[ilds] Durrell and Milton

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Thu Apr 8 11:30:30 PDT 2010

Hello Gulshan,

I'm quoting a paragraph from a chapter appearing in Corinne 
Alexandre-Garner's book from the 2008 Paris conference -- I co-authored 
this with Michael Stevens, and I believe it's due out any day now.  The 
gist relates to archival recuperations of variants of /Monsieur/ and the 
first chapter of /Livia/ in its variant published form.

Durrell also cites Milton via John Gray on p. 154 of /Pied Piper of 
Lovers/ (new edition) and disparagingly on p. 70 of /Panic Spring/ (new 
ed.) on a bookshelf: "Perhaps the way was effectively barred by the 
shelf full of preliminaries – permanganate, Milton, Sloane’s, and the 
atmosphere of Swift’s lady’s dressing room. Over the bed-head, on the 
wall, was a text, such as one sees in hiker’s hostels: The Lord is my 
Shepherd." (70)


Durrell ends both versions of the Livia chapter with an allusion to 
Milton, who in turn alludes to Shakespeare, and all three were concerned 
with the inexhaustibility of the work of art. Furthermore, this allusion 
is supplemented in the variant by the obituary of Blanford quoted above. 
Both versions, however, end with Durrell’s dual author-protagonists 
offering to « wr[i]te a book to prove that the great Blanford is simply 
the fiction of one of his fictions  », which contributes to the « 
palimpsest of people »  that describes the form. In « Gog and Magog », 
where the importance of allusive relations between texts and authors is 
more overt, the reward for such an accomplishment sends the reader back 
to Blanford’s obituary quoted above, for Durrell then ends the chapter 
with Milton’s ‘obituary’ for Shakespeare: a « star y-pointed pyramid  », 
which derives from Milton’s « On Shakespear ». The matter is clearly 
posthumous—the epitaph to Sir Thomas Stanley in Tong Church is 
attributed to Shakespeare, and this provides Milton’s source materials 
in his own tribute to Shakespeare:

« Ask who lyes here but do not weep
He is not dead he doth but sleep
This stony register is for his bones […]
Not monumental stone preserves our Fame
Nor sky aspiring pyramids our name.  »

For Milton, this becomes

« What needs my Shakespear for his honour’d Bones,
The labour of an age in piled Stones,
Or that his hallow’d reliques should be hid
Under a Star-ypointing Pyramid?  »

Durrell’s gesture to position himself in this tradition of allusions is 
a longstanding habit across his oeuvre. In this instance, the palimpsest 
of people overlaps with allusion, belatedness, and the author finding 
himself and others in the « enormous common grave  » of the archive 
(especially since Shakespeare’s epitaph is speculative and is certainly 
minor in either case). Blanford finds his own letters in the files of 
his deceased friend, and in the last letter that ends the first chapter 
with an archival scrap, this grave speaks for both the book and the dead 
recipient while Blanford shifts from being an author to a reader: « 
later, when the blow falls, and I disappear from the scene, [this novel] 
will have to do duty, such as it is, for my star y-pointed pyramid . » 
The novel and the archive’s traces of its relics speak as a palimpsestic 
multiplicity in which the author is the fiction of the voices that came 
before and from which he develops, both within the current text at hand 
and in the whole of the tradition that generated its horizon of possibility.

On 08/04/10 5:43 AM, G. R. Taneja wrote:
> I am much obliged to the List members who have responded to my previous
> query. May I turn to the the wisdom of the List yet again for some help.
> I was wondering if there is an indication of Durrell’s interest in
> Milton which can be easily accessed.
> Thanks.
> Gulshan Taneja**
> /In-between/ Website: <http://sites.google.com/site/inbetweeneslc>
> G. R. Taneja / Editor
> *In-between: Essays & Studies in Literary Criticism*
> Department of English, R. L. A. College, University of Delhi
> Anand Niketan Colony, Benito Juarez Marg,
> New Delhi-110 021, India
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> From: grtaneja47 at hotmail.com
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2010 14:43:27 +0530
> Subject: [ilds] May 1968
> I shall be very grateful if I could interest the collective wisdom of
> the List for some help. I was wondering if there is any information
> available on how Durrell was preoccupied during the month of May, 1968
> while in France, in addition to the account provided in the Durrell
> biographies of MacNiven and Bowker.
> Thanks.
> Gulshan Taneja
> --
> _In-between_ Website: <http://sites.google.com/site/inbetweeneslc>
> G. R. Taneja / Editor
> In-between: Essays & Studies in Literary Criticism
> Department of English, R. L. A. College, University of Delhi
> Anand Niketan Colony, Benito Juarez Marg,
> New Delhi-110 021, India
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