Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
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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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Richard Aldington was born Edward Godfree Aldington in Portsmouth, England, on July 8, 1892. Life for Life’s Sake: A Book of Reminiscences (1941), his genial autobiography, presents an amusing, cordial, and meticulously honest persona to his readers. That version of Aldington’s personality is also celebrated in Richard Aldington: An Intimate Portrait (1965), sketches written by twenty-two people who knew him (including Roy Campbell, Lawrence Durrell, T. S. Eliot, Herbert Read, Alec Waugh, and Henry Williamson), and lovingly collected by Alister Kershaw and Frédéric-Jacques Temple. Those letters that have been published—A Passionate Prodigality, Aldington’s letters to Alan Bird, 1949-1962 (1975) and Literary Lifelines, correspondence between Richard Aldington and Lawrence Durrell (1981)—reveal a witty, considerate, and self-deprecating egotist, who could, when angered by incompetence, hypocrisy, or prejudice, portray his target in pitiless satire; he could also ridicule weaknesses in friends and in writers he greatly admired. The subjects were not always able to see the humor in his satiric sketches.
Contradicting the more generous interpretations of Aldington’s character and behavior is the unflattering fictionalized portrait of Rafe in Bid Me to Live (1960), a novel by H. D. (Hilda Doolittle, who was married to Aldington from 1913 to 1938, though their marriage dissolved during World War I). Charles Doyle’s 1989 biography of Aldington provides one of the most detailed accounts of his life currently available. In general, it is possible to divide Aldington’s long literary career into four broad phases: Imagist poet from 1912 to 1919, literary essayist and translator from 1919 to 1928, novelist from 1928 to 1938, and critical biographer from 1939 to 1957.
From his childhood, Aldington recalled with pleasure long walks through the English countryside unspoiled by automobile traffic, his observations as an amateur naturalist and astronomer, and freely reading romances and British poetry in his father’s large, general library. He also remembered, and satirized in his novels, the sentimentality, patriotic chauvinism, and narrow philistine manners of middle-class, Victorian citizens in the city of Dover. Like the hero of his novel Rejected Guest, Aldington attended University College, London, and, like the hero of Very Heaven, he was forced to leave college by his father’s financial failure. In 1911, Aldington began his professional career by reporting sporting events for a London newspaper and, in his spare time, writing poetry for publication. He was introduced to Ezra Pound and H. D. by Brigit Patmore, and he soon met Harold Monro, William Butler Yeats, May Sinclair, and Ford Madox Ford.
Aldington’s first literary life, which ended in World War I, was given focus by his relationship with H. D. (they were married in October, 1913) and his involvement in the Imagist movement in poetry. Aldington credited H. D. with writing the first Imagist poems, influenced by Greek forms, written in the free verse of the French Symbolists. The Imagists avoided the florid language of Georgian poetry by paring images to concrete, exact details and revising for concise, clear diction. In Aldington’s view, H. D.’s aesthetic sense influenced his poetry, and also that of D. H. Lawrence and Amy Lowell. The point of Aldington’s exaggeration, surely, was to remove Pound from the leadership of the Imagists. Aldington insisted that Pound merely named the group, arranged for the first publications in the Chicago magazine Poetry in 1912, and organized the first anthology, titled Des Imagistes, in 1914. Critical of Pound’s despotic editorship, Aldington clearly preferred the democratic efficiency of Lowell, who organized and published three volumes titled Some Imagist Poets in 1915, 1916, and...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Richard Aldington was one of the founders of the Imagist school of poetry and one of the important “warrior” literary figures who emerged out of World War I. He was the son of a lawyer who lived in Portsmouth, England, although the family moved to Dover a few years after he was born. Living in these small port cities gave Aldington an appreciation for the nearby countryside, and he was an avid hiker. Because he lived in Dover throughout his later youth and adolescence, Aldington and his family frequented nearby France for short vacations. Aldington would always maintain a deep affection for France and would live there most of his last sixteen years, the last three near the small central village of Sury-en-Vaux.
Aldington became a part-time sportswriter after briefly attending University College; he covered a few events each week on commission and began writing short pieces and poems for the large London periodical market. Living on the fringes of the London literary world, Aldington quickly found other writers who shared his ideals and goals, especially two American poets, Ezra Pound and H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), who would introduce him to a wider literary circle. It was Pound, aided by Aldington and H. D., who originated the Imagist school of poetry. Three of Aldington’s poems appeared in the November, 1912, issue of Poetry, which had printed in its second issue Pound’s statement of the new movement’s ideals. Aldington’s three poems were the first to be published under the name “Imagist.” As the movement grew, it acquired its own periodical, The Egoist, in 1913, and Aldington became its literary editor. At this time, H. D. and Aldington were married. (They were separated in 1919 and divorced in 1938.)
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