Advertisement

British Surrealist Poetry in the 1930s

  • Steven Connor

Abstract

Hardly anything had been heard in Britain about surrealism and its impact by 1935, when the nineteen-year-old David Gascoyne published his Short Survey of Surrealism, an account of the beginnings of the movement in France and summary of the principal theoretical texts about surrealism by André Breton and others. In that work Gascoyne cagily suggests that ‘it is within the bounds of possibility that a surrealist group will be founded shortly in London’.1 Within a year, such a group had indeed been formed, and surrealism may be said to have taken a hold of literary and artistic London which it did not relinquish until the end of the decade. The International Surrealist Exhibition, held in London in 1936, acted as a focus for most of the energies of surrealist writers and artists in Britain. The writers included most notably David Gascoyne, Humphrey Jennings, Hugh Sykes Davies and Herbert Read, along with artists like Roland Penrose and Ithell Colquhoun, who also wrote and published surrealist texts.2 The exhibition was followed by a volume of essays edited by Herbert Read, and entitled simply Surrealism. Intended to consolidate the work of introducing and establishing surrealism in Britain, the volume contained essays by Read, Hugh Sykes Davies, Andre Breton and Georges Hugnet.

Keywords

Short Survey British Poetry Surrealist Group British Surrealist Surrealist Movement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    David Gascoyne, A Short Survey of Surrealism (London: Cobden Sanderson, 1935) p. 129.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See especially, Roland Penrose’s The Road is Wider than Long: An Image Diary from the Balkans July–August 1938 (London: London Gallery Editions, 1939). Ithell Colquhoun’s interesting surrealist texts have never been collected, but a couple of them are reprinted in Mel Gooding, ‘A Selection of British Texts on Surrealism 1930–1943’, in Alexander Robertson, Michel Remy, Mel Gooding and Terry Friedman, Angels of Anarchy and Machines for Making Clouds: Surrealism in Britain in the Thirties (Leeds: Leeds City Art Galleries, 1986) pp. 82–3. This catalogue in fact reprints the widest range of surrealist writings from the 1930s in Britain currently available.Google Scholar
  3. See especially, Roland Penrose’s The Road is Wider than Long: An Image Diary from the Balkans July–August 1938 (London: London Gallery Editions, 1939). Ithell Colquhoun’s interesting surrealist texts have never been collected, but a couple of them are reprinted in Mel Gooding, ‘A Selection of British Texts on Surrealism 1930–1943’, in Alexander Robertson, Michel Remy, Mel Gooding and Terry Friedman, Angels of Anarchy and Machines for Making Clouds: Surrealism in Britain in the Thirties (Leeds: Leeds City Art Galleries, 1986) pp. 82–3. This catalogue in fact reprints the widest range of surrealist writings from the 1930s in Britain currently available.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Herbert Read (ed.), Surrealism (London: Faber and Faber, 1936).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    John Press, Rule and Energy: Trends in British Poetry since the Second World War (London: Oxford University Press, 1963) p. 82.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    David Gascoyne, Collected Poems 1988(Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) p. 54. All references to this edition, in the abbreviated form CP, will henceforth be incorporated in my text.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Hugh Sykes Davies, Petron (London: J. M. Dent, 1935), reviewed by Gascoyne in New Verse, 18 (December, 1935) p. 19.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Georges Bataille, Oeuvres Complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1976) vol. II, pp. 93–109.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Michel Remy, David Gascoyne: ou, Lurgence de linexprimé. Suivi de Notes sur les Collected Poems et du scénario inédit dun film surréaliste (Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1984) pp. 23–4 (my translation).Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    J. Gratton, ‘Runaway: Textual Dynamics in the Surrealist Poetry of André Breton’, in Surrealism and Language: Seven Essays, ed. Ian Higgins (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1986) p. 31.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    David Gascoyne, Mans Life Is This Meat (London: Parton Press, 1936).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Rob Jackaman, ‘View from the White Cliffs: A Close Look at One Manifestation of English Surrealism’, Twentieth-Century Literature, 21 (1975) p. 78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 22.
    Paul C. Ray, ‘Meaning and Textuality: A Surrealist Example’, Twentieth-Century Literature, 26 (1980) p. 321.Google Scholar
  14. 24.
    Wyndham Lewis, The Diabolic Principle and the Dithyrambic Spectator (London: Chatto and Windus, 1931).Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    Jacques Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1987) p. 441.Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    Rob Jackaman, London Bulletin, 2 (May 1938) p. 7.Google Scholar
  17. 30.
    Hugh Sykes Davies, ‘Sympathies with Surrealism’, New Verse, 20 (April–May 1936) p. 15.Google Scholar
  18. 32.
    See Davies’s ‘Sympathies With Surrealism’ of 1936.Google Scholar
  19. 33.
    Roger Roughton, ‘Surrealism and Communism’, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 5 (August–September 1936) p. 74, and ‘Eyewash, Do You?: A Reply to Mr Pound’, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 7 (November 1936) pp. 137–8.Google Scholar
  20. Roger Roughton, ‘Surrealism and Communism’, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 5 (August–September 1936) p. 74, and ‘Eyewash, Do You?: A Reply to Mr Pound’, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 7 (November 1936) pp. 137–8.Google Scholar
  21. 34.
    Roger Roughton, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 1 (May 1936) p. 7.Google Scholar
  22. 35.
    Roger Roughton, The Freedom of Poetry: Studies in Contemporary Verse (London: Falcon Press, 1937) p. 45.Google Scholar
  23. 36.
    Roger Roughton, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 2–3 (June 1936) p. 55.Google Scholar
  24. 37.
    Ezra Pound, ‘The Coward Surrealists’ and Roger Roughton, ‘Eyewash, Do You: A Reply to Mr. Ezra Pound’, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 7 (November 1936) pp. 136–7.Google Scholar
  25. 39.
    Humphrey Jennings, review of Surrealism, ed. Herbert Read, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 8–9 (December 1936) p. 168.Google Scholar
  26. 42.
    Humphrey Jennings, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 10 (Spring 1937) p. 41.Google Scholar
  27. 43.
    Humphrey Jennings, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 2–3 (June 1936) pp. 94–5.Google Scholar
  28. 44.
    Humphrey Jennings, Contemporary Poetry and Prose, 8–9 (December 1936) pp. 146–7. A longer version of this ‘Study for a long report’ appeared in the London Bulletin, 12 (March 1939) pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  29. 45.
    Kathleen Raine, Defending Ancient Springs (London: Oxford University Press, 1967) pp. 47–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Connor

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations