The Alfred Wallis factor

Former NCLSN Associate Editor David Wilkinson will speak tomorrow (19 July) at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, on The Alfred Wallis Factor in St Ives Art.

Wilkinson’s book The Alfred Wallis Factor: Conflict in Post War St Ives Art was published on 29 June by Lutterworth Press.

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An Interview with Richard Aldington

Louise Morgan’s Writers at Work, published in 1931 by Chatto & Windus in their Dolphin Books series, consists of her interviews with eight writers. Apart from RA the others are: W.B. Yeats, Sinclair Lewis, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Edgar Wallace, Wyndham Lewis, Somerset Maugham and A.E. Coppard. Here are some extracts taken from this 7-page interview:


It is not often that England has seen Richard Aldington since the War. On his rare visits he stays at Garland’s, that little old-fashioned hotel near Trafalgar Square so adored by the few Americans who know about it. His last visit coincided with the only bit of prolonged sunshine we had during the season.

            ‘Bad weather is most depressing,’ he said. ‘I’d like to live in a perpetual Mediterranean summer in a city as large and artistically alive as Paris. That would be ideal. I wish to heaven civilization would return to its normal place, the shores of the Mediterranean. These northern countries are impossible.’

Supposing the sun always shone in London, would you like to live and write here?

            ‘No. England is spiritually hostile. It has always distrusted the artist. In turn, the artist doesn’t feel at home here. But it’s probably all because the sun doesn’t shine!’

Richard Aldington’s laugh is boyish, like all the rest of him – except his shoulders, which are extraordinarily broad. He looks as if he had just come in from a school Rugby match. His skin and hair, both tanned to a bronze gold, gleam with vitality. His clear blue eyes shine with the excitement of living. He gives the impression of exuberant health and well-being, of a man who spends the greater part of his time in the open air. One is struck by his irrepressible good humour as well – his smile is always just below the surface, and his habitual expression is one of repressed amusement and mischief.

Do you use the typewriter altogether?

            ‘Not for my poems. I write them often in pencil, especially those midnight ones that occur in sleepless nights.’

Did you make any corrections when you were writing Death of a Hero?

            ‘No. It was the first draft that went to press. Part of it I wrote on a Spanish typewriter that belonged to D.H. Lawrence, where the exclamation and question marks were upside down. Part of it was written at Rapallo on a typewriter belonging to Ezra Pound.’

Have you any idea how long it took you to write the whole of it?

            ‘Yes, I can tell you exactly. The actual time was: Prologue and Part I, ten days; Part II, twenty days; Part III, twenty-two days. Total, fifty-two days. The last chapter was written in a single sitting of seven and three-quarter hours.’

Is there anything in particular that gets you into a writing mood?

            ‘I like to play classical music on the gramophone before starting work – I mean this seriously! If I’m working especially hard, I drink wine.’

Do you smoke much?

            ‘Yes – generally a pipe – while I’m writing,’

What do you do as a change from writing?

            ‘Usually more writing! But I like travelling, conversation, gluttony and wine-bibbing, swimming, the movies. I like, too, architecture, painting, and sculpture as “objects of contemplation.” I like walking. And, above all, I like making love.’

One is apt to forget that Richard Aldington has turned out such an immense amount of work, because it has been in so many different directions. [. . .] But this considerable weight of achievement lies lightly on him. He has time to enjoy life to the full. At present he is living in a small villa in the South of France. Its walls are brightly washed in colour in true Provençal style, and it stands at the top of a slope of pines through which one can wander down to sands that are really golden because they are full of mica. He has a little boat moored on the shore, and spends many of the sunny hours swimming and rowing. The sun, he says, is getting into his writing more and more. And love, he adds. Love and the sun, after the shadows of war, will be the determining influences of his work in the future.


Michael Copp