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1920 - 1929

By 1920, he had prepared a volume of verse for publication 'The Waggoner'. When published it attracted considerable attention from many including Thomas Hardy and the poet Walter de la Mare. On 29 October 1920 Mary gave birth to their second daughter Clare, who would be followed later by their son John, both were named after John Clare. During his research Blunden unearthed many unpublished poems by Clare, including the asylum poems. These were published in 1920 as 'Poems Chiefly from Manuscript'. The publication of this edition created much interest in the 'lost' poems of John Clare.

Concerns about Edmund's health (which we may now recognise as post traumatic stress syndrome), and domestic difficulties with Mary, prompted his friends to persuade him to take a trip on a coal boat from Wales to Buenos Aires. His account of which was published in 1922 as 'The Bonaventure'. However, the trip failed to help him escape from the ghosts of war and ease his troubles at home. On his return home Edmund discovered he had won the Hawthornden Prize for 'The Shepherd', a collection of poems of peace and war, published in 1922.

Hard pressed to support his family with part time journalism, Edmund took up the position of Professor of English at Tokyo University. The offer came from Takeshi Saito, a distinguished Keats scholar who was to become one of Edmund's greatest lifelong friends, and with whom he felt there was a meeting of minds.

On leaving for Japan Blunden could look back on a rich life - he had survived three years of war, won an Oxford scholarship, published five volumes of poetry, two books of prose, edited Clare and Smart and become a prolific literary journalist: he had met Hardy, Sassoon, Graves, De la Mare and many established writers; he had married and had fathered three children; he was about to become a professor and he was still seven months short of his twenty-eighth birthday. ('Edmund Blunden, A Biography', Barry Webb, Yale, 1990).

He remained in Japan between April 1924 and July 1927. His teaching position with his students was almost unique. He developed a warm and gentle rapport with the students providing them with a window on a western culture that was otherwise impossible for them to access. As well as his punishing lecturing schedule, he also wrote amongst other published works 'Undertones of War' - almost entirely from memory, from the desk at his hotel. Mary could not be persuaded to join him in Japan so she and their two children had remained behind in Suffolk. Consequently the relationship deteriorated, resulting in divorce in 1931.

The period between 1927 and 1931 was characterised by frenetic literary activity, poor health (he suffered from asthma all his life) and personal unhappiness. His secretary in Japan, Aki Hayashi (with whom he had also had an affair), had accompanied him back to England. Although the affair ended in Japan, Aki still had hopes for a relationship with Edmund, and Edmund felt obliged to satisfy her desire to come to England, and was consequently supporting her in a London flat. Having filed for divorce from Mary in 1929 when reconciliation proved impossible, Edmund moved into a bed sit in Talbot Rd, London. His daily life brimmed over with engagements with friends, the literati of London, lectures and writing, and also the first of many pilgrimages to the rebuilt town of Ypres. But despite his continuing literary acclaim he was personally unhappy. He had lost some of his friends through the separation with Mary, and his friendship with Robert Graves suffered after his publication of 'Goodbye to All That', a book both he and Sassoon considered to contain inaccuracies. The rift was not healed until 1966.






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