End to Torment Critical Context - Essay

Hilda Doolittle

Critical Context

As the titles of so many biographical studies of H. D. suggest, her life was one long attempt at self-definition. This attempt at self-definition is serious, imaginative, and multiform. One of H. D.’s principal strategies of self-definition is to attempt to “read” or interpret others as versions of, analogues to, or comments on herself. That is also the primary technique of End to Torment, in which Pound’s torment and hers become one.

The reader can see this autobiographical technique employed in many of her novels as well as her longer poems, where figures from her life emerge as characters. For example, in the autobiographical novel Her (1981, written 1927), Pound emerges as the character George Lowndes; or her friend and analyst Dr. Heydt emerges as the figure of Paris in her poetic trilogy Helen in Egypt (1961, written 1952-1956). Thus the memoir End to Torment continually seeks palimpsestual analogues, where Pound becomes Aldington or Frances Gregg or Dr. Heydt. This technique is clearly related to and derives from her earlier memoir, Tribute to Freud (1956). Pound and Freud are both autobiographical father figures who aid H. D. in generating metaphors to interpret her own life.

End to Torment is also significant in that it sheds light on this early romance of Pound. It is thus crucial to biographers of both poets: It not only reveals specific details of their lives—particularly how Hilda Doolittle’s father reacted to their courtship—but also suggests how each artist may have viewed these details.