

OTHER

  • (Translator with John Cournos) Feodor Sologub, The Little Demon, Knopf (New York, NY), 1916.
  • (Translator) Latin Poems of the Renaissance, Egoist (London, England), 1919.
  • The Poems of Meleager of Gadara, Egoist (London, England), 1920.
  • Medallions in Clay, Knopf (New York, NY), 1921.
  • (Translator) Carlo Goldoni, The Good-Humoured Ladies: A Comedy, C. W. Beaumont (London, England), 1922.
  • (Translator and author of introduction and biographical prefaces) French Comedies of the Eighteenth Century, G. Routledge (London, England), 1923.
  • Literary Studies and Review, Dial (New York, NY), 1924.
  • (Translator) Pierre Custot, Sturly, J. Cape (London, England), 1924.
  • Voltaire, Dutton, 1925.
  • French Studies and Review, Allen & Unwin, 1926.
  • D. H. Lawrence: An Indiscretion, University of Washington, 1927.
  • (Translator) Julien Benda, The Great Betrayal, G. Routledge (London, England), 1928.
  • At All Costs (short stories), Heinemann, 1930.
  • Roads to Glory (short stories), Chatto & Windus, 1930, Doubleday, 1931.
  • Two Stories, E. Mathews, 1930.
  • Lads of the Village, [England], 1930.
  • Last Straws (short story), Hours Press, 1930, Folcroft, 1977.
  • (Translator and author of introduction) Remy de Gourmont, Letters to the Amazon, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1931.
  • (Author of foreword) James Hanley, The Last Voyage, W. Jackson (London, England), 1931.
  • Balls and Another Book for Suppression, privately printed, 1932, Folcroft, 1977.
  • Soft Answers (short stories), Doubleday, 1932.
  • (Translator) Gerard Nerval, Aurelia, AMS Press, 1932.
  • Artifex: Sketches and Ideas, Chatto & Windus, 1935, Doubleday, 1936.
  • (With Derek Patmore) Life of a Lady: A Play in Three Acts, Doubleday, 1936.
  • Very Heaven, Heinemann, 1937.
  • (Translator) Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, illustrations by Jean de Bosschere, Garden City Publishing (Garden City, NY), 1938.
  • Rejected Guest, Viking, 1939.
  • W. Somerset Maugham: An Appreciation, Doubleday, 1939.
  • Life for Life's Sake: A Book of Reminiscences (autobiography), Viking, 1941.
  • The Duke: Being an Account of the Life and Achievements of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Viking, 1943, published as Wellington: Being an Account of the Life and Achievements of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Heinemann, 1946.
  • Four English Portraits, 1801-1851, Evans Brothers, 1948.
  • Jane Austen, The Ampersand Press (Pasadena, CA), 1948.
  • The Strange Life of Charles Waterton, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1950, published as Portrait of a Genius But...: The Life of D. H. Lawrence, 1885-1930, Heinemann, 1950.
  • (Author of introduction) The Religion of Beauty: Selections from the Aesthetes, Heinemann (London, England), 1950.
  • (Translator) Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Acquaintances, AMS Press, 1952.
  • Pinorman: Personal Recollections of Norman Douglas, Heinemann, 1954.
  • Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot: A Lecture, Peacocks Press (Hurst, England), 1954.
  • A. E. Housman and W. B. Yeats, Folcroft, 1955.
  • Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry, Regnery, 1955, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1976.
  • Introduction to Mistral, Heinemann, 1956.
  • Frauds, Heinemann, 1957.
  • Portrait of a Rebel: The Life and Work of Robert Louis Stevenson, Evans Brothers, 1957.
  • A Tourist's Rome, Melissa Press, 1960.
  • (Translator and author of notes and introduction) Cyrano de Bergerac, Voyages to the Moon and the Sun, Orion Press (New York, NY), 1962.
  • (Translator) Julien Benda, Treason of the Intellectuals, Norton, 1969.
  • Richard Aldington: Selected Critical Writings, 1928-1960, edited by Alister Kershaw, Southern Illinois University Press, 1970.
  • A Passionate Prodigality: Letters to Alan Bird from Richard Aldington, 1949-1962, edited by Miriam Benkovitz, New York Publishing Library, 1976.
  • The Dearest Friend: A Selection from the Letters of Richard Aldington to John Cournos, Typographeum, 1978.
  • A Wreath for San Gemignano, Snake River Press, 1980.
  • Literary Lifelines: The Richard Aldington--Lawrence Durrell Correspondence, edited by Ian S. MacNiven and Harry T. Moore, Viking, 1981.
  • Richard Aldington: An Autobiography in Letters, edited by Norman T. Gates, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992.
  • Richard Aldington and H. D.: The Early Years in Letters, edited by Caroline Zilboorg, Indiana University Press, 1992
  • (Selections from Aldington) Lawrence, D. H., Selected Letters, Penguin (New York, NY), 1996.
  • Richard Aldington and H. D.: Their Lives in Letters, 1918-1961, edited with an introduction and commentary by Caroline Zilboorg, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of Reverie: A Little Book of Poems for H. D., 1917;The Poet and His Age, 1922; D. H. Lawrence: An Appreciation, 1930; and D. H. Lawrence: A Complete List of His Works Together with a Critical Appreciation, 1973. Editor of "The Poet's Translation" series, AMS Press, 1920; literary editor of Egoist. Critic of French literature for Times Literary Supplement.

Further Reading

FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BOOKS

  • Aldington, Richard, Life for Life's Sake: A Book of Reminiscences, Viking, 1941.
  • Bush, Douglas, Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry, Norton, 1963.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 49, Gale, 1988.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale, Volume 20:British Poets, 1914-1945, 1983, Volume 36: British Novelists, 1890-1929: Modernists, 1985, Volume 100: Modern British Essayists, 1990, Volume 149: Late Nineteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century British Literary Biographers, 1995.
  • Gates, Norman, The Poetry of Richard Aldington: A Critical Evaluation and an Anthology of Uncollected Poems, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1974.
  • Gates, Norman, A Checklist of the Letters of Richard Aldington, Southern Illinois University Press, 1977.
  • Gates, Norman, editor, Richard Aldington: An Autobiography in Letters, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992.
  • Hughes, Glenn, Images & the Imagists: A Study in Modern Poetry, Stanford University Press, 1931.
  • Kershaw, Alister, A Bibliography of the Works of Richard Aldington from 1915 to 1948, William Wredon, 1950.
  • Kershaw, Alister, and Frederic-Jacques Temple, editors, Richard Aldington: An Intimate Portrait, Southern Illinois University Press, 1965.
  • Smith, Richard E., Richard Aldington, Twayne, 1977.
  • Zilboorg, Caroline, editor, Richard Aldington and H. D.: The Early Years in Letters, Indiana University Press (Bloomington), 1992.
  • Zilboorg, Caroline, editor, Richard Aldington and H. D.: The Later Years in Letters,Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

PERIODICALS

  • Books and Bookmen January 1985, p. 26.
  • Choice,January 1996, p. 787.
  • Commonweal, March 7, 1941.
  • English Review, May, 1921.
  • Nation, November 13, 1929.
  • New Republic, May 21, 1955.
  • New Yorker, January 11, 1941.
  • Observer, October 21, 1984, p. 24; August 10, 1986, p. 21.
  • Publishers Weekly, July 20, 1992, p. 241.
  • Saturday Review, October 5, 1929.
  • Spectator, December 19, 1992, p. 70; February 10, 1996, p. 28.
  • Times (London), September 8, 1984.
  • Times Educational Supplement, December 7, 1984, p. 25.
  • Times Literary Supplement, August 8, 1929; January 25, 1985, p. 102; March 19, 1993, pp. 5-6; October 17, 1995, p. 36.*

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Articles About RICHARD ALDINGTON

Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

LIFE SPAN 1892–1962

Richard Aldington

Biography

Richard Aldington was prominent in several literary capacities; most notably as a founding poet of the Imagist movement and as a novelist who conveyed the horror of World War I through his written works. He was also a prolific critic, translator, and essayist. Though he considered his novels to be his most important works, he received much critical attention for his biographies of such contemporaries as Lawrence of Arabia and D. . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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