A PASSIONATE PRODIGALITY: Letters to Alan Bird from Richard Aldington 1949-1962 by Miriam J. -- Ed. Benkovitz

A PASSIONATE PRODIGALITY: Letters to Alan Bird from Richard Aldington 1949-1962

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Benkovitz, author of a well-received biography of Ronald Firbank (1960), turns to a figure chiefly known to American readers for his introductions to the Viking paperback editions of D. H. Lawrence, his translations (notably of Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and anthologies, and his connections with the Imagists (H. D. was his first wife; he was one of the founding editors of The Egoist). Poet, novelist, critic, biographer, and ubiquitous literary personnage, Aldington was in his late fifties when he began corresponding with ""private philosopher"" Alan Bird (then a graduate student). Bird was drawn into Aldington's research for a debunking study of ""the bogus prince of Mecca,"" T. E. Lawrence. Various literary projects (mostly anthologies) crop up in these pages among the insights, prejudices, memories, gossipings, and musings of an uninhibited intellect. Aldington goes his own way, from the cheerful opinion that ""Homer was a mistake"" to the claim that Eliot was (next to TEL) ""the biggest fraud and cleverest literary strategist and self-advertiser of this century."" His friends Pound and D. H. Lawrence are treated with a more respectful exasperation. The man himself emerges as a scrappy sort, ever damning the idiocies of editors, publishers, reviewers, and politicians (the TEL book, which fell afoul of the British libel laws, underwent extensive changes at the insistence of--among others--Churchill). A wonderful browsing ground--but editorial oddities do obtrude. The letters are carefully footnoted; despite many helpful explications one marvels at the scholarly judgment which solemnly identifies the author of Gone with the Wind but neglects to mention that ""the Pyrrha ode"" is by Horace. The index is combined with a biographical glossary which goes into all kinds of needless detail about people who are barely mentioned in the letters--Handel, Heine, Gina Lollobrigida! One might also have wished for a biographical sketch of Aldington himself. But make no mistake: a rich source of both pleasure and knowledge.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1976
Publisher: New York Public Library