‘Is There Anybody There?’: Solitude and the Hermeneutics of Love in the Writings of Walter de la Mare
© Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association 2018 Solitude and a striving to communicate are major themes in the poetry of Walter de la Mare. While best known for his verse and fiction, de la Mare also produced a series of unconventional anthological works which contain explicit treatments of those themes which are only implicit in his creative work. Drawing on the insights found in these anthologies, this paper argues that, for de la Mare, solitude – along with its opposite state, connectedness – form the endpoints of an axis of concern that is present throughout his body of work. His poetry can be read as an exploration of the infinitely varying degrees of solitude and connection that exist between these two absolute states, manifesting as the possibility of communication held indefinitely in abeyance. Furthermore, in a critical essay on the discourse of love, contained in his 1943 anthological work Love, de la Mare links the themes of solitude, connectedness, and the attendant possibilities of communication, to his deep concern with the problems of language. In doing so, he foreshadows the work of later critics concerning absence and presence in literature, and the possibility of language and meaning in the absence of an addressee, doing so at a time when much of the critical consensus took the communicative efficacy of language for granted.