[ilds] Suicide

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 19 19:26:01 PDT 2009

Schizophrenia is a mysterious disease, but I don't think it has its  
origins in child rearing.  I haven't come across that explanation.   
Sappho-Jane was severely disturbed — read her journal and that is  
obvious.  Equally obvious are her fantasies about her father, as she  
writes about them.  I'm suggesting she identified too closely with him  
and his persistent themes.  I also think suicide and fantasies about  
self-extinction are far too prevalent in Durrell's work to attribute  
them simply to the "imaginative process."  I would call them an  


On Aug 19, 2009, at 6:16 PM, PETER BALDWIN wrote:

> I understand that the view held by psychiatrists is that a child  
> reared by a parent with psychiatric difficulties is more prone to  
> suffer from the same presenting problems not for any specifically  
> genetic reason, although that can be one reason, but because the  
> same presenting problems will be taken up by the child.
> Given that Larry did not rear Sappho, I think it dangerous to  
> speculate as to the aetiology of her illness. I suspect some  
> researcher somewhere has inspected the transcript of the coroners  
> verdict. This would, I think, be a document of public record and  
> would set out the coroner's conclusions, inter alia, of Sappho's  
> emotional state
> I once asked Durrell if he ever considered suicide and he quickly  
> denied it - as part of the imaginative process, an artist might  
> speculate through his characters about such things without ever  
> having the desire to take his own life.
> I think also that Durrell's saviour when he was at his most creative  
> was the emotional positivism he created through his books.
> peter baldwin
> From: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Date: Wed, 19 Aug 2009 13:11:06 -0700
> CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> Subject: [ilds] Suicide
> James,
> We're all just guessing.  Sappho-Jane was schizophrenic, I believe  
> that was the diagnosis, and I know very, very little about the  
> etiology, symptoms, and prognosis of that disease.  It may be,  
> however, that she was in tune or sensitive, in a warped sense, to  
> her father's psychology.  That's the link I'm proposing, although  
> obviously just a wild guess.  She took her father's imaginative  
> explorations too seriously or was influenced by them, to disastrous  
> effects.  I'd like to see more done on "what Durrell was hiding."
> Bruce
> On Aug 19, 2009, at 12:51 PM, James Gifford wrote:
> I've tried to read the epigrams differently, but I agree that Durrell
> had more than fleeting flirtations with the idea of suicide -- at  
> least,
> his notebooks suggest more than fleeting thoughts.  I'd classify that
> distinctly from Sappho's suicide, but that's another complicated  
> topic.
> Still, Durrell was clearly interested in Byron, and I'd certainly read
> the burning of the letters as an allusion (along with the sibling
> incest...), but let's not forget that Durrell really didn't live up to
> Byron's reputation.  Pursewarden is associated with the author of the
> Quartet, but so is Darley, and Darley's prudish and throwing in sex to
> show he's not a prude (perhaps the best indication that he is).  I'm
> personally very hesitant about associating Durrell with any  
> character in
> a reasonably clear way after /Pied Piper of Lovers/.
> As for what Durrell was hiding, I think he hid it well, and it  
> probably
> has a great deal more to do with his childhood and self-doubts than it
> does his sex life, but that's just a personal guess.
> Best,
> James
> Bruce Redwine wrote:
> Provocative as ever, Charles.  Thanks for recalling the De Sade
> epigraph.  Very relevant.  I suspect Durrell had strong suicidal
> tendencies, and the reference to De Sade's "noose" is much more than a
> bit of cleverness.  It's an obsession — perhaps finally fulfilled in
> Sappho Jane's suicide.  Re Keat's "negative capability," I don't think
> even he would want to go into some territories of depravity.  Hard to
> imagine any nightingales in Dracula's castle, although I'm sure LD
> could.  But why some areas are off-limits and others not is a real big
> question.  I'm not upset by Cormac McCarthy's novels, /Blood
> Meridian,/ in particular.  In fact, I'm strongly attracted to Cormac's
> depictions of violence.  Sexual depravity, however, touches another
> cord, a prudish one.  When writing about sex, Durrell would go only so
> far and got into a big argument with Miller over the latter's
> explicitness.  Too bad we don't have Byron's /Memoirs,/ then we'd see
> how far things could go.  "Only fit for a brothel," they were called.
> Hobhouse burned them, and Durrell has Pursewarden's letters burned,
> which may be a good deal more than a touch of authorial indebtedness
> to an honored predecessor.  Maybe Durrell was also hiding something.
> Bruce
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