Vivien Whelpton on Richard Aldington in Frances Wilson’s Burning Man (2021)

Frances Wilson’s biography of D H Lawrence, Burning Man (Bloomsbury 2021), is a provocative and enthralling read. However, her account of Richard Aldington’s role both in Lawrence’s life and in writing about him is one that those who know Aldington will find not merely controversial but just plain wrong! Early on in the book, Wilson refers to him as Lawrence’s ‘so-called friend’ so the reader is prepared for the adverse assessment that follows – very shortly afterwards!

Aldington, we are told, resembled Middleton Murry, as both were ‘handsome and priapic intellectual opportunists who would make a career out of knowing Lawrence.’ The difference between them, however, is that ‘Murry and Lawrence had at least been friends, but Aldington, who met Lawrence on no more than a handful of occasions and never liked him, became the self-appointed guide to his life and work.’ (The comment is perhaps a dangerous one for any biographer to make. What are we but self-appointed guides?) Wilson continues: ‘While Lawrence had nothing much to say about Aldington, Aldington was incontinent on the subject of Lawrence.’ (The italics are mine.)

Let’s address these assertions:

… met Lawrence on no more than a handful of occasions:

Aldington and Lawrence in fact had a close relationship. Here are the occasions of their meetings:

  1. 30 July 1914: Amy Lowell’s dinner at the Berkeley to introduce Lawrence to Aldington and H.D. Subsequently (27 August) Lowell took H.D. and Aldington with her to visit Lawrence and Frieda in Chesham. 
  1. Hampstead August – December 1915: there was much closer contact between the two couples when they were living only five minutes’ walk away from each other, between August and December of 1915. This was the period in which Lawrence and H.D. became close. Julia in Bid Me To Live says: ‘He was the only one who seemed remotely to understand what I felt when I was so ill’ (the ‘illness’ being the still birth of her child in May and the consequences of that trauma). In 1933 Aldington told a correspondent that Lawrence was the only person who had understood what was wrong between himself and H.D. at the time, but added,’ I couldn’t talk of it to him – it was too painful.’ He and H.D. also supported Lawrence through the aftermath of the Rainbow trial. (Aldington’s accounts of this in both Life for Life’s Sake and Portrait of a Genius, But … are hugely sympathetic.) When Lowell – in her New England puritanism (and also her snobbery: she wrote to Aldington: ‘I think perhaps the peasant type of mind is not at its happiest in speaking of erotic subjects.’)  – wanted to remove Lawrence from the projected 1916 Imagist Anthology because of the Rainbow scandal, it was Aldington who opposed her.
  1. Autumn 1916: Aldington was in training and Lawrence was in Cornwall, but there was a regular correspondence between H.D. and Lawrence. This is when she revealed to John Cournos how frightened she was by Lawrence: ‘For the spiritual vision, his thoughts, his distant passion has given me, I thank God…But … there is yet another side – if he comes too near I am afraid for myself … I do not want [him] to die. He has a great gift. He is ill! – But I must be protected.’ She was one of the few people whom Lawrence trusted to read the manuscripts of Look, We Have Come Through and Women in Love – although, as he told Catherine Carswell, he wasn’t happy with her responses! 
  1. October 1917: when the Lawrences had to leave Cornwall, H.D. – then living in Lichfield near Aldington’s officer training camp – offered them her large bedsit in Mecklenburgh Square. She had previously lent it to Dorothy Yorke, but the latter was able to move upstairs to Cournos’s small room, because he had gone to Russia.  The incident between ‘Julia’ and ‘Rico’ that is related in Bid Me To Live would have taken place in mid-November when H.D. had to visit London for a week-end on business. When Aldington began his post-training leave at the end of the month the Lawrences moved into an apartment in Earls Court owned by Cecil Gray’s mother, but – until just before Christmas when they moved to Dollie Radford’s cottage in Berkshire – there was a hectic and complicated social life at Mecklenburgh Square involving the Lawrences, H.D, Aldington, Yorke – with whom Aldington was now having an affair – Gray and Brigit Patmore and her current lover. (Wilson tells us that H.D. and Gray shared a bed at Mecklenburgh Square, a supposition for which there is no evidence; her relationship with him was quite tentative on her side and almost certainly not consummated until sometime after she moved to Bosigran. Bid Me To Live would seem to confirm this.)
  1. November 1918: Lawrence and Aldington met in London when Aldington was briefly on leave after the Armistice. Lawrence’s reported to Lowell: ‘He [R.A.] is very fit – looking forward to peace and freedom. Hilda is also in town – not so very well. She is going to have another child it appears. I hope she will be all right. Perhaps she can get more settled, for her nerves are very shaken and perhaps the child will soothe her and steady her. I hope it will.’ This sympathetic stance seems to contradict H.D.’s report in Advent that Lawrence had written to her: ‘I hope never to see you again’, but then Lawrence was writing to Lowell, who was very fond of the Aldingtons. Wilson quotes his comment in December: ‘Feeling sorry for her, one almost melts. But I don’t trust her.’ What she doesn’t tell us is that this comment was in a letter to Selina Yorke, Dorothy’s mother: the Lawrences were fond of Dorothy and played a part in bringing her and Aldington together, so here he was warning her mother to be on guard lest H.D. win Aldington back!  
  1. Autumn 1919: the two men met in Koteliansky’s flat at a time when Lawrence and Frieda were living apart. In Life for Life’s Sake Aldington conflates this meeting with the one they had in the same setting in November when Lawrence was meeting him to ‘hand over’ the cottage in Hermitage and was about to leave the country – which explains why he talks of Lawrence’s ‘peculiar mood’ and of his not caring whether he ever saw Frieda again. He corrects this in Portrait of a Genius, But … where Lawrence in the later meeting ‘was his friendly and unaffected self, without any bitterness or bravado about going away.’
  1. 1926: for Aldington two life-changing meetings with Lawrence took place: the Lawrences’ visit to Malthouse Cottage over a long week-end in early August and the return five-day visit of Aldington and Yorke to the Villa Mirenda in October. In preparation for the Lawrences’ visit, Aldington re-read his work and realised how much he had under-rated him. His admiration for both the man (although he was well aware of Lawrence’s less appealing qualities!) and the work (and again it is not unqualified admiration) really begins there. As importantly for Aldington, the contact with Lawrence made him look at his own life and realise that it had to change. From then until his own departure from England two years later he was restless.  There is an unpublished poem addressed to Lawrence in which he writes about this revelation. Lawrence reinforced this in May 1927 when he wrote to Aldington, on receiving a copy of D.H. Lawrence: An Indiscretion, ‘What ails thee lad? Why do you write on the one hand as if you were my grandmother – about sixty years old and forced to apologise for the enfant terrible in the family … And on the other hand why do you write as if you were on hot bricks? … I never knew a man who seemed more to me to be living from a character not his own.’ (Of course, we might think predictably, Aldington’s moves to change his life were – initially at least – destructive for himself and several other people, notably Yorke and Jessie Capper.)
  1. 1928: Aldington was involved in the summer in distributing copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and then spent a month – it was to have been longer, but Lawrence became too ill to stay – from mid-October until mid-November on the Mediterranean island of Port Cros with the Lawrences, Yorke and Brigit Patmore. There are accounts of this holiday in Lawrence’s and Aldington’s letters, in Patmore’s memoirs and in Life for Life’s Sake and it was again a very intense and complicated time!  It was Lawrence’s stern disapproval of Aldington’s conduct there that drove the latter to create the savage portrait of Lawrence in Death of a Hero, which he began to write on the island (and to write to H.D: ‘[Lawrence] is really malevolent and evil and I hope I never see him again.’) But his The Eaten Heart was an attempt to challenge Lawrence’s view – which was expressed by the latter in a letter to Huxley and in ‘I Know a Noble Englishman’ (one of the only two poems that were removed for obscenity reasons from Pansies).
  1. 1941: the final connection between the two men took place after Lawrence’s death! The Aldington family spent two months living at Kiowa Ranch and there is a moving unpublished essay by Aldington about the connection he felt there with Lawrence.

[Aldington] never liked [Lawrence]:

Aldington – like most other people who knew Lawrence (and his biographers, Frances Wilson included) – recognised the two sides of his personality. Hence Portrait of a Genius, But …! .   In Portrait … Aldington writes: ‘Long ago I wrote that being with him was like moving from an ordinary atmosphere into one of oxygen. Everything became more exciting and vivid. But he – and we – paid for this unique self of his by the existence of his antithetical self, perverse, destructive, hating, hateful, conceited as a gutter Lucifer.’ For Aldington Lawrence would always be the most exciting person he had ever met and his writings finer – despite the faults he identified – than any other writer of the day. It was the view also of Aldous Huxley, expressed in his introduction to the Penguin edition of Lawrence’s Selected Letters (edited by Aldington).

[Aldington] would make a career out of knowing Lawrence [and] became the self-appointed guide to his life and workWhile Lawrence had nothing much to say about Aldington, Aldington was incontinent on the subject of Lawrence.

The argument that Lawrence had nothing much to say about Aldington we can easily dismiss: apart from his Studies in Classic American Literature, Lawrence did not produce literary criticism. He had plenty to say about Aldington the man in his correspondence (and caricatures him in Aaron’s Rod). Being incontinent on the subject is a gross misunderstanding of Aldington’s output – and of the motivation behind his editions of Apocalypse, Last Poems (both at the request of Frieda) and The Spirit of Place, and the two monographs (the second to accompany the new editions of Lawrence’s works in 1950). The biography and the seventeen twentieth anniversary introductions were written at the behest of Alexander Frere of Heinemann and Allen Lane of Penguin Books. What his publishers realised in 1949, as I indicate in my biography of Aldington, was that he was the best-placed person to do this work because of his clear-eyed awareness of the complexities of Lawrence’s personality and because he was a discerning literary critic with a thorough familiarity with the totality of Lawrence’s output. (The only other writer they might have approached would have been Huxley.) Portrait of a Genius, But … is not an offhand biography, as Wilson opines, but a measured, searching – and profoundly touching – portrait. For so many people that I know it is their favourite work by Aldington and it was well received at the time. As for the opinionated introductions – well, that is a matter of opinion! They are certainly short by modern standards but I find each one (as I say in the Aldington biography) beautifully crafted to inform the reader of the personal context out of which each text emerged, to convey an understanding of the writing process behind the work and to provide an insight into the uniqueness of Lawrence’s vision, particularly his ‘perception of beauty’. Weaknesses are identified but the emphasis is on the originality, freshness and vitality of Lawrence’s writing.

There are other minor errors or misunderstandings in Burning Man

Wilson tells us that Aldington destroyed the correspondence between H.D. and Lawrence and rebukes him for not mentioning in Portrait of a Genius, But … the fact that the Lawrences stayed at Mecklenburgh Square in 1917.  Much is made of these facts: It is the biographer’s remit to edit those facts that don’t fit (Is it? Is Wilson being ironic here?), but what are we to make of this sudden silence in the unstoppable flow of Aldington’s authority? The irony is heavy. In fact the Lawrence’s stay at Mecklenburgh Square at the invitation of H.D. is mentioned in both Life for Life’s Sake (page 232) and Portrait of a Genius, But … (page 199) What is not mentioned is the crisis reached in the relationship between H.D. and Lawrence. This omission is easy to explain.  I do not think Aldington knew anything of it until the publication of Bid Me To Live in 1960 (and he still felt that she had misread the situation, as we all do!) I don’t find any evidence that he clearly agreed with H.D. that Lawrence was in love with her – although this statement allows Wilson some further irony: After all, why would Lawrence want a fat German Christmas pudding who was always mocking him when he could have a thin American goddess who took him entirely seriously? (Aldington’s own respect for the Lawrence marriage and his affection for Frieda make this comment seem particularly tasteless.)

As for the destruction of the correspondence: the letters were in a trunk containing all the correspondence between Aldington and H.D. (he sent her own letters back for her to keep) until her departure for Cornwall in March 1918, as well as her letters from others, including Cournos and Lawrence. She had left the trunk at Mecklenburgh Square and Aldington took it with him to Hermitage, as he had been asked to clear out their possessions.  I don’t think he opened it: he couldn’t bear to read the correspondence between himself and H.D. When he moved again, he asked the woman who lived next-door at Hermitage to burn the contents of the trunk. (I find it significant that he couldn’t do it himself.)

Wilson does not distinguish between actions and comments by fictional characters (chiefly in Aaron’s Rod and Bid Me To Live) and the actions and comments of real people. Like her, I drew extensively on these novels in writing my Aldington biography (and attempted to justify the practice in the introduction to the first volume). However, in quoting from the novels, Wilson always uses the ‘real’ names never the character names (H.D, never ‘Julia’, Lawrence, never ‘Rico); it is only by consulting the notes that one discovers when the source is a novel rather than a letter, memoir or journal. Nor does she always indicate, when quoting from a letter, to whom the letter was written. Since letter writers tailor information, comment and tone according to their audience (as in the example I give above of Lawrence’s letter to Selina Yorke) this seems to me an important omission.

Burning Man is an exhilarating and absorbing read and an illuminating and challenging study of Lawrence – the man and his work. However, it is a pity that it fails to represent Richard Aldington justly and accurately.

Vivien Whelpton

July 2021

Review: Louisa Deasey, A Letter from Paris (Scribe, 2018)

I’m finally catching up on some Aldington posting, having had a hectic last few months – as, I suspect, have many of us.  So, over the coming weeks I’ll be posting some pieces of varying lengths about recent Aldington-related publications.  First up is Louisa Deasey’s A Letter from Paris (Scribe, 2018).  I was glad to meet up with Louisa in Melbourne in the summer of 2018 (the British summer, that is).  This review focuses on the Aldington connection, while also addressing the book as a whole to some degree.

A Letter from Paris focuses on Louisa’s search to find out more about and connect with her father Denison Deasey, a writer who died in 1984 when she was still young. Louisa intertwines her literal and figurative journey to discover what his writerly life had been like with her father’s travels in postwar Europe (see p. 98) and both of their wrestling with what it is to make a living as a writer.  Her memory of his chaotic industry is striking:

            In dad’s house, he always had a big notebook by his side.

His bookshelves were full of spilled-out folders, with papers stacked high, under and over hardback books.  Even the smell of the library took me back to him, that sense of academia, the fascination with higher concepts mixed with amusement at the mundane, scribbling away on any piece of paper he could find – the backs of envelopes if they were nearby and he found it too painful to get out of bed or his chair. (p. 57)

Denison Deasey was an Australian author, publisher, and literary figure.  He published as the Oberon Press, and his most substantial publication was Education Under Six (Croom Helm, 1978); Louisa records at the start of her journey a sense that her father left a lot lots unfinished, created by comments and even obituaries (p. 46).  She discovers that her father was part of an Australian cultural elite, taking in figures such as Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, Geoffrey and Ninette Dutton, Barry Humphries, Alister Kershaw (who discusses their relationship in The Pleasure of Their Company (University of Queensland Press, 1986)), Mirka Mora, Albert Tucker. He was also well connected in postwar Europe, meeting poets and writers such as Roy Campbell, Dylan Thomas, Louis Macneice, F-J Temple and Richard Aldington.

Deasey remembers his relationship with Aldington in an article ‘Lunch at the Villa’, published in the Australian journal The Bulletin (1981; quoted by Whelpton, vol. 2, pp. 188-9).  Vivien Whelpton describes how:

the impulsive, engaging, accident-prone and physically delicate Deasey became a surrogate son towards whom Aldington felt protective. […] Deasey shared Aldington’s historical and aesthetic interests and, perhaps more importantly, had also been scarred by his wartime experiences. (Whelpton, vol. 2, p. 194)

The connection between Aldington and Deasey came about through their mutual acquaintance Alister Kershaw, who had moved in with Aldington at Le Lavandou, France (p. 68) and wrote to Deasey to encourage him to join them in the south of France; Kershaw would later be the literary executor for Aldington’s estate until his own death in 1995. After Deasey returned to Australia in 1955, Aldington wrote to H.D. of him as ‘a very cultivated man (as the Aussies sometimes are) and a prof’ (19 June 1956; Zilboorg, TLIL, p. 372). Whelpton traces their sometimes complex relationship, particularly between Kershaw and Deasey (vol. 2, p. 194).

A key question for Louisa becomes working out the relationship with Aldington was so important to her father:

The Writer, he called him grandly, feeling an affinity with Aldington almost like a father-son relationship.  Aldington had also been affected by the war, exiling himself from England to France to get away from the ‘wreckage and the waste’. (p. 95)

The meaningful introduction to Aldington for Deasey, and in the book (p. 137), is at the Villa Aucassin, where Aldington lived from 1947 to 1951.  Louisa’s trip to the Villa is part of the denouement, the chapter in which she arrives entitled ‘La clé’ (the key) (ch. 28, p. 287). The letters between Aldington and Deasey in Canberra become in themselves a tempting but distant resource (p. 121); it is clear that the two writers were kindred spirits, committed to their craft, often generous to other writers while being far from infallible. The spirit of the Canberra letters is encapsulated by Louisa’s précis:

Aldington was intimate, affectionate, detailed and forthcoming.  He was endlessly cheering dad on, congratulating him on any moves forward, confiding literary facts and details that implied a relationship based on mutual trust and deep companionship. […] Aldington hadn’t just loved dad’s company as a friend and companion.  He’d seen dad’s potential as a writer and a creative. (p. 144)

Their connection, which Louisa dovetails with her own writerly development, is about living well, but also the hardships of being a writer and the commitment, the ruthlessness required in doing so.  This shared mindset ensured a continuing intimacy by correspondence even after Deasey left France in 1955, having played a key role in researching Aldington’s infamous Lawrence of Arabia (1955; see p. 151).

It’s a shame that Aldington’s voice couldn’t come through more in this charming volume; there are always difficulties with bringing previously unpublished material into print, and the letters haven’t even been excerpted in any of the major publications on Aldington.  He is, as it stands, an absent presence at the centre of the volume.  That is no fault of the author, however, and A Letter from Paris is an engaging and touching story which has certainly made me keen to rectify a gap in my knowledge about Aldington’s Australian connections.

Andrew Frayn



Michael Copp’s new translation of Léon Werth, Private Clavel: Patient in War

Cover of Michael Copp's translation of Léon Werth, Private Clavel: Patient in War

NCLSN correspondent Michael Copp has translated Léon Werth’s Private Clavel: Patient in War (click to order).  Below is the publisher’s blurb:


At the outbreak of World War One, Léon Werth, aged 36, began his service in the French army, from August 1914 to August 1915. This novel is the sequel to his earlier book, Private Clavel’s War on War. In both books, Clavel, acting as Werth’s mouthpiece, expresses his anti-militaristic views (although, in the earlier book we see him conscientiously carrying out his duties as a telephonist/radio operator).

After serving in one of the worst sectors of the front, he was wounded and invalided out, to spend many months being treated and assessed in various hospitals and convalescent homes, interspersed with short spells of leave. Werth portrays Clavel’s fellow-patients, nurses and doctors in these establishments, together with his Parisian friends, including his girlfriend, Valentine, all of whom have contrasting views on the war. Clavel quickly realises that he must conceal his anti-war attitude, that he must avoid any injudicious comments which might lead to his being informed on by a fellow-patient, a nurse or a doctor, with the result that he would be returned to the front, irrespective of his physical fitness. 

Michael Copp’s finely judged translation enables us to become acquainted with another neglected, but remarkable, anti-war modernist masterpiece. 


Order Private Clavel: Patient in War

Order Private Clavel’s War on War

Recent Aldington-related publications

I’m slowly catching up on Aldington-related reading.  I’m not writing a lot about Aldington academically at the moment so, as ever, I’d appreciate anyone else’s thoughts, comments, posts, and reviews.

Here, though, I want to outline some recent publications that are about Aldington, or at least touch on his work.  I’m hoping to write longer pieces on these; if you’ve read them and would like to write about any of them yourselves, then please drop me a line – afrayn [dot] ac [at]

A reminder that the second volume of Vivien Whelpton’s biography was published last summer.  I’m working on a review of this and hope to post it soon.

Louisa Deasey’s A Letter From Paris is a charming account of her search to find out more about her father, Denison Deasey, who was a friend of Aldington in France after the Second World War.

Matt Foley’s Haunting Modernisms: Ghostly Aesthetics, Mourning, and Spectral Resistance Fantasties in Literary Modernism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) draws on Aldington, particularly in a reading of Death of a Hero in his first chapter, ‘Haunted Images, Deadness and Impossible Mourning.’

Vincent Trott’s Publishers, Readers and the Great War: Literature and Memory since 1918 (Bloomsbury, 2017) looks at Death of a Hero and its reception in chapter 3, ‘Marketing Myth: Richard Aldington, Vera Brittain and the Memory of the First World War’.

Chris Forster’s Filthy Material: Modernism and the Media of Obscenity (Oxford University Press, 2018) addresses the expurgation of Death of a Hero.

Oliver Tearle’s book The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem (Bloomsbury 2019) contains a chapter on ‘A Fool i’ the Forest’. I reviewed the book for the Review of English Studies.

Andrew Frayn

Aldington/Imagism conference cancelled

I’m sure it won’t surprise readers to know that the Richard Aldington / Imagism conference scheduled for this summer has been cancelled.  Like most events at the moment, we’ll have to wait and see before thinking about possible revised dates.

Please do continue to get in touch with your Aldington-related news.

Obituary: Jennifer Aldington Emous

Jennifer Aldington holding a dog

Jennifer Aldington Emous

30 January 1933 – 27 November 2019

By Vivien Whelpton

Jennifer was Aldington’s niece – the daughter of Aldington’s younger brother Tony and his first wife, Moira Osborne. She and her brother Tim, born in 1936, were brought up by their mother and grandmother after their parents separated in 1941.

Jennifer’s childhood and subsequent development were deeply affected by the Second World War: in S.E. Kent schools were closed for the duration and she and her brother were taught at home by a retired schoolteacher. Fortunately, Jennifer’s love of literature – especially Shakespeare and the nineteenth century novelists – was encouraged. She was twelve years old when the war ended and her over-protective grandmother decided that she could continue to study at home.  She had many talents, apart from being an avid reader, including for drawing and painting – she did attend art school for a short while – and also for singing and for writing, but was never given the opportunity to exploit these. She loved riding and had her own horse for a while until it became too expensive to keep it; but her love of animals did lead her into breeding Yorkshire terriers and poodles. Much of her life as a young adult was taken up with caring for her grandmother and her mother. She married in 1966 and her daughter, Francesca, was born three years later. Subsequently Jennifer had an important role in helping Francesca to combine a career with bringing up her own two daughters, Saskia and Anushka, now in their early twenties.

As Tony Aldington acted as his brother’s solicitor and legal adviser, Aldington was in regular touch with him and his second family after moving back to France in 1946, but Jennifer started to write to her uncle in September 1954. His initial response was, rather unsurprisingly: ‘I have always thought that relatives and so on were people better to let alone; your letter changed my ideas on the subject.’ He told her: ‘I am an old codger now, and not very amusing, except when I get cross and slang people in print.’ (This was, of course only a few months before the publication of ‘Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry’.)  However, she was not put off and they continued to correspond. In September 1961 Moira, Jennifer and Tim (newly returned from three years’ service as an agricultural field officer in Tanganyika) visited Aldington at Sury, an enjoyable time for them all, during which he took them to see the abbey at Vézelay and out for a restaurant meal; but their visit was curtailed after a week because he and Catha had been summoned to Zurich by Bryher to see the dying H.D.

Jennifer remained an admirer of Aldington for the rest of her life and was a member of the NCLS. I was fortunate to be introduced to her in 2011 by her cousin Jane Conway, author of ‘Mary Borden: A Woman of Two Wars’. On my visits to see her in Deal in Kent, sometimes with Jane, sometimes with my husband, she shared her letters from Aldington with me and spoke of him with great affection, remarking on his generosity and good humour. Despite being crippled with arthritis, suffering from increasingly poor eyesight (a particularly tragic blow as it prevented her from reading) and in constant pain, she was welcoming and full of spirit, and her memories of her remarkable family were always entertaining. Her tales of May Aldington were fascinating and helped me understand Aldington’s fraught relationship with his mother, while her memories of his sisters, her aunts Marjorie and Patty, were poignant ones.

Until the distance became too much for her, we would meet at ‘The Black Douglas’, Jennifer’s favourite café on the seafront at Deal, where she was well known and loved. I last saw her at the end of August last year, when she and Jane and I went down to the beach to a café where Anushka worked. Knowing that I was vegan, Jennifer had thoughtfully purchased a vegan pasty for me the day before and brought it with her in the basket of her mobility scooter. 

In early October, Jennifer was suffering from heart problems and contracted pneumonia. She was taken into hospital and, although discharged temporarily after a few weeks, she was soon taken ill again and returned to hospital where she died on 27 November. The Church of St Thomas of Canterbury in Deal was full of friends and family for her requiem mass on 20 December.

Jennifer is survived by her brother, her daughter and her two granddaughters. Much of the information I have about her early life was kindly given to me by Tim Aldington.


Richard Aldington’s Grave

Richard Aldington's Grave

By Geoffrey Taylor

At Tous les Saints, 31st Octobre, a stone was laid at the grave of Richard Aldington. It marks the culmination of a two year project, and it was sited at Sury en Vaux with the permission of his grandchildren. It measures 28cm x 28 x 26, and rests without fixture at the corner of the existing gravestone. The engraved letters simply state the author’s name. These letters are only just discernible as they are eroding.

I am not a relative of Aldington’s, I am an enthusiast in literature. I spent much of the centenary years visiting the battlefields of the Somme and Flanders with the War Poets Association, where we inspected many cemeteries of the soldiers of the Great War. It was striking, and a cause for great humility at how immaculately the cemeteries are maintained. None of the stones appear to have suffered from weathering; the stones are dazzling as they stand in regimented and measured rows.

On one of these tours, I came across the name of Aldington during a lecture delivered at a converted barn in Auchonvillers, near the Ancre. I became interested in his life and work. And one Christmas Holiday, I visited the Sancerrois, where he spent his dotage at Maison Sallé, a bungalow lent him by his Australian secretary Alister Kershaw. By good fortune, I had made the acquaintance of his widow, who was able to tell me the exact whereabouts of Aldington’s grave at the small cemetery. Without this information I should not have found it, as there is no headstone.

It would not rest easily on the conscience of any lover of elegant literature, to learn that the author of ‘Death of a hero,’ has not been commemorated to posterity at his resting place.What to do? I set about alerting his literary estate, and the society Aldington formed in Florence.

I wish to extend my gratitude to his biographer, Vivien Whelpton, for her unfailing and generous support. I assumed that one could contact a monumental mason in the Sancerrois, but I also knew that if I took this course the project would become elongated to the point of indifference. Again, by good fortune, I learnt that a former colleague of mine is running a stone carving studio at Rabastens, on the Tarn.I contacted her, and asked whether she would agree to a commission from me. She would. And, elatedly, I informed interested parties that there would be a stone! I knew she could be relied upon to produce a work of quality.

The only obstacle that now lay before me was in how to convey a piece of dense Fontenay limestone from the studio to the cemetery. A distance of over 500 km…

New marker at Richard Aldington's Grave.
New marker at Richard Aldington’s Grave.


That stone can be observed at ten paces.

It lies a gauche, four up and four along,

Gild the name of ‘Bizet’ traces

One side, the other the name of a vigneron.

Whose vats beyond the wall are strong;

Whose vineyards now are in the sere,

Curving the slope like a waiting column.

A gathering for Tous les Saints is here,

With bouquets for those who’re dear.



Whoever adorned the porch unto l’eglise

With pebbling, clearly hadn’t in mind

One dragging a case with any ease!

With a wantaway wheel that won’t align

To the course and steer of one’s design,

Or the coaxing of a firm hand.

I might make that train on time.

I told mine hostess that I must understand

The burden of the stone over the land.


First, a long bridge across the Tarn,

With the sound of waters over a weir.

The turn for le Gare gives cause for alarm

When steps over the line appear,

What strength I have would dissolve here.

One kilometre and my arm is numb.

One corner forth, then the other till I’m clear

Of the track, and on up to the station:

Thus, a journey to the city is begun.


There is no fear of robbers making off.



J’ai horreur du voitures.

They’ve spilled over the world enough,

And destroyed so much where they tour.

And hidden souls from their neighbour.

I have hired one that I may traverse

The length from Garonne up to Cher.

The stone in the boot where the lid lowers,

No one as yet its weight discovers.


The motorcar is alive with bleeps

And flickering over the dash.

I try its width along an adjoining street

So as one wheel mounts the kerb, it makes a rash

Of complaints which seem rather harsh.

My hand’s in the side when reaching for the gear;

At each arret the engine gasps,

Ere its engagement quietly disappears,

And I’m left stranded with others to rear.


Till I remember to depress the clutch;

And then the diagram splits in twain.

The needle sensitive to the touch,

I soon tear along l’Occitane.

My thoughts sloughed in the mundane,

Even when crossing the Dordogne.

Why was there no connecting train?

That I may observe where strata adjoin,

Within the valley’s dip and groin.


To get to the bureau ere it closes,

So as I’m not lumped with the car,

Means I hardly notice Des Causses;

Beyond Chateauroux, still northbound fare.

Strapped to seat over endless tar,

My spirit restless for another cause.

Night closes, as the world rifles the bar;

Switches down and locks entrance doors;

I’m exasperated as I enter Bourges.


And there is gazoil over my shoe!

Couldn’t they track my final approach?

Round to the rear with the wheels askew

I park, whilst they have put on their coats.

I drain some water to the driest of throats,

Whilst they call me a taxi for the last part.

They are gay with lightsome notes.

A girl seems ready her own story to impart,

The nozzle didn’t cut; there’s no place to park!


Then she offers to carry my case.

I sharply forbid – it’d crush her toe,

And there’s a word I cannot trace,

Under stress the word for ‘heavy!’ I do not know.

Over the next five and twenty, I can bow

To weariness, or look through the night

At the glowing lamps of a plough.

Or, explain to the driver how I’ll site

A stone- if I can tell it right:



A gesture of one poet to another;

As a symbol to the enduring,

For student’s in the future to discover.

Sans heritage, poetry is thus scouring

Only at a surface – that’s not for learning.

At the hilltop town, I pay and he goes.

Silence flows back once he’s made the turning.

Through the night nought familiar shows,

And streets run off into deep shadows.


Mistakenly, I thought I’d remember,

And not a soul stirs that I could ask.

Each rue is dissolved and slender

In a mist that roams and masks.

A bell tolls, and mocks my task,

As I cannot fathom its source.

The wheel gives out, and there’s sparks,

I imagine, where I grind out a course.

I fume at each step I force.


Under quiet shutters to and fro,

Is anyone listening to my moans?

I try to read a map in a window,

I’m only a few paces from the home.

Though the hotelier must be changed in tone

At my whereabouts, and if I’m still intent

Upon the place whilst listening for the ‘phone.

Upon each slope my strains are bent,

Which way to turn, which way is meant?


And now I’m beginning to despair,

Until, as so oft, so oft there comes

An angel our providing Lord has prepared.

I rest my case, and try to summon

Up some composure where I’ve none.

His gait looks a trifle unsteady;

(From cave to cave a line of path runs).

“Rue Marechal?” he says, “follow me!”

I drag and more sparks I see.


He points out the rue, and goes his way.

A lady emerges from a side door,

“Ah, Monsieur Taylor?” Mine hostess says,

I have no breath to make a rapport,

I try though am furious unto the core.

We get it through into the courtyard,

And her waiting husband takes to the floor.

Grinning as one about to make a remark

In a facetious tone as becomes his part.


Unseen by me, his wife signals

For him to withhold and to restrain,

I beg to leave the weight on the cobbles,

And unzip the case to make it plain.

They gather as round a salesman.

Unthinking, I pass him a bundle from inside,

Through modesty she straightens up again,

As if smarting at a tanner’s hide;

Or as a bather meets an incoming tide.


At last, I prize out the stone.

Tomorrow, I say, it will be unveiled,

In front of the Mairie or perhaps none,

At the quiet cemetery of Maimbray.

Where tombs of others amply display,

But of this poet the rain’s consuming,

And the shallow letters begin to fade.

It shall settle under shine or loaming,

And this man upon it swooning!

Cancelled: Richard Aldington/Imagism Conference, 20-22 June 2020, France (CfP 5 Jan 2020)

This conference is now cancelled





20-22 June 2020, Chavignol/Sury-En-Vaux, France


The XI International Aldington Society and VII International Imagism Conference will be held in Chavignol, France, near Sancerre and Sury-En-Vaux, the village where Aldington spent the last few years of his life. The International Richard Aldington Society was co-founded by Catha Aldington, and its first conference was held in her home in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the summer of 2000. Since that time, the conference has been held biennially. The first two Imagism Conferences were held at Brunnenburg Castle in Italy in 2007 and 2010, with the Aldington Society as a joint sponsor in 2010. The two conferences were then held jointly through 2016, and in 2018 the XX conference of the Elizabeth Madox Roberts Society was included. The EMR Society is a co-sponsor of this year’s conference.

The RA/Imagism conference will immediately follow a conference of the May Sinclair Society to be held at the Université de Nantes, June 18-19, and the proximity of the two conferences provides an opportunity for papers interrelating Sinclair’s work with that of Aldington and the Imagists. For the Sinclair conference, see



We invite a wide range of possible papers dealing with any aspect of the life and work of Aldington, the Imagist Movement, May Sinclair, and Elizabeth Madox Roberts.

Topics may include but are not limited to the following suggestions:

  • Aldington in Sury-en-Vaux
  • Aldington’s France
  • Aldington and Imagism
  • Aldington and H. D.
  • Aldington and May Sinclair
  • Modernism and Modernity
  • Transatlantic Contemporaries: Richard Aldington, H. D., T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Dorothy Richardson, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, May Sinclair
  • May Sinclair and Imagism
  • May Sinclair and Elizabeth Madox Roberts

Deadline for submissions is January 5, 2020. Please send a title and 250-word abstract to the conference co-directors: Daniel Kempton ( and H. R. Stoneback (

The conference site is La Salle Panoramique in l’Hôtel Restaurant Famille Bourgeois in Chavignol.



Saturday June 20: Arrival day and evening reading of poetry by Richard Aldington and others at the hotel.

Sunday June 21: Academic Panels 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Monday June 22: Departure day. At 12 noon, readings from Aldington’s work at his grave in Sury-en-Vaux.


Registration and lodging information forthcoming soon. The registration fee will be a remarkably low $85, which covers all conference expenses, including morning and afternoon breaks with refreshments during the full day of academic panels, a lunch catered by the Bistro des Damnés, and at the end of the day a dégustation commentée of the wines from the Domaine Famille Bourgeois. We are awaiting confirmation of lodging details from the small hotel of the Domaine, our conference headquarters. As soon as the details are available, we will send a lodging update. The Domaine will not be able to accommodate all conferees, but there are numerous inexpensive small hotels in the Chavignol-Sancerre area in the $55-to-$110 price range. Early booking of lodging highly recommended.


Tim Aldington’s memories of Richard Aldington

When Vivien Whelpton kindly sent me a copy of the second volume of her commendably assiduous biography (which I name as RA2) of my uncle Richard Aldington, I started to peruse it from its Part Three. I did so because, apart from receiving the occasional food parcel sent by him from the US during the wartime 1940s, my sister Jennifer and I had very little knowledge of his whereabouts or activities until the mid-1950s (RA2, p. 311). Our contact began as an occasional exchange of correspondence between my sister and him which eventually led to our visiting him together with our mother, Moira (his former sister-in-law, long-since divorced from his brother Tony) at Sury-en-Vaux, in early September 1961. This was shortly after my return from a 33 month tour of service in what was then still Tanganyika, which Vivien also notes. There we experienced his kindness and unexpected cooking ability, the latter hardly surprising as by then he had been looking after himself, and Catha too at times, for a decade or more with the departure of Netta. But then we were not aware of that.

I remember him with his still thick, grey hair cut en brosse but not too severely, sitting in front of the kitchen stove wherein was roasting a chicken or something, with a glass of wine to hand, laughingly bemoaning the fact that, due to financial constraints, he could no longer afford the more expensive wines, let alone champagne, of former times. However, Alister Kershaw’s house, Maison Sallé, was comfortable and we lived well but simply. He had a sedate Simca saloon car to move around in which we had to use if we travelled together because my little Austin-Healey two-seater car could barely accommodate us three let alone with the still quite robust Richard. I remember him making some contemptuous remarks at the driver of a Parisian car, recognizable by its 75 number plate, which had rudely ignored his right of way. However, we did not wish to impose too much on his hospitality and so often went off to visit the environs of Sury and the nearby river Loire while leaving him to his work.

At a distance of now nearly 60 years, I have no recollection of any deep intellectual intercourse between us but there was much to catch up on concerning family affairs on both sides. In particular, my sister and I wanted news about Catha who was quite close to us in age and whom we had not yet met: we were to do so a few years later and amusing company she became. Catha was closer to age to us than we had estimated (RA2, p. 119), being born in France in 1938 rather than in the US in 1940-41. I do remember inspecting Richard’s impressive library, impressive both in size and what I perceived to be in quality: my more knowledgeable – in this respect! – sister confirmed the latter.

Years later, being by chance in its vicinity, accompanied by my French wife, I visited Maison Sallé again. It was then housing Kershaw’s second wife, Sheila, whom I had already met and who kindly showed us around the then newly re-arranged building with Richard’s library well ensconced, perhaps even better than before. She also told us where we would find his impressive grave, situated in a nearby public cemetery.

One final insight on our earlier family visit to Richard marked our departure, also noted by Vivien (RA2, p. 311). We had arranged to stay with him for a week at most but had left the actual date open. There would be no problem in driving up to Calais and getting a ferryboat to Dover as our visit was out of the main tourist season and we lived then at Folkestone, adjacent to Dover. If I remember correctly, it was about four or five days after our arrival that he informed us that he had just received news that an ‘old friend’ of his was ill in Zurich whom he wished to visit as soon as possible. Yet he gave no name. Of course the ‘friend’ was H.D. whom we had never met and who was to die within the month. We readily agreed to leave the next morning and we spent an affable evening together. Yet it seems strange that he did not mention her by name.  In any case, it was none of our business and we left on the best of terms.

I was to see uncle Richard once more before he died, as Vivien notes (RA2, p. 321). It was in the early summer of 1962 so less than a year since my previous visit. I was facing a dilemma. Now a year after my return from Africa, I had lost, and willingly so, my job as a trainee salesman of agricultural machinery for a firm in western England, to work in Colombia of all places. I say ‘willingly’ because, like my employer, I had come to realise that I was not a salesman. So it was something of a relief too. Yet I had started to learn Spanish, needed to work even if I had some financial resources, and wondered if I should not try to resume my studies before it became too late: I was then 26. Also, there was an idea growing in my mind of writing a book on my experiences gained from my tour of work in East Africa in 1958-61. Feeling disillusioned with Great Britain – as I do now but for different reasons! – I decided to pass a few weeks of camping in Europe – it was a time of camping then – with my little car, to think about it all.

I decided to start with Spain to practice my still primitive Spanish, perhaps passing through southern France on my return. I spent about two weeks on the Costa Brava but my return trip through southern France was shortened by a severe storm. This damaged my feeble tent and brought about an attack of malaria probably awoken by the sudden change in climate. Fortunately the French chemist I visited was well acquainted with the term ‘paludisme’ and gave me the correct treatment. So I headed home northwards in a rather chastened frame of mind. On the road, I realised that if I took a route to Calais, the appropriate ferryboat port for Dover, that avoided Paris, I would pass close to Sury-en Vaux, Maison Sallé and uncle Richard. Why not try to visit him?  I selected Cosne-sur-Loire with its municipal camping site and adjacent to Sury-en-Vaux, as my initial destination.

I cannot recall how I contacted him as mobile telephones did not exist then but I must have done so somehow and not just turned up. Anyway, he welcomed me and we were soon enjoying a glass of wine together. It was towards the middle of July 1962 and he had just returned from his trip to the USSR accompanied by Catha, at the invitation of the USSR Writers’ Union. Vivien, writing about it in RA2, regards this trip as being a triumph for him and I suppose it was too. However, he admitted to feeling very tired and he realised that perhaps he had over-enthusiastically participated in the notoriously famous rites of Russian hospitality. However, I remember that he gave me the impression of being very pleased with his and Catha’s experiences which was a pleasure to witness. He invited me to dine with him and even to stay the night but I desisted because of his recognizable tiredness and also that I had left my tent and belongings on the camp site at Cosne.

We chatted for a while, especially about his USSR visit, but during our chat I explained to him my idea of writing a book on my African experiences, that had further developed during the previous few weeks of relative solitude while camping. I even went so far as to express an interest in possibly earning a living from writing. At this remark of mine he metaphorically exploded and adamantly urged me NOT to even contemplate doing so. His reaction surprised me at the time but certainly not now following further reading of Vivien’s RA2! In fact he did me a very valuable service because during my nearly completed camping expedition, I realise now that I had been slowly shifting towards the – what I had perceived to be – softer option before me in pursuing a career of sorts, that of earning a living from writing rather than the more challenging – as I perceived it – attempt to resume my studies.

Richard’s spontaneous interjection was a tectonic plate shift of a sort. I much needed that, lacking as I did any fatherly advice following my father’s departure from the family back in 1940-41 when I was 4-5 years old. Perhaps I did not realise this service at the time but now, nearly 60 years later, I wish to put on record my gratitude for his insight. Also it must have been fate that had induced me to visit Richard at this particular time that proved to be such a small window of opportunity between his return from the USSR and his death. I knew that he was an entertaining conversationalist but for me our meeting marked a turning point towards a career different to one I had been contemplating. In fact this career did lead eventually to much writing and editing, but of technical reports and documents which, at least, I did try to make readable. This is not always the case.

Leaving Cosne, on my journey northwards home that culminated in the white cliffs of Dover rising before the advancing ferryboat, I had revised my priorities. Yet, so soon after I had returned to the rather miserable apartment in Folkestone my family occupied at the time, we received the terrible news that Richard had died. So our physical relationship with him, if I may term it as such, had lasted for less than a year. But it had been an experience well worthwhile for me and my sister too. The outcome was that I applied to a selected university for entrance in a following academic year and even had an interview regarding it which appeared to have gone well. I would have to await for some months for an answer.

At the same time, I began to write my book that meantime had been struggling to emerge and completed it in less than two months, greatly helped by an aunt, Moira’s sister, with her lending me a room in her nearby apartment where I could bang away at my portable typewriter in solitary peace. I gave it a name, Tanganyika Tour, and then set it aside for what was to become a hibernation of more than 50 years. It was published in September 2018. As an aside, Tanganyika was not a British colony nor a protectorate but a territory administered by the British. It gained its Independence at the end of 1961 a few months after I had completed my contract with the British Crown Agents. It was a time when Britain’s colonial experience was rapidly unwinding.

To end on a lighter note, yet beyond the scope of RA2, at the end of 1962, in fact between Christmas and the New Year of ’63, I managed to meet Alistair Kershaw and Sheila, in Paris. I had committed myself to resuming my studies, if possible in the following October but as a form of ‘backstop’ – although this term currently has become weighted with much greater significance! – I had decided to go to Spain to study Spanish in Malaga: a) to retreat from another winter (my second since returning from Africa) in northern Europe which, in fact, proved to be a severe one; and b) to improve my Spanish so that, should my university application fail, possibly I could depart for Colombia and try my luck there but not as a salesman of agricultural machinery!  Also I found that I could pass a few months in Malaga at that season of the year relatively cheaply.

Installed overnight in Paris for I was travelling by train having sold my little car, I contacted Kershaw and we three dined together in a modest Parisian restaurant. He recounted some anecdotes relating to Richard, one of which I remember as being particularly amusing. It must have taken place in the late 1940’s after Richard’s return from the US. Richard was with a group of friends, including Alistair, recently arrived from Australia I presume, drinking at some bar, presumably in the south of France. The drink was, of course, champagne. As the evening proceeded, one by one, members of the group tottered off to their respective homes leaving Alistair as Richard’s sole companion drinker. Finally, even he, Alistair, had had enough or more than enough, to drink and excused himself. As he retreated through the door, he heard Richard call “Garcon, une autre demie si vous plait.”  That was dear Richard. He endured a life that was truly difficult at times but he also enjoyed some pleasurable times as well.

I much appreciated Vivien’s conclusion to her biography of Richard, particularly its very last paragraph based on Randall’s insightful and sympathetic observations on him (RA2 p.325). Of course Richard had some faults but who does not?

Tim Aldington