[ilds] Suicide

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Thu Aug 20 03:56:19 PDT 2009

The Antaeus papers (meant to be diaries...) have revealing comments on 
this topic.  See Durrell's "Endpapers and Inklings."  As for Sappho, I 
have a review of Mary Hamer's book in the forthcoming issue of /Deus 
Loci/, which might also be applicable. 


Bruce Redwine wrote:
> 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 
> obsession.
> Bruce
> 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 <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>> Date: Wed, 19 Aug 2009 13:11:06 -0700
>> CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto: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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