The Correspondence of Ezra Pound: Pound/Lewis: The Letters of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis

The Correspondence of Ezra Pound: Pound/Lewis: The Letters of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis

The Correspondence of Ezra Pound: Pound/Lewis: The Letters of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis

The Correspondence of Ezra Pound: Pound/Lewis: The Letters of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis

Synopsis

The friendship of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis began in London in 1909, survived two European wars and the rise and fall of the totalitarian governments both men misguidedly supported, and lasted through Pound's years of confinement at St. Elizabeths, to Lewis's death in 1957. In Pound/Lewis, their correspondence of five decades is gathered for the first time; it proves a revealing reflection of their intense, always professional, mutual regard.

Excerpt

If a personal letter is an attempt "to give back a reflection of the other person," as Virginia Woolf thought, the letters of Ezra Pound are not "personal" in any usual sense. He is utterly unlike such famous letter writers of English literature as Lord Byron and D. H. Lawrence, who are rich in anecdotes and observations about everyday life. Not even James Joyce's letters are so limited to the world of writing and publishing. As a correspondent Pound is what Wyndham Lewis called him, a "Rock Drill," blasting away tirelessly to move someone to some good action for the republic of letters. The letters Pound himself includes in his Cantos, from the ones found in Sigismondo Malatesta's postbag to those written by John Adams, usually concern practical rather than personal matters. Lewis scarcely exaggerated when he said that Pound's letters "can be of no interest to anyone but a writer. It is a craftsman speaking throughout about his craft, and the single-minded concentration is magnificent." It is magnificent because his involvement in the life of literature, unlike Joyce's, is impersonal; he is as unselfishly interested in furthering the careers of other writers as he is in furthering his own. He felt that any number of writers, from Iris Barry to T. S. Eliot, needed "Uncle Ez" to look after them. Many letters in this collection demonstrate his generosity; for instance his self-effacement when he recommended Lewis to the Guggenheim Foundation in 1925 without a thought of applying for a fellowship himself is characteristic.

His self-effacement, however, is matched by a paradoxical self-assertion that could be annoying as well as "magnificent." The assumption behind almost any letter by Ezra Pound is that the fate of culture, and not just literary culture, depends on his actions; and this assumption could be disturbing if his current plan was to set up an embarrassing charitable fund, as he wished to do for Eliot, or an impractical publicity scheme, as he often tried to do for Wyndham Lewis. Lewis was profoundly troubled by the contradictory quality of Pound's character and considered the problem in both his essays and his fiction. In his review of Pound Selected Letters, he wrote that the "tone of the letters almost from the beginning is authoritarian, not to say pontificatory," and he thought it seemed a "rather strange . . .

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