Form and Content
In March, 1958, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) was in Kusnacht, Switzerland, recovering from an injury that she had suffered as the result of a fall. Her doctor, Erich Heydt, a psychoanalyst, encouraged her to keep a journal in which she recorded and explored her feelings for Ezra Pound. She was seventy-two years old when she began the journal; she had first met Pound in 1901 in Philadelphia and later had fallen in love with him and had become engaged to him. Fifty-seven years later, on March 7, when she began the journal, Ezra Pound was in his twelfth year of confinement in St. Elizabeths hospital in Washington, D.C., having in 1946 been judged mentally incompetent to stand trial for treason. Though an American citizen, Pound had, during World War II, broadcast a series of cultural diatribes over Rome Radio. The broadcasts revealed many of Pound’s literary and intellectual obsessions, and they were often anti-Semitic and pro-Fascist. Given the war, these broadcasts so antagonized American authorities that, at the end of the war, they imprisoned him in Pisa (Italy) and had him brought to the United States for trial.
In this memoir, H. D. recalls her first meetings with Pound, the romance they shared, the crossing of their paths in London (1908-1919) and, later, in Paris, and the metaphorical and artistic links between them. At the time that H. D. was writing, Pound was still hardly a popular figure, but the postwar vindictiveness against him had faded, and there was a growing movement—initiated by Archibald MacLeish, supported by Ernest Hemingway, and featuring Robert Frost as its spokesman—to free Pound from the mental asylum and from trial for treason. H. D. is sympathetic to her old friend and former romantic fixation, and in her journal she follows the various published comments and analyses that were part of the process of Pound’s achieving freedom. The journal ends (July 13, 1958) with Pound’s freedom, as H. D. received a letter from Norman Pearson informing her that Pound had left for Italy on the cruise ship Cristoforo Colombo.
Presumably this release was the end of Pound’s torment, and of H. D.’s, in sympathy for and reminiscence of him. She sent the manuscript of her journal to his retreat at Brunnenburg, Italy; though he liked the title End to Torment, he commented that it was “optimistic.” H.D. died two years later; Norman Pearson died in 1975, while working on her manuscript. The editing task was finally completed by Michael King, and the manuscript was published in 1979.
The memoir’s form is that of a journal. Each section is preceded by a date, sometimes including the day of the week (or, at Eastertime, noting “Good Friday,” “Easter Saturday,” “Easter Monday”). This journal is the book’s center and raison d’etre, yet it consists of only fifty-nine pages. The journal is preceded by a six-page foreword by Michael King, explaining the circumstances of the journal as well as some of the background of the...
(The entire section is 1222 words.)