T.E. Hulme in World War I. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Ernest Hulme (16 September 1883 - 28 September 1917) was an English poet and literary critic who, through his writings on art, literature, and politics, had a notable influence upon the development of modernism.

Life[edit | edit source]

Hulme was born at Gratton Hall, Endon, Staffordshire, the son of Thomas and Mary Hulme. He was educated at Newcastle-under-Lyme High School and, from 1902, St John's College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics, but was sent down in 1904 after rowdy behaviour on Boat Race night. He was thrown out of Cambridge a second time after a scandal involving a Roedean girl. He returned to his studies at University College, London, before travelling around Canada, and spending time in Brussels, acquiring languages.

Proto-modernist[edit | edit source]

From about 1907 Hulme became interested in philosophy, translating works by Henri Bergson and sitting in on lectures at Cambridge. He translated Georges Sorel's Reflections on Violence. The most important influences on his thought were Bergson and, later, Wilhelm Worringer (1881-1965), German art historian and critic; and in particular his Abstraktion und Einfuhlung (Abstraction and Empathy, 1908). From 1909 he contributed critical articles to The New Age, edited by A.R. Orage.

Hulme developed an interest in poetry, and wrote a small number of poems. He was made secretary of the Poets' Club, attended by such establishment figures as Edmund Gosse and Henry Newbolt. There he encountered Ezra Pound and F.S. Flint . In late 1908 Hulme delivered his paper A Lecture on Modern Poetry to the club. Hulme's poems Autumn and City Sunset, both published in 1909, have the distinction of being the first Imagist poems.[1]

Robert Frost met Hulme in 1913 and was influenced by his ideas.[2] The Complete Poetical Works of T.E. Hulme was published in The New Age in 1912, consisting of five poems (a sixth was added later). In his critical writings Hulme distinguished between Romanticism, a style informed by a belief in the infinite in man and nature, characterised by Hulme as "spilt religion", and Classicism, a mode of art stressing human finitude, formal restraint, concrete imagery and, in Hulme's words, "dry hardness".[3] Similar views were later expressed by T.S. Eliot.

Hulme's ideas had a major effect on Wyndham Lewis (quite literally when they came to blows over Kate Lechmere; Lewis ended the worse for it, hung upside down by the cuffs of his trousers from the railings of Great Ormond Street).[4] Hulme championed the art of Jacob Epstein and David Bomberg, and he was a friend of Gaudier-Brzeska, as well as being in at the birth of vorticism and Lewis's literary magazine BLAST.

Hulme's politics were conservative, and he moved further to the right after 1911 as a result of contact with Pierre Lasserre, who was associated with Action Francaise.

World War I[edit | edit source]

Hulme volunteered as an artilleryman in 1914, and served with the Royal Marine Artillery in France and Belgium. He kept up his writing for The New Age, with "War Notes" written under the pen name "North Staffs", and "A Notebook", which contains some of his most organised critical writing. He was wounded in 1916. Back at the front in 1917, he was killed by a shell at Oostduinkerke near Nieuwpoort, in West Flanders.

Writing[edit | edit source]

Ezra Pound published 5 poems by Hulme – ”Autumn”, “Mana Aboda”, “Conversion”, “Above the Dock” and “The Embankment” – as "The Complete Poetical Works of T.E. Hulme" in The New Age magazine of January 1912. (A 6th poem, "A City Sunset," had been published together with "Autumn" in January 1909.)[5] Pound also included the "Complete Poetical Works" as an appendix to his 1912 volume Ripostes. The latter publication is "frequently referred to as the formal initiation of the imagist movement into modern poetry."[6]

Publications[edit | edit source]

Poetry[edit | edit source]

  • "The Complete Poetical Works of T.E. Hulme," The New Age, 1912.
    • included in Ezra Pound, Ripostes. London: S. Swift, 1912.
    • (illustrated by Michael Gutzwiller). Cleveland, OH: Bits Press, 1983.

Non-fiction[edit | edit source]

  • Speculations: Essays on humanism and the philosophy of art (edited by Herbert Read). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner / New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1924.
  • Notes on Language and Style (edited by Herbert Read). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Book Store, 1929.
  • Further Speculations (edited by Sam Hynes). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1955; Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1962.

Collected editions[edit | edit source]

  • Collected Writings (edited by Karen Csengeri). Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Selected Writings (edited by Patrick McGuinness). Manchester, UK: Carcanet / Fyfield Books, 1998; New York: Routledge, 2003..

Translated[edit | edit source]

  • Henri Bergson, Introduction to Metaphysics. London: Macmillan, 1913.
  • Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence. London: Allen & Unwin, 1908; New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1912.

Poems by T.E. Hulme[edit | edit source]


"Above the Dock," by T.E. Hulme


Four T.E. Hulme Poems (2014) Kyle Hovatter feat. Jarring Sounds, soprano theorbo

  1. Autumn
  2. Mana Aboda
  3. Conversion
  4. Above the Dock
  5. The Embankment
  6. A City Sunset

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Alun Jones, The Life and Opinions of T.E. Hulme (1960)
  • Michael Roberts, T. E. Hulme (1982, Carcanet Press reprint)
  • Robert Ferguson, The Short Sharp Life of T.E. Hulme (2002)

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Schmidt,Michael,Lives of the Poets Widenfeld & Nicholson,1998 ISBN 978-0297840145
  2. Hoffman, Tyler: Robert Frost and the Politics of Poetry, page 54. University Press of New England, 2001. ISBN 1-58465-150-4
  3. Hulme, T.E. "Romanticism and Classicism." Selected Writings. Ed. Patrick McGuinness. New York: Routledge, 2003. 68-83.
  4. McGuinness, Patrick, Ed. T. E. Hulme: Selected Writings, Manchester: Fyfield Books, 1998. xvi
  5. Michael Whitworth, "T.E. Hulme: The Complete Poetical Works of T.E. Hulme," The Literary Encyclopedia, Web, Aug. 20, 2011.
  6. "T.E. Hulme," The Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 20, 2011.

External links[edit | edit source]

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