Brief Encounter: Richard Aldington and the Englishwoman
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Brief Encounter: Richard Aldington and the Englishwoman Gemma Bristow University of Cambridge WHEN, in 1974, Norman T. Gates published an edition of Richard Aldington's uncollected poems, he commented on the difficulty of recovering the whole of an author's corpus. "It is probable," Gates acknowledged, "that other poems not included in The Complete Poems are buried in obscure 'little' magazines and remain to be recovered. This is especially so since Aldington habitually published in French and American periodicals as well as in those of his own country."1 The era in which early modernists such as Aldington (1892-1962) wrote was notable for an explosion of "obscure" magazines and papers, not only devoted to the artistic ferment of the time but to radical political and social thought. Some crossed disciplines; many were ephemeral. This quantity and diversity of outlets is a challenge to the bibliographer 's and the anthologist's task. Authors' own recollections of their magazine credits may choose to highlight the more prestigious publications and to gloss over vanished allegiances. Resources like the Little Magazines Index and the indices of newspapers offer valuable information , but these do not cover all outlets, particularly those that fall outside the clear-cut categories of arts magazine or newspaper. Judging where "else" an author may have published requires not a little detective work or luck. Mining one more journal may, or may not, turn up a poem. This is true even for an author such as Aldington, who published relatively little juvenilia in obscure outlets before finding his mature poetic voice and an established position in the literary press. I have learned of three uncollected poems by Aldington that can now supplement Professor Gates's edition. These poems were published in 1912 in a London monthly journal, the Englishwoman, one of the many contemporary magazines dedicated to promoting women's suffrage. ELT 49 : 1 2006 Aldington's contributions to the journal consisted of an original verse, "Night," in February 1912, a translation, "Greek Epigram," in May 1912, and a second original verse, "Hêlas!," in July 1912. Aside from their interest as some of Aldington's earliest surviving publications, what is particularly noteworthy about these works is that Aldington is not otherwise known to have published in the suffrage press. This fact may explain why they have long been overlooked; the context in which they appeared was not one with which Aldington is commonly associated . In 1912, Aldington's career was at a nascent stage in which he was just beginning to experience semi-regular freelance sales. He was then nineteen years old. The previous year, financial troubles had forced him prematurely to abandon a classics degree at University College, London. Dismissing proposals by well-meaning friends that he turn to clerking for a living, he determined to follow his vocation as a writer, and sought to earn money through a combination of poetry, literary articles and hack journalism. From February 1912, his poems and translations of poems began to appear in London newspapers. By November of the same year, a few months after his brief association with the Englishwoman ended, his first original works in free verse had appeared in the Chicago magazine Poetry, with a note identifying the author as "one of the Imagistes." Aldington had written poetry seriously from his early teens. At the time he left university he had assembled, according to his 1941 autobiography, "a portfolio containing among other things twenty or thirty of my poems and translations of poems."2 Some of these were free verse based on readings in Greek literature and represented what he would call his "first real poem[s]."3 Others were formal verse in the derivative mode of the period. The translations, particularly those that were renderings of Greek poetry, suggest the transition from the latter mode to the former. Aldington hawked the contents of this "portfolio " around editorial offices, finding a market for the formal verses and the freer translations but, until Poetry was founded late in 1912, none for the free verse that more accurately reflected his found style. Most of the editorial contacts subsequently recorded in his memoirs were with newspapers; the Englishwoman was not mentioned. His...