The story of Richard Aldington, outstanding Imagist poet and author of the bestselling war novel Death of a Hero (1929), takes place against the backdrop of some of the most turbulent and creative years of the twentieth century.
Vivien Whelpton provides a remarkably detailed and sensitive portrayal of the writer from the age of thirty-eight to his death from a heart attack in 1962. The first volume, Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover 1911-1929, described Aldington’s life as a stalwart of the pre-war London literary scene, his experience as an infantryman on the Western Front and his postwar personal and creative crises; this second volume seeks to balance the stories of Aldington’s subsequent public and private lives through a careful reading of his novels, poems and letters with his circle of acquaintances.
The ways in which Aldington’s dysfunctional childhood and survivor’s guilt continued to haunt him through the inter-war years and beyond are masterfully untangled by an author with gifted psychological insight into her subject. Volume Two covers Aldington’s personal and public lives as he transformed himself from poet to novelist and from novelist to biographer and explores his debacles and triumphs, particularly in the wake of his hugely controversial attack on the reputation of T.E. Lawrence. This authoritative biography recounts the life of one of the most underrated writers of the last century.
List of Illustrations
Part One: The Wanderer, 1930-1936
1. A Sociable Life: Travel, Friendship and Patronage, 1930-1931
2. A Sociable Life: France, 1930-1933
3. A Sociable Life: Italy – Further Friendships, 1930-1932
4. The Public Face: Critic and Satirist
5. The Public Face: Elegist and Romantic
6. The Social Life Fragments, 1932-1936
7. The Public Face: Reviewer, Philosopher and Essayist
8. The Private Life: Leading a Double Life, 1930-1936
9. The Private Life: Meltdown, 1936-1937
Part Two: The Exile, 1937-1950
10. Divorce, 1937-1938
11. A Crystal World? 1937-1939
12. The New World – Again, 1939-1942
13. A New Life – Hollywood, 1942-1946
14. The Public Face: Novelist, Biographer, Memoirist and Anthologist
Part Three: The Recluse, 1951-1962
15. Back to the Old World, 1946-1947
16. The Sociable Life: Paradise Regained – and Lost, 1947-1949
17. The Public Face: The Old Loyalties
18. The Private Life: Crisis, 1950
19. The Public Face: Disaster
20. Private and Public Lives: Trials of Endurance, 1951-1957
21. A Solitary Life, 1957-1962
22. From Tragedy to Triumph, 1961-1962
Endorsements and Reviews
Vivien Whelpton’s two-part biography of the writer Richard Aldington is a formidable achievement. This second volume illuminates the world of English letters from the Thirties to the Sixties while deftly charting the fluctuations of Aldington’s career and personal life. Whelpton’s scrupulous account of his latter years, and of how the controversy surrounding his book Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Enquiry brought his reputation and career to premature collapse, is a heartening demonstration of scholarly and fair-minded literary biography at its best.
Adrian Barlow, The English Association
This meticulously researched book draws on extensive archival material to present a nuanced, thorough, and highly readable account of Richard Aldington’s life in the years after the publication of Death of a Hero. Whelpton unfailingly guides her reader through the maze of difficult personal and literary relationships that were so characteristic of Aldington and, as she did in the first volume of this two-part biography, makes a compelling argument for his continued importance to literary history.
Professor Elizabeth Vandiver, Whitman College
Vivien Whelpton’s achievement is very considerable in bringing to life a writer who for a long time has been represented more by his name than his work.
Meg Crane, in Wilfred Owen Association Journal, 2019, Issue 2
Whelpton has lain the details of [Aldington’s] life before us with a careful scrupulousness.
Anne Williamson, in Henry Williamson Society Journal, No 56, September 2020
This biography is well researched and contains a wealth of detail … Vivien Whelpton has done a lot of excellent research, and demonstrates a clear psychological understanding and evaluation of Aldington through his writings and comments. In doing so she shows how it was only too easy for him to express hate and anger towards others.
The T.E. Lawrence Society Newsletter, Autumn 2019
Vivien Whelpton, despite her obvious admiration for her subject’s work, both poetry and prose does not shrink from describing his many faults as fully as she does his virtues. The amount of research that went into this comprehensive biography is both staggering and highly commendable.
Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship Blog, July 2019
The picture created by Vivien Whelpton of these increasingly frail figures, still paying the price, and reaping the rewards, of their youth is strangely moving, and offers – at the last – the sympathetic, redeeming image of Aldington which she has been so keen to provide.
Anna Girling, in Times Literary Supplement, March 20th 2020