BD. Edmund Blunden


170. Miscellaneous, 1924-62. Quoted in Webb (193), 1990.

a. Undated reminiscence (p. 143). Blunden writes that he is ‘haunted by a sense of Japan’, in ‘her human expression’, and cannot go for a walk in England ‘without seeming to be in one moment or another in Japan as well’.

b. To Charles Blunden, 24 June 1924 and 21 June 1925 (p. 145). Blunden complains to his father about the monotony of his lectures at Tokyo; he feels as if the morning may come when he will abandon his classroom and ‘catch any boat leaving Yokohama’.

c. To Philip Tomlinson, 18 December 1925 (pp. 145-46). Blunden’s public pronouncements about his idyllic life at Tokyo Imperial University are undercut in many letters (see also those in 166), but none more so than here, where his characteristic irony in writing of difficulties in Tokyo gives way to frustration and anger: ‘I have no hand in the general direction of English Studies, the fixing of courses, the choice and arrangement of books and periodicals, the necessary apparatus—but damn them, if they don’t want, I don’t. Only the facts must be freely recognised’: he is ‘kept out of everything except giving lessons and occasionally a little donkey work’ and few of his students are ‘able and willing’ to do proper work.

d. To Claire Blunden, 13 April 1940 (pp. 277-78). The world was hearing of Japanese aggression, but Blunden calls his wife’s attention to another side of the national character: ‘the Japanese poet is as sensitive as the Japanese war-monger is loud, and he writes with the shyness of a passing breeze’.

e. To Lancelot Blunden, 5 April and December 1948 (p. 278). Those who have commented on Blunden’s second stay in Japan without fail note his unflagging energy (see especially 177, 179a-b, 183, and 185). In the April letter Blunden himself comments to his brother about the pace. His life is ‘one infernal scramble’, but he is reminded by a goldfish given his daughter that ‘we all live endlessly hurrying about a small prison . . . emitting bubbles’. In December he noted that the ‘occasions’ at which he produced his occasional verses (see especially 70 and 160) occasionally were less than enjoyable. Here they are ‘all these silly parties, with their savage din and senseless dialoguing’.

f. To Tomlinson, 3 August 1949 (p. 278). Just as Blunden’s private letters undercut his public proclamations about his first stay in Japan in the twenties, so this letter places his second sojourn in radically different light than his public persona would allow. He is ‘tired of the endless “we Japanese” attitude’ that ‘turn[s] every subject round until once more the world is all Japanese’. He wonders if ‘people like the Japanese’ have a ‘psychological necessity’ to ‘forever be muddling around’ in hopes of ‘painting [their culture] as a mystical supremacy’. The country itself is ‘glorious’, but ‘unvaried’ compared with England or France, and though the Japanese have ‘ingenious minds’ they are ‘not creative’ and ‘not reflective’. They ‘copy’ what they find ‘useful’ among those things ‘the Western world has given’, but ‘never really comprehend’ that the West ‘gives as well as bargains’. Rather disingenuously Blunden assures Tomlinson that he is ‘not disgruntled’, and that his personal life in Tokyo is ‘exceedingly gentle and honest’, but he is surprised to find his earliest perception of Japan as a ‘primitive society’ ‘still obtaining’. As if in second thought he follows these remarks with comments about the generous following his lectures receive, the Japanese ‘regard for friendship’, which is ‘beyond praise’, and laudatory words about Saitô Takeshi (Ap), whom Blunden insists ‘knows all that I have said’.

g. Strange that the absence of but one (p. 303). A stanza in memory of Hayashi Aki (see 191), written in Blunden’s diary on his first return to London after she had died there in 1962. Though her ‘trudging’ was ‘once so burdensome’ Blunden finds that her absence ‘estrange[s] this so familiar town’, and ‘Her grumbling now (no great storm then) / Would make this corner live again’.





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