Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear

Correspondence, Nonfiction

Ezra Pound

"'Ezra.' Listen to it––Ezra! Ezra!––And a third time––Ezra!... Some people have complained of untidy boots––how could they look at his boots, when there is his moving, beautiful face to watch!” These words from the notebook of Dorothy Shakespear, dated February 16, 1909, record the entry into her life of the energetic young American, recently arrived in London, who was to become her husband––Ezra Pound. Their correspondence, begun the following year, extends over more than six decades, until the poet's death in 1972. All of these letters are of unusual literary interest, but those from before their marriage in April 1914 have a special importance, since few from this period have been published. The standard edition of The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, edited by D. D. Paige, includes none from 1910-1911 and only a handful from 1912-1913, yet these were the crucial years in Pound's literary development and in the shaping of early modernism. The over two hundred letters and diary entries in Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914 are published here for the first time. Taken together, they provide a detailed record of the poet’s search for a new style and give a full portrait of a dynamic young expatriate who was simultaneously involved in two literary generations, the companion and close friend of Yeats and Ford Madox Hueffer as well as of Wyndham Lewis and the sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska. They also shed a poignant light on The Pisan Cantos of 1945, where amid the ruins of his life Pound recalled again and again the events and people described in these letters, as if the memory of 1909-1914 was the only stable point left in a disintegrating personal universe. The letters have been thoroughly annotated by Omar Pound, translator, and bibliographer of Wyndham Lewis, and by A. Walton Litz of Princeton University, the author of studies of James Joyce, Wallace Stevens, and other modern writers. The book includes: a biographical appendix, with particular emphasis on lesser-known people mentioned in the letters; some unpublished early poems by Pound transcribed by Dorothy into one of her notebooks; family charts, one of which shows Pound’s ancestral origins; numerous unpublished illustrations; and an extensive index.