Vivien began work on Richard Aldington, Poet, Soldier and Lover in 2009. It was shortlisted for the Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Prize in 2011 and was published first by Lutterworth Press in January 2014 and a new edition published in July 2019.
Richard Aldington, Poet, Soldier and Lover: the years 1911-1929 is the story of a writer at the heart of the pre- and post-First World War literary scene; of two artists who cared passionately for each other but who tried to live according to a ‘new’ sexual morality – with unanticipated and devastating outcomes; of a man whose sexual drive constantly overpowered his emotional integrity; and of a poet who struggled to find beauty in the ugliness of war and its aftermath, and who wrote the most powerful – and successful – British novel that came out of The Great War.
The book tells the story of
- the years (1911-15) in which Aldington figured as one of the Imagist poets and one of a set of young artists who revitalised pre-war London and were the founders of Modernism; the years in which he fell in love with, and married, a fellow Imagist, the American poet, H.D.; the years in which he formed close relationships with Ezra Pound and D.H. Lawrence;
- the war years (1916-19) in which his personal and literary life fell apart, his marriage breaking up under the strain of his experience as a combatant on the Western Front, the loss of a (still-born) child and his subsequent love affairs; the years in which he nevertheless made a significant contribution to British combatant war poetry;
- the post-war years (1920-28) in which he painfully tried to put his life together again, to combat shell-shock and survivor’s guilt and to re-establish his literary career; the years in which, along with T.S. Eliot and Herbert Read, he laid the foundations of modern literary criticism but during which his relationships with the leading figures of Modernism deteriorated, while yet another long-term personal relationship disintegrated;
- the weeks in 1928 and 1929 in which he wrote Death of a Hero, his blistering and best-selling attack on all that had made that terrible war possible, and his own ‘goodbye to all that’: he would never again be domiciled in England.
Yesterday is not a milestone that has been passed, but a daystone on the beaten track of the years, and irremediably part of us, within us, heavy and dangerous. We are not merely more weary because of yesterday, we are other, no longer what we were before the calamity of yesterday.
(Thomas MacGreevy used this quotation from his friend Samuel Beckett’s book on Proust as an epigraph for his 1931 study of Aldington, Richard Aldington, An Englishman. )
The second volume of Aldington’s life, published by Lutterworth Press in July 2019, covers the years from 1930 to his death in 1962.
Richard Aldington, Novelist, Biographer and Exile: the years 1930 – 1962 tells the story of
- the years from 1930 to 1936 when he and his current lover, Brigit Patmore, travelled restlessly throughout Europe and beyond, visiting North Africa, Tobago and the United States, a period in which he wrote four major novels and one long poem (significantly entitled ‘Life Quest’), but which culminated in his abandoning yet another long-term relationship, to marry Patmore’s daughter-in-law, Netta McCullough
- the years from 1937 to 1946 in which he and Netta brought up their daughter, Catherine, and spent the war in exile in the United States, years in which he published his last long poem, worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, wrote his last three novels and turned, with the award-winning Wellington and Life for Life’s Sake, into a biographer and memoirist.
- the years from his return to Europe in 1946 to his death in 1962, years spent living in France, and bringing up his daughter alone, after Netta left him in 1950; the years in which he continued his work as a biographer and as champion of his friend D.H. Lawrence, but in which his books on Norman Douglas and T.E. Lawrence brought him notoriety and opprobrium; years in which his life was characterized by poverty, ill health and loneliness – except for the loyalty of a few friends, the affection of his daughter and a regular correspondence with H.D. – but which ended, only weeks before his death, with a visit to the Soviet Union, where he was feted and lionised.
For key figures in Aldington’s life please click here: