[ilds] sitwells &c.

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Fri Jul 20 07:08:57 PDT 2007

On 7/20/2007 1:42 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:
>         The similarity may seem insignificant, particularly since it
>         involves a very
>         small phrase, but parallels have been drawn between the
>         writing of Lawrence
>         Durrell and the writing of the Sitwells - an Edwardian quality
>         perhaps.
That will be an interesting connection to trace, Sumantra.  Many of the 
first treatments of Durrell's writing attempted to draw out connections 
with the "Great Moderns"--Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence, Ford, &c.  Those 
readings tend to place Durrell in the company of other twentieth-century 
writers "making it new," staking a claim in discovering literary 
territory different from the past.  Yet all along there has been the 
other side of Durrell--"Durrell the Man of Letters," let us call him, 
who was well-read and knowledgeable in Edwardian and Georgian stylists 
such as Norman Douglas, Lytton Strachey, &c.  Perhaps the Sitwells would 
be there too.  (Cf. Ingersoll 241-242.)

Durrell really could talk books with the best of them.  I marvel at his 
comfort in the 1970 BBC Gawsworth TV special.  When Alan G. Thomas 
mentions Gawsworth's advocacy of a host of minor poets from the 1890s, 
we see and hear Durrell effortlessly moving to that topic, speaking with 
perspective, perception, and wit about those poets' works (Canon Gray!  
/Silverpoints/!!).  As Durrell notes, those 1890s poets were simply 
/passé /in the years of Auden and Spender.  Yet Durrell clearly put 
himself through a broad regimen of reading.  The lecturing jobs also 
trained him for the quick and memorable connections that he makes.

Redraw the maps.  Take down the fences.  Give him a glass.  Let him 
talk.  Enjoy yourself!  Remember that Durrell recognized that he was a 
"composite." Remember that Durrell admired and learned from his "darling 
Elizas" /and /Wodehouse /and /Forster /and /Sabatini /and /Rohmer /and 
/Eliot /and /Sade /and /Conan Doyle /and /Stendhal /and /Miller /and 
/Proust /and /Rider Haggard /and /Cavafy &c. &c.  (What about Durrell's 
enthusiasm for things scientific and pseudo-scientific, historical and 
apocryphal?)  The conversation will be so much more interesting once we 
start to live up to our author.


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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