The Sword Went Out to Sea(Synthesis of a Dream), by Delia Alton

Edited by Cynthia Hogue and Julie Vandivere


The modernist poet and novelist H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) was profoundly interested in the occult and during WWII conducted spiritualist seances in her home. Those experiences form much of the basis for her novel The Sword Went Out to Sea, which features an experimental structure and a blending of autobiography, dream, and vision.

Never before published, The Sword Went Out to Sea is the first book in H.D.’s prose trilogy that continues with White Rose and the Red and concludes with The Mystery. This complex, semi-autobiographical novel combines H.D.’s interest in the occult and experiences during the Blitz, and sheds light on the aesthetics and origins of literary modernism.


“The publication of H.D.’s late roman a clef is a timely one, as it engages many important critical questions: the place of the occult in modernism, women writers’ response to war, the historical and biographical contexts of H.D.’s late writing. The editors give a forceful presentation of the novel’s significance.”

Eileen Gregory, University of Dallas

“H.D.’s The Sword Went Out to Sea was written in response to two world wars and years of unremitting bombing. A haunting novel of spiritual duress and survival, it remains eerily relevant today.”

Donna Hollenberg, University of Connecticut


“Readers of this book will want to take advantage of the editors’ detailed summaries of the novel’s characters–including ‘keys’ to surrogate/conflated characters (such as H.D.’s use of her sometime nom de plume, Delia Alton, as both author and protagonist of this novel) and H.D.’s use of dream and symbolism. Valuable for modernists; required reading for H.D. scholars.”–Choice

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