Richard Aldington (8 July 1892 – 27 July 1962), born Edward Godfree Aldington, was an English writer and poet.
Aldington was known best for his World War I poetry, the 1929 novel, Death of a Hero, and the controversy resulting from his 1955 Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry. His 1946 biography, Wellington, was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
Aldington was born in Portsmouth, the son of a solicitor, and educated at Dover College, and for a year at the University of London. He was unable to complete his degree because of the financial circumstances of his family. He met the poet Hilda Doolittle in 1911 and they married two years later.
Aldington's poetry was associated with the Imagist group, and his poetry forms almost one third of the Imagists' inaugural anthology Des Imagistes (1914). Ezra Pound had in fact coined the term imagistes for H.D. and Aldington, in 1912. At this time Aldington's poetry was unrhymed free verse, whereas later in his verse the cadences are long and voluptuous, the imagery weighted with ornament. He was one of the poets around the proto-Imagist T. E. Hulme; Robert Ferguson in his life of Hulme portrays Aldington as too squeamish to approve of Hulme's robust approach, particularly to women. However, Aldington shared Hulme's conviction that experimentation with traditional Japanese verse forms could provide a way forward for avant-garde literature in English, and went often to the British Museum to examine Nishiki-e prints illustrating such poetry.
He knew Wyndham Lewis well, also, reviewing his work in The Egoist at this time, hanging a Lewis portfolio around the room and on a similar note of tension between the domestic and the small circle of London modernists regretting having lent Lewis his razor when the latter announced with hindsight a venereal infection. Going out without a hat, and an interest in Fabian socialism, were perhaps unconventional enough for him.
At this time he was also an associate of Ford Madox Ford, helping him with a hack propaganda volume for a government commission in 1914 and taking dictation for The Good Soldier when H.D. found it too harrowing.
In 1915, Aldington and H.D. relocated within London, away from Holland Park very near Ezra Pound and Dorothy, to Hampstead, close to D. H. Lawrence and Frieda. Their relationship became strained by external romantic interests and the stillborn birth of their child. Between 1914 and 1916 he was literary editor of The Egoist, and columnist there. He was assistant editor with Leonard Compton-Rickett under Dora Marsden.
Harriet Monroe considered 'Choricos', Aldington's finest poem, 'one of the most beautiful death songs in the language' 'a poem of studied and affected gravity'
The gap between the Imagist and Futurist groups was defined partly by Aldington's critical disapproval of the poetry of Filippo Marinetti.
World War I and aftermath
Aldington joined the British Army in 1916, during the Great War, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Royal Sussex Regiment during 1917 and was wounded on the Western Front. Aldington never completely recovered from his war experiences, and may have continued to suffer from the then-unrecognised phenomenon of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Aldington and H. D. attempted to mend their marriage in 1919, after the birth of her daughter by a friend of writer D. H. Lawrence, named Cecil Gray, with whom she had become involved and lived with while Aldington was at war. However, she was by this time deeply involved in a lesbian relationship with the wealthy writer Bryher, and she and Aldington formally separated, both becoming romantically involved with other people, but they did not divorce until 1938. They remained friends, however, for the rest of their lives.
Relationship with T. S. Eliot
He helped T. S. Eliot in a practical way, by persuading Harriet Shaw Weaver to appoint Eliot as his successor at The Egoist (helped by Pound), and later in 1919 with an introduction to the editor Bruce Richmond of The Times Literary Supplement, for which he reviewed French literature. He was on the editorial board, with Conrad Aiken, Eliot, Lewis and Aldous Huxley, of Chaman Lall's London literary quarterly Coterie published 1919–1921. With Lady Ottoline Morrell, Leonard Woolf and Harry Norton he took part in Ezra Pound's scheme to "get Eliot out of the bank" (Eliot had a job in the international department of Lloyd's, a London bank, and well-meaning friends wanted him full-time writing poetry). This manoeuvre towards Bloomsbury came to little, with Eliot getting £50 and unwelcome publicity in the Liverpool Post, but gave Lytton Strachey an opening for mockery.
Aldington made an effort with A Fool i' the Forest (1924) to reply to the new style of poetry initiated by The Waste Land. He was being published at the time, for example in The Chapbook, but clearly took on too much hack work just to live. He suffered some sort of breakdown in 1925. His interest in poetry waned, and he was straighforwardly envious of Eliot's celebrity.
His attitude towards Eliot shifted, from someone who would mind the Eliots' cat in his cottage (near Reading, Berkshire, during 1921), and to whom Eliot could confide his self-diagnosis of abulia. Aldington became a supporter of Vivienne Eliot in the troubled marriage, and savagely satirized her husband as "Jeremy Cibber" in Stepping Heavenward (Florence 1931). He was at this time living with Arabella Yorke (real given name Dorothy), a lover since Mecklenburgh Square days. It was a lengthy and passionate relationship, coming to an end when he went abroad.
He went into self-imposed "exile" from England in 1928. He lived in Paris for years, living with Brigit Patmore, and being fascinated by Nancy Cunard whom he met in 1928. After his divorce in 1938 he married Netta, née McCullough, previously Brigit's daughter-in-law as Mrs. Michael Patmore.
Death of a Hero, published in 1929, was his literary response to the war, commended by Lawrence Durrell as "the best war novel of the epoch". It was written while he was living on the island of Port-Cros in Provence as a development of a manuscript from a decade before. Opening with a letter to the playwright Halcott Glover, the book takes a variable but generally satirical, cynical and critical posture, and belabours Victorian and Edwardian cant. He went on to publish several works of fiction.
In 1930, he published a bawdy translation of The Decameron. In 1933, his novel titled All Men are Enemies appeared; it was a romance, as the author chose to term it, and a brighter book than Death of a Hero, even though Aldington took an anti-war stance again. In 1942, having relocated to the United States with his new wife Netta Patmore, he began to write biographies. The first was one of Wellington (The Duke: Being an Account of the Life & Achievements of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, 1943). It was followed by works on D. H. Lawrence (Portrait of a Genius, But..., 1950), Robert Louis Stevenson (Portrait of a Rebel, 1957), and T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry, 1955).
Aldington's biography of T. E. Lawrence caused a scandal on its publication, and an immediate backlash. It made many controversial assertions. He was the first to bring to public notice the fact of Lawrence's illegitimacy and also asserted that Lawrence was homosexual. Lawrence lived a celibate life, and the claim was contested by some of his close friends (of whom several were homosexual). He attacked Lawrence as a liar, a charlatan and an "impudent mythomaniac", claims which have coloured Lawrence's reputation ever since. Only later were confidential government files concerning Lawrence's career released, allowing the accuracy of Lawrence's own account to be gauged. Aldington's own reputation has never fully recovered from what came to be seen as a venomous attack upon Lawrence's reputation. Many believed that Aldington's suffering in the bloodbath of Europe during World War I caused him to resent Lawrence's reputation, gained in the Middle Eastern arena.
Aldington died in Sury-en-Vaux, Cher, France on 27 July 1962, shortly after being honoured and feted in Moscow on the occasion of his seventieth birthday and the publication of some of his novels in Russian translation. He did not approve of the Communist "party line", though, and the Russians did not succeed in making him endorse it. His politics had in fact moved far towards the right, but he had felt shut out by the British establishment after his T. E. Lawrence book. He lived in Provence, at Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence and Sury-en-Vaux.
On 11 November 1985, Aldington was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone is a quotation from the work of a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
A savage style and embitterment
Aldington could be very critical. He accused the Georgian poets of being "regional in their outlook and in love with littleness. They took a little trip for a little weekend to a little cottage where they wrote a little poem on a little theme." He also, however, provided aid and support to other literary figures, even those, such as the alcoholic Harold Monro, whose work he attacked most viciously.
Alec Waugh, who met him through Harold Monro, described him as embittered by the war, and offered Douglas Goldring as comparison; but took it that he worked off his spleen in novels like The Colonel's Daughter (1931), rather than letting it poison his life. His novels in fact contained thinly-veiled, disconcerting (at least to the subjects) portraits of some of his friends (Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Pound in particular), the friendship not always surviving. Lyndall Gordon characterises the sketch of Eliot in the memoirs Life for Life's Sake (1941) as 'snide'. As a young man he enjoyed being cutting about William Butler Yeats, but remained on good enough terms to visit him in later years at Rapallo.
His obituary in The Times in 1962 described him as "an angry young man of the generation before they became fashionable", and who '" remained something of an angry old man to the end".
- Images (1910–1915) The Poetry Bookshop, London (1915) & (historical reproduction by Bibliobazaar ISBN 978-1-113-27518-9) 2009
- Images – Old and New Four Seas Co., Boston (1916) & (historical reproduction by Bibliobazaar ISBN 978-1-113-39283-1) 2009
- The Poems of Anyte of Tegea (1916) translator
- Images of Desire (Elkin Mathews, 1919) & (historical reproduction by Bibliobazaar) ISBN 978-1-115-45071-3) 2009
- Images of War Beaumont Press, London (1919) & (historical reproduction by Bibliobazaar) ISBN 978-1-171-58428-5) 2009
- War and Love: Poems 1915–1918 (1919)
- Greek Songs in the Manner of Anacreon (1919) translator
- A Book of 'Characters' from Theophrastus, Joseph Hall, Sir Thomas Overbury, Nicolas Breton, John Earle
- Hymen (Egoist Press, 1921) with H. D.
- Medallions in Clay (1921)
- The Good-Humoured Ladies: A Comedy by Carlo Goldoni (1922) translator, with Arthur Symons
- Exile and Other Poems (1923)
- Literary Studies and Reviews (1924) essays
- Sturly by Pierre Custot (1924) translator
- The Mystery of the Nativity: Translated from the Liegeois of the XVth Century (Medici Society, 1924) translator
- A Fool i' the Forest: A Phantasmagoria (1924) poem
- Voltaire (1925)
- French Studies and Reviews (1926)
- The Love of Myrrhine and Konallis: and other prose poems (1926)
- Cyrano De Bergerac, Voyages to the Moon and the Sun (1927)
- D. H. Lawrence: An Indiscretion (1927)
- Letters of Madame de Sevigné (1927) translator
- Letters of Voltaire and Frederick the Great (1927) translator
- Candide and Other Romances by Voltaire (1928) translator with Norman Tealby
- Collected Poems (1928)
- Fifty Romance Lyric Poems (1928) translator
- Hark the Herald (Hours Press, 1928)
- Rémy De Gourmont: Selections. (1928) translator
- Death of a Hero: A Novel (1929)
- The Eaten Heart (Hours Press, 1929) poems
- A Dream in the Luxembourg: A Poem (1930)
- The Memoirs and Correspondence of Mme. D'Epinay (1930) translator
- Euripedes' Alcestis (1930) translator
- At All Costs (1930)
- D. H. Lawrence: A Brief and Inevitably Fragmentary Impression (1930)
- Last Straws (Hours Press, 1930)
- Medallions from Anyte of Tegea, Meleager of Gadara, the Anacreontea, Latin Poets of the Renaissance (1930) translator
- The Memoirs of Marmontel (1930) editor, with Brigit Patmore
- Roads to Glory (1930) stories
- Tales from the Decameron (1930) translator
- Two Stories (Elkin Mathews, 1930)
- Letters to the Amazon by Rémy de Gourmont (1931) translator
- Balls and Another Book for Suppression (1931)
- The Colonel's Daughter: A Novel (1931)
- Stepping Heavenward: A Record (1931) satire aimed at T. S. Eliot
- Aurelia by Gérard de Nerval (1932) translator
- Soft Answers (1932) five short novels
- All Men Are Enemies: A Romance (1933)
- Last Poems of D. H. Lawrence (1933) edited with Giuseppe Orioli
- Poems of Richard Aldington (1934)
- Women Must Work: A Novel (1934)
- Artifex: Sketches and Ideas (1935) essays
- D. H. Lawrence (1935)
- The Spirit of Place (1935), editor, D. H. Lawrence prose anthology
- Life Quest (1935) poem
- Life of a Lady: A Play in Three Acts (1936) with Derek Patmore
- The Crystal World (1937)
- Very Heaven (1937)
- Seven Against Reeves: A Comedy-Farce (1938) novel
- Rejected Guest (1939) novel
- W. Somerset Maugham; An Appreciation (1939)
- Life for Life's Sake: Memories of a Vanished England and a Changing World, by One Who Was Bohemian, Poet, Soldier, Novelist and Wanderer (1941) memoir
- Poetry of the English-Speaking World (1941) anthology, editor
- A Wreath for San Gemignano (1945) sonnets of Folgore da San Gemignano
- A Life of Wellington: The Duke (1946)
- Great French Romances (1946) novels by Madame De Lafayette, Choderlos De Laclos, the Abbe Prévost, Honoré de Balzac
- Oscar Wilde: Selected Works (1946) editor
- The Romance of Casanova: A Novel (1946)
- Complete Poems (1948)
- Four English Portraits, 1801–1851 (1948)
- Selected Works of Walter Pater (1948)
- Jane Austen (1948)
- Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio (two volumes) (1949) translator
- The Strange Life of Charles Waterton, 1782–1865 (1949)
- A Bibliography of the Works of Richard Aldington from 1915 to 1948 (1950) with Alister Kershaw
- Selected Letters of D. H. Lawrence (1950) editor
- An Appreciation: D. H. Lawrence, 1885–1930 (1950) also as D. H. Lawrence: Portrait of a Genius But . . .
- The Religion of Beauty: Selections from the Aesthetes (1950) anthology, editor
- Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot: A Lecture (Peacocks Press, 1954)
- Lawrence L'Imposteur: T. E. Lawrence, the Legend and the Man (1954) Paris edition, later title Lawrence of Arabia, a Biographical Enquiry (1955)
- Pinorman: Personal Recollections of Norman Douglas, Pino Orioli and Charles Prentice (1954)
- A. E. Housman and W. B. Yeats: Two Lectures (Hurst Press, 1955)
- Introduction to Mistral (1956)
- Frauds (1957)
- Portrait of a Rebel: The Life and Work of Robert Louis Stevenson (1957)
- The Viking Book of Poetry of the English-Speaking World, Volume II (1958) editor
- Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (1960) translator with Delano Ames
- Switzerland (1960)
- Famous Cities of the World: Rome (1960)
- A Tourist's Rome
- Richard Aldington: Selected Critical Writing, 1928–1960 (1970) edited by Alister Kershaw
- A Passionate Prodigality: Letters to Alan Bird from Richard Aldington, 1949–1962 (1975) edited by Miriam J. Benkovitz
- Literary Lifelines: The Richard Aldington and Lawrence Durrell Correspondence (1981)
- In Winter: A Poem (Typographeum Press, 1987)
- The Treason of the Intellectuals La Trahison des Clercs by Julien Benda (1928) translator
The Religion of Beauty
The Religion of Beauty (subtitle Selections From the Aesthetes) was a prose and poetry anthology edited by Aldington and published in 1950. Listed below are the authors Aldington included, providing insight into Aldingtons generation and tastes:
Aubrey Beardsley – Max Beerbohm – Vernon Lee – Edward MacCurdy – Fiona MacLeod – George Meredith – Alice Meynell – George Moore – William Morris – Frederic W. H. Myers – Walter Pater – Robert Ross – Dante Gabriel Rossetti – John Ruskin – John Addington Symonds – Arthur Symons – Rachel Annand Taylor – James McNeill Whistler
William Allingham – Henry C. Beeching – Oliver Madox Brown – Olive Custance – John Davidson – Austin Dobson – Lord Alfred Douglas – Evelyn Douglas – Edward Dowden – Ernest Dowson – Michael Field – Norman Gale – Edmund Gosse – John Gray – William Ernest Henley – Gerard Manley Hopkins – Herbert P. Horne – Lionel Johnson – Andrew Lang – Eugene Lee-Hamilton – Maurice Hewlett – Edward Cracroft Lefroy – Arran and Isla Leigh – Amy Levy – John William Mackail – Digby Mackworth Dolben – Fiona MacLeod – Frank T. Marzials – Théophile Julius Henry Marzials – George Meredith – Alice Meynell – Cosmo Monkhouse – George Moore – William Morris – Frederic W. H. Myers – Roden Noël – John Payne – Victor Plarr – A. Mary F. Robinson – William Caldwell Roscoe – Christina Rossetti – Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Algernon Charles Swinburne – John Addington Symonds – Arthur Symons – Rachel Annand Taylor – Francis Thompson – John Todhunter – Herbert Trench – John Leicester Warren, Lord de Tabley – Rosamund Marriott Watson – Theodore Watts-Dunton – Oscar Wilde – Margaret L. Woods – Theodore Wratislaw – W. B. Yeats