[ilds] heraldic universe

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Mon Jun 27 13:32:10 PDT 2011


Hi Bruce,

I agreed not to post the article to any listservs, but I signed nothing 
regarding private individuals...

As for Ian's edition, it does contain substantial cuts and differs in 
many respects from Wickes' work, but both are selected and differ in 
different ways.  Alas!  I use both and often go back and forth between 
them.  That particular letter also appears transcribed by Henry Miller 
in his correspondence with Herbert Read, but without major differences 
to content.  You'll find (in general) more material from the early years 
in Wickes but with different cuts than we find in MacNiven.  Both, IMO, 
have some wrong dates, but that's inevitable when the letters are 
undated and have no envelopes -- I'd expect folks will be tweaking those 
here & there for many years as correlated materials   become available 
or are correlated.

I agree that "duration" is important!  Miller included it too.  It 
signals the breadth of matters Durrell sought to unify in the Heraldic 
concept, which I don't think can be reduced to just one topic.

For my particular point, I'd note that Durrell responds fairly overtly 
to Read's comments in his published speech (Durrell's copy came direct 
from Miller):

"Surrealism will only be truly successful in the degree to which it 
leads, not to social entertainment, but to revolutionary action" (Read)
   --> [Durrell says he doesn't believe] "that [the artist]
       wants to transform the world.  He wants to transform
       men" (Durrell)

"the Surrealist is naturally a Marxian Socialist, and generally claims 
that he is a more consistent Communist than many" (Read)
   --> "but I do not believe the rest of this stuff.  That
       the artist must be a socialist, for example" (Durrell)

"we must include all aspects of human experience, not excluding those 
elements of subconscious life which are revealed in dreams, day dreams, 
trances and hallucinations." (Read)
   --> "I firmly believe in the ideals of cementing reality
       with the dream, but I do not believe the rest of this
       stuff." (Durrell)

If you set the two texts side by side with Miller's letters as well, the 
origins and sequence of topics stands our clearly.

Only after those and other rebuttals of Read does Durrell finally get to 
"Listen, Miller, what I feel about it is this" and then his articulation 
of the Heraldic Universe (and then follows the only reference to Read in 
a rather unkind postscript, which would otherwise make no sense...). 
Notably, Miller's rebuttal to Read was very clearly a part of his 
anarchist politics, both in the letters (copied to LD) and his "An Open 
Letter to Surrealists Everywhere."  Two years later, Read finally made 
his own anarchist politics public knowledge, but not until then, which 
is why he was misunderstood as an authoritarian Marxist and Communist of 
Breton's mode at the time.

My personal sense is that this context signficantly revises how we see 
Durrell's descriptions of the Heraldic Universe in his other letters, 
his description of it in /Personal Landscape/, as well as some of his 
ambiguous aesthetic devices and essays such as "No Clue to Living." 
After going through those, I've not been able to read /The Revolt of 
Aphrodite/ the same way...  I think, for instance, of the burning of all 
contractual obligations, the emphasis on personal responsibility, and 
the peculiar references to Zeno (see Kropotkin's Britannica article on 
"Anarchism" for that).  There's also LD's self-reference to his poem 
"Freedom" near the end of the book too.

It's worth looking back to Wilde's "Soul of Man Under Socialism" as 
well, which relies significantly on Kropotkin, and which Read echoes in 
his first anarchist writings.

In any case, that's occupying my attention at the moment, along with the 
print history of the subsequent ties to other authors with kindred 
ideas.  I feel it oddly important to note I have no sympathy for the 
American "libertarian" movement hitting Fox News so much at present...

Best,
James

(BTW, the work in question from Read is rather hard to get...)

Read, Herbert. "Speech by Herbert Read at the Conway Hall." /The 
Surrealist Bulletin/ 4 (1936): 7-13.

There's related work in his edited book on Surrealism through Faber, 
which is easy to get.


On 27/06/11 10:55 AM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> James, I'm in the dark, again. Could you post your article appearing in
> /jml?/
>
> //By the way, perhaps I've missed something again. On the topic of
> "Heraldic" in the Durrell-Miller letters, why does MacNiven leave out
> material that Wickes includes? E.g., in the letter of Fall or August
> 1936, Wickes has Durrell writing, "I have discovered that the idea of
> duration is false." MacNiven does not include this important statement
> about "Heraldic."
>
>
> Bruce
>
>
>
> On Jun 26, 2011, at 8:51 PM, James Gifford wrote:
>
>> I'm interested in where this leads!
>>
>> I argued last year in /jml/ that the Henry Miller - Herbert Read
>> correspondence casts a new light on Durrell's most famous use of the
>> term Heraldic in his letters to Miller. The gist is that Miller was
>> criticizing Read for his promotion of Communism in his written works
>> following the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition, and
>> Miller was promoting his anarchist views contra Read's supposed
>> Communism. Both authors were in contact with Emma Goldman, but Read
>> only made his anarchist views public in 1938.
>>
>> In any case, the point is that Durrell's 1936 letter discussing the
>> Heraldic Universe is, in context (in my reckoning), a point by point
>> response to Read in Miller's correspondence (which Miller had been
>> copying to Durrell, and in which he quoted Durrell's letter to Read).
>> It also means the letter is probably misdated in MacNiven and was likely
>> a month or so later than the estimated August 1936.
>>
>> In context, I contend the Heraldic notion carries a great deal of
>> sympathy for Miller's anarchism and the anti-Marxist politics of the
>> epistolary discussion. In that sense, the personal enacted in the
>> Heraldic carries a very particular politics. "Personalism" seems to
>> have followed in the 40s in London at least in part as a response to
>> Durrell and largely as a development from Read's "Politics of the
>> Unpolitical."
>>
>> This sense of the Heraldic Universe runs contrary to much of what
>> already exists in the critical works on Durrell, so I'm waiting to see
>> if anything more pops up that pulls it in different directions -- Warton
>> could be important...
>>
>> Best,
>> Jamie
>>
>> On 26/06/11 12:34 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>>> 1774 T. Warton Hist. Eng. Poetry I. xi. 336 The pompous
>>> circumstances of which these heraldic narratives consisted, and the
>>> minute prolixity with which they were displayed.
>>>
>>> Durrell was a student of poetry as well as a poet. Also he is known
>>> among Durrellians for his references to the Heraldic Universe --
>>> which has been linked to various schools of thought.
>>>
>>> I'm wondering if Durrell might have come across the phrase "heraldic
>>> narratives" in Warton
>>>
>>> and later began to think of his own narratives as heraldic, and the
>>> world that they evoke as his "heraldic universe."
>>>
>>> Bill _______________________________________________ ILDS mailing
>>> list ILDS at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ILDS at lists.uvic.ca>
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