Aldington, Richard, 1892-1963

Birth 1892
Death 1963

Biographical notes:

Born in 1892 in Portsmouth, England, Richard Aldington, the son of a middle-class lawyer, grew up with an unwavering devotion to literature. After reading Keats's Endymion at fifteen, he spent two years absorbing major English poets and the complete canon of Elizabethan drama. A sudden decline in his family's fortune in 1911 forced Aldington to select his career path at an early age. Leaving the University of London after one year, Aldington began to actively pursue a literary career.

Getting his start as a sports reporter, Aldington soon made friends and contacts in the literary world. He wrote reviews and essays, worked on translations, and finally began selling his own poems. He soon made friends with a group of three other young poets: Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, and Harold Monro, editor of the Poetry Bookshop. Aldington married Hilda Doolittle, or H.D. as she was known, in 1913, and in the years before World War I, they traveled to Paris and Italy and made themselves known to the larger literary world. During this period, Aldington became associated with the burgeoning modernist movement, largely through his association with Ezra Pound. His poetry appeared in Pound's 1914 anthology Des Imagistes and in Amy Lowell's annual anthology Some Imagist Poets, (1915, 1916, 1917). He published his first volume of poetry, Images (1910-1915), in 1915.

In 1916 Aldington enlisted in the British Army, saw active combat, and emerged in late 1918 with a captain's commission and severe shell-shock. Shortly after his return to London in 1919 he divorced Doolittle and by the end of the same year had left the hustle and bustle of city life for a more aesthetic lifestyle in a Berkshire village. He continued to write poetry, publishing Images of Desire (1919) and Exile and Other Poems (1923) but with a changed style expressing his negative experiences during the war.

By 1928 Aldington's writing provided him with enough income to allow him to leave England and lead a life of expatriatism, mostly in France and Italy. During the 1930s he turned his energies away from poetry and towards fiction and satire. With World War II looming at the end of the decade, Aldington found satire to be ignoble and wrote his memoirs, Life for Life's Sake (1941).

Aldington waited out the war in the United States, settling first in Connecticut and then in Hollywood where he wrote film scripts. In 1946 he returned to France and turned his pen to biographies, writing about his good friend D.H. Lawrence in Portrait of a Genius, But... (1950) and producing a blunt volume about T.E. Lawrence named Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Enquiry (1955). Both of these volumes were controversial and offended many readers and the reaction to the T.E. Lawrence book left Aldington bitter towards the English literary establishment. However, he continued to write and encourage other writers. In 1962 he visited Russia at the invitation of the Soviet Writer's Union, an invitation by which he was deeply honored. Two weeks after his return to France from Moscow, Aldington contracted an undiagnosed illness and died suddenly.

From the guide to the Richard Aldington Collection TXRC99-A29., 1913-1963, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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  • Authors, British--20th century
  • English literature--20th century
  • English poetry


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