In January 1969 Harold Bloom wrote to Frye to tell him about his developing theory of the anxiety of influence. Frye replied, “You don’t say much about the general direction or scope of your book. If you mean influence in the more literal sense of the transmission of thought and imagery and the like from earlier poet to later one, I should think that this was simply something that happens, and might be a source either of anxiety or of release from it, depending on circumstances and temperament. But of course it is true that a great poet’s maturity brings with it a growing sense of isolation, of the kind one feels in Yeats’ Last Poems, Stevens’ The Rock, and perhaps even Blake’s Job series. I should very much like to hear more about the book and about your progress with it” (letter of 23 January 1969). In his Foreword to the fifteenth printing of Anatomy of Criticism, Bloom picks up part of what Frye had written thirty one years before: “Frye disliked the idea of an anxiety of influence, and told me that whether a later writer experienced such an affect was due entirely to temperament and circumstance” (vii).
There is, of course, a difference between “might be a source either of anxiety or a release from it” and “was due entirely.” It might be that the real anxiety of influence was Bloom’s anxiety about Frye’s influence. What Jonathan Allan calls “distancing” could well be and example of the killing off of the critical father. Frye, at any rate, thought so. Some years later he wrote to Morton D. Paley, “I hope it isn’t too arrogant for me to think that I represent Bloom’s chief anxiety of influence (letter of 17 January 1978).