H.D. letter about Ezra Pound’s look

Found – an unpublished  typed letter from the Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) to a Mr Russell, almost certainly the poet Peter Russell who was also something of a champion of Ezra Pound. She gives her address as Hotel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland where she is known to have resided from 1946 to 1952. It is a good letter full of commentary on the modernists and with much on Ezra Pound – his style and manner, his appearance and his hair.


She starts by writing about the literary magazine The Egoist, which started in 1914.

‘Yes, I should say it was Ezra who pushed the Portrait (Joyce) in or into The Egoist. I arrived on the scene about 1911; I think during War 1, I was supposed to hold down the Egoist job  for Richard Aldington. I met him before The Egoist, it all came together in 1912, along with Ezra first condescending (and very kindly) to present a few of my poems, as for Poetry Chicago. I believe something of the same thing happened to T.S. Eliot, at one time. I think Eliot noted it somewhere. Ezra just took his pencil and crossed off lines and line-ends and the whole emerged like a stalactite, very beautiful after he chizzled (sic) it. I think it was Hermes of the Ways and it appeared in  the first imagist anthology… I should say unofficially E.  has everything to do with the more dynamic content of The Egoist as with Poetry Chicago, at that time. [At this point she says she could write an article about this but needs no money as she has an allowance and her health is good after an illness. She goes on to reminisce about Pound in early life] …it was a Halloween dance, if I remember,  that day after  Ezra’s birthday. Or it might have been Twelfth Night; I remember our discussing it as Ezra gave our hostess a copy of the same Temple edition which we were all collecting. Ezra wore a green brocade coat. It was, I believe brought back from a trip he had taken with his parents and an aunt  to Tangiers… anyway, he had a photograph with the group, Ezra with a fez over his exact Gozzoli curls. It sounds odd, but Ezra once said to me  at that time, that for one friend he made himself, he made 10 for his hair. It was quite exact, curls like the Hermes of Praxitiles.

The eyes were rather small but of a special green. The face with the green eyes, was cat or panther. He danced horribly ; I  have never remotely known such an awkward and crude dancer and it was not just his partner who suffered, but others on the floor… he might have kept off the floor. It was the same when they threw him in the pond of the Botanical gardens because, a freshman, as he  then was , was not supposed to wear odd socks. Ezra seemed to enjoy this story. He would sit at the piano and improvise. It is true he looked like Paderewski, but I was vaguely ambitious at that time and knew a little, a very little Beethoven. Later, when he returned to America from  his first reception in London, one could hardly understand him when he spoke. I found or felt later that he had modelled himself on his then two idols, Yeats and Ford Madox Hueffer. I only met them some years later and we were all rather depressed at the time, by Ezra’s newly acquired English accent, which is anything but English… Ezra was the first poet one knew, he first brought Rossetti and William Morris into my life…Ibsen, Shaw.. Balzac’s Seriphita, some Yogi books and his own sonnets – he was writing one a day at that time, he said, for practice, “while I brush my teeth.” [ H.D. talks further of his ‘hyacinth curls’ ]… Ezra would periodically appear completely shorn in the manner of a pre-war Prussian. He gave me a photograph which people found morbid, profile, with the hair shorn as for a helmet. He  had theatrically drawn down his mouth in a grim young Dante expression.

There was another photograph of Ezra in some sort of cadet uniform, when for a short time, as a child, he went to a military Academy. There was another of Ezra with lace collar and proper Fauntleroy corkscrew curls. Remember our older brothers were all the little Lords…. I don’t know  just when the Paderewski mop became wiry and stiff , but a bit Struuwelpeter. There was a Whistler period when Ezra appeared in a short waisted Regency overcoat. At that time, he carried an elegant ebony stick. There was a little beard, he looked like a painter as he looked like a musician… I remember in London, perhaps 1913, appearing as I thought rather smartly and very correct in a new costume or skirt. Ezra turned regarding me critically, he said “you look like a mast or a mizzen-head.”… Once he deigned to admire a rather ‘period’ hat`I was wearing.  “The two best-dressed women in London liked your hat” he said; they were Olivia and Dorothy Shakespeare.

Once he turned on me “Can’t you do something about yourself? You never manage to look like anything but a coal scuttle or a Greek goddess”‘…[The rest of the letter tells of a fancy dress dance with people dressed as gypsies and harlequins where Ezra gave away his much admired  green coat to ‘Louisa’ ( ‘the Primavera of the moment’) for a ‘Matilda’ whose gifted elder sister had just been ‘pronounced hopelessly insane. These two women seem to have no other mention in any Pound biography..]

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