[ilds] Suicide

PETER BALDWIN delospeter at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 20 13:46:13 PDT 2009

No disagreement, really, Bruce


I just sensed that what LD said to me was not a 'mischief'.


Jamie Gifford may add more to this than I possibly could, but I continue to marvel the promise of hope which Larry wrote into his novels despite tough life he experienced, some self-imposed.


At a simple emotional level, the LD we see in Brewster's Chronology is a very much sadder man than the artist whom we see in the books


Indeed, it is Larry's power to mislead and lay false trails about his personality which fascinates some of us so much. On a personal level, I have to overcome a lot of self-doubt so that as a lawyer in court at least I sound as if I know the script!


Jamie - would you like me to find the Endpapers and Inklings from Anteus and attach them to this exchange?



From: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Date: Thu, 20 Aug 2009 07:25:23 -0700
CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Subject: Re: [ilds] Suicide

Thanks, Peter.  Solicitors are no euphemism, indeed.  Re your previous comment about Durrell's denial of any suicidal impulses, I don't think Durrell was always truthful about himself.  One of Haag's points is that Durrell continually misrepresented himself.  In Haag's City of Memory, I believe there's a passage where Eve says as much about her husband, his propensity to distort.  In fact, I would go a step further and say that his denial is good evidence for the opposite.  Here, I undoubtedly stand alone.


On Aug 20, 2009, at 12:02 AM, PETER BALDWIN wrote:

Dear Bruce
Thanks for the comment
The point I make about child rearing I have come across in the child psychiatry reports for children of mentally ill parents [ for many years I have represented children and families in  social services cases before the English courts - I am what is not euphemistically known in England as a solicitor ]
As much as your other points are speculative, I would agree - not that I want to go back to her Journals yet awhile to review them
peter baldwin

From: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Date: Wed, 19 Aug 2009 19:26:01 -0700
CC: bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Subject: Re: [ilds] Suicide

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.


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


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."


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.


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.


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