T. E. Hulme Archive

Thomas Ernest Hulme was born on 16th September 1883 at Gratton Hall, Endon, North Staffordshire. He attended Newcastle-under-Lyme High School for boys, St. John's College, Cambridge and the University of London, but left in 1906, without taking a degree, and set sail for Canada. He returned to England in 1907 but soon crossed to Brussels where he taught English and practised his languages.

Hulme wrote some of the first 'modernist' poems in English and played an important role in the literary and cultural history of his time as critic and philosopher. He was one of the first critics to write about modern painting and sculpture. When war broke out Hulme enlisted and was serving in the Royal Marines Artillery when he was killed in battle on 28th September 1917.

A small but frequently consulted collection, the material includes Hulme's notes on language and style, manuscript and printed poems, some notes on contributions made by Hulme to The New Age and a number of letters written to Michael Roberts whose biography of Hulme appeared in 1938.  Among these are several letters from Ezra Pound and Faber and Faber, written by T. S. Eliot.

To supplement this collection, Hulme biographer Robert Ferguson recently donated his collection of papers relating to T E Hulme. The gift includes fourteen files of correspondence, articles, transcripts, research notes and photographs.

The material is owned by Keele, is partially listed, and there are no restrictions on access.

T E Hulme 130th Anniversary Display

Thomas Ernest Hulme was a poet, philosopher, literary critic and journalist, born at Gratton Hall (near Endon) in North Staffordshire on 16th September 1883.

This online display marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Hulme. The selected items are reproduced from original material held in our T E Hulme archive, donated to the University by the widow of Hulme biographer Michael Roberts, with further papers gifted in 2010 by Robert Ferguson. To access the T E Hulme Papers, or to request permission to reproduce material, please contact the Archives (h.burton@keele.ac.uk or telephone 01782 733237).

 

Portrait of T E Hulme, 1912

HULF 10a Portrait of T E Hulme, 1912

 

Hulme was born into a moderately prosperous family who owned a ceramic transfer business in the Potteries. He attended Newcastle under Lyme School for boys and went on to study maths and philosophy at Cambridge, though he failed to take a degree after twice being sent down for misdemeanours.

Hulme’s exuberant behaviour at the theatre one evening contributed to his being sent down from Cambridge for the first time.

Report from the London Standard 28th March 1904

HULF 2a Report from the London Standard 28th March 1904

 

After an unsatisfactory spell at University College London, Hulme expanded his philosophical explorations by working and studying in Canada and Brussels in 1906 and 1907. He met with Henri Bergson and introduced Bergson’s philosophical work to English-speaking literary societies through his translations from the French. It was also around this time that Hulme made his Notes on Language and Style, a scrapbook of ideas and fragmentary jottings now held in our Archives.

Extract from Hulme’s Notes on Language and Style

HUL19 Extract from Hulme’s Notes on Language and Style

 

 

Upon returning to England, Hulme took a room in Chelsea and began to write poetry. He was disaffected with the rigidity of traditional English verse and sought to modernise it, the concept of 'image' being at the root of his thought. In 1908 he joined the Poets’ Club, headed by Henry Simpson and Henry Newbolt,where he presented the mandate of the Imagist movement in the form of his Lecture on Modern Poetry.

Opening paragraph of Hulme’s typescript Lecture on Modern Poetry

 HUL22a Opening paragraphs of Hulme’s typescript Lecture on Modern Poetry

 

At the end of the year, the Poets’ Club published a booklet of verse called For Christmas, MDCCCCVIII. It features one of the first Imagist poems, by T.E. Hulme, called Autumn.

For Christmas, MDCCCCVIII

Autumn (published) by T E Hulme

HUL 18 For Christmas, MDCCCCVIII with Autumn by T E Hulme

 

 

Tiring of the Poets’ Club, in March 1909 Hulme began meeting at London’s Café Tour d’Eiffel with a group that included Ezra Pound, F S Flint, Edward Storer, F W Tancred and Florence Farr.

He later spent time in Berlin studying aesthetics and developed a passionate interest in new art, particularly the work of Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and David Bomberg. T E Hulme was one of the first English critics to write about modern art.

Meetings moved to Soho’s Frith Street salon and were populated by an explosive mix of writers and artists. The impending world war was a topic frequently addressed and Hulme argued against a pacifist response to the rise of German militarism. He entered military service in August 1914, joining the Honourable Artillery Company before being appointed to a commission with the Royal Marine Artillery. Under the nom de guerre of ‘North Staffs’, Hulme contributed Military Notes to the New Age and the Cambridge Magazine. 

In May 1917, Hulme was sent to the Royal Naval Siege guns on the Belgian coast. The fighting intensified and he was killed by a German shell at Nieuport on 28th September 1917, having just turned 34. 

Hulme’s grave at Koksijde Military Cemetery, Belgium

HULF 10b Hulme’s grave at Koksijde Military Cemetery, Belgium

 

The first full-length study of Hulme’s thought was initiated by Faber and Faber in 1936. As editor of the publishing house, T S Eliot offered the task to the poet Michael Roberts. As part of his research on Hulme, Michael Roberts wrote to Ezra Pound and the replies survive in the Archives. 

Ezra Pound to Michael Roberts, 15 May 1937

HUL 37 Ezra Pound to Michael Roberts, 15 May 1937

 

 

At the time of his death, Hulme had published no book and was known only to a small circle of artists and intellectuals. Had his life not been cut so short, his contribution would have been more obvious. Even so, Hulme had an indisputable influence in shaping twentieth century thought in art and literature and the modest amount of poetry he wrote greatly influenced other poets of the time.