Richard Aldington was born Edward Godfree Aldington in Portsmouth on 8th July 1892. His father Albert was a solicitor’s clerk and when Edward as still an infant, Albert and his wife Jessie moved to Dover in Kent, where they had three more children. At a young age, Edward took a strong dislike to his given names, choosing instead to be known as Richard. He was educated at Dover College and won a place at University College London, although he was unable to complete his degree due to a decline in the family’s fortunes. By this stage, Aldington had already begun writing poetry with his early inspirations coming from Oscar Wilde and John Keats.
Following a brief spell as a sports journalist, Aldington began to earn a living from poetry and literary criticisms, meeting several personalities in the process. In 1912, Aldington, Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle (known as H.D.) founded the Imagist movement and the following year, Aldington and H.D. were married on October 18th at Kensington Register Office.
At the beginning of the First World War, Aldington tried to enlist in the Honourable Artillery Company, but failed on medical grounds. He then became secretary to Ford Maddox Ford, helping with the latter’s novel The Good Soldier. On 21st May 1915, H.D. gave birth to a stillborn daughter.
In 1916, Aldington tried to enlist again, and this time was accepted into the 11th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, embarking for France on 21st December. He was sent back to England for officer training in the summer of 1917, and was then commissioned into the Royal Sussex Regiment the following November. While in London, Aldington began an affair with Arabella Yorke, an American art student. In the winter of 1917, H.D. also took a lover, the composer Cecil Gray, with whom she had a child.
By the end of the war, Aldington had been promoted to the rank of Acting Captain, but was also suffering from shell-shock. His marriage had broken down and he settled with Arabella in Berkshire, although Aldington and H.D. did not divorce until 1938, remaining friends until her death.
Following his split from Arabella during the 1920s, Aldington moved to France, where he found a new love, name Brigit Patmore. He began writing novels instead of poetry and his debut novel, Death of a Hero was published in 1929 to critical acclaim.
In the early 1930s Aldington and Patmore began travelling around Europe and America. On a return visit to London, Aldington began an affair with Brigit Patmore’s daughter-in-law, Netta, who was still married to Brigit’s son, Michael at the time. When both Netta and Aldington were divorced, they married in a quiet ceremony in the summer of 1938, their daughter Catherine being born less than two weeks later.
During the Second World War, the family settled in America, returning to France afterwards, whereupon Aldington took to writing biographies of famous historical and literary figures, such as the Duke of Wellington and D H Lawrence.
In 1950, Netta left Aldington, which led to him having a nervous breakdown. Once recovered, he wrote a biography of T E Lawrence, called Lawrence of Arabia: a Biographical Enquiry. This book would end up costing Aldington his reputation, as he accused Lawrence of creating his own heroic status, brandished him a liar and accused him of being a homosexual. A group of Lawrence’s supporters, including Robert Graves, tried to prevent publication, and when this failed, ensured as many bad reviews as possible, thus guaranteeing lasting damage to Aldington’s reputation.
Aldington lived in poverty in France with his daughter until his death on 27th July 1962.