Richard Aldington was born Edward Godfree Aldington in Portsmouth, England, but spent most of his youth in Dover before enrolling at University College in London in 1910. A year later, his family having suffered from a financial reverse, Aldington left the college and went to work for a newspaper. He had already developed a keen interest in poetry and soon met others who shared his enthusiasm, including the Americans H. D. and Ezra Pound. Pound urged that the three promulgate their poetic affinities for precision, economy of language, striking images, and free verse, and Aldington and H. D. agreed, thus creating the literary movement known as Imagism.
Pound encouraged Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry, a new literary magazine, to publish Imagist verse, and in 1912, three poems by Aldington appeared, earning their author forty dollars and publicly establishing the twenty-year-old poet as a representative of the new movement. In London, Aldington met William Butler Yeats and other luminaries. He visited Paris and Italy and, in 1914, having married H. D. in the previous year, became assistant editor of a journal named The Egoist, which developed into a significant outlet for Imagist productions. In the same year, ten of Aldington’s poems were published in Des Imagistes, an anthology edited by Pound that also included poems by H. D., James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, Amy Lowell, and William Carlos Williams, among others.
Aldington’s first collection of his own work was Images, 1910-1915, which came out in 1915, by which time he had also embarked on his long career of literary translation, publishing The Poems of Anyte of Tegea and Latin Poems of the Renaissance that year. In 1916, he volunteered for military service and saw action on the front until the end of the war. He was eventually discharged from service with the rank of captain. His experiences of the horrors of combat sent him back to England a changed man, and his marriage to H. D.—which had already suffered from their prolonged separation—proved unable to survive the challenge of their collective trauma. Though not officially divorced until 1938, Aldington and H. D. actually ended their marriage shortly after World War I.
Returning to London’s literary life, Aldington resumed his career as poet and critic, accepting a position writing for...
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