Conditions of Use

Conditions of Use

All comments regarding the life and work of Lawrence Durrell are welcome. Say whatever you like, however you like. Comments are not censored, but they reflect the views of the commentator and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the administrator nor anyone else on this blog. All comments are copyrighted and belong to the blog. Fair use of the blog's material requires proper attribution both to the blog and to the commentator.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

David Green's "Crickets in the Dark"

Lawrence Durrell was fond of crickets and cicadas (I'm not sure if he distinguished between the two).  David's fine poem marks the change in sensibilities.  Compare his with Durrell's poetic description at the end of Justine (1957):  "The cicadas are throbbing in the great planes, and the summer Mediterranean lies before me in all its magnetic blueness."  Things have indeed changed.  —  BR

Crickets in the Dark


As the jets scream home
To cross lit air ports
dumping excess fuel over
Huddles homes in the early dark,
As the eco cars, the muscle cars
And all kind of cars and trucks
Entrain for lurching journey home
And the air is rank
with fumes as bad or worse
Than cigarettes,
I see the sky fade slowly
Like watercolour swept
Across a wet page
And the crickets croak
Like earth fired machines;
Two tone engines pumping life
Beneath the ground
As they have always done —
Below climate change,
Beneath the hooves of giants,
Beneath the feet of man,
Beneath cement and car parks,
Beneath the sewers, the wires
The water pipes,
beyond the hum of cars and trucks;
Simpler, older than cockroaches
And we abide while we may.

— David Green

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Some things bear repeating.  The subject matter of this forum is Lawrence Durrell, man and artist.  All comments about his life and work are welcome, and that includes disagreeing with anything said.  In fact, I expect disagreement.  Say whatever you want.  We all have our owns crotchets and hobbyhorses.  Mine has to do with Durrell's creative processes — why he wrote what he did and what drove him to it.  I see him as a highly complex and obsessive writer, who used his work as a way to deal with his personal problems.  That is my bias.  It is akin to Thomas Mann's treatment of art as a form of sickness.  So I am inclined to explore Durrell's creative psychology or pathology, if you will.  I do not think looking into the complexities of Durrell's life destroys the pleasure of reading his great contribution to world literature.  But you may disagree with that statement, should you so choose.  Durrell's work offers many pleasures and new discoveries, and anything pertinent to the man is open to discussion.  —  BR

Sunday, March 23, 2014

David Green on Hemingway and Durrell

"All good books have one thing in common; they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you've read one of them you will feel that all that happened, happened to you and then it belongs to you forever:  the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, wine, beds, people and the weather.  If you can give that to your readers, then you're a writer.  That's what I was trying to give them in For Whom the Bell Tolls."

— Ernest Hemingway (quoted in Papa Hemingway [1966] by A. E. Hotchner)

Now I would say the old hem hit home with this one.  It is certainly how I feel about some of Durrell's books, especially the island books.  For me Corfu is Prospero's Cell [1945] and when I went there in 1985 it was as the book said.  That was the "dark crystal" through which I saw the island.  So next year I hit Cyprus and Rhodes through the lenses of Bitter Lemons [1957] and Reflections on a Marine Venus [1953], then onto Sicily and Sicilian Carousel [1977], book in hand.  Then we fetch up in Provence with Caesar's Vast Ghost [1990].  I'll be taking pictures and writing stuff along the way.  RW, see you on Milos?


an afternoon at Kelly's I think

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Lawrence Durrell !!!

An announcement for the Tatler (Sydney, London, and San Francisco editions).  An early birthday party was held for Lawrence Durrell, his 102nd, in anticipation of February 27th.  It was celebrated today on the beach, Bondi Beach, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.  The charter members of the AALDS gathered together for the festivities.  They traveled from far and wide and each made his or her unique contribution.  Dr. D., bedecked in saffron kaftan and colorful sandals, brought vegetarian delicacies for the barbie.  He was accompanied by a local mermaid, who had swam ashore in a bikini, not unlike Botticelli's Venus on the half shell.  The good doctor spoke about the birthday boy's affinity for whales, especially Hilda, "the great sonsy whale" of The Black Book.  David and Denise brought their special recipe of octopus in red sauce and many bottles of vin rouge and vin blanc, straight from the vineyards of the Blue Mountrains.  Ken and R. W. provided the music and had composed a special piece for the occasion — "Heraldic Ditties Downunder."  As the music played, David extemporized a poem on Lord Larry, and Paul read Anaïs Nin's encomium on young Durrell.  And Bruce (the other one) simply took it all in, listened to crickets in sheltered places, and admired a sky of hot nude pearl.  Nearby, nubile waxed beauties, tattooed bums twitching in the sunlight, watched in amusement.  A good time was had by all.  —  BR

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Durrell at Cambridge

Durrell at Cambridge:  A Thought Experiment

by Bruce Redwine


"I think the first breath of Europe I got was when I went on a reading party for one final cram or something — I think it was for Cambridge again, which I must have tried about eight times [and failed], I suppose."

— "Lawrence Durrell:  An Interview," Paris Review, Autumn-Winter 1960

Lawrence George Durrell, age eighteen, passed his entrance exams on first try and was admitted to King's College, Cambridge.  He went to King's knowing Latin and French and was assigned a tutor, Elyot S. Poundsworthy, who specialized in Roman poetry and early French literature.  Poundsworthy had published articles on Catullus, Virgil, Horace,  Bernart de Ventadorn, and Montaigne.

Tutor and student had their first meeting and enjoyed a cup of tea together.  Tutor asked pupil what his areas of interests were, and pupil said he liked the classics but he especially liked modern poetry, beginning with G. M. Hopkins.  Tutor nodded and assigned student a selection of poems, all in the original Latin and French, and included Montaigne's essay, "On Vanity," also in French.  Then he told him to write an essay on vanity, to integrate all the authors in the assignment into a coherent argument, and to come back in a week.  Five pages would do.

Student returns.  He has written an essay in over one thousand lines of free verse, with occasional rhymes.  The pair enjoy another cup of tea.  Then Tutor slowly reads the essay, nods, and compliments student on his spelling, particularly in the original languages.  No mistakes.  He smiles and remarks that Pope also wrote essays in verse, although in heroic couplets and with considerably more concision.  Then he says, "All very interesting, yet a bit prolix, epic, if you will.  It's longer than any book in the Aeneid, if that was your intent.  I like the images, however, in particular how you compare Catullus's 'fuck face' with Montaigne's 'chamber pots.'  But what's your point?  I can't find a point."  Student waves his arms and says, "How can an essay have a point when the subject matter has no point?  Montaigne goes all over the place and never settles on anything.  He just rambles, so you never know what he means.  If he can get away with that — so can I.  Montaigne's mind skips and hops like a stone skimming over a pond, never getting below glittering surfaces."  Tutor nods again and says, "That's very good.  I like that.  I don't agree with it, but I like it.  Now, why didn't you say that or even suggest that in your essay?  Or are you just interested in trying to be as clever as the authors you write about?"

Three years later, L. G. Durrell obtains his degree from King's, upper second, and soon leaves for the island of Corfu.  He now knows about brevity and concision and clear thinking, but he decides to use these tools sparingly and to rely on his instincts, except when talking about French thought and Einstein's Relativity.

Elyot S. Poundsworthy did not go to Italy and broadcast speeches on behalf of Benito Mussolini.  Instead, he stayed at King's and eventually became Master.  He had a lively career, highlighted by fierce battles with Frankie Leavis over the course of English literature.  F. R. L. once challenged E. S. P. to a duel, with collier picks, the ghost of D. H. L. presiding.  Elyot always remembered his star pupil, L. G. Durrell, whom he considered brilliant but incorrigible, and always bemoaned the fact the famous poet never learned the lessons of reading Montaigne's "On Vanity."  Some people never learn, he would say, shaking his head sadly.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Forster on Durrell

 E. M. Forster on Lawrence Durrell
by Bruce Redwine

E. M. Forster and Lawrence Durrell admired the city of Alexandria, Egypt, but mutual admiration did not foster mutual respect.[1]  The former lived in Alexandria during World War I, the latter during World War II.  Forster’s experiences resulted in Alexandria:  A History and a Guide (1922), and Durrell’s culminated in The Alexandria Quartet (1960).  When Durrell lived in the city, he used a copy of Forster’s book as a guide and would later comment that the work "contains some of Forster’s best prose, as well as felicities of touch such as only a novelist of major talent could command."[2]  The two writers never met, and P. N. Furbank’s biography, E. M. Forster:  A Life (1978), does not mention Durrell.
E. M. Forster, however, did have an opinion about Lawrence Durrell.  Awhile ago Andrew Stewart, an old friend, told me an anecdote.  Between October 1966 and May 1969, he was an undergraduate in Classics at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge.  Forster was an honorary fellow at King’s College.  King’s was then renovating its halls and kitchens, and its fellows would eat at St. Catharine’s.  ("A Cat may look at a King," so went the adaptation of the proverb.)  On one occasion, Stewart was invited to the High Table and sat next to Forster.  This was before Forster went "gaga."  Lawrence Durrell came up in conversation, and Forster's eyes immediately lit up.  The old man unleashed a number of unkind words about Durrell.  The gist of the tirade was that Forster considered Durrell a sloppy writer and guilty of deplorable Romanticism in his depiction of Alexandria.  My friend thought Forster had written up his opinion in an essay.  I haven’t found it.  But I do recall D. J. Enright's essay, "Alexandrian Nights' Entertainments:  Lawrence Durrell’s 'Quartet,'" which says much the same thing and ends with, "[W]hen Durrell is good he is very good, and when he is bad he is horrid."[3]  Enright also graduated from Cambridge, so there may be another one of those Forsterian "connections."


[1] My thanks to Andrew Stewart for permission to relate this anecdote.  He is Nicholas C. Petris Professor of Greek Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
[2] E. M. Forster, Alexandria:  A History and a Guide, Introduction by Lawrence Durrell, Afterward and Notes by Michael Haag (London, 1986), xv.
[3] D. J. Enright, Conspirators and Poets (London, 1966), 120.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mind and Durrell 2

The following is an edited and fictionalized exchange between Dr. D. and BR.  Dr. D. is a psychiatrist in Sydney, Australia, where he founded the Mood School.  He is a practitioner of Yoga and has made many trips to India.  BR lives in California.  He writes fiction and criticism and travels frequently to Southeast Asia.  —  BR

BR.  Durrell was an avid practitioner of Yoga and an avowed Taoist.  How do you think he viewed the mind and human consciousness?  Brain and mind are two different entities, and the connection between the two is now the center of a big philosophical debate.   I've been reading John R. Searle's The Mystery of Human Consciousness (1997), which provides a good summary of the main issues, their origins, and the "state of the art."  What do you think of Durrell's "mind's eye?"

Dr. D.  What did Larry think of mind-brain models?  He was certainly intrigued with consciousness and the brain, neurons, memory, artificial intelligence, mood and dreams.  I wonder what concepts he held about his own brain and mind and whether he gained insights during his meditation time and yoga.

Brain-mind models were sent into a bit of a spin around Larry's time by the confusion about microscopic brain structure.  The Nobel prize for neurology research, at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, was given to both Santiago Ramón y Cajal [1852-1934] and Camillo Golgi [1843-1926].  Ironically their respective brain model views being diametrically opposed. 

Golgi stated firmly that he had proven the brain is one large open syncytial blob.  Whereas Cajal using Golgi's revealing silver stains took a closer look and then stated firmly that there were certainly slim spaces between neurons, they nearly touched but fall just short.

This gap he correctly observed we now know as the synaptic gap.  How funny that one of the most important parts of the brain is the "empty" space between cells where they nearly touch!

BR.  Ah, "the synaptic gap."  I suppose you see some similarities to the Buddhist concept of śūnyatā, the fundamental emptiness of all things?

Dr. D.  When I say "empty gaps" I fully accept that the universal presence of "dark-energy" fills this emptiness with potentiality . . . So strictly speaking true and complete "emptiness" is a bit hard to achieve!

BR.  Searle would probably discount this line of argument as wild speculation.  He thinks there's a biological connection between brain and mind, although how this happens — the exact causal relationship — presently eludes our understanding.  But why not speculate and let the imagination drift into dark matter and dark energy?  In Shadows of the Mind:  A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness (1994), Roger Penrose argues that the biological basis of "mind" has something to do with quantum mechanics.

Dr. D.  Durrell believed in the "unstable ego."  I'd say he believed in no-ego, no-self.  Does this have any relationship to quantum mechanics?  Maybe.  Let me quote Osho, the Indian mystic, who died in 1990, the same year Durrell died, which is a little bit of synchronicity:  "Once the ego is not there, there is no expectation, frustration, no desire, no despair.  Suddenly one finds oneself falling into a deep harmony with the cosmos.  And that harmony is God; that harmony is nirvana; that harmony is tao."

BR.  So, the famous Zen koan — "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"  The answer:  "Mu!" (no, not, nothing, nothingness).  I think it's safe to say that whatever Durrell meant by "mind's eye" that his idea was aesthetic and not based on any deep appreciation of the philosophical "mystery of consciousness."  As you suggest, the deepest he went into the matter was into the Buddhist or Taoist notion of mindlessness or egolessness   Which, however, may be very, very deep indeed — Mu!  Durrell also wanted to do away with causality and time, and I have big problems with this program.  For example, can you conceive of the self without a sense of time?  I can't.  This also seems to counter or undercut Durrell's great gift — to locate people and things in an imaginative moment.  That seems to me the great achievement of his best poetry and The Alexandria Quartet.  On the other hand, maybe this is what Durrell really wanted — maybe in the end what he was really after was self-extinction.  Remember, Sappho Jane Durrell said her father was suicidal.

Dr. D.  Mu!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kennedy Gammage's Review of Deus Loci (NS13 2012-2013)


by Kennedy Gammage


Congratulations to our fellow LD enthusiasts in the ILDS for publishing another number in their Lawrence Durrell Journal, covering the years 2012 and 13. It’s a substantial work at 234 pages plus a long introduction, with nine thought-provoking essays, followed by reminiscences about Durrell, poetry and reviews. All in all a solid addition to the DEUS LOCI series.

Guest editor Robert Haslam, the British independent Durrell scholar who ‘gathered together most of the essays’ in DL13 for Editor Anna Lillios, kicks things off with an INTRODUCTION TO EMENDED READINGS: A SURVEY OF BRITISH CRITICISM ON DURRELL – EMENDED READINGS being the name of his own project to ‘re-evaluate Durrell’s position in British literature.’ DL13 essentially became that project.

Haslam’s introduction to DL13 persuasively supports his argument that, though Durrell is perceived to be ‘an English writer,’ that he is much more popular in France and America (at least on the basis of ‘a substantial corpus of criticism’) than he is in England. Here we arrive at the possible semantic confusion between English (a language) and British (a country) – because why should anyone consider Durrell to be British? He’s not even a ‘British ex-pat’ since his boyhood up to age 11 was spent in India. He rarely lived there and his visits were brief. The only decent link I can see is that Durrell ‘worked for’ Britain for some time during and after the war, and of course some of his best books like Reflections on a Marine Venus document his earning a paycheck from Pudding Island.

DL13’s first essay is LAWRENCE DURRELL: THE POET AS IDLER by Clive Scott, who calls idleness Durrell’s ‘presiding muse’ and a lens through which to read his poems. The late Ray Morrison follows with LAWRENCE DURRELL’S LYRIC, DEUS LOCI, AS THE HERALDIC MIRROR OF HIS WORLD, a close reading of that delightful poem, comparing it to the Tao. I welcome the emphasis on his poetry. Dipping into it now, I too find much to admire and enjoy.

Dianne Vipond explores THE POLITICS OF LAWRENCE DURRELL’S MAJOR FICTION and finds him to be ‘much more politically progressive than is commonly acknowledged.’

[BTW, as an aside, I just searched Amazon for a copy of Personal Landscape and they have one collector’s copy at $60. Unfortunately I’m caught a bit short this month. However, I plan to pick up a copy of The Black Book next time I go to the used book store. I should at least give it a go. ]

I really enjoyed Michael Haag’s THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET: FROM ONE VOLUME TO FOUR which details the amazing Alexandrian history of Claude Vincendon’s family, the well-to-do Menasces – which clearly inspired Durrell and helped him create volumes two through four of the AQ.

Fiona Tomkinson follows with THE MYTH OF PTAH AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE AVIGNON QUINTET – very interesting, though by this juncture I am so far beyond the idea of Blanford ‘creating’ Sutcliffe, Bruce and the Ogres that it seems mere blather to me: commonplaces repeated ad nauseum until no one bothers to challenge them anymore. It would make much more sense to just consider Blanford insane and call it a day.

The next essay is “MANUFACTURING DREAMS”1 OR LAWRENCE DURRELL’S FICTION REVISITED THROUGH THE PRISM OF DE CHIRICO’S METAPHYSICAL PAINTING by Corinne Alexandre-Garner and Isabelle Keller-Privat, the doyennes of French Durrell studies. In the passages they quote describing Constance’s dream, I was puzzled by all the asterisks (“He had taken his ***** in quiet fingers…” etc.) and wondered if the authors had censored it for some reason – but no, it’s right there in the book (from Chapter Nine Tu Duc Revisited,) the only place in Constance where it appears – sadly, with no explanation. I was hoping the authors would mention it, but if they did I missed it.

Mary Byrne uncovers THE NEO-BAROQUE IN DURRELL’S MAJOR NOVELS – another lens into the master’s work. What follows next is perhaps my favorite essay, WEAVING EAST AND WEST: THE QUINCUNCIAL STRUCTURE IN MONSIEUR – A READER’S GUIDE by Robert Haslam. This has a lot of good information in it. I wasn’t aware, for instance, of Marcabru the Troubadour. But I am puzzled by this reference to Lord Banquo as “another name reference, this time to Ophelia’s brother and her possible lover.” Of course Banquo is from Macbeth, not Hamlet – is he thinking of Laertes?

Finally, MATERIALIZING THE POETIC: LAWRENCE DURRELL’S AN IRISH FAUSTUS by Ralph Yarrow rounds out the essays. Sadly, another gap in my reading – but I plan to remedy someday. What follows are a series of delightful Reminiscences about LD, from Paul Gotch, Barbara Robinson, Frederic Jacques Temple, Anthea Morton-Saner, Paula Wislenef, Mary Byrne, Peter Baldwin, Ralph Steadman, Richard Pine and others. Brief notes of my own meeting with Ralph Steadman in 1984:

Past Kentish Town and Camden Road, a junkyard and the rooftops of North London, we arrive at Highbury and take the tube to Embankment. Across the Hungerford footbridge and into the Royal Festival Hall for the Ralph Steadman exhibit. The artist is here,being interviewed for television. I get a minute alone with him.
"Mr. Steadman, a brief question: are you still friends with Dr. Thompson?"
"Oh indeed yes," he replied in a cultured British accent.
"I had the opportunity to hear him speak in Berkeley about a month ago." "Oh really," he replied, interested. "And what did he say?"
"He mostly talked about politics and the necessity of defeating Mr. Reagan, but I think he was dissatisfied with the caliber of the audience response."
"Yes, they're all rather conservative now, aren't they? Future business executives and all that." I smiled.
"I'm afraid you're right," I replied, walking off.
"Nice talking with you," he called after. What a wild talent!

What follows to end the issue are the poems (my favorite is “Waterbury” by Jerome L. Wyant, though I think he should have capitalized Chevy) and then Pamela Francis reviews the delightful Autumn Gleanings by Dr. Theodore Stephanides. Lovely little book. Contributor notes and that’s it. But the good news is, there may be a #14 in the works.

Thanks - Ken


I wrote the following introduction to the perplexing relationship between Sappho Jane Durrell and her father Lawrence Durrell.  The full essay appears in A Café in Space:  The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, volume 11 (2014).   The link to that issue follows.  —  BR

Tales of Incest:  The Agony of Saph and Pa Durrell
Bruce Redwine

In Autumn of 1991, Granta, a literary journal edited by Bill Buford, published a selection of Sappho Jane Durrell’s diaries, poetry, and correspondence.[1]  That issue of Granta was devoted to “The Family.”  Buford likes to shock; on the cover of the periodical, he announces his theme:  “They fuck you up,” a half line taken from the beginning of Philip Larkin’s short poem, “This Be The Verse” (1971).  The full line reads, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”  The final stanza (unquoted) ends with the message:

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.[2]

Larkin’s poem was especially relevant to Sappho, although this is unclear from Buford’s subsequent remarks.

Sappho’s father was the famous writer Lawrence Durrell; her mother was his second wife, Yvette (Eve) Cohen, a native of Alexandria, Egypt.  They married in 1947; Sappho was born in 1951.  Yvette had a history of mental illness and an episode of schizophrenia diagnosed in 1953.   The parents separated in 1955 and divorced in 1957.  Sappho was raised by her mother in London.[3]  She affectionately signed her letters to her father as “Saph” (Gr., 74), often sent him “lots of love” (Gr., 88‑89), frequently lived with him during holidays, and apparently had a “close relationship” with his third wife, Claude‑Marie Vincendon (Gr., 57).

The published materials date from about 22 March 1979 to 10 July 1982.  Buford takes most of the excerpts from 1979.  In these selections, Sappho relates a troubled relationship with her “Pa” or “pap” (Gr., 73) — whom she describes as “an aggressive and demonic drunkard [who] has always lived on the edge of madness” (Gr., 62) — and details her extensive therapy with Patrick Casement, a London psychoanalyst.  Sappho’s characterization of her father is entirely plausible.  Biographers provide ample evidence that Durrell was in fact prone to violence and suffered from alcoholism in his latter years.[4]  She also refers to Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), a novel about incest and “nymphets,” as though it has personal relevance, and she insinuates incestuous relations with her father, culminating perhaps “around the age of fifteen” (Gr., 68), which would have been in 1967.  During that year, she spent the Christmas holidays with her father at his home in Sommières, France.  Durrell was then fifty‑five and a recent widower.  Claude‑Marie had died of cancer on 1 January 1967.

The extracts of Sappho’s diaries are often discursive, confused, and opaque.  They do, however, tell a story of a distraught and lonely person on the way to self‑destruction.  In 1983, she attempts suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills; her mother Yvette intervenes, and doctors save her life.  Then, on 1 February 1985, Sappho commits suicide by hanging herself.  She was thirty‑three.

Sappho’s insinuations are serious and damaging.  But how seriously should they be taken?  Should they be ignored, as Candace Fertile does in her article on incest in Durrell’s oeuvre?[5]  Should they be dismissed as the ramblings of a neurotic or schizophrenic personality?  This is the usual view of such cases.  Disbelief has long been the reaction of legal and psychiatric authorities from John Henry Wigmore to Sigmund Freud, who referred to accounts of familial incest as largely “sexual fantasy.”[6]  And incredulity is the reaction of Bill Buford, Ian S. MacNiven, Durrell’s authorized biographer, and other literary critics.  They pay little attention to the complex relationship between Durrell and his daughter.  Her side of the story, however approximate, deserves better treatment than being ignored, dismissed, or buried alive in a long footnote, as MacNiven does.[7]

Feminist scholars question the usual approach to incest.  Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.  She conducted part of her research in a “clinical study” and forcefully argues that father‑daughter incest is not a fantasy, rather a “common occurrence.”  She further argues that “the greater the domination of the father, and the more the caretaking is relegated to the mother, the greater the likelihood of father‑daughter incest.”  Durrell’s household fits this profile in its broad outline.  Herman submits these definitions:

Incest was defined to mean any sexual relationship between a child and an adult in a position of paternal authority . . .  We further defined a sexual relationship to mean any physical contact that had to be kept a secret.

She also examines two types of incest:  one in which the father commits “overt” incest and another in which he exhibits seductive behavior or “covert incest.”  Herman defines “seductiveness on the part of fathers to mean behavior that was clearly sexually motivated, but which did not involve physical contact or a requirement for secrecy.”[8]  Durrell seems closest to the latter type.
In 1979, Sappho read Herman’s early article on incest, published by the New York Academy of Sciences, and wrote to the psychiatrist a perfectly sane and professional letter requesting further information on the subject (Gr., 82).[9]  In 1981, Herman published her full study on incest.  Sappho may have read this book, and the extent of its influence is open to debate and awaits further research.  Given Herman’s work on the subject, however, it is hard not to conclude that outright dismissal is outright negligence.  The matter deserves serious consideration.  I therefore propose that Lawrence Durrell’s literary treatment of incest, that is, his obsession with the issue, be examined closely as an insight into his and his daughter’s motivations.

The problem baffles and teases.  On the one hand, we have a talented but unstable daughter whose insinuations of paternal incest are provocative but unverifiable; on the other, we have a mercurial and authoritarian father whose writings wallow in incest and suicide.  Sappho appears to play out her father’s fantasies — with disastrous consequences.  In a perverted sense, what might be said of her is what Ben Jonson said of his son Benjamin:  “his best piece of poetry.”[10]  Daughter Sappho might be called Lawrence Durrell’s best (or worst) creation.  I shall argue that Sappho Jane Durrell may have been a victim of her father’s weird obsessions, sexual and thanatological, which include such curiosities as quoting the Marquis de Sade in the epigraphs to each of his novels comprising The Alexandria Quartet (1957‑1960).[11]

[1] Sappho Durrell, “Sappho Durrell:  Journals and Letters,” Granta 37 (Autumn 1991):  55‑92.  Hereafter cited in text as Gr.
[2] Philip Larkin, The Complete Poems:  Philip Larkin, ed. Archie Burnett (New York, 2012), p. 88.
[3] Brewster Chamberlin, A Chronology of the Life and Times of Lawrence Durrell:  Homme de Lettres (Corfu, 2007), pp. 41, 47, 49, 53, 58.  I take all dates associated with Durrell’s life from Chamberlin’s chronology.
[4] For a summary of Durrell’s personality, see Gordon Bowker, Through the Dark Labyrinth:  A Biography of Lawrence Durrell, rev. ed. (London, 1998), pp. 425-37.  See also, Chamberlin, Chronology,  pp. 53 n. 111, 79, 82, 83, 92, 93, 94.
[5] Candace Fertile, “The Meaning of Incest in the Fiction of Lawrence Durrell,” Deus Loci:  The Lawrence Durrell Journal (NS4 1995-96):  105-23..
[6] For a discussion of the historical denial of incest, see Judith Lewis Herman with Lisa Hirschman, Father‑Daughter Incest (1981; Cambridge, MA, 2000), p. 11.  John Henry Wigmore, an American law professor, wrote a major study on the law of evidence.  Herman writes, “John Henry Wigmore’s Treatise on Evidence (1934), set forth a doctrine impeaching the credibility of any female, especially a child, who complained of a sex offense.”  On Freud’s rejection of various accounts of incest, see The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, trans. and ed. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Cambridge, MA, 1985), p. 264.  Freud’s letter is dated 21 September 1897.
[7] Ian S. MacNiven, Lawrence Durrell:  A Biography (London, 1998), pp. 759-60, n. 218.
[8] Herman, Father‑Daughter Incest, pp. viii, 7, 63, 70, 109.
[9] The article’s full citation:  Judith Herman and Lisa Hirschman, “Incest Between Fathers and Daughters,” The Sciences 17 (issue 7, Nov. 1977):  4-7.
[10] Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets:  Authoritative Texts and Criticism, ed. Hugh Maclean (New York, 1974), p. 8.  Epigrams, XLV:  “On My First Son.”
[11] Lawrence Durrell, The Alexandria Quartet:  Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea, [rev. ed.] (London, 1962), pp. 15, 208, 396, 656.  Hereafter cited in text as AlQ.