[ilds] A Long Life That Peaks Quite Young (NYT)

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Feb 12 12:02:43 PST 2011


 Charles,

I don't think of "obscurity" as a bad thing.  Authors probably do, however.  Some part of LD seemed to long for it.  Mountolive Sr. was happy in his Indian or Ceylonese monastery translating Pali texts, and Durrell's gravesite is somewhat obscure, no?


Bruce




Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 12, 2011, at 7:02 AM, Charles Sligh <Charles-Sligh at utc.edu> wrote:

> On 2/12/11 3:30 AM, Richard Pine wrote:
>> Gerhardie didn't die 'in utter obscurity' [in 1977] - shortly before his death he was the subject of a BBC tv documentary, and his books were reprinted in a 'revised, definitiive edition' (1970-73) due to the advocacy of (and with introductions by) Michael Holroyd.
> Thank you, Richard.  
> 
> I think that you are right to discount the "utter-ness" of Gerhardie's retirement from public attention.  (That fin de siecle adjective really throws us back in time, eh?  "We're all quite too utterly utter. . . .")
> 
> The idea of "obscurity" crops up in many recent accounts of Gerhardie's life and career.  However, Gerhardie's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature two years before his death does seem to indicate otherwise.
> 
> But why is obscurity always thought of as a bad thing?  For Quietists, Daoists, & other close Considerers of their Mortal Accounts, obscurity may in fact be "a consummation devoutly to be wished."  Cf. Pursewarden's misgivings about "Fame."  Cf. the several different decisions of J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, and Lawrence Durrell.  
> 
> More to the point:  If the decree of "obscurity" is handed down by a set of Tumble-Bugs bent upon interpreting an author's renunciation of Philistia as a moral lapse, then the judges tell us far more about themselves than about the author.  
> 
> C&c.
> 
> (P.S. -- Richard considers William Gerhardie in The dandy and the herald: manners, mind and morals from Brummell to Durrell [1988].)
> 
> ***
> 
> ‘To those of my generation he was the most important new novelist to appear in our young life.’ Graham Greene
> 
> ‘William Gerhardie is our Gogol’s Overcoat. We all came out of him.’ Olivia Manning
> 
> ‘In my opinion Gerhardie has genius.’ Arnold Bennett
> 
> ‘He is a comic writer of genius ... but his art is profoundly serious.’ C. P. Snow
> 
> ***
> 
> William Gerhardie (Faber & Faber)
> William Alexander Gerhardie was born in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1895. As a young man he went to London and, when the First World War broke out, joined the army. He was first sent to Russia and later travelled the world before beginning to write. Futility (1922), his first novel, was sponsored by Katherine Mansfield, and other notable works of his include The Polyglots (1925) and Of Mortal Love (1936). Gerhardie's writing was acclaimed as an influence on many of his peers, including Anthony Powell, H. G. Wells, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Olivia Manning. He died in London in 1977.
> 
> Memoirs of a Polyglot: William Gerhardie
> Futility: William Gerhardie
> 
> ***
> 
> William Gerhardie: Correspondence and literary papers
> 
> Reference and contact details: GB 12 MS.Add.8292
> Title: William Gerhardie: Correspondence and literary papers
> Dates of Creation: 20th century
> Held at: Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
> Language of Material: English
> Extent: 54 boxes and 1 bundle
> Name of Creator: William Alexander Gerhardie
> Level of Description: fonds
> Administrative/Biographical History
> 
> William Alexander Gerhardie (1895-1977), novelist and critic, was born in St Petersburg, Russia, on 21 November 1895, where he attended the St Annen Schule and Reformierte Schule. He moved to London, with the intention of training for a commercial career, but joined the Royal Scots Greys at the outbreak of the First World War.     He was posted to the British embassy in Petrograd, 1916-1918, and in 1918 was attached to the Scots Guards. After the war, Gerhardie travelled the world before attending Worcester College, Oxford, where he obtained a B.A. in Russian in 1922. His first two novels, Futility (1922) and The polyglots (1925), were well received, and he became a prolific writer of novels and short stories. Gerhardie travelled widely before settling in London in 1931, where he remained for the rest of his life. During the Second World War, he worked for the B.B.C. He published his last novel in 1940, and thereafter lived in increasing obscurity, involving himself in a little broadcasting and essay-writing. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975. He died in London on 15 July 1977. 
> 
> -- 
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
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