T.E. Hulme - writer, soldier and notorious debunker - was described by T.S. Eliot as the finest English language poet after Blake. Yet, at the time of his death in Flanders in 1917, he had published no book and his name was virtually unknown. Of the scraps of his writing that do survive, in one essay Hulme observes that the covers of a book are responsible for "much error" in creating the illusion of a connection between things that might, in reality, have no necessary connection at all. In The Short Sharp Life of T.E. Hulme Robert Ferguson connects his subject with the foundation of some of the great intellectual movements of the Twentieth Century. Remarkably, this is the first modern biography of Hulme and the first to make full use of the interviews given later in their lives by those who had known him well. Even if we are to take Hulme's advise to be wary of tenuous connections created in books, interviews and papers by Eliot, Ezra Pound (a close associate of Hulme), Ford Madox Ford and Robert Frost, to name but a few, substantiate the author's view that T.E. Hulme was a forerunner whose attitudes both shaped and defined the last century. T.E. Hulme's relentless anti-Romanticism represented more than an opposition to a genre - it was the genesis of Modernism; his thought on modern art is now seen as seminal to the entire Twentieth Century movement; his contribution to literary criticism is said to have "set the tone" for that subject; and his opposition to the liberal humanist belief in moral progress was enough to make the pacifist philosopher Bertrand Russell grateful for the First World War,if only because it had claimed Hulme's life. Hulme rarely found himself without enemies. Aged just 12, a school report said, "his obstinacy is something appalling". He was sent down twice from Cambridge, once in the wake of gown verses town riots orchestrated by his Discord Club, and once for attempting to seduce the underage daughter of the President of the Aristotelian Society. Ferguson's book centres on the dichotomy between the "anti-romantic nature of Hulme's thought and the romantic nature of his personal fate: an early death fighting for his country in the Great War, and the entirely posthumous fame based on a tiny legacy of philosophical and critical essays". The Short Sharp Life is, however, worthwhile for its inclusion of Hulme's short poems alone. On their own, they are enough to connect Hulme with literary brilliance: Above the quiet dock at midnight/ Tangled in the tall mast's corded height,/ Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away/ Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play.
This was the first biography of T.E.Hulme i have read and also the first of Robert Ferguson's creations i have had the pleasure of reading.My interst in Hulme's works was sparked by research into my own family tree on the internet.Discovering such a fine poet,philosopher and social thinker carrying my family name came somewhat of a suprise but non-the-less a pleasant one.Hulme(among others) was indeed,i feel,a catalyst for monumental change in poetry and philisophical though in the twentieth century.Not only was he a great thinker,but also through the work of Ferguson we discover a vibrant and colourfull young man with emense durability of intellect and the drive and will to carry this through.This book is well written and i feel greatly indebted to Ferguson for the lengths he must have gone to in researching this book and the for phenomenal body of information which he so carefully grafted into such a fine portrayal of Hulme's life and works.I spyed this book as i was putting books out on the shelves at work and as much to say,it didnt quite get there,i snapped it up for myself. A worthwile read for all thsoe interested in Hulmes life and his works. Thank you Robert Ferguson
A SURPRISINGLY GOOD READ IS THIS WELL-RESEARCHED AND BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BIOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGIST POET AND LITTLE-KNOWN MAN-OF-LETTERS, T.E.HUME. THIS BOOK DESERVES A WIDER CIRCULATION AND ITS SUBJECT DESERVES D TO BE PUT MORE ON THE MAP.