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 early adolescence to the age of thirty-eight. His life as a stalwart of the pre-war London literary scene, as a soldier, and in the difficult aftermath of the First World War is deftly rendered through a careful and detailed analysis of the novels, poems and letters of the writer himself and his close circle of acquaintance. The complexities of London’s Bohemia, with its scandalous relationships, social grandstanding and incredible creative output, are masterfully untangled, and the spotlight placed firmly on the talented group of poets christened by Ezra Pound as ‘Imagistes’. The author demonstrates profound psychological insight into Aldington’s character and childhood in her nuanced analysis of his post-war survivor’s guilt, and consideration of the three most influential women in his life: his wife, the gifted American poet, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle); Dorothy Yorke, the woman he left her for; and Brigit Patmore, his brilliant and fascinating older mistress.
Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover 1911-1929 vividly reveals Aldington’s warm and passionate nature and the vitality which characterised his life and works, concluding with his triumphant personal and literary resurrection with the publication of Death of a Hero. This new, revised edition is being released alongside the second volume of the biography, Richard Aldington: Novelist, Biographer and Exile 1930-1962.
About the Author
Vivien Whelpton is a former teacher of English and Media Studies with a special interest in the literature of the First World War. She has written journal articles and monographs in this field. She has an MA in War Studies and has conducted tours of the Western Front for several years. Her proposal for Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover was shortlisted for The Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Prize in 2011.
List of Illustrations
Part One: Poet and Lover
1. Bohemia: London 1911-1912
2. Family Secrets
3. The Perfect Year: France and Italy, 1912-1913
4. ‘Les Jeunes’: Creativity and Carnival, 1913-1914
5. The Imagist Poet: 1912-1916
Part Two: Soldier
6. War: 1914-1916
7. The Soldier: 1916
8. To the Front and Back: 1917
9. Interlude: 1917
10. Betrayals: 1917-1918
11. Back to the Front
13. The Poet of War and Desire
Part Three: Exile
14. The Aftermath: 1919
16. Retreat: 1920-1925
17. Exile and A Fool i’ the Forest
18. The Cracks Appear: 1926-1927
19. The Walls Fall Down: 1928
20. The Eaten Heart
21. The Novelist: 1929
22. Death of a Hero
Endorsements and Reviews
This is a sensitively handled and painstakingly researched account of a contradictory, troubled and complex personality. Whelpton interweaves the story of his life with illuminating commentary on his work to give the most vivid account yet of Richard Aldington.
Dr Kate Kennedy, Girton College, Cambridge
An impressively researched and clear-sighted biography; it provides a compelling portrait and reappraisal of the writer Richard Aldington, one of the most powerful yet neglected voices of the First World War. Aldington’s tangled personal and literary affiliations before, during and after the war are unravelled with great skill.
Adrian Barlow, President of the English Association
To describe Aldington as a complicated individual is an understatement, and to call his relationships with other people complex is equally inadequate. It is one of the strengths of Whelpton’s biography that she examines these complexities with great patience, clarity and objectivity … Whelpton is scrupulous in distinguishing between documented fact and fictionalized reconstruction and hypothesis … To read this biography is to be convicted that Aldington still deserves and important place in the history of English literature and literary life of the twentieth century. Vivien Whelpton has thus written a challenging book about an author most publishers still prefer to ignore, and Lutterworth Press is to be congratulated for publishing it.
Adrian Barlow, in The Use of English, Vol 65, No 3
This is an absorbing and thorough discussion of Aldington’s life and work, and illuminates the cultural life of London throughout the period. … The research is thorough and presented with a remarkably light touch, considering the level of detail here. Vivien Whelpton is to be congratulated on a very substantial achievement in a book which will long resonate with its readers.
Alliance Of Literary Societies Newsletter, Summer 2014
This is a skilfully written biography. The writer displays a huge knowledge of the life of her subject and a very good grasp of the contemporary literature and other artistic expressions of the age.
Marysa Demoor, in English Literature in Transition, Vol 58, Issue 4
In Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover, the author Vivien Whelpton explores in series of short intimately explored biographies, spread across the book that has Aldington at its core, the intertwining lives and work of a number of literary figures from the time, including Ezra Pound, Herbert Read, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Ford Maddox Ford and H.D (Hilda Dolittle) … That said, for the person determined to understand the man, his background and behaviours to gain a sense of why he wrote the way he did, Richard Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover will form an important part of their reading.
The Western Front Association, 2022