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This review is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

TOP GRUMPY Literary Lifelines: The Richard Aldington-Lawrence Durrell Correspondence, edited by Ian S. MacNiven and Harry T. Moore (Faber) £8.95

This book hardly gives a just impression of Richard Aldington the writer, reflecting only the last, cranky years of his life when he was frequently ill, brooding miserably over his loss of favour in the best-seller domain he once conquered with Death of a Hero and, by his own admission, no longer artistically creative. By contrast with this depressing spectacle of down-turns, Lawrence Durrell was enjoying the beginnings of his glittering success as author of The Alexandria Quartet. Durrell, having renewed contact with Aldington (a considerable early influence) after a tentative approach years before, undertook in his letters to prise the ageing exile out of his state of sterile isolation. He succeeded at least in providing Aldington with a fresh access to the literary world at large and in assuaging the older man's bitterness over his real or imagined persecution by the British Establishment. The caustic, deeply peevish side of Aldington was cheerfully indulged by Durrell and his wife, who nicknamed him 'Top Grumpy'.

The correspondence is historically interesting and effectively renders the story of a swiftly blossoming friendship ended only by Aldington's death from a heart attack at his French redoubt in 1962. But a bare six years ago we had the collection of Aldington's letters to Alan Bird-part of which covers the same period as Literary Lifelines-edited encyclopaedically by Miriam J. Benkovitz and published by the New York Public Library. It is thus all the more sadly ironic, though typical of this Age-of-Literature-as-Gossip, that virtually ...


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