Auto/biographese and Auto/biografiction in Verse: Ezra Pound and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
Auto/biographese and Auto/biografiction in Verse: Ezra Pound and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter suggests a new reading of one of Pound's most contested works in terms of the contexts provided in Part I. In particular, Pound's parody of aestheticism is compared to Beerbohm's in Seven Men. The critical tradition has been excessively preoccupied with trying to identify the speakers and ‘originals’ of each section of Mauberley. It argues that, seen in relation to the growing interest in portrait collections, composite portraiture, the disturbances in auto/biography, and imaginary art‐works, this poem sequence can be read as a parody of the forms of literary memoir, through which Pound also explores autobiography.
Keywords: Ezra Pound, modernism, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, aestheticism, Max Beerbohm, Seven Men, portrait collection, parody, memoir, auto/biography, autobiography, allobiography, metabiography, Peter Brooker, Ford Madox Ford, Enoch Soames, Logopoeia, autobiographese, turn of the century, Fin de siècle, decadence
‘The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.’1
Voice and form
Stephen Dedalus's Flaubertian image of artistic impersonality is often quoted as Joyce's credo, usually without the irony being noted of its being uttered by a fictionalized persona, in a novel so intensely autobiographical that the artist is visible everywhere. I have proposed a particular way of conceiving A Portrait of the Artist as an instance of modernist im/personality. That reading accepts earlier interpretations which have stressed the autobiographical content (such as Ellmann's), or which read the novel as ‘aesthetic autobiography’ (such as Nalbantian's). I enclose these readings within another, arguing that Joyce may have found a technical device that enabled him to turn himself inside out, and achieve a greater impersonality than has previously been recognized, by presenting not his own autobiographical novel, but the one that Stephen might have written: even critics reluctant to entertain that possibility will recognize that it is an experiment in autobiografiction.
Of all the modernists, it is Eliot and Pound who seem most intractable to such claims. Few might have predicted that the scourge of ‘personality’ and liberal individualism, Wyndham Lewis, would write autobiography, but he did. Some, like Virginia Woolf, who didn't write formal autobiography nonetheless wrote autobiographical novels, diaries, even autobiographical sketches and biography. Eliot, whose essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ was the most influential single contribution to establishing the doctrine of modernist impersonality, (p.372) consistently defended his position, and sustained a principled refusal of biographical readings of his own work. Eliot's immense influence on Anglo‐American literature for at least half a century both guaranteed the dominance of his critical position, and provoked discussions of ways in which his work appears more autobiographical than his precepts allow.2 Pound's case is both less familiar and more complex, at least from the point of view of im/personality, and it is with his work that this chapter is concerned.
‘AS usual, pubrs/ continue to want naughtyboyography’, Pound wrote to Ford Madox Ford in 1933: ‘IF I expressed my opinion of 20% of the shits I have encountered the bk/ wd. Be too libelous to print. And what intelligence I have encountered, I have already mentioned in my articles on this thet an tother.’3 ‘Naughtyboyography’ is an inspired Pound coinage, suggesting both what he thought his own would be like (or at least what he thought his publishers wanted it to be like), and what he thought was wrong with the form: a smug and staid retrospect on a misspent youth, titillating its readers with escapades for which it purports to express contrition. Yet it is typical of Pound's genius that such imaginative energies are inseparable from the energy of vituperation, which can only imagine his life story as a narrative of encounters with one damned shit after another. If he was wise to resist the advances of publishers then, how much wiser not to attempt autobiography after his disastrous involvement with Italian Fascism.
This chapter is concerned with an earlier phase of Pound's life and work, before he moved to Italy in 1925, three years after Mussolini had come to power. My argument is that while Pound appears to distance himself from auto/biography, his work represents a significant modernist engagement with it. There is a trace of it even as he distances himself from ‘naughtyboyography’, when he adds: ‘what intelligence I have encountered, I have already mentioned in my articles […]’; as if to concede (following Wilde and Nietzsche) that his autobiography—at least his intellectual autobiography—can be found in his criticism: that in other words all his writing has an autobiographical dimension, though not of the salacious kind to interest the publishers. As suggested in the Preface, the Wilde–Nietzsche argument can be read as an extension of Romantic expressive theory: insofar as works of art are the best expression of an author's personality, they are equally his or her best autobiography. Pound does here exactly what Philippe Lejeune notes about the trope of writers calling their fiction their true autobiography: denigrating the notion of formal autobiography, while nonetheless using the autobiographic as the criterion for judgement (i.e. the critical essays (p.373)
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley was first published by John Rodker's Ovid Press in London in 1920. It consists of a pair of sequences of short poems. Part I, which has no overall title, contains twelve poems, five of which are titled, the other seven headed just by roman numerals. Then there is an ‘Envoi: 1919’, marked off as a separate section on the title page, but usually taken by critics as the end of Part I, in parallel to the final poem of Part II. Part II is headed by the date ‘1920’, with ‘(Mauberley)’ below it.5 It consists of just five poems. These all have roman numerals (on the title page, though the first loses its numeral above the poem itself). Two also have titles: ‘The Age Demanded’, which phrase is a quotation from the first line of poem II in Part I; and the final poem, ‘Medallion’.
The whole work is notoriously difficult, of comparable difficulty to Eliot's ‘The Waste Land’. It is richly allusive; profoundly elliptical, ironic, and ambiguous. Unlike ‘The Waste Land’, it is mostly stanzaic, predominantly in partially rhymed quatrains, of fairly short (mainly trimeter) lines. But while each individual poem thus looks complete on the page, the effect of the whole work is of a gathering of disparate fragments. In his famously surgical editing of ‘The Waste Land’, Pound made Eliot's poem more like his own, opening up the gaps between the sections to problematize the coherence of the whole.
Much of the critical commentary on Hugh Selwyn Mauberley has been concerned with just that: its coherence or unity; and specifically, with how to understand the relations between the various parts. And, as with ‘The Waste Land’, the issue of coherence is bound up with the issue of voice: of who is speaking, and how we can know. Eliot's poem is a mélange of voices (a working title was ‘He do the Police in Different Voices’, quoted from a voice in Dickens's Our Mutual Friend). We saw how Eliot's notes describe Tiresias as not a ‘ (p.375) character’ but a ‘personage’. But what is the difference? Tiresias is said to unite the other people in the poem (and what of them? Are they characters, or also only personages? Eliot doesn't say) because as a seer he participates in events at all times, and according to the myth he has lived as both man and woman. But perhaps this very inclusiveness is what prevents him from having an individual ‘character’ at all. In this respect, ‘The Waste Land’ is anti‐biography; an expression of someone who cannot be said to have an individual life story. ‘What Tiresias sees,’ the note continues, ‘in fact, is the substance of the poem.’ But without Eliot's note, we couldn't guess that the focalizer of the other voices was Tiresias. The notes also suggest that the other personages combine to form an imaginary portrait of Tiresias: ‘Just as the one‐eyed merchant seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is now wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias.’ Hugh Selwyn Mauberley finds its own ways of problematizing person‐hood and subjectivity; in establishing where one person or voice ends, and the next begins.
Pound's poem makes us ask why it has been separated into two sequences; why the second alludes to the first; and why the second is headed with the eponym's surname (as if to suggest that the second sequence is somehow more ‘Mauberley’ than the first). As Peter Brooker explains, ‘the essential critical debate’ about the whole poem is ‘the relation of Pound to the fictitious Mauberley.’6 He quotes the letter to Felix Schelling in which Pound says: ‘(Of course, I'm no more Mauberley than Eliot is Prufrock. Mais passons.) Mauberley is a mere surface. Again a study in form, an attempt to condense the James novel.'7 Brooker's A Student's Guide to the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound is an indispensable resource for the understanding of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, and I am more grateful for his scrupulous scholarship than might appear from my occasional dissent from his interpretations. Brooker cites this passage as evidence that ‘Pound himself maintained that Mauberley was unequivocally a distinct persona’. Certainly he distinguished Mauberley from himself; but is it so clear that Mauberley is a ‘persona’? Or, more to the point, if he is, is he more of a ‘personage’ than a ‘character’? These questions would matter were the form that of a dramatic monologue, in which the separation between poet and speaker is required for the monologue to be dramatic. If we were to feel that a Browning monologue were just the poet in yet another fancy‐dress outfit, the poem would have failed, since the raison d'être of dramatic monologue is to present a character, torn out of the context of their life, but speaking so as to convince us of the reality of their character and predicament. There's no doubt who the speaker is in a poem like ‘ (p.376) My Last Duchess’, or in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. The problem in Pound's ‘study in form’ is that it is impossible to be certain who is speaking which poem. Furthermore (as argued in Chapter 7), in a Victorian dramatic monologue, part of the convention is usually that the speaker is just talking, and not aware that s/he is uttering verse. The versification signals the distance between speaker and poet. Thus the poet can truly be said to be ‘behind or beyond or above his handiwork’; ‘invisible’ in the sense that the only words we have are the speaker's; but visible in the sense that the poetry is the poet's, not the speaker's. But in Pound's poem, Mauberley is a poet; and the first poem mentions another poet, one ‘E. P.’, in its title: ‘E. P.: ODE POUR L'ÉLECTION DE SON SÉPULCHRE’. The commentators tell us that this is an allusion to Ronsard's ‘De l'Élection de son sépulchre’ (On the Choice of his Grave), combined with a pun on the classical term ‘Epode’: ‘a lyric metre, or after‐song of sombre character.’8 But such explications are further complications. The poem alludes to another poem in which the poet imagines his own premature death: Villon's ‘Le Testament’:
- Unaffected by ‘the march of events’,
- He passed from men's memory in l'an trentuniesme
- De son eage; the case presents
- No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.
Both the Ronsard and the Villon allusions align the poem as the poet's utterance: ‘E. P.’ imagining his own death; writing his own obituary. Yet Pound appeared to have something else in mind, at least in his subsequent comment on his critics: ‘The worst muddle they make is in failing to see that Mauberley buries E. P. in the first poem; gets rid of all his troublesome energies.’9 If Mauberley buries E. P., then Mauberley is speaking, or writing, the first poem. The debate about the relation between Pound and Mauberley has thus also been a debate about which of the two voices to attribute to each poem. And, as here, it is disingenuous of Pound to claim that the muddle is of the critics' making, since he has left the poems so open to such debates.
To say that Mauberley buries E. P. in the first poem, and that Pound is ‘no more Mauberley than Eliot is Prufrock’, is to suggest that Mauberley is to be conceived as the speaker of the entire work. However, there are two problems with this position. First, whereas the poems in the first sequence are either impersonal comments on the age, or sketches of other literary figures, the emphasis in the second sequence appears to be on Mauberley himself. Yet the first sequence includes first‐person singular utterances in three poems: ‘Siena mi (p.377) Fe’; ‘Mr. Nixon’; and poem XII; four if the ‘Envoi’ is included. Whereas the second sequence is all in the third person, and is lethally critical of its object:
- Incapable of the least utterance or composition,
- Emendation, conservation of the ‘better tradition’,
- Refinement of medium, elimination of superfluities,
- August attraction or concentration.
- Nothing, in brief, but maudlin confession […]10
It is not inconceivable that a writer could be so damning of himself. Perhaps Pound's point is that such a writer is paralysed by his self‐consciousness. Perhaps it's an example of a kind of English false modesty that he might have found exasperating. Yet it concurs with Pound's judgement of the kind of aesthete that Mauberley is. He wrote (to Schelling again) that ‘the aesthetes since 1880’ weren't ‘a very sturdy lot.’11 To call the writer presented in the poem ‘The Age Demanded’ not very sturdy would be an understatement. His ‘desire for survival’ is ‘Faint’ even ‘in the most strenuous moods’, and he seems to dwindle into obscurity. Thus the attitude towards Mauberley expressed in the second sequence exerts a pressure on us to read that sequence as the comment of someone else—E. P., posterity—on Mauberley, rather than his self‐analysis. (Though again, it's arguable that the form somehow combines the two, inverting the combination I proposed for the first poem: Mauberley impersonating the kind of verdict he knows posterity will accord him.) Such a reading might point to a division whereby Mauberley is the speaker in the first sequence, commenting on E. P., other literary figures, and his times; and the subject of the second sequence is an assessment of him by others.
To illustrate how the critical ‘muddle’ survived Pound's attempt to clear it up, witness Peter Brooker's comment on Pound's admiration for what he called the ‘hardness’ of French poetry such as Gautier's:
But this would hardly seem to distinguish Pound from Mauberley since it is in fact Mauberley himself who in his own defence invokes Gautier in the phrase ‘the “sculpture” of rhyme’. And if the attribution here is uncertain, since the speaker at this point in the poem is uncertain, then what of ‘Medallion’, the last poem in the sequence and one generally agreed to be Mauberley's own? (But cf. notes on this poem.)12
In what sense are the words about the sculpture of rhyme ‘in fact’ Mauberley's, if the speaker is uncertain? The final parenthesis concedes that agreement about the speaker of ‘Medallion’ isn't general at all. The notes cite Jo Brantley Berryman's argument that both the ‘Envoi’ and ‘Medallion’ refer to the same person, the singer Raymonde Collignon, whom Pound had heard, admired, and reviewed.13 Brooker doesn't mention that Donald Davie, perhaps the most influential British (p.378) Poundian, had in 1975 very deliberately recanted his view that ‘Medallion’ was offered as an example of Mauberley's work, in a rather Poundian attempt to respond to the uncertainty by finding new grounds for denying it:
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is a mask that continually slips […] What is the mask for if, as often as not, the poet throws it off and speaks vulnerably as from himself ? More distractingly still, since we are advised of the mask in the very title, how are we to know in which poems Pound speaks through the mask, in which he doesn't? An end came to much special pleading on this score when Mrs Berryman showed that ‘Medallion’ must be taken as spoken with pride in propria persona, though most earlier commentaries (including my own) had supposed it must be uttered in the assumed character of Mauberley.14
‘[M]ust be taken’? Berryman's evidence ‘showed’ that ‘Medallion’ echoes Pound's reviews of Collignon. But it can't prove what attitude he took, or expects us to take, towards the two poems recalling her singing. Berryman argues that Pound means to contrast two poetic modes of responding to the same event: the lyric mode of ‘Envoi’, or the more visual, sculptural mode of ‘Medallion’. Yet he could equally be imagining how a good poet and a bad poet would both represent the same event. Just as I have suggested Joyce needed to purge himself of aestheticism through representing Stephen's aestheticism, might not Pound be impersonating the kind of poet he feared he had been, or feared he might have become, had he not met and read modernists such as Ford, Lewis, Eliot, and Joyce?15 In other words, he might be recalling Collignon's concert in order to show how perilously close he had come to turning into Mauberley. (That is to suggest that Mauberley is not only an imaginary portrait, but also an imaginary self‐portrait: more of that anon.) Davie saw Hugh Selwyn Mauberley as overrated, in comparison to The Cantos. Even if one disagrees with his valuation (as I do), his criticism of its slipping mask is a cogent statement of the uncertainty about utterance throughout the poem. The attempt to find at least one site of certainty comes comically unstuck when, having noted that Pound's admiration of ‘robust self‐exposure’ in poets such as Villon was ‘precisely what the doctrines of “persona” and “mask” were designed to obviate’ in Eliot and Yeats, he writes of Pound speaking ‘in propria persona’. This raises precisely the possibility that his argument is trying to obviate: that Pound's self might, at least in a poem such as this, be another ‘persona’, an impersonation of an attitude rather than a robust expression of a conviction.
(p.379) A. David Moody is equally impatient with the debate about the poem's voices. In his study Ezra Pound: Poet he comments wearily apropos ‘Medallion’: ‘Again the question is raised, whose poem is this?’ And as when it was raised apropos the ‘Envoi’, he answers: ‘again, the answer must be that it is E. P.'s treatment of Mauberley's art.’16 But this forecloses all the questions the poem opens up. What is the relation between E. P. and Ezra Pound? What kind of ‘treatment’ is at stake? Is it a fictionalized or semi‐fictionalized narrator, ‘E. P.’, giving his verdict on Mauberley's art? That is, is E. P. commenting on Mauberley? Or is it an impersonation of Mauberley? And if so, by whom? Is it a fully fictionally authored poem: an example of a poem written by Mauberley? Or is it possible (if improbable) that Pound might have toyed with the idea of writing a fictionally authored parody by ‘E. P.’ of the fictional‐authored poems by Mauberley in the first sequence? William H. Pritchard described Moody's book as including: ‘a heroic attempt to sort out the complicated interplay between Pound the writer, and his persona, Mauberley (also a poet), by way of ascertaining just who is speaking at this or that moment and in what tone.’17 Pritchard acknowledges Mauberley to be ‘dense with ambiguity’. But Moody's ‘careful and strenuous attempt to sort it out’ doesn't convince him that, ‘in places, ambiguity is not confusion and incoherence’. The extraordinary allusive density of Pound's work is the source of much of the ambiguity, and many of the anxieties of coherence. But one possible allusion that has largely gone unnoticed points to a different axis of coherence. The image of a medallion for a piece of writing—and a piece of writing about a writer—probably alludes to Mallarmé's Quelques Médaillons et portraits en pied (‘Some Medallions and full‐length portraits’). These sketches of different lengths, of Villiers de L'Isle‐Adam, Poe, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and others, were collected in a volume called Divagations (1897), which Pound surely knew (and presumably had in mind when he titled his own later collection of prose pieces Pavannes and Divagations; 1958).18 The possibility that Pound's poem ‘Medallion’ alludes to Mallarmé doesn't disambiguate the question of voice. But it does add to the weight of evidence placing the poem, and the sequences, in a tradition of poets writing epitaphs on fellow‐poets. And, more germanely to our study, it emphasizes the idea of the poem as condensed life‐writing: biographical or autobiographical studies presented as ‘medallions’. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, that is, can be read as an experiment in the presentation of the literary life. It isn't (p.380) only that it can be read in this way regardless of whose voice is imagined speaking each poem; but that the haze of ambiguity about individual voices is what allows its outlines as auto/biography to emerge all the more clearly.
The debate about who is speaking has obscured a second kind of ambiguity—that E. P. and Mauberley are both poets; so whichever of them might be ‘speaking’ any particular poem, we cannot be sure whether the writing is offered as an example of their speech (or thought, in Flaubertian free indirect style) or whether it's being offered as an example of their writing, their poetry. Davie's verbs—‘spoken in propria persona’; ‘uttered in the assumed character’—curiously insist on the speech act in discussing words that are in verse, and possibly intended as song. It is perhaps the habit of a poet used to reciting his own verse. But for most readers, the possibility that what we have, at least in some of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, and possibly in a lot of it, is Pound's impersonation not of Mauberley's speaking, but of his poetry‐writing, adds a further degree of uncertainty. I think this is what accounts for much of the critical perplexity, though the reason has not been identified, namely, that as in Joyce's Portrait, what Pound is doing is presenting fictional creativity: imaginary authorship: heteronymity. Given Stephen's aestheticism, and that of his villanelle, it may well have been Portrait that gave Pound the idea. Fictional creativity complicates our response because whereas a poet publishing a poem as his or her own must be assumed to think it good enough, a poet publishing a poem as if written by a fictional poet may think differently, and we have to try to second‐guess the real poet's opinion of the fictional one. Peter Brooker quotes Gautier's account of his own Émaux et Camées (‘Chaque pièce devait être un médaillon.…’), saying of ‘Medallion’: ‘Whether the poem is then to be regarded as Pound's own or Mauberley's is a question of its success in these terms.’19 Meaning that if it fails, it's Mauberley's, whereas if it succeeds, it's Pound's. But what if Pound had intended it as an example of Mauberley's one success? What if he sees it as a successful example of a mode he disliked? What if he intends it as an example of ‘E. P.’ trying to write the wrong kind of poem—and doing it either well or badly?
The conceit that ‘E. P.’ has died could be said to have a curious effect on Pound's propria persona. It makes the ‘E. P.’ commented on by Mauberley into precisely, a persona of Pound's: ‘E. P.’ rather than ‘Ezra Pound’. And this gives any words uttered by that persona a curious doubleness, since they also become examples of fictional creativity: poems that the ‘E. P.’ who died might have written, rather than the Ezra Pound writing Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. But then, in its first edition, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley wasn't published as being by Ezra Pound. The only identification on the title‐page and cover was that the volume was by—‘E. P.’ The ‘E. P.’ device thus also manages to turn ‘Ezra Pound’ himself (p.381) into an imaginary portrait too, who signs himself with the semi‐anonymizing initials familiar from fin de siècle autobiografiction.
During the First World War, some six years before he completed Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Pound had elaborated his interest in the ideas of mask and persona in an essay on Vorticism, which he reprinted in his book of 1916—itself an important example of innovative Modernist memoir—on the sculptor Henri Gaudier‐Brzeska:
In the ‘search for oneself’, in the search for ‘sincere self‐expression’, one gropes, one finds some seeming verity. One says ‘I am’ this, that, or the other, and with the words scarcely uttered one ceases to be that thing.
I began this search for the real in a book called Personae, casting off, as it were, complete masks of the self in each poem. I continued in the long series of translations, which were but more elaborate masks.20
This is enough to make one wonder whether it really was ‘robust self‐expression’ that Pound admired in other poets, or whether it wasn't instead the kind of impersonation of subjectivity countenanced here. Presumably Davie, himself a master of what he (autobiographically?) calls ‘robust self‐expression’, would have rejected the idea that with such self‐expression the self ceases to be what has been expressed. Pound wasn't writing here about Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. But the translation of the author's name from Ezra Pound into just his initials may indicate that he intended ‘E. P.’ as just such a complete mask of the self, or that he intended both Mauberley and E. P.—and perhaps the other figures in the sequence too—as an elaborate confrontation of such masks.
Pound's Imaginary Portraiture
Pound had been experimenting energetically with the persona for a decade at least: in his 1909 poems Personae ; in his adaptations from the Chinese in Cathay ; and the Latin in Homage to Sextus Propertius ; and in a series of ‘Imaginary Letters’ from the fictional persona of ‘Walter Villerant’ (which have been discussed in relation to the persona of Mauberley, but not to imaginary portraiture).21 The mask or persona is a development of the Aesthetic idea of the imaginary portrait. It is more stylized, more modernist, certainly. But it extends aestheticism's exploration of imaginary, or fictional subjectivities. And it is with Pound's appropriation of these ideas, in a work unmistakably about aestheticism, that this chapter is concerned. I have suggested that (as in Joyce) the imagining of (p.382) fictional creativity is often bound up with the production of an imaginary portrait. Whereas Susanne Nalbantian argues that her key works proceed as autobiography combined with commentary on their own aesthetics, I submit that many key works of modernist autobiografiction incorporate or consist of examples of heteronymous creativity: that they are often imaginary auto/biography, in which rather than telling the story of how the author became an author, the emergence of a creative persona is projected onto a fictional character—Stephen Dedalus or Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. I shall return to Pound's use of fictional creativity later, but first need to consider exactly how Hugh Selwyn Mauberley engages with the idea of auto/biography.
John J. Espey notes that in Pound's 1949 Selected Poems, the subtitle of the whole work, ‘(Life and Contacts)’, was removed, together with the epigraph from Nemesianus, and a note added for the 1926 collection Personae saying: ‘The sequence is so distinctly a farewell to London that the reader who chooses to regard this as an exclusively American edition may as well omit it and turn at once to page 205.’ Espey says ‘These deletions seem to be indications of the relative unimportance of the original epigraph and subtitle.’22 My contention is that he couldn't be more wrong. He wasn't to know in 1955 that in 1958 both epigraph and subtitle were to be reintroduced, but with the subtitle revised into ‘Contacts and Life.’23 Their reintroduction casts doubt over whether Pound had in fact sanctioned their omission in 1949, when, confined to St Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and arguably still traumatized by his captivity, and the arguments over whether he should be tried (and perhaps executed) for treason, he had other things on his mind. The only piece Pound published called ‘Autobiography’ was a single page prefatory sketch in telegraphese for the 1949 Selected Poems :
- Born, Hailey, Idaho, 30 Oct. 1885.
- Educ. U. of Penn and Hamilton. PhD.'05. M.A.'06
- Published. 1908. Venice; A Lume Spento.
- 1909, Mathews, London. Personae, Exultations.
- Thereafter some 40 volumes, in London till 1910.24
(p.383) Some staccato paragraphs follow retailing his study of economic theory, carefully described here as ‘investigation of causes of war, to oppose same’, and leading to his ‘first visit to U.S. since 1910 in endeavour to stave off war’ in 1939, and the claim that his notorious Rome radio broadcasts were ‘for personal propaganda in support of U. S. Constitution, continuing after America's official entry into the war only on condition that he should never be asked to say anything contrary to his conscience or contrary to his duties as an American Citizen.’25 That emergence of the third‐person pronoun out of the impersonal curriculum vitae is not the most interesting thing about this understandably defensive document. But it does suggest that the notion of impersonal or third person highly stylized auto/biography, like his initializing and objectifying himself as ‘E.P.’, was still of interest to him.
Pound told his New Directions publisher, James Laughlin, that the rearranged subtitle of Mauberley—‘Contacts and Life’—followed ‘the actual order of the subject matter.’26 In the rest of this chapter I propose a new reading of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley that takes its subtitle or subtitles seriously; that draws on K. K. Ruthven's suggestion that ‘The original subtitle parodies the phrase “life and letters” and is an ironic comment on the modern formula for literary success’;27 and that reads the work in the light of Pound's claim that ‘Contacts and Life’ represents ‘the actual order of the subject matter’. It was certainly his view of Mauberley's order when, soon after writing it, he included a sketch of its plan in a letter to a potential French translator:
Et puis il y a ‘Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, life and contacts’ mon dernier petit livre, qui est le sujet modern avec le decor modern. Je crois que je vous ai explique [sic] l'architecture de cet libre [sic].
- Le jeun[e] homme
- Les gens qu'il rencontre a Londres.
- Lui meme [sic]
- Son roman,
Pound's change of mind over the order of the subtitle (here as later) both confirms the importance of auto/biography to the work, and explains what is probably the reason for its neglect: namely that there is a tension between the (p.384) cliché or near‐cliché phrase, ‘Life and Contacts’, signalling how Pound is parodying or pastiching the etiolated literary memoir of a minor aesthete, and the order in which the sequences actually operate, giving us the ‘Contacts’ before the ‘Life’. That is, there is a flaw in the composition which has obscured Pound's design. He needed the phrase ‘Life and Contacts’, the order of which chimes with other familiar biographical forms—‘Life and Times’, ‘Life and Letters’, ‘Life and Work’. ‘Contacts and Life’ sounds awkwardly inverted, and wouldn't alert us to the formal games he is playing with the conventions of literary memoir‐writing. But ‘Life and Contacts’ didn't alert his readers to it either, because the order of the poem didn't match it. Any attempt to equate the first sequence with Mauberley's ‘Life’ (it is about a series of other literary figures; his ‘contacts’) and the second sequence with his ‘Contacts’ (it is headed with Mauberley's name, and is about the life of an otherwise unnamed aesthete, presumably a single person, and thus presumably Mauberley) is doomed to failure. It is easy to see how critics would be discouraged from attending to the subtitle.
But what if we do read the whole work as Pound tells us to: as a poem whose subject matter is Mauberley's ‘Contacts and Life’? What difference might this make to the received critical debate over the attribution of each component poem to Mauberley or Pound (or ‘E. P.’)?
The first thing to say (to focus on what has already been implied) is that this is to read the whole work as a gallery of imaginary portraits. Mauberley himself is undeniably the central figure: not only the subject of at least the first four poems of the second sequence, possibly the author of the last poem, ‘Medallion’, and also the person whose name the whole work bears as its title. ‘E. P.’ is perhaps the next most important figure, though as we have seen, Pound said Mauberley buried him in the first poem: the only one in which he is mentioned. But there are various others, several named, others indicated. In the first sequence there is the woman of ‘Yeux Glauques’; ‘Monsieur Verog’ of ‘Siena Mi fe', disfecemi Maremma’; ‘Brennbaum’; ‘Mr. Nixon’; there is ‘the Lady Valentine’ of poem XII. There are also the two unnamed figures: ‘the stylist’ of poem X; and the ‘ “Conservatrix of Milésien” / Habits of mind and feeling’ of poem XI.
With the second sequence there is more uncertainty. The subject of each component poem is not named. My reading presumes they are all aspects of Mauberley (hence ‘lui même’); that they represent his ‘Life’, and that is why his name appears in the overall title for this sequence. The pattern established by the first sequence, in which most of the component poems sketch a different portrait, may set up an expectation that these are distinct figures. If they are all spoken by Mauberley, they might be imaginary portraits of aesthetes which together compose an imaginary self‐portrait. I shall return to this sequence later, but first let us consider Part I, and its less phantasmal portraits.
E. P. in the first poem has already been discussed. What needs adding here is the way he is introduced: as a writer striving ‘to resuscitate the dead art / Of poetry’, but somehow ‘out of key with his time’, because ‘Unaffected by “ (p.385) the march of events” ’. The narrator only buries him to the extent of saying ‘He passed from men's memory’ in his thirtieth (or in one variant, thirty first) year; not that he actually died. Pound was thirty in 1915; the year he read ‘Prufrock’, in which Eliot imagined a speaker much older than himself, who may (the epigraph implies) already be dead. In August 1911 he had visited Ford Madox Ford (then Hueffer) in Germany for three weeks, and acted as his secretary. With his usual generosity to younger writers, Ford read Pound's later poems, and enacted the most unforgettable criticism Pound received. Nearly thirty years later, in Ford's obituary, he wrote how Ford ‘felt the errors’ of the writing:
to the point of rolling (physically, and if you look at it as mere superficial snob, ridiculously) on the floor […] when my third volume displayed me trapped, fly‐papered, gummed and strapped down in a jejune provincial effort to learn, mehercule, the stilted language that then passed for ‘good English’ in the arthritic milieu that held control of the respected British critical circles […]
And that roll saved me at least two years, perhaps more. It sent me back to my own proper effort, namely, toward using the living tongue (with younger men after me), though none of us has found a more natural language than Ford did.29
Pound remained grateful for what he recognized was a turning point in his literary career; the realization he needed to be able to turn himself from a pasticheur of the aesthetes into a truly modern, or as we would say now, modernist, poet. The E. P. in the first poem of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley may thus be Pound's mask of the poet he was until around 1915; the thing Ford had helped him cease to be.
The next four poems in Part I explore the time that E. P. was out of key with. Though no specific characters are presented, they form an important set of contexts for the presentation not only of E. P., but also of the imaginary portraits which follow. Each is a complex performance, bristling with savage irony, wordplay, allusion and provocation. At the risk of gross oversimplification (not least because the poems' concerns overlap) their primary concerns are respectively: modern art; modern culture; the First World War; and its effect on civilization.
Poem II appears to contrast the Imagist movement with popular art and entertainment. ‘The age demanded an image’, but not the ‘image’ of the Imagists; rather, an image ‘of its accelerated grimace’. Here Pound appears to be saying a farewell to the London‐based Imagism of which he was prime mover, (p.386) as part of his farewell to London; and also to what he calls ‘the “sculpture” of rhyme’, alluding to his admiration not only for Gautier's sculptural images for poetry, but for his near‐namesake the Vorticist sculptor Gaudier.
The third poem presents a broader picture of cultural change, encompassing fashion, lyric, religion, aesthetics, and politics. No explicit judgement is made, but the laconic bitter tone suggests degeneration in all aspects: a time which it would be no disgrace to be out of key with.
The fourth poem stands out from all the others. It is the only poem in the whole of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley without regular stanzas, though it has stanza breaks. It has some half rhymes in lines 5–10, and some line‐end repetitions, but is otherwise unrhymed. Pound said: ‘The metre in Mauberley is Gautier and Bion's “Adonis”; or at least those are the two grafts I was trying to flavour it with. Syncopation from the Greek; and a general distaste for the slushiness and swishiness of the post‐Swinburnian British line.’30 Where the metrics of the other poems are those of Gautier or Laforgue, it is this one that has been seen as most closely modelled on Bion. That Pound uses the model of Bion's Lament for Adonis for a poem about the war is a poignant irony: the language itself is deeply unsentimental:
- These fought in any case,
- and some believing,
- pro domo, in any case…
- Some quick to arm,
- some for adventure,
- some from fear of weakness,
- some from fear of censure,
- some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
- learning later…
- some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
But the rhythmic allusion allows the poem to stand as a lament for the war's waste of youth and beauty, while avoiding the sentimental idealizations of the Swinburnian aesthetes or their Georgian successors. It also stands out as the most rhetorical and impassioned poem in the work. It doesn't seem possible that it could have been produced by the Mauberley anatomized in the second sequence; nor does it seem to have any connection with Pound's critique of Mauberley's aestheticism (except by avoiding it). It does however express Pound's outrage at the war's slaughter, and especially at the loss of artists such as his friend Gaudier‐Brzeska. It sounds out of key with the rest of the volume. But that is perhaps Pound's point: the war was the central event of the time with which ‘E. P.’ was ‘out of key’. Yet Pound himself refuses to attune himself to what the age demands: especially when it demands topically militaristic clichés such as ‘the march of events’. Those (p.387) Poundian inverted commas enact a refusal to be in key with the times, to adopt uncritically the phrases of the day.
The other function of this magnificent poem—one of the best war poems written by a non‐combatant—is to emphasize the war as a context for the whole work. ‘Vocat æstus in umbram’. Whatever else Pound may have intended by the epigraph, the idea that ‘the heat calls us into the shade’, stated in 1920, must surely have suggested the heat of battle and the shades of the dead, or the shade of Hades.31 The first of Pound's Cantos, early versions of which had been published during the war, and in 1919, includes a rite in which Odysseus and his companions offer a blood sacrifice to summon the ghosts of the dead, especially that of the seer Tiresias.32 The Trojan War was the inevitable parallel to the Great War for classically minded modernists such as Joyce, Richard Aldington, or Pound. To be alive in London in 1920 must have been to be aware of the ghosts of the war‐dead. ‘I had not thought death had undone so many’, as Eliot has Tiresias see or say in ‘The Waste Land’. The guilt of being alive when so many of your contemporaries and friends had died was intolerable, which is perhaps why Pound imagines his own death in the first poem.
The fifth poem, one of the shortest in the volume, considers the notion that the war‐dead sacrificed themselves to save civilization:
- There died a myriad,
- And of the best, among them,
- For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
- For a botched civilization [….]
- For two gross of broken statues,
- For a few thousand battered books.
These are the last words before the transition to ‘Yeux Glauques’, and the first of the poems anatomizing precisely that pre‐war civilization and its representatives.
The first five poems thus present the contemporary predicament for the artist: especially the demands of modernity, and the after‐effects of the war. Seen in this way, the bitterness in the tone towards the aesthetes becomes clearer. Pound is setting the prevailing poetics before Modernism (what he calls the ‘post‐Swinburnian British line’) in balance with the magnitude of the war, to ask whether it is adequate to the occasion: to ask how aestheticism looks now; what visions of beauty can survive the horror of the Western Front. But he is also, to some extent, holding pre‐war culture responsible for the war. Pound was of course not alone in feeling the need to find someone to blame for the war; not alone, later, in trying to pin the blame on Jews, Liberals, or elders. What is surprising here is the (p.388) suggestion that Pre‐Raphaelite artists or aesthetes were somehow culpable. Equally surprising, perhaps, is the fact the he was not alone here either.33 It may sound an absurd position, but it indicates that Pound's attack on the aesthetes didn't mean that he didn't take aesthetics seriously. On the contrary: his point is that a failure of clarity in language (‘slushiness and swishiness’) conduces to a culpable hypocrisy, solipsism, muddle, and impotence; and in political as well as personal terms. Which is the basis of his critique of an aesthete such as Mauberley; and of the literary establishment's cult of memorializing such minor figures. Pound's verdict on the ‘botched’ pre‐war civilization—‘two gross of broken statues’, ‘a few thousand battered books’—may echo Ford's verdict on the Pre‐Raphaelite Brotherhood: ‘As a producing agency it gave to the world ten or a dozen pictures, five or six poems, a few statues and it has caused an inordinate heap of Memoirs.’34
‘Yeux Glauques’, the next poem, is the first of the other ‘imaginary portraits’ in the volume, and it is of a figure from just this Pre‐Raphaelite milieu. The subject is a woman. She is not named directly, but has been identified as Lizzie Siddal, the model used by Millais and Holman Hunt, and particularly by Rossetti, whom she eventually married.35 The third stanza refers to Burne‐Jones's ‘Cophetua’ (i.e. King Cophetua and the Beggar‐Maid) at the Tate Gallery. The disconnected quotation ‘Ah, poor Jenny's case’ also perhaps points to Siddal, via Rossetti's poem ‘Jenny’, which had been attacked by the critic Robert Buchanan (‘Foetid Buchanan’, to Pound) in a notorious article called ‘The Fleshly School of Poetry’ in the Contemporary Review of 1871. Peter Brooker writes, with impressive concision:
This and the following six poems present a gallery of symptomatic writers, representing the character of literary culture in the latter half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Their inherent limitations and the philistinism of the age are precedents for Mauberley's own ‘case.’36
Certainly writers are mentioned in ‘Yeux Glauques’ (Ruskin, Rossetti) as is Fitzgerald's ‘English Rubaiyat’. The central figure isn't a writer, but a model; two artists who painted Siddal's imaginary portrait as mythical or symbolic figures also figure: Rossetti again (who used her as the model for such paintings as Beata Beatrix), and Burne‐Jones. It is right that this portrait is part of a ‘gallery’; but if ‘symptomatic’, of what? The poem moves from a statement of how the Pre‐Raphaelites were ‘abused’, which appears to defend them, to a criticism of the ‘vacant gaze’ of the archetypal Pre‐Raphaelite woman, as if their presentation of (p.389) passion were itself hopelessly vacuous. There are two issues here. First, Pound takes aestheticism's celebration of the blending of the arts seriously, addressing the function of the visual in poetry not just metaphorically, but through a consideration of real visual artists. Second, though his tone may imply a diagnostic relation to a morbid culture (in which writers may be ‘symptomatic’), his form develops the aesthetic experiment with imaginary portraiture.
One reason for thinking this is that the woman may not be a portrait of Siddal, or not only of her. Violet Hunt, Ford's lover when Pound met him in London, had also modelled for Burne‐Jones. One of her recent biographers argues that ‘Although other women claimed to have sat for the virgin in Burne‐Jones's King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, Violet's features are evident.’37 Pound knew Hunt well, and is bound to have heard about the Pre‐Raphaelites from her, or from her mother Margaret Raine Hunt, when he visited them and Ford in Kensington. Whoever was actually the sitter, what they sat for was an imaginary portrait; a lending of their features for a portrait of an imaginary couple. (King Cophetua is described in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable as an ‘imaginary King of Africa’, referred to by Shakespeare.) If the portrait of the beggar‐maid is a composite portrait of two sitters, it is doubly imaginary. Such concerns matter because they militate against the objection that Pound is writing satires of individual writers, and that satire belongs to a different genre from the imaginary portrait. It is true that the Aesthetic imaginary portraits lack satire. They might be better for it. And it is true that Pound is satirizing the aesthetic milieu. But part of his innovation in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is to achieve just that combination of satiric tone with imaginary portraiture: to engage with the Aesthetic version of auto/biography, but transform it into something more ‘robust’ and energetic. Where Joyce's Portrait satirizes a youthful stage of aesthetic pretension, Pound not only satirizes the whole milieu of aestheticism, but also the way it writes about itself.
The obscurity of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, partly a product of its allusiveness, and partly due to its attack on a milieu long‐forgotten, has had the understandable effect of making critics want to decode it: to identify both the allusions and the figures in the milieu. Readers need expert guides such as Peter Brooker's, which helpfully annotates all the names mentioned. The effect of such annotation, though, is to read the poems as actual portraits, not imaginary ones. In the case of the next poem, ‘Siena Mi fe', disfecemi Maremma’, the case for a specific identification is much stronger:
Verog talks to the speaker ‘For two hours’ of Lionel Johnson, Ernest Dowson, and other members of the ‘Rhymers' Club’. ‘So spoke the author of “The Dorian Mood” ’, says the speaker. Brooker glosses Verog as ‘Victor Gustav Plarr (1863–1929)’. Plarr had indeed been born in Strasburg; had indeed published a volume of poems called In the Dorian Mood (1896); had indeed become Librarian for the Royal College of Surgeons; and Pound had indeed heard his talk, referring to it twice in the Cantos.38
It wasn't only in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley that Pound wanted to produce what he called ‘a portrait of contemporary England, or at least Eng. As she wuz when I left her.’39 In the so‐called ‘Hell Cantos’, XIV and XV, written between 1923 and 1925, his subject was ‘specifically LONDON, the state of English mind in 1919 and 1920’—the year of writing and publishing Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.40 Indeed, the fact that Pound puts the year 1920 together with Mauberley's name as the title to the second sequence suggests that Mauberley portrays a representative of ‘the state of [the] English mind’ at exactly that time. As Peter Brooker notes in connection with the ‘Hell Cantos’:
Pound had attempted such a portrait earlier in Mœurs Contemporaines' (1918), but wrote to James Joyce already in that year of the ‘need of bottling London, some more ample modus than permitted in free‐verse scherzos, and thumb‐nail sketches of Marie Corelli, H. James etc. (in Mœurs Contemporaines).’41
In many ways ‘Mœurs Contemporaines’ is a closer precursor of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, though one Brooker misses. It is a suite of eight such brief sketches of London types mostly concerned with art and aesthetics, with the exception of the first, ‘Mr. Hecatomb Styrax’, whose sexual ‘ineptitudes’ have driven his wife ‘from one religious excess to another’, yet ‘even now Mr. Styrax / Does not believe in aesthetics.’42 It might have been possible to guess that one of the ‘old men with beautiful manners’ in the penultimate poem was Henry James, but only because Pound uses there the same phrase from Dante that he associates with James in Canto VII: ‘Con gli occhi onesti e tardi’ (with honest and slow eyes). Otherwise, only those who knew the subjects personally would have had much chance of guessing who they are, or even that they are based on real figures, had Pound not told Joyce he was ‘bottling’ London. This is either because they are based on personal details that the subjects would have kept as private as (p.391) possible, such as the sex life of Styrax. Or because both the poems and their observations are so slight as to give the literary detective little clue, as with the subject of the fourth poem, whose parents still open his mail, even though he is twenty‐seven, ‘an officer, / and a gentleman, / and an architect’.
The ‘thumb‐nail sketches’ of ‘Mœurs Contemporaines’ do not work like Max Beerbohm's caricature drawings of writers, say, in which a personality is clearly identified by a caption as well as the familiar features which the artist exaggerates. They are ‘scherzos’ in the musical sense as much as in the literal sense of ‘jokes’, since few beyond Pound's inner circle would have got their jokes. What Pound sought to do in ‘Mœurs Contemporaines’ is clear from the title, out of Remy de Gourmont, speaking of Flaubert, who had subtitled Madame Bovary ‘Mœurs de Province’ (provincial manners, morality, habits).43 It was the social ‘tone’ of London he wanted to catch: people's ways of behaving and feeling; what they cared about or didn't; how they spoke, thought, and interacted. This was what he particularly admired in James, on whom he had written a long essay in 1918.44 The letter to Felix Schelling about Mauberley also discusses humour. Pound is perhaps thinking ahead to the Hell Cantos he was about to write. But his remarks also touch on the tone of ‘Mœurs Contemporaines’ and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, which makes some readers wince when it seems to aim at satiric wit but merely steamrollers over butterflies:
Next point: This being buoyed by wit. No. Punch and the rest of them have too long gone on treating the foetor of England as if it were something to be joked about. There is an evil without dignity and without tragedy, and it is dishonest art to treat it as if it were funny. It is perhaps difficult to treat it at all; the Brit. Empire is rotting because no one in England tries to treat it. Juvenal isn't witty. Joyce's isn't harsh enough. One hasn't any theology to fall back on.45
‘[F]oetor’; ‘Foetid Buchanan’; ‘pickled fœtuses and bottled bones’. Pound presents the Aesthetic movement as at once still‐born and stinking. The savage energy of condemnation here is disturbing, and looks forward to Pound's fascism. It is not absent from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, though the poems' saving grace is that they lack this brutal judgementality. It is as if the tight Laforguean forms hold in check Pound's tendency to denounce. The best satire knows that energy of denunciation without discrimination can tend to hysteria. The letter also pulls itself back from this position a few lines later, as it catches itself having slipped from talking of ‘treating the foetor’ in the sense of literary treatment, to the sense of treating it medically or hygienically, as you'd treat something ‘rotting’: ‘Art can't offer a patent medicine. A failure to dissociate that from a (p.392) profounder didacticism has led to the errors of “aesthete's” critique.’ I take this to mean that in trying to free art from religious and bourgeois morality, the Aesthetes detached it altogether from the world, and painted themselves into a corner, solipsist and impotent. Whereas Pound's poetry aims at ‘a profounder didacticism’. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is a critique of ‘the errors of “aesthete's” critique’.
This analysis of the methods and aims of the poetry may appear to digress from the topic of imaginary portraiture. But what it shows is that what Pound wanted to portray was not individuals, treated satirically or comically, so much as the general milieu: ‘Mœurs Contemporaines’; ‘the foetor of England’; ‘the errors of “aesthete's” critique’; ‘atmospheres, nuances, impressions of personal tone and quality’;46 ‘LONDON, the state of English mind in 1919 and 1920’. What he was offering was ‘a portrait of contemporary England’; an attempt at ‘bottling London’, presumably in the medical sense of bottling specimens to exemplify a type, rather than for their individual sakes. That, I take it, is the significance of Monsieur Verog's surroundings of ‘pickled fœtuses and bottled bones’. And that is why it is less important that he is based on Victor Plarr, than that he is the type of the European émigré writing in London, himself a walking catalogue of the Aesthetic movement, and like them, though a talented writer, too inward‐looking to connect either with his own generation or the next: ‘Neglected by the young, / Because of these reveries’. After all, why did Pound need to disguise the name? Of all the portraits in the volume, this is the least satirical of its subject; more an act of homage to a writer whose work he genuinely valued. True, Plarr was still alive in 1920. But then so were ‘Headlam’ (Revd Stewart D.), and ‘Image’ (wait for it: Selwyn), who are named in the fourth stanza. It seems, rather, that Pound wanted to create an uncertainty about whether the subjects were real literary figures, like Plarr, or fictional ones, like Mauberley; to infiltrate imaginary portraits, especially that of Mauberley, amongst real and almost real ones: to create the impression that Mauberley really moved among these historical figures; or, conversely, in Paul Skinner's evocative words, to create the impression that the real figures about whom Pound enjoyed hearing Yeats and Ford reminisce were ‘already flickering and becoming insubstantial’; that, after the ‘vast, single obliterating force’ of the war, ‘who was left and remembered must have been an abruptly pertinent question.’47 Such a method has the virtue of criticizing the aesthete's critique by presenting one through the aesthete's own technique of imaginary portraiture.
The vitriol in Pound's remarks on literary London was not only the product of his encounters with aestheticism, of course. Established writers and critics hostile to modernism had more to do with it, as we shall see in the next two portraits. But before we move on to those, consider his comments on another writer's (p.393) satirical treatment of the pre‐war English literary scene. He wrote that it was ‘difficult for those not in eng. at least from 1908–20’ to appreciate Ford Madox Ford, and said that Ford's satires The Simple Life Limited and Mr. Fleight were:
both in surface technique, presumably brilliant, and but for levity, wd. be recognized as hist. docs. are so recog. by those who know how close their apparent fantasia was to the utter imbecilities of milieu they portray. Unbelieved because the sober foreigner has no mean of knowing how far they corresponded to an external reality.48
Pound's farewell to London, then, is an attempt to show how fantastical the literary milieu seemed to a ‘sober foreigner’ who was there: to present not ‘the series / Of curious heads in medallion’, like Mauberley, but a series of heads pickled like medical curiosities, to recapture the surreal ‘imbecilities’ of the time and place.
The next two poems in the first sequence stand out as the only ones with names for titles: ‘Brennbaum’ and ‘Mr. Nixon’. These portraits too seem readily identifiable. Indeed, Pound is on record as saying Mr. Nixon was ‘a fictitious name for a real person’, generally taken to be Arnold Bennett.49 Like Nixon, Bennett had made enough money from his writing to buy yachts. Not only does Brennbaum's name echo Beerbohm's, but the caricature of his ‘circular infant's face’ sounds like both Beerbohm and one of his self‐caricatures. Furthermore, the last line calls him ‘Brennbaum “The Impeccable” ’, echoing the phrase used of Beerbohm, ‘The Incomparable Max’, as well as Pound's mention, in an essay published the same year, of ‘the impeccable Beerbohm.’50 Clearly, these portraits are less imaginary than the rest, though I shall argue that even they engage with the idea of the imaginary portrait obliquely. First, though, we need to ask why the names needed changing. In the case of ‘Brennbaum’, the reason appears to be a gratuitous anti‐semitism. Gratuitous because in fact Beerbohm was not Jewish, though he said he would have been pleased to have been.51 However, Pound's portrait attributes to him the racial ‘memories’ of the Hebraic exodus—‘of Horeb, Sinai and the forty years’; and the name (‘burnt tree’ in German) adds to these, suggesting the burning bush. This short poem effectively reduces him to (p.394) a racial type;52 and the change of name has the effect of a reproach or an unmasking, as if to say that Jewish émigrés who changed their names to assimilate should not be allowed to conceal their Jewishness. This has the further, and equally unpleasant effect, of making the phrase ‘The Impeccable’ sound sarcastic, as if there might be something peccable in being Jewish. Insofar as this is a portrait of Beerbohm, the only imaginary element is the Jewish one. That could only stand as evidence that this was a truly imaginary portrait if one thought Pound intended it as imaginary, which is doubtful.
However, Beerbohm (in propria persona) is an important figure in relation to Hugh Selwyn Mauberley in another way. And it may be for this reason that Pound wants him more easily identifiable. Beerbohm had published in 1919 a book treating comically the same milieu Pound was presenting. It was called Seven Men, and is one of the supreme examples of aesthetic imaginary portraits. Beerbohm's is the comic version of the imaginary portrait, and as such avoids the cloyingness of Pater's. Not all Beerbohm's men are writers. ‘James Pethell’ is a gambler. Beerbohm writes about how he was first intrigued, and later shocked, by Pethell's motivation. When he is introduced to Pethell he is told he is ‘a great character’: the terms already introduce a frisson of fictionality.53 Pethell turns out to be a thrill‐seeker; someone who only feels alive when the risks are high, and he is even prepared to risk not only his own life, but the lives of his family and friends, in his addiction to excitement. With ‘A. V. Laider’, Beerbohm moves closer to an exploration of fiction. Laider is the only other character who isn't a writer. But he turns out to be a consummate storyteller. Beerbohm returns to a seaside hotel to recuperate from influenza, and finds that a letter he wrote to Laider when they met there the previous year is still there, on the ‘letter board’ for mail addressed to absent guests. The pathos of unreceived letters allows Beerbohm to launch into a characteristic piece of hilarious fantasy: an imaginary dialogue between ‘A Very Young Envelope’ and ‘A Very Old Envelope’. (‘One only has to look at you to see there's nothing in you but a note scribbled to him by a cousin. Look at me! There are three sheets, closely written, in me. The lady to whom I am addressed —’ / ‘Yes, sir, yes; you told me all about her yesterday’ etc.)54 At first this may seem merely a piece of whimsy, but it exemplifies an idea that runs through the entire volume, of literature not being where it should be; not being what it should be, or what people want it to be, or what they expect it to be. Beerbohm had written to Laider out of sympathy. He explains how they had got into conversation, and a discussion of palmistry had led to Laider's chilling story of how he felt responsible for murder. He was on a railway journey, and when his fellow travellers discover his interest in palmistry, they insist he (p.395) reads their fates. He is appalled to find that all their fate‐lines indicate an imminent violent death, whereas his does not. Laider feels he should have pulled the communication cord to stop the train; but that he was too weak‐willed, and didn't. The train crashed, leaving him the only survivor of the group. The story made a great impression on Beerbohm. Laider returns to the hotel and reads the letter, and they talk again. Now Laider expresses a different guilt. He explains that it is true that weakness of will is his problem. But that the form it takes is in being unable to control his ‘very strong imagination.’55 Now he confesses that the mere mention of the topic of palmistry provoked him to invent the whole tale, which was ‘a sheer improvisation.’56 He is a fantasist, but one who talks like an artist about his fantasies, feeling guilty not only for taking in his listeners, but also for ‘not doing justice to my idea.’57
Laider thus may not write down his stories, but he is certainly a creator of fiction; and Beerbohm has given us a fictional story by a fictional narrator. In the other chapters of Seven Men, the characters are all published authors. ‘Hilary Maltby and Stephen Braxton’ are both successful novelists writing before the First World War. They are rivals, and much of the story is about their rivalry for acceptance by London's High Society—very much as in Pound's twelfth poem, about ‘the Lady Valentine’ and ‘the Lady Jane’. Like several of Beerbohm's stories here, there is a gothic twist. Maltby successfully outmanoeuvres Braxton, making sure that he is invited to an aristocratic country house weekend but Braxton is not. Yet while he is there, he is tormented by the apparition of Braxton, which haunts him like a ghost—a ‘simulacrum of himself ’; and which makes him commit a series of ever more humiliating faux pas.58 Maltby thinks that Braxton has managed to ‘project’ himself through the force of his ‘envy, hatred, and malice.’59 But of course (and like the apparition of Banquo's ghost in Macbeth, to which Beerbohm is perhaps alluding) the story leaves the possibility open that the projection is from Maltby's conscience‐stricken head. Either way, there is a sense in which the writer's ‘strong imagination’ is subversive of the good manners prized so highly by the upper class milieu which is as important a part of Beerbohm's subject; that just as it disrupts the social order to the extent of getting writers invited to parties above their social station, it can also disturb the moral order and the order of the real too. It is, after all, an essential part of the realist or impressionist artist's effort to make simulacra appear to live.
One of the most entertaining stories in the volume is ‘ “Savonarola” Brown’. Primarily a satire on an aspiring but hopelessly inept dramatist, this is also a story in which words and names don't stay in their proper time or place. ‘I like to remember that I was the first to call him so’, Beerbohm begins, suggesting that others have also applied the nickname to Brown; and that therefore he is a real person, available for discussion before Beerbohm had written his story.60 This (p.396) slippage between the fictional and the real, or the attempt to insert fictional characters into the literary and social worlds is one of the collection's central devices. Brown had been unfortunately christened ‘Ladbroke’, because his parents lived at Ladbroke Crescent at the time. Beerbohm knew him at school, where he was teased for his name; and meets him later at the theatre. Brown explains that he intends to write a play about Savonarola:
He made me understand, however, that it was rather the name than the man that had first attracted him. He said that the name was in itself a great incentive to blank verse. He uttered it to me slowly, in a voice so much deeper than his usual voice that I nearly laughed.61
This rings alarm bells. Some names are a dangerously sonorous incentive to blank verse: ‘O Huncamunca, Huncamunca, O’. Will Savonarola Brown prove the Tom Thumb amongst dramatists? The anxious near‐schoolboy near‐laughter over voice‐pitch suggests that Brown's attraction to the sound of the name may be equally jejune. There's also a sense that Brown's unease with his own name is what draws him to write about others. The two men continue to meet, the alarm continuing to sound, if muffled, in Beerbohm's scathingly tactful comment that he found Brown's ‘company restful rather than inspiring’. Brown begins writing the play, and gives regular progress reports:
‘I've hit on an initial idea’, he said, ‘and that's enough to start with. I gave up my notion of inventing a plot in advance. I thought it would be a mistake. I don't want puppets on wires. I want Savonarola to work out his destiny in his own way. Now that I have the initial idea, what I've got to do is to make Savonarola live. I hope I shall be able to do this. Once he's alive, I shan't interfere with him. I shall just watch him.62
The eschewing of falsifying plots is almost plausible as an impressionist aspiration, if absurd apropos of a subject whose destiny is given by history. But Beerbohm takes issue with it, arguing that ‘the end of the hero must be logical and rational.’63 Brown disagrees, saying ‘In actual life it isn't so. What is there to prevent a motor‐omnibus from knocking me over and killing me at this moment?’:
At that moment, by what has always seemed to me the strangest of coincidences, and just the sort of thing that playwrights ought to avoid, a motor‐omnibus knocked Brown over and killed him.64
It's hard to tell which cheek Beerbohm's tongue is in here, but the cruelly funny joke barely allows us to entertain the possibility of suicidal intent. Brown has made Beerbohm his executor. Beerbohm prints the four completed acts, sketching how the play might have been completed. In part what is being parodied, (p.397) then, is the form of the ‘literary remains’ of an author. Beerbohm's prefatory remarks are deeply ironic, feigning admiration while making the fragment's faults all too evident:
Remembering the visionary look in his eyes, remembering that he was as displeased as I by the work of all living playwrights, and as dissatisfied with the great efforts of the Elizabethans, I wonder that he was not more immune from influences.65
‘I am not blind to the great merits of the play as it stands’, says Beerbohm, knowing full well that its great merits are its echoes of those great Elizabethans. ‘Savonarola’ is a hilarious pastiche of Renaissance revenge drama, complete with gaoler, Shakespearean singing Fool, disguise, secret passion, and murder. Much of the hilarity comes from its immunity to history. Not only does Brown have Lucrezia Borgia falling in love with Savonarola, and her brother Cesare murdering him. But he also conflates times to give other legendary Italians walk‐on parts. The first scene is set in 1490. Leonardo da Vinci, who was alive then, is joined by St Francis of Assisi, who died in 1226, and Dante, who died in 1321. Of course Shakespeare was notoriously inventive with his history. But even a supreme parodist such as Beerbohm needs to be wary in attempting to parody Shakespeare. So the double‐articulation of the story—inventing Brown and then writing his play—enables him to parody Shakespeare at one remove, introducing an uncertainty as to when he is parodying Renaissance drama, and when he is parodying authors unable to escape its influences. What is clear is that Brown wasn't intending to parody. His play is an unintentional pastiche. It is equally clear that Beerbohm is mocking Brown. Yet Brown's pastiche does also have considerable parodic force, which though unintended by him, is presumably part of Beerbohm's intention. Though it should be said that whatever the juvenile high spirits at trying to knock the unmockable off his pedestal, the aim is as much to make fun of the conventions of Elizabethan drama, especially once they are wrenched out of their original contexts, and expected to carry the weight of a later, and absurd, play. Nothing Ezra Pound had written looked like pastiche Shakespeare; though his redactions of poetry by Provençal Troubadours and Medieval and Renaissance Italians may have made him feel that Beerbohm was looking in his direction.
It will have been evident that what Beerbohm also provides in ‘ “Savonarola” Brown’ is a sustained example of an imaginary work of literature, by an imaginary author. Despite his ironic claims for its merits, it is not offered as genuinely creative, though it has an inadvertent insane energy. The point for our purposes is that Beerbohm, like George Eliot, Symons, and others, including Joyce and Pound, is adhering to the form of the portrait‐collection that includes imaginary artists and includes examples of their work. This notion of imaginary authorship is a feature of the two other stories in Seven Men. One of them, ‘Felix Argallo and (p.398) Walter Ledgett’, was in fact written later, in 1927, and added when the book was republished in 1950 as Seven Men: and Two Others. It is not therefore strictly relevant to our discussion of Pound's use of imaginary portraiture; though it does demonstrate Beerbohm's continuing interest into the 1920s in imaginary authorship. He begins with another knowing play with fictionality: ‘It may be that in these days, among the young, Argallo's name is the main thing about him. His books are but little read, I daresay, save by us elders.’66 How flattering, Mr. B! If we haven't read him, then, we are the young. If we haven't even heard of him, more cool us. Argallo is a major writer; Ledgett a successful minor one. Beerbohm is fond of Ledgett, and increasingly dismayed by the disparaging references which occur to him in the published correspondence of other authors. This notion allows Beerbohm to fake letters from Robert Louis Stevenson, Coventry Patmore, Henry Irving, George Meredith—each an opportunity to parody the author's style: ‘Yesterday an eager homunculus named L–– struck foot across this threshold, sputtering encomiastic cackle’, and so on.67 Beerbohm takes an altruistic decision to do something to counter these denigrations. He decides to use his friendship with Argallo, persuading Argallo to write out and sign letters addressed to Beerbohm (that Beerbohm has actually composed, and dictates to him) praising Ledgett and his work. Argallo has never actually met Ledgett, but Beerbohm rightly assumes that his melancholic disposition will make him sympathize with Ledgett's case. The idea is to insert these letters into Literary History; so that when Argallo's correspondence is eventually published, there will be strong praise from at least one great writer to counterbalance the slights from the others. The working through of this strategy is handled with all Beerbohm's ingenuity, and is extremely funny, not only for the way Argallo starts wanting to improve the letters, but also for the way Beerbohm slyly works in some praise of his own work too. The letters from Argallo have a different status from the ones by Stevenson, Patmore, or Meredith. Where in those cases Beerbohm invents imaginary letters by real authors, here he invents letters from an imaginary author. But there is no pretence that Argallo composed them. Yet they are not quite fakes. They are genuinely in Argallo's hand, and with his signature. He wrote them out, even if he didn't write them. Though the dramatic situation in which Beerbohm places them is fictitious, they have a real existence, published in their entirety. Their effect is to disturb one's assumptions about the reality of Literary History. If such a trick could be perpetrated, then how many other published letters might not equally be faked? This could be read as a satirical look at how that is exactly what sometimes happens: as when an author writes a letter of praise to a writer friend, with the intention that it be shown to a prospective publisher. It also reads as a satire of the public's appetite for literary memorabilia. But once again the effect is to disturb the order of the real. The fantasy of being (p.399) able to insert fictional letters into the public domain turns real letters into potentially imaginary works of literature.
It is the remaining story from Seven Men, the first in the volume, ‘Enoch Soames’, which bears most upon Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. It satirizes London literary life in the 1890s. Enoch Soames is in many ways a comparable figure to Mauberley. He is a study of ineffectualness. Beerbohm plays with the imaginariness of his portraiture, saying that Soames's chief quality was of being ‘dim’, of appearing not to exist. The comical plot has Soames, resigned to failure during his lifetime, making a pact with the devil in order to discover what posterity will make of him. He returns from his futuristic trip to the British Museum in 1997 demoralized by the realization that not only is his work totally forgotten, but he is only known through Beerbohm's imaginary portrait, and is thus believed to be a fictional character. It is a hilarious and ingenious story, the kind Borges would have loved, anticipating postmodern concerns with simulacra—here not only of people, but also of books and paintings. The story starts with Holbrook Jackson's The Eighteen Nineties,68 which may also have brought the period into focus for Pound, and ends with an imaginary literary history (written in a kind of phonetic state‐socialist Newspeak) which Soames has brought back from the future. Take away the plot of Soames's ‘Catholic Diabolism’, supernaturalism and time‐travel, and what remains is a caricature of the aesthete convinced of his own superiority, but unable to make his mark on the world. Beerbohm, again the supreme parodist, includes examples of his verse too, from an imaginary volume called Fungoids. Though the title is clearly parodic, arguably the poems are more than parody, since they touch Soames's fate: the first lyric turns on the question of the existence or non‐existence of the love‐object (anticipating Soames's own dematerialization out of fictional history); the second is a spirited account of an encounter with the Devil, replayed as tragedy in Soames's own subsequent life and damnation. The point is that both are plausible as emanations from Soames's mind, rather than being merely Beerbohm's mockery of him:
- For this it is
- That is thy counterpart
- Of age‐long mockeries
- Thou hast not been nor art !69
They are genuine examples of fictional creativity. And the caricature of the 'Nineties poet, complete with examples of his work, may well have contributed to Pound's invention of Mauberley.
Numerate readers will have noticed that only six men from the 1919 edition have been mentioned. As Lord David Cecil explained, ‘The Seventh Man is Max (p.400) himself who both narrates the tale and takes part in the action.’70 Thus, as in Pater's portraits, though in a different way, Beerbohm's are also self‐portraits: ‘Altogether Seven Men is the most autobiographical of Max's works.’ Or is it an imaginary self‐portrait? Cecil continues: ‘Not very autobiographical, however! Even when it is not too fantastic, it is too amusing.’
Vincent Sherry has made a subtle case for the presence of Seven Men behind Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, which also grants Mauberley an ‘autobiographical depth’ not generally recognized.71 He shows that Mauberley was written during a hiatus in Pound's writing of the early Cantos. Sherry reads the sequence as expressing Pound's anxiety that the ‘ideogrammic method’ he had hoped would be his breakthrough, was beginning to issue in obscurity and incoherence, and that this would result in the kind of judgements about his inefficacy that the sequence makes on Mauberley. Sherry sees Beerbohm's ‘Hilary Maltby and Stephen Braxton’ as helping to shape the conception of Mauberley as a work about literary failure: a view that postulates ‘the ironic continuity between E. P. and Mauberley as the rueful design of the sequence’, such that ‘E. P.’ passes into Mauberley, who (as in the Beerbohm story) then expires a year after his alter ego.
Readers of Pound's volume would have recognized ‘Brennbaum’ as the author of Seven Men, which had been published the previous year. It is thus possible that Pound intended them to connect the form of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley with that of Beerbohm's imaginary portraits, in which he inserts himself, as Pound does (as ‘E. P.’) into Mauberley's world. It is also possible, though perhaps less probable, that he intended his readers to recognize the changing of Beerbohm's name to ‘Brennbaum’ as a gesture of homage, acknowledging the formal debt by turning Beerbohm into an imaginary portrait himself, amongst the seven portraits beginning with ‘Yeux Glauques’.
The tenth poem is the clearest example of how the Poundian annotation industry can violate what Pound was trying to do. The subject is only identified as ‘The stylist’, who has withdrawn to rural poverty with ‘a placid and uneducated mistress’. Most commentaries say the stylist is Ford, who had indeed left London for a leaking Sussex cottage in 1919, though his mistress was the Australian artist (who had studied at the Westminster School of Art, under Sickert), Stella Bowen. Brooker also suggests that Pound might have had Joyce in mind, whom he had called ‘the stylist’, and said that Joyce had ‘lived for ten years in obscurity and (p.401) poverty, that he might perfect his writing and be uninfluenced by commercial demands and standards.’72 This is very valuable, not least in suggesting how this poem follows on from the portrait of Mr. Nixon's commercialism. But the rest of Brooker's annotations all concern Ford. I don't doubt that Pound had Ford in mind here (or that he may have also had Joyce in mind, whose wife Nora had left school aged twelve, though she was not placid).73 They were very close friends. Pound visited Ford and Stella at their cottage, and teased Ford about his playing the role of gentleman‐farmer, writing to him as (amongst other things) ‘Dear Hesiod.’74 The point is that the fact Pound may have had either man in mind doesn't mean that he wanted us to have him in mind when reading the poem. Few could have had Ford in mind in 1920. A prolific author before and after the war, he had enlisted in 1915, been badly shell‐shocked, but had stayed in the army until 1919. He published only one book between 1915 and 1921, a volume of poems. He had left London largely to escape from a fraught relationship with Violet Hunt (already mentioned in connection with ‘Yeux Glauques’), and needed to remain obscure at least while recuperating from the war.
Ah, the annotator might annotate, Pound, who also knew Violet Hunt well, was covering up for his friend: keeping him anonymous so as not to give anything away about his post‐war whereabouts; or lest Hunt should try to prise further information out of him. This is possible. Two months after the publication of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley in June, Hunt had discovered Ford's whereabouts, and Ford told Pound she ‘has planted herself in the neighbourhood & runs about interrupting my workmen and generally making things lively. I fancy she had you followed by a detective when you came down & so got the address.’75 Such readings, however enjoyable for biographers, insist on reading the poems as literal‐minded: Pound was thinking of Ford (or Joyce), so the ‘stylist’ is Ford (or Joyce). What such readings cannot account for is the centre of the poem: Mauberley himself, who has not been traced to a single individual (though of course he draws on Pound's own experience). If all the minor portraits are read as unimaginary ones, why should the major portrait be thought imaginary? I believe that while Pound is drawing on his knowledge of real stylists like Joyce and Ford, his aim is to create an imaginary portrait of someone who is neither Joyce nor Ford, nor even a composite of both, but who is a generic artist: the type of ‘the stylist’, someone who, like Flaubert, like Pound himself, is prepared to ignore the forces represented by Mr. Nixon, and dedicate himself to his art whatever the cost.
(p.402) The last three poems of this first sequence are all about women. In poem XI and the ‘Envoi’ they are not named; in poem XII they are only half‐named, as ‘the Lady Valentine’ and ‘the Lady Jane’. As before it is possible to speculate on who the ‘originals’ were that Pound might have had in mind. Yet these three poems have been the most resistant to such biographical decoding, and there is a hint of desperation in the annotations that have tried to attach them to particular originals. True, as we have seen, in the case of ‘Envoi’ we now have good reason to think Pound had a particular singer in mind, though it took half a century for a real name (Raymonde Collignon) to be connected with the poem. But we have to set that against Pound's response when asked in 1959 ‘Who sang you once that song of Lawes?’: ‘Your question is the kind of damn fool enquiry into what is nobody's damn business.’76 Taking that tone with his naughtyboyographer shows a classic modernist antipathy to conventional literary biography. Note that he doesn't deny that there was a specific occasion; merely that it is irrelevant to an understanding of the poem. A resourceful biographical sleuth may trace a poem back to a particular time and a place. But the point is that these three poems (like poem X about ‘the stylist’) give little away that can serve as a clue. Pound, that is, seems again to be delineating types, and presenting them in such a way as to give them the concreteness of an individual, but simultaneously to frustrate any attempt to scratch the biographical itch.
Poem XI is perhaps the clearest instance:
- ‘Conservatrix of Milésien’
- Habits of mind and feeling,
- Possibly. But in Ealing
- With the most bank‐clerkly of Englishmen?
The quotation, as Peter Brooker notes, is adapted from Remy de Gourmont. Pound quotes it in one of his essays on de Gourmont, and glosses it in the postscript he wrote to his translation of de Gourmont's The Natural Philosophy of Love as ‘Woman, the conservator, the inheritor of past gestures.’77 The essay was published in 1919; the translation in 1922; so de Gourmont was on his mind while writing Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.78 But what does the phrase mean? The problem, again expertly unravelled by Brooker, is that it means two rather different things. The ‘Milesian Tales’ were ‘erotic romances of the first century (p.403) B.C., none of which are extant’. (So much for conservatrixes?) But ‘Milesian’ can also signify ‘Irish’, ‘after King Milesius whose sons are reputed to have conquered ancient Ireland.’79 The stanza swivels on its ‘But’, but what is the basis of the opposition? Is it a contrast of pagan eroticism with modern suburban lower‐middle class uptightness? Or of Irish with English? Or does it somehow combine the two, juxtaposing Irish eroticism with English suburbanism? Brooker quotes a letter in which Pound reports to the American John Quinn just after the armistice about Maud Gonne's release from arrest:
The other point M.G. omits from her case is that she went to Ireland without permit and in disguise, in the first place, during war time.
‘Conservatrice des traditions Milesienne,’ as de Gourmont calls them. There are people who have no sense of the value of ‘civilization’ or public order.80
The letter goes on to ask: ‘Have all the Irish a monomania?’, and to characterize Gonne as a temperament that wants ‘revolution with violence; no special aim or objective, but just pure and platonic love of a row’. It may then be that what Pound intends here, whether de Gourmont meant it or not, is a humorously precious phrase to describe a brawling tendency associated with the Irish. As who should say: Irish conservation: a contradiction in terms. The prejudices in and around this poem are evidently legion. Poundian advocates might argue that what he seeks is a ‘constatation’ of attitudes: that is, to juxtapose a Celtic exuberance with English prudery and to enjoy the spectacle of their mutual disapproval. But the evidence of the letter is that Pound was not that aloof from such prejudices: ‘all the Irish’; ‘as de Gourmont calls them [my emphasis]’. Calls who? Women? The Irish? Revolutionists? In a case like this the poetry would be better if it were biographically more specific. Imaginary portraiture, that is, like any other form of portraiture, is as likely to reflect the qualities of its artist as well as its subjects, and is not necessarily always admirable. A satiric sketch of a particular person such as Maud Gonne might have several kinds of interest. But the letter about Gonne doesn't seem to me to legitimize such a reading of the poem (which I should acknowledge that Brooker is too tactful an annotator to force: he merely juxtaposes).81 Rather, it indicates a prejudicial reflex whereby Pound's response to Gonne's political activities is to compound three prejudices: against woman, the mad, and the Irish. The phrase ‘as de Gourmont calls them’ could apply to any or all of the three. What it also suggests, though, is precisely that for Pound the phrase applies to a ‘them’ rather than to a ‘her’. Whether he had Gonne in mind or not (and there is no other reason for thinking he did—she (p.404) had no connection with Ealing or bank‐clerkly Englishmen) what he is doing in the poem is to present what seems to him a particular type of woman:
- No, ‘Milesian’ is an exaggeration.
- No instinct has survived in her
- Older than those her grandmother
- Told her would fit her station.
The self‐qualification at the start of the second (and final) stanza suggests that something else is happening here. If it's true that this woman's instincts have been suppressed into a social conformity (such as presumably comports with Ealing bank‐clerkliness) then it's less clear what the poem is about. She might be one of these people; no, that's an exaggeration. Hello? As one moves from one stanza to the next the woman becomes baffling; and the effect is (as in Impressionist art) to pull the focus onto the bafflement of the perceiver. That is, the poem becomes an exploration of the aesthete's (presumably Mauberley's) consciousness, trying to find words to express the baffling relation between the erotic and the repressed in pre‐war London.
Though poem XII is longer, its relation to the biographical is similar, so the discussion can be briefer. Like XI, it begins with a quotation, this time from Gautier, about Daphne being turned into a laurel. The irony is that whereas Apollo the god of Poetry pursued Daphne, the poet is here being commanded by ‘the Lady Valentine’. Brooker cites the occasion when ‘Pound, Eliot and Yeats were collected together on 2 April 1916 for the first performance of Yeats's “At the Hawk's Well” in the drawing room of Lady Cunard.’82 The poem mentions the Lady Valentine's ‘vocation: / Poetry’; and lists amongst her ‘means of blending / With other strata’ ‘A modulation towards the theatre’. That's not quite the same as saying she put on a performance of a play in her drawing‐room. The annotation‐method is curiously laconic and oblique here, since the next stanza is said to be like Eliot's ‘Prufrock’, so Eliot's introduction to Lady Ottoline Morrell's circle is adduced as relevant, though, as Humphrey Carpenter says, Pound had ‘no contact’ with her.83 Why not any aristocratic art‐patrons, then? A letter from H. G. Wells to Ford, written around the time Ford was taking Pound around London introducing him as his latest discovery of a ‘genius’, indicates the milieu just as well: ‘I enclose two letters, one from Lady Elcho, and one from Lady Desborough…I do not fail to pursue these ladies with subscription forms. Tell me shall I write to Lady Tennant?’84 I'm not proposing that ‘the Lady Valentine’ is one of these either. Rather, that the comment of Pound's that (p.405) Brooker quotes to annotate the fourth stanza is the crucial one: ‘It has been well said of the “lady in society” that art criticism is one of her functions. She babbles of it as of “the play”, or of hockey, or of ‘ “town topics” .’85 That is the lady ‘the lady Valentine’ portrays: the generic ‘lady in society’: a stereotype, the misogyny of which is palpable. This is the danger of the Poundian method of imaginary portrait by stereotype. Whereas in Pater, say, the imaginariness of the portrait was precisely bound up with the difficulty of defining and visualizing the subject, where Pound's portraits are animated by energies of condemnation, they settle for brutally facile generalizations.
Nonetheless, all but four of the thirteen poems of this first sequence can thus be seen as forming a gallery of imaginary portraits, delineating various ‘types’ constituting the early twentieth‐century London literati. These are Mauberley's ‘Contacts’. What of his ‘Life’—assuming the poem is to be read according to Pound's reversal of the subtitle? How does the second sequence engage with auto/biography?
The second sequence: allobiography, autobiography, metabiography
To recapitulate—at the risk of obviousness, but for the sake of clarity: apart from the final poem, ‘Medallion’, which may or may not be by Mauberley, all the other poems in this second sequence appear to be about him: to compose his imaginary portrait. This sequence is thus an attempt to condense the form of a literary memoir (by analogy with Pound's description of the whole work as an ‘attempt to condense the James novel’). It is an example of biografiction: imaginary biography, though at one remove; not written in the manner of conventional biography, but as a parodic reduction of it—to absurdity, perhaps.
In one of the best discussions of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Ronald Bush quotes the first poem of this sequence alongside a passage from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, arguing that ‘The point of view as given by the shading of phrases is Mauberley's own, but Pound's use of the third person is as impersonal as Joyce's own.’86 That is, Pound is using a versified kind of free indirect style, fusing an external narrator with the language of Mauberley's consciousness. That consciousness is focalized as if seen from outside, but the focalizer is Mauberley himself. Bush seeks to quash the received debate about personae by claiming that ‘There can be no question of a narrative persona here.’ Yet, as we have seen, there has been precisely that question, and it won't do merely to deny it. To be fair, he argues that the second sequence is unproblematically objective, whereas the problems all arise from the (p.406) first. Yet, as we have seen, it is the juxtaposition of poems within the sequences, and of the two sequences, that generates the debate about voices and personae.
The argument that follows is not intended as a rebuttal of Bush's reading, since it seems to me that fundamentally he, and others who take the second sequence as about Mauberley, are right. My argument is intended to incorporate this position into a broader reading of the volume in terms of imaginary portraiture, auto‐biography and auto/biografiction, that finds three further kinds of nuance in the poems (just as my account of Joyce's Portrait thinks there is more to be said about that work than that it is Joyce's objective presentation of Stephen's subjectivity; that what he is also objectifying is autobiography). These are essentially the allobiographical, the autobiographical, and the metabiographical.
By ‘allobiographical’ I mean that the ‘objective’ presentation of Mauberley draws upon, or can be connected with, biographies of other people—real biographies rather than the imaginary one of Mauberley.87 It is not merely a matter of lives, but of the aesthetic activities and standpoints of other people as well. Now the second sequence is as allusive and elliptical as the first, and gestures towards many figures. To be exhaustive would exhaust readers unnecessarily. Brooker's Student's Guide is recommended to the tireless for its marvellous detail here too. I shall concentrate on one important ‘Contact’ of Pound's as a representative illustration: Ford once again. I make no apology for reintroducing him here, having already discussed him in relation to Poem X of the first sequence, because it is precisely the fact that he does figure in, or at least can be read into, both sequences, that problematizes our reading of the volume.
Whereas Poem X concentrated on the stylist's style of life, poem II of the second sequence concentrates on the poet's poetics:
- —Given that is his ‘fundamental passion’,
- This urge to convey the relation
- Of eyelid and cheek‐bone
- By verbal manifestations;
According to Bush's reading, this ‘fundamental passion’ would be Mauberley's, and would have to be ironized by Pound. The inverted commas suggest exactly that: that Mauberley has made a fetish of trying to capture visual forms in words, and that it is a debilitating sublimation of his sexuality. However, that deliberate phrase, ‘verbal manifestations’, gets repeated in one of Pound's most important aesthetic essays, ‘How to Read’, in the celebrated manifesto distinguishing between three modes of poetry:
MELOPOEIA, wherein the words are charged, over and above their plain meaning, with some musical property, which directs the bearing or trend of that meaning.(p.407)
PHANOPOEIA, which is the casting of images upon the visual imagination.
LOGOPOEIA, ‘the dance of the intellect among words,’ that is to say, it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word, its usual concomitants, of its known acceptances, and of ironical play. It holds the aesthetic content which is peculiarly the domain of verbal manifestations, and cannot possibly be contained in plastic or in music. It is the latest come, and perhaps most tricky and undependable mode.88
Yet there is an apparent contradiction between the two passages. Mauberley's passion is to convey the relation of eye‐lid and cheek‐bone—an essentially spatial, visual image—by ‘verbal manifestation’, the ironic play that ‘cannot possibly be contained in plastic or in music’. Mauberley, according to these later definitions, is confusing Phanopoeia and Logopoeia. It might seem an accidental echo. But I think the phrase appealed to Pound for its suggestion of something supernatural, manifesting itself in the language as a god makes itself manifest in a metamorphosis. When he echoes the passage from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley in Canto LXXIV, he relates it to one of the most famous images of exactly that manifestation of the divine, Botticelli's The Birth of Venus :
- …cheek‐bone, by verbal manifestation,
- her eyes as in ‘La Nascita’89
What has this to do with Ford? Pound may have been echoing Ford's use of the same phrase in an important pair of articles on the Imagists and Futurists, the first of which discussed and quoted Pound. In the second piece on the volume Des Imagistes, Ford wrote:
on the one hand, whilst all the literary, all the verbal manifestations of Futurism are representational, and representational, and again representational, all the plastic‐aesthetic products of the new movement are becoming more and more geometric, mystic, non‐material, or what you will. The Futurist painters were doing very much what novelists of the type of Flaubert or short‐story writers of the type of Maupassant aimed at. They gave you not so much the reconstitution of a crystallised scene in which all the figures were arrested—not so much that, as fragments of impressions gathered during a period of time, during a period of emotion, or during a period of travel.90
A ‘crystallised scene’; ‘Luini in porcelain!…The face‐oval beneath the glaze…’. It would be surprising if Pound hadn't known these essays. He always took Ford's critical views seriously. In 1914 he ranked Ford as ‘the best critic in England, one might say the only critic of any importance.’91 Pound was helping (p.408) Lewis with the Rebel Art Centre and Blast, and was closely involved with the questions Ford was discussing: Futurism, poetics, the relation of the verbal to the visual and the musical. The musical? One of the contrasts that has been observed in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is between the lyrical investment of the first sequence, and the visual imagination of the second; as if Melopoeia were being set off against Phanopoeia; poetry as song against poetry as impression.
Ford is relevant here too, I suggest, because Pound could never quite settle where Ford stood in relation to these different emphases. He admired Ford's insistence that poetry should be a living language, ‘the speech of to‐day’, the poetry of the voice. ‘It is he who has insisted, in the face of a still Victorian press, upon the importance of good writing as opposed to the opalescent word, the rhetorical tradition.’92 As we saw apropos of ‘the stylist’, Pound admired Ford's (and Joyce's) Flaubertian quest for le mot juste, for ‘style’. In addition, ‘Mr. Hueffer has also the gift for making lyrics that will sing’, he said, adding: ‘we would not be far wrong in calling Mr. Hueffer the best lyrist in England.’93 In a word, Melopoeia. Yet at the same time he criticized Ford's avowed ‘impressionism’ as hyper‐ocular: ‘Impressionism belongs in paint’, he wrote. And he later said of Ford's criticism: ‘I think Hueffer goes wrong because he bases his criticism on the eye, and almost solely on the eye.’94 In another word, Phanopoeia. And one way in which he makes a point against the haziness of Fordian impressionism is by giving as an example of what not to write a phrase from a poem of Ford's: ‘Don't use such an expression as “dim lands of peace”. It dulls the image.’95 So we should not be surprised to find him echoing Ford's words elsewhere.
Pound's portrait of Mauberley glazed in ineffectual rapture over his visions of beauty touches the heart of his criticism of impressionism, which he said (writing of music) had ‘reduced us to such a dough‐like state of receptivity that we have ceased to like concentration.’96 It also touches his criticism of Ford:
In a country in love with amateurs, in a country where the incompetent have such beautiful manners […] it is well that one man should have a vision of perfection and that he should be sick to the death and disconsolate because he cannot attain it.
That Ford was almost an halluciné few of his intimates can doubt. He felt until it paralysed his efficient action, he saw quite distinctly the Venus immortal crossing the tram tracks.97
(p.409) The first quotation is pre‐Mauberley, from an appreciation of Ford's Collected Poems. Most of the review is about the importance of Ford as a critic, but Pound nonetheless praises his poems as ‘gracious impressions’. By the second quotation, post‐Mauberley, from Pound's obituary for Ford in 1939, his views have hardened, and the earlier praise for Ford's effectiveness as both critic and poetic example has been overshadowed by his admiration for the ‘factive personalities’ he lumped together indiscriminately, as in his book Jefferson and/or Mussolini: people who forced their will on events.98 This illustrates the danger of the annotation‐method that ransacks Pound's entire oeuvre for pertinent parallels. With regard to impressionism, as to much else in the volume of his Literary Essays, Pound's views were undergoing transformation during the war and while he was writing Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.
To demonstrate parallels between Mauberley and Ford is not to make the facile claim that Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is Ford Madox Hueffer. Poundian scholarship has shown how many more prototypes are involved.99 And anyway, my argument concerning the first sequence was that to allege traces of an original in the genealogy of a poem is not the same thing as saying that poem is about that original. Rather than saying Mauberley is partly Ford, just as ‘the stylist’ is partly Ford, I'm saying that both draw on Ford's aesthetics, but neither is a portrait of him. It might then be countered that I'm just using the same method: entertaining claims of likenesses only to discount them. This is true. But the fact that the same method can be used, and that the same ‘originals’ come up in both sequences strengthens my argument. As ‘the stylist’ is one of Mauberley's ‘Contacts’, it's hard to see how he and Mauberley could both have been meant as portraits of Ford.
Mauberley too, like his contacts, is, rather, a vortex drawing in a range of Decadents, Edwardians, and Georgians, and also their antitheses (like Arnold Bennett) and critics (like Pound and Ford themselves): an ideogram of the pre‐war literary scene. Or, to recall a different image, he is an example of the ‘composite portraiture’ pioneered by Francis Galton.100 Thus the first sequence would produce a composite portrait of ‘the world of letters’, and the second, of ‘the aesthete’; the Paterian epicure or hedonist.
According to this view, the sequence is still imaginary biography, but of a composite figure, combining characteristics of unsturdy aestheticism with Fordian impressionism. Yet insofar as its composite portraiture is of Pound's own contacts, it is also imaginary autobiography: fictionalizing Pound's own experience as the (p.410) experience of a fictional persona. One of the main differences between Hugh Selwyn Mauberley and Joyce's Portrait is that Pound's criticism of Mauberley has seemed much less equivocal than Joyce's criticism of Stephen. That might seem to imply a greater distance between author and portrait in Pound's case. As Brooker argues about Pound's personae, in both cases one's judgement about the real author's attitude to the imaginary author is a function of how successful you think the imaginary author's work is. Pound's judgement on Mauberley's aesthetic as leading to his degeneration into a kind of autism, is much harsher than anything in the Joyce. Joyce's impersonality renders Stephen's febrile enthusiasm in his own words with a finesse that occasionally lets us glimpse an author that has moved beyond the young aesthete's precious verbosity. Pound tells us that Mauberley's hedonistic impressionism renders him incapable of anything other than failure.
But. That need not preclude the possibility that Mauberley is to some extent autobiographical: an imaginary self‐portrait as well. Indeed, the epitaph Pound has Mauberley write for himself (to contrast, perhaps, with the obituary for ‘E. P.’ that starts the first sequence) picks up the idea (from poem II of the second sequence) of Maubeley's drifting:
- ‘I was
- And I no more exist;
- Here drifted
- An hedonist.’
If Mauberley's drifting out of existence recalls Beerbohm's play with Enoch Soames's failure to exist, his fantasy of himself as a sort of castaway (he imagines the epitaph on an oar) recalls the poem Pound published in Blast No. 2:
- I cling to the spar,
- Washed with the cold salt ice
- I cling to the spar—
- Insidious modern waves, civilization, civilized hidden snares.
- Cowardly editors threaten: ‘If I dare’
- Say this or that, or speak my open mind
- Then they will have my guts;101
Mauberley is not how Pound saw himself in 1920, certainly. Pound is critical of the way Mauberley's aesthetic, in the aftermath of his one, failed, ‘amorous adventure’ (in poem II of the second sequence), ‘paralysed his efficient action’; just as he would have criticized his anachronistic poeticisms: the inversion of ‘I no more exist’ does little to convince us of his substance when he claims he did (p.411) exist.102 Yet with a passage such as the following, isn't there a sense that Pound has some sympathies with Mauberley's attitude?
- Non‐esteem of self‐styled ‘his betters’
- Leading, as he well knew,
- To his final
- Exclusion from the world of letters.
Mauberley's acquiescence in his literary oblivion is the antithesis of Pound's ferocious activity in promoting his aesthetics and his friends' work. To that extent Pound is criticizing the limp pride that will not make the effort to continue creating and get its art acknowledged. Yet Pound shares Mauberley's sense that members of that ‘world of letters’ who style themselves ‘his betters’ are not worth the candle. Writers like Mr. Nixon, whose advice Pound wasn't prepared to take any more than Mauberley. Exclusion from that world of letters is a mark of integrity rather than failure. This is tantamount to saying that insofar as Mauberley is a self‐portrait of Pound he is an imaginary one: not a portrait of Pound as he was in 1920; not even one of Pound as he had been; but one of Pound as he felt he might have become, had he not decided to leave London (as Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses might be Joyce's portrait of the self he might have become had he not left Dublin); had he not become ‘modernized’. (Eliot, he said with envious admiration, had ‘modernized himself on his own’; whereas Pound had needed efficient actions like Ford's roll to steer him away from an aesthetic cul de sac.)103 Perhaps the animus in the poem comes from just this: that Mauberley is a portrait of what Pound most mistrusted in himself.104
Milan Kundera finds an ingenious metaphor to account for the way in which fictional characters both are and are not autobiographical:
The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own ‘I’ ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author's confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.105
It is the other way around with Mauberley or Dedalus: Mauberley has failed to cross, and Dedalus has not yet crossed, the borders their authors have crossed. Where Pound spoke of ‘casting off, as it were, complete masks of the self in each (p.412) poem’, another way to put it would be that each poem is a mask of a self he has cast off. The danger of the method is of complacency about the new, improved self; and a limiting of the imagination to negativity about what is already familiar. Kundera's image is of an exploration of unknown possibilities, which can attract and horrify; whereas the compass of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is constricted to an ironic jadedness.
The argument so far has claimed that the volume is autobiographical in multiple ways: through the discussion of ‘E. P.’ in the first poem of the first sequence; in the use of autobiographical material in the other portraits in that sequence (Pound's meetings with Plarr, Bennett, Beerbohm, Ford, and others); and now in the ways in which Mauberley himself draws upon elements of Pound. But ‘autobiography’ here is also ‘auto/biography’: because ‘E. P.’'s career is sketched in the third person, as if by Mauberley; and because when Pound describes Mauberley, he fuses him with elements of other real figures such as Ford. This fusing of biography and autobiography, subjective and objective, is what we might expect, given his comment about the processes of composition of a poem such as the magnificent haiku ‘In a Station of the Metro’: ‘In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.’106 At first this seems counter‐intuitive coming from a modernist advocate of concreteness, hardness, objectivity. It is consciously opposed to the Romantic aesthetic whereby the poem takes a subjective feeling and expresses it, transforms it into something outward. Yet (as according to the Wilde–Nietzsche paradox) the flip‐side of modernist objectivity is that the outward things turn into autobiography.
I now want to consider the third kind of nuance in the volume that makes it an even more complex and slippery work than has been acknowledged: what I called the metabiographical. This is the core of my reading, which is not concerned merely to annotate the auto/biographical elements in the poetry, but to consider the ways in which Pound simultaneously comments upon auto/biography and uses its forms as a creative resource. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley does not just recycle autobiographical material. Its form and style is also a critique of the literary memoir. It is this dimension that is missed by an interpretation such as Bush's, which effectively reads the volume as one large imaginary portrait of Mauberley, comparable to his reading of Joyce's Portrait as rendering Stephen's ‘tones of mind’, but in an objective, third‐person way. As with Flaubert and Joyce, the refining out of existence of the artist from his work is achieved not by a disappearance into pure objectivity, but behind a smokescreen of parody. Of course it has been well‐established that Pound is parodying people—whether particular individuals (Plarr, Beerbohm, Ford, etc.) or types (the aesthete, the (p.413) classicist, the society lady, etc.). What has been missed is how he is also parodying forms and styles, as suggested at the start of this chapter. The ‘Life and Contacts’ subtitle indicates that the volume's form is a dig at the literary memoir, especially the memoir of a minor figure, which pads out an insubstantial life with the testimony of acquaintances, and tries to use the celebrity of these to validate the life in question. Such volumes are easier to find when on major figures:
W. Hall Griffin and Harry C. Minchin, The Life of Robert Browning With Notices of His Writings His Family, & His Friends (London: Methuen, 1911)
Sidney Colvin, John Keats: His Life and Poetry, His Friends, Critics, and After‐Fame (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1917)
S. M. Ellis, George Meredith: His Life and Friends (London: Grant Richards, 1920)
By way of examples commemorating the lesser known, consider the group portrait of the literary world constituted by this random collage:
J. Howlett‐Ross, A Memoir of the Life of Adam Lindsay Gordon. The ‘Laureate of the Centaurs’ with new poems, prose sketches, political speeches and reminiscences, and an ‘In Memoriam’ by Kendall (London: S. J. Mullen, 1888)
Francis Espinasse, Literary Recollections and Sketches. Including the Carlyles and a segment of their Circle (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1893)
Life, Letters and Literary Remains of J. H. Shorthouse, edited by S. Shorthouse, 2 volumes (London: Macmillan, 1905)
W. Scott Palmer and A. M. Haggard, Michael Fairless: Her Life and Writings (London: Duckworth, 1917)
There is no reason to believe Pound knew of any of these. But one he is much more likely to have come across in London from 1908 is Henry Treffry Dunn, Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti & His Circle: or, Cheyne Walk Life (London: Elkin Mathews, 1904), so perhaps that could stand as a representative of the kind of aesthetic bio‐babble he sets his teeth against in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.
It isn't only the title and structure of such literary memoirs that Pound parodies, but also their language and style. (After all, as we saw in Chapter 1, what modernists like Eliot and Pound said they objected to about Decadence was different from what everyone else was objecting to in the wake of the Wilde trial: they offered a critique of Decadent language as itself, well, decadent.) This isn't a matter of sustained parody. No one is likely to mistake the volume for a real memoir; not only because it is in verse, but because the parodic effect is intermittent: struck by a phrase or a clause, which sounds as if it is in imaginary inverted commas. ‘For three years, out of key with his time’; ‘seeing he had been born / In a half savage country’; ‘His true Penelope was Flaubert’; ‘the march of events’; ‘The age demanded’; ‘To Fleet St. where / Dr. Johnson flourished’; ‘Not the full smile, / His art, but an art / In profile’; ‘Leading, as he well knew, / To his final / Exclusion from the world of letters’. This is Pound mimicking the mandarin tone of the literary establishment: precious, pleased with its own conceit, superior. The trouble is, of course, that some of these phrases either (p.414) already are in real inverted commas, or are quoted or alluded to later. Thus there appear to be two levels of self‐consciousness: one of a free indirect style that speaks through the clichés of the literati; and within that, one which signals its self‐consciousness of those clichés. This may be Pound indicating that Mauberley has a critical awareness of what's wrong with the literary scene, but is too trapped within it to be able to transform himself or change it. Rather as Pound had been, perhaps, for that excruciating moment when Ford was rolling on the floor at his language. Perhaps, then, Pound's anger at aesthetic impotence is autobiographical too: an investigation of human life in the trap the literary world had become.
What difference does this ‘metabiographical’ dimension make to a reading of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley ? As we have seen, the main critical debate has been about the function of two voices, Mauberley's and Pound's. (Or three voices, if ‘E. P.’ is distinguished from Pound.) My reading introduces a third (or fourth) enunciator: the voice of the belletrist, the tone of the literary memoirist. This seems to make Pound's satire much more effective, turning it from being a rant about personality failings to a critique of a mode of writing. The ingenuity of Pound's form—and this is the most significant sense in which the volume is ‘a study in form’—is that it performs its critique simultaneously as a parody of aesthetic poetry, and of aesthetic literary memoir. This adds a further layer of difficulty to the task of critics determined to attach poems to biographical originals or fictional personae, since not only do they have to worry about whether Pound (or E. P.) or Mauberley is speaking, but (if I am right) they would also have to worry about whether it is these voices speaking, or the voice of the belletrist speaking about them.
Thus I still see the volume as centrally concerned with ‘voice’, but suggest that Pound's approach to the literary milieu through its own ways of talking about itself makes the collage of voices even more complex. Why then was Pound so unconcerned about critics' concerns over who speaks which poems? Though his remark about the ‘muddle’ critics make in not seeing that Mauberley buries E. P. in the first poem suggests he did have a clear sense of who was speaking, and that it was Mauberley, I have argued that the volume is more concerned with portraits of imaginary figures, types rather than historical individuals. I want now to take this argument further, and propose that rather than focus on traditional notions of ‘character‐types’, what Pound is satirizing is literary styles. It is here that he is perhaps most modern, foregrounding the language of what he saw as cultural malaise so as to disembody it, let it float free of particular human characters and psychologies. This may be what he meant when he said Mauberley was ‘a mere surface’; and it is certainly what he meant by ‘logopoeia’; and it is with this concept, and how it is enriched by the issues of imaginary portraiture and fictional creativity, that I want to conclude. For part of the difference this reading makes is to contribute another aspect of imaginary portraiture (of what I have called the belletristic); and another aspect of fictional creativity: an imaginary work, albeit one only cited or alluded to rather than impersonated in entirety: the fictional literary memoir.
(p.415) ‘LOGOPOEIA, “the dance of the intellect among words.” ’ Is that a quotation, or an example of the logopoeic method, prising words out of their context for critical investigation? Pound was always committed to all three modes, the musical, the visual, and the verbal. But logopoeia comes to the fore in his writing after his realization in Giessen that something was wrong with his language. He had imitated the musicality of the Provençal troubadours; he had moved on to a more visual emphasis in Imagism. (‘The apparition of these faces in the crowd; / Petals on a wet, black, bough’ works not only by contrasting two visual experiences, but also by explicitly discussing the visual: ‘The apparition’.) In his subsequent work, and especially in Homage to Sextus Propertius and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, the art is predominantly verbal: concerned, if you like, with ‘verbal manifestations’ rather than visual apparitions or musical effects.
This is most evident in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, where, as we have seen, critics have posited a contrast between the final poems of both sequences: a reaching back to the world of Elizabethan lyric, of poetry as song, in ‘Envoi’; and the Gautier‐influenced ideal of poetry as like the visual arts (engraving, carving, cameos etc.) in ‘Medallion’. In his work on Chinese poetry Pound had come to advocate what he called the ‘ideogrammic method.’107 In an earlier essay I argued that Hugh Selwyn Mauberley combines together the three modes of poetry; juxtaposing, with ideogramic suppression of logical or narrative connexion, the two sequences, the one more melopoeic, the second more phanopoeic, in order to energize ‘the dance of the intellect among words’ as the mind darts back and forth between them.108 True, either sequence alone demonstrates enough ironic verbal play to qualify for logopoeic status; but one sense in which the volume is ‘a study in form’ is the way it uses this form of montage as a structure to heighten our sense of verbal nuance.
To show what difference the metabiographical reading makes, consider a related argument. This is Donald Davie's brilliant perception about Pound's longest work before Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, the Homage to Sextus Propertius, that much of the language in it is what Davie calls ‘translatorese’, or ‘babu English’; ‘examples of how not to do it’, ‘it’ being translation from the Latin.109 Much of the earlier critical debate on that sequence concentrated on whether or not Pound had made ‘ (p.416) howlers’ in his Englishing of Propertius. Pound's champions pointed to the conscious anachronisms (words like ‘Wordsworthian’ or ‘frigidaire’) as evidence that the sequence was clearly doing something other than merely translating Propertius' words. More classicist‐minded critics, outraged by the liberties Pound took in cutting and pasting individual lyrics as well as his liberties of phrasing, countered that that didn't mean he hadn't also made mistakes.
Take, for example, the line that Brooker (whose annotations to Propertius are also invaluable) says is ‘Perhaps the most controversial line in the poem’: ‘ “Gaudeat in solito tacta puella sonso” (“Let my girl be touched by the sound of a familiar music and rejoice in it”).’110 Pound translates ‘tacta puella’ as ‘devirginated young ladies’. This was attacked as ‘particularly unpleasant’ with no basis in the original, and indicative of Pound's ‘ignorance and bad taste’. Pound however claimed that the near proximity of ‘in’ and ‘tacta’ summoned up the notion of ‘puella intacta’, a virgin, and that this made ‘tacta’ ambiguous: someone touched by music, but also someone sexually experienced. As Brooker says, clearly Pound ‘saw in Propertius’ line an example of “logopoeia” ', and he cites Hugh Kenner's defence of Pound's ‘scepticism directed at Latin professors’.
Most of Pound's work, like much of high modernism, is manically intertextual. Translatorese, which is amongst other things a way of drawing attention to intertextuality, is also a site where ‘logopoeia’ coexists with questions of fictional creativity. Propertius is a dramatization of someone translating, awkwardly, ineptly, but in a way which allows us to glimpse a better work within or behind or beyond or above the one in front of us. If a translation like ‘devirginated’ is a mistake, then we just have Pound as translator obstructing our view of Propertius' text. If—as the comic awkwardness of the term surely suggests—it is a joke, then it interposes a parody of a translation between us and the original. That is, it is an example of imaginary authorship: the work of an imaginary translator of an inept kind, which Pound uses in a cunningly triple‐jointed fashion to mock the literary ineptness of bad translators, and the tone‐deafness of classicists unattuned to Propertius' wit, while also drawing our attention to precisely that quality of wit. In short, it is an application of Pound's ‘logopoeia’ to bring out Propertius'—a dramatization of someone translating freely, which anticipates the objections classicists will make where it departs from literal translation, but triumphs over them with its inspired jokes and moments of surrealism. Admittedly the persona of the inept translator is a mask which—as in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley —often slips. But it is one crucial to the Cantos too, in which he often dramatizes someone poring over earlier writings, translating or interpreting or rereading.
Pound's invention of translatorese, then, is purposeful mistranslation which simultaneously reveals something about the original. It is the fictional creation of a text—the bad translation—which implies an imaginary persona—the bad (p.417) translator. Much of Pound's translation works like this, not modernizing its original so the translator disappears into the contemporary vernacular, but by using a language that draws attention to itself: either as the best language that the history of English has produced to render a particular style (as when he translates Cavalcanti into Elizabethan English) or as an example of a translator fixated upon archaism as he had been himself. Or both, as when, in Canto I, he manages both to parody Pre‐Raphaelite medievalism as a response to the Greek of Homer, while also drawing on the energies of the earliest poetry known to Anglo‐Saxon ears—the alliterative verse of poems like ‘The Seafarer’—as a way of conveying his sense of older layers within the Odyssey.111
In his translation, or poems conducted via translation, such as Cathay or Propertius, Pound starts with the real words of others, and makes out of them his own poems, which may use the persona of the original poet (like Propertius), or create the imaginary persona of the obtuse or unreliable translator (in parallel with modernist fiction's exploration of the obtuse or unreliable narrator); or they may be uttered in propria persona. In Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, though, he reverses the process. He starts with his own poetic development, out of aestheticism and imagism, and works from that to the imaginary words of imaginary authors—whether Mauberley or his contacts, critics, and biographers. The language of these imaginary authors is treated in the same way as ‘translatorese’ in poems like Propertius: as both inadequate but also critically revealing both of its object and subject speaking.
The experiments with ‘translatorese’ in Propertius alerted Pound to the possibilities not just of the persona (through which much of his early verse is articulated) but of the slippage between personae; to the use, that is, of uncertainty about personae to generate the energies of logopoeia. What he achieves in Propertius through translatorese, he develops in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley —and this is what my reading adds to the debate—through the play with imaginary portraits, the fictional creation of poems, and the partial or refracted fictional creation of an imaginary memoir. It is, in short, a crucial example of how modernism's engagement with life‐writing is more than a mere rejection of auto/biography, or even naughtyboyography. Pound's mimicking of the clichés of memoir‐writing—‘life and contacts’, ‘the age demanded’, ‘out of key with his time’, etc.—might best be termed ‘auto/biographese’ by analogy.
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is a structure of mirrors, ingeniously angled to keep us guessing at each moment whether we are reading Pound's imaginary portrait of Mauberley, Mauberley's fictional creativity, or both simultaneously, or a literary mandarin's judgement on Mauberley (and/or Pound). I'd like to be able to argue (p.418) that it was consciously intended like this, and had a writer as calculating as Joyce, Nabokov, or Borges written it, I might be able to persuade myself. But Pound's remarks about the whole work suggest he thought of it as more fixed than that—though nonetheless as a sustained example of fictional creativity. According to Basil Bunting, Pound had been thinking of Mauberley from its inception in terms of heteronymy and parody. As James Laughlin retold the story:
Speaking of Mauberley, the story of its genesis as a hoax is perhaps relevant. One convivial evening in London, Pound and Eliot decided that it would be amusing to invent an impossible poet who would write parodies of poets they didn't like and lampooning reviews of such poets' books. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley was the name they dreamed up.112
How, then, are the uncertainties about attribution to be construed? Are they mistakes: slips of the mask, as Davie has it, when Pound loses interest in the dramatic monologue he has set up, to deliver something else?—like poem IV of the first sequence, which seems too impassioned and astringent and un‐aesthetic and robustly moving to issue from Mauberley? Or is it something other than a masquerade: a wearing of the semi‐transparent mask of an imaginary portrait (which, insofar as it is transparent, is an imaginary self‐portrait)? Or, again, is it that Pound's didacticism conceived the work as a dramatic monologue—a straightforward exposé of aesthetic unsturdiness—but that his verbal brilliance occasionally got the better of him, and out of him, by imagining other possibilities in the form? According to this view, he was responding to two things: the formal possibilities of auto/biography as reinvented by the Aesthetic movement; and the formal possibilities of fictional authorship, and their possibilities for parody, as reinvented by Joyce and Beerbohm responding to the Aesthetic movement. Pound's responses to these things was perhaps subliminal, escaping any didactic purpose he had framed for the poem, but nonetheless lending it more troublesome energies than he could recognize.
Ultimately, then, what the volume is an imaginary portrait of, is literary consciousness. And it is in this sense that it represents a condensation of Henry James, for whom writing (in Terry Eagleton's words) ‘represents an adventure into individual consciousness of unique worth.’113 This is approximately what F. R. Leavis said about Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, arguing that it embodied a particular ‘sensibility.’114 Leavis appreciated Pound's expression of a cultivated sensibility, and for all his investment in the anti‐biographical method of Practical Criticism, could recognize that Mauberley was engaging with life‐writing. He read it as ‘the summing‐up of an individual life’, and added that ‘One might, at the risk (p.419) of impertinence, call it quintessential autobiography, taking care, however, to add that it has the impersonality of great poetry.’115 It is Pound's dealings with auto/biography and metabiography, I would add, that allows him to achieve at once sensibility and impersonality. Pound's aim in surgically detaching consciousness from individual minds, the individuals having been etherized upon the writing table, and anatomizing it, is profoundly ambivalent. Rather like Eagleton, who sees ‘consciousness’ as a reified term, ‘the transcendent truth of the modern liberal age’, he sees the cult of consciousness as revealing a crisis in liberalism: an alienation of the atomized individual, whose hyper‐awareness makes him unable to act (though the political remedies they envisage are diametrically opposed). Arguably, then, Mauberley is a kind of composite imaginary self portrait in negative; a portrait of the aesthete as a middle‐aged man.
Soon after Pound had finished his ‘farewell to London’, he left for Paris around the end of April 1920, and then went on to Venice.116 The work he began there shows the extent to which autobiography, and the ironizing of auto/biographical form, was still preoccupying him. This was the prose work ‘Indiscretions’, first published in the New Age in twelve instalments from 27 May to 12 August 1920. Donald Gallup describes it as ‘a thinly disguised autobiographical fragment concerned chiefly with Pound's father.’117 If it isn't Pound's ‘naughtyboyography’, exactly, and scarcely delivers the kind of ‘indiscretions’ which that label suggests, and with which its title titillates its readers, it does shed further light on his concern with autobiography—with ‘how to display anything remotely resembling our subjectivity’;118 and with the related issue of family memoir: ‘It is one thing to feel that one could write the whole social history of the United States from one's family annals, and vastly another to embark upon any such Balzacian and voluminous endeavour’, writes Pound.119 This is the nub of his unease with auto/biography. His project was always to condense the voluminous into the luminous; ‘one's family annals’ were required to be not only selective, but representative. The subtitle of ‘Indiscretions’ is ‘or, Une Revue De Deux Mondes’; and its Jamesian aim is to juxtapose the American experience and the European point of view. What its fifty or so pages give us has been described as ‘slightly‐fictionalized autobiography’; and as ‘Recording his semi‐mythical family history with Henry Jamesian mock solemnity.’120 ‘Indiscretions’ too, that is, fictionalizes and mocks the forms and tones of life‐writing.
(1) Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 181.
(2) William Empson's biographical reading of ‘The Waste Land’: ‘My God, man, there's bears on it’, in his Using Biography (London: Chatto & Windus and The Hogarth Press, 1984), pp. 189–200
(3) Pound/Ford: The Story of a Literary Friendship, ed. Brita Lindberg‐Seyersted (London: Faber and Faber, 1982), p. 126.
(4) Philippe Lejeune, ‘The Autobiographical Contract’, in French Literary Theory Today, ed. Tzvetan Todorov (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 192–222.
(5) Some of these presentational details were changed in subsequent editions. The division into parts disappears; and the title of the second sequence varies, appearing as ‘MAUBERLEY / 1920’ in Personae (1926), as ‘MAUBERLEY (1920)’ in the 1949 Selected Poems, and as ‘MAUBERLEY / (1920)’ in Diptych: Rome—London (1958)—hence the need to refer to it here as the ‘second sequence’. The changes perhaps indicate a hesitation on Pound's part as to how much the focus is on the man and how much on his postwar milieu. The edition used for quotations here is the Selected Poems, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1973).
(6) Peter Brooker, A Student's Guide to the Selected Poems of Ezra Pound (London: Faber, 1979), p. 183.
(7) Pound to Felix Schelling, 8–9 July 1922; Selected Letters of Ezra Pound (New York: New Directions, 1971), pp. 178–82 (p. 180).
(8) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 188.
(9) T. Connolly, ‘Further Notes on Mauberley’, Accent (1956), 59; quoted Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 188.
(10) ‘The Age Demanded’, from the second sequence.
(11) Pound to Schelling, 8–9 July 1922: Selected Letters, p. 180.
(12) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 186.
(14) Davie, Pound (London: Fontana, 1975), p. 55.
(15) Paul Skinner, ‘ “Speak Up, Fordie!”: How Some People Want to Go to Carcassonne’, Ford Madox Ford and the City, ed. Sara Haslam (New York and Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), pp. 197–210 (p. 205)Hugh Selwyn MauberleyMauberley
(16) Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 385.
(17) Pritchard, ‘Poet of the Public Stage’, Washington Times (20 January 2008).
(18) Patrick McGuinness, ‘From Mallarmé to Pound: The “Franco‐Anglo‐American” Axis’, in Symbolism, Decadence and the Fin de Siècle: French and European Perspectives, ed. McGuinness (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000), pp. 264–79Mauberley
(19) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 222.
(20) Pound, Gaudier‐Brzeska (New York: New Directions, 1974), p. 85.
(21) ‘Imaginary Letters’, Pavannes and Divagations (New York: New Directions, 1974), pp. 55–76. See for example Davie, Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), chapter 5; Davie, Ezra Pound, p. 55; and Brooker, A Student's Guide, pp. 184–6.
(22) John J. Espey, Ezra Pound's ‘Mauberley’: A Study in Composition (London: Faber, 1955) p. 23.
(23) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 187. The volume Diptych: Rome—London (London: Faber, 1958), combines Propertius and Mauberley, and includes the subtitle ‘Contacts and Life’ for the latter on the title‐page and slipcase label. While this clearly suggests that the subtitle covers the whole of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, the contents page adds another level of confusion, however, putting ‘Contacts and Life’ and ‘Mauberley’ as if they were the sub‐titles for the first and second sequences respectively: in other words, as if ‘Contacts and Life’ only covered the first sequence. This structure is supported by the separate sub‐title pages given to each in the text itself.
(24) Pound, Selected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1949), p. viii. As Donald Gallup notes in his Ezra Pound: A Bibliography (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), p. 82, the later (New York, 1957) edition changes ‘Autobiography’ to ‘Biography’. I am grateful to Paul Skinner for this information. ‘1910’ is presumably an error for ‘1920’.
(25) Leonard W. Doob, ed., ‘Ezra Pound Speaking’: Radio Speeches of World War II (Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1978), p. xiii
(26) K. K. Ruthven, A Guide to Ezra Pound's Personae (1926) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), p. 127.Diptych Rome—London
(28) Ronald Bush, ‘ “It Draws One to Consider Time Wasted”: Hugh Selwyn Mauberley’, American Literary History, 2:1 (1990), 56–78
(29) Pound, ‘Ford Madox (Hueffer) Ford: Obit’, Nineteenth Century and After, 126 (1939), 178–81; reprinted in Selected Prose, ed. William Cookson (London: Faber, 1978), pp. 431–3 (pp. 431–2). The book was probably Canzoni, published in July, but actually Pound's fifth volume of verse. For further discussion of this episode see Saunders, Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 342–5. For the relationship between Ford and Pound see Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford; Robert Hampson, ‘ “Experiments in Modernity”: Ford and Pound’, in Andrew Gibson, ed., Pound in Multiple Perspective: A Collection of Critical Essays (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1993), pp. 93–125; and Max Saunders, ‘Ford/Pound’, Agenda, 27:4/28:1 (1989/1990), 93–102.
(30) Pound to Schelling, 9 July 1922: Selected Letters, p. 181.
(31) Brooker, A Student's Guide, pp. 187–8.
(32) In the ‘Three Cantos’ published in Poetry ( June–August 1917), the passage in question appears in Canto III, as it does in the slightly revised text published in Quia Pauper Amavi (London: The Ovid Press, 1919). See Ronald Bush, The Genesis of Ezra Pound's ‘Cantos’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), pp. xiii, 71.
(33) Joseph Wiesenfarth, ‘Ford Madox Ford and the Pre‐Raphaelites or how Dante Gabriel Rossetti Started the First World War’, REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature, ed. Herbert Grabes, Winfried Fluck, and Jürgen Schlaeger, vol. 9 (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1993) pp. 109–48
(34) Ford Madox Hueffer, The Pre‐Raphaelite Brotherhood (London: Duckworth, 1907), pp. 2–3.
(35) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 203.
(37) Barbara Belford, Violet (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), caption for plate 12, between pp. 160–1. Ford's Collected Poems (London: Max Goschen, 1914), which Pound reviewed, included a ‘Song Drama’ on ‘King Cophetua's Wooing’.
(38) See The Cantos (London: Faber, 1975); XVI (p. 70) and LXXIV (p. 433).
(39) Pound to Wyndham Lewis, 3 December 1924: Selected Letters, p. 191.
(40) Bush, The Genesis of Ezra Pound's ‘Cantos’, p. 183. Pound to John Drummond, 18 February 1932, Selected Letters, p. 239.
(41) Brooker, A Student's Guide, pp. 259–60Pound/Joyce
(42) ‘Mœurs Contemporaines’, Selected Poems, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1973), pp. 165–9 (p. 165).
(43) Humphrey Carpenter, A Serious Character (London: Faber, 1988), p. 324.
(44) Pound ‘Henry James’, Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1974), pp. 295–338.
(45) Pound to Felix Schelling, 9 July : Selected Letters, p. 180.
(46) Pound ‘Henry James’, Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, p. 324.
(47) Paul Skinner, email to Max Saunders, 15 March 2008.
(48) Pound, ‘[The Inquest]’ [1924?], in Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford, p. 70.
(49) Kimon Friar and John Malcolm Brinnin, eds, Modern Poetry: American and British (New York: Appleton‐Century‐Crofts, 1951), p. 529.
(50) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 208Literary Essays
(51) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 208. David Cecil, Max: A Biography (London: Constable, 1964), p. 4, quotes Beerbohm saying ‘I would be delighted to know that the Beerbohms had that very agreeable and encouraging thing, Jewish blood’; but he gives no source, so it's not clear whether Pound could have read it before 1920. Even if he hadn't, he could still have thought of Brennbaum as an imaginary portrait of Beerbohm as a Jew.
(52) Selected Letters, p. 158.
(53) Beerbohm, Seven Men: and Two Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 100.
(68) Holbrook Jackson, The Eighteen Nineties: A Review of Art and Ideas at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (London: Grant Richards, 1913).
(69) Seven Men: and Two Others, p. 15.
(70) Introduction by Lord David Cecil, Seven Men and Two Others, p. x.
(71) Sherry, ‘From the Twenties to the Nineties: Pound, Beerbohm, and the Making of Mauberley’, PN Review 20:5 (97) (1994), 40–2.
(72) Pound/Joyce, pp. 115, 39: quoted by Brooker, A Student's Guide, pp. 209–10.
(73) Brenda Maddox, Nora (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988), p. 13
(74) Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford, p. 65.
(75) Ford to Pound, 30 August 1920: Letters of Ford Madox Ford, ed. Richard M. Ludwig (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), p. 122.
(76) Charles Norman, Ezra Pound (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 224.
(77) Pound, Pavannes and Divagations, p. 213. Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 210. The Natural Philosophy of Love (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922).
(78) Pound, ‘De Gourmont: A Distinction (Followed by Notes)’, Little Review, 5:10–11 (1919), 1–19. Republished (as ‘Remy de Gourmont, a Distinction, Followed by Notes’) in Instigations (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920); and in Literary Essays, pp. 339–58 (p. 345). He had also written two essays on de Gourmont during the war: ‘Remy de Gourmont’, Fortnightly Review, 98:588 (New Series) (1 December 1915), 1159–66; and ‘Remy de Gourmont’, Poetry, 7:4 (1916), 197–202; reprinted as ‘Remy de Gourmont’ in Pavannes and Divisions (New York: Knopf, 1918); and in Selected Prose, pp. 383–93.
(79) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 210.
(80) Pound to John Quinn, 15 November : Selected Letters, p. 140.
(81) I am grateful to Warwick Gould for confirming that there is no known connexion between Gonne and Ealing: Gould to Saunders, 20 October 2004.
(82) Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 211.
(83) Carpenter, A Serious Character, p. 412.
(84) Wells to Ford, 26 November 1908: quoted by Arthur Mizener, The Saddest Story (London: The Bodley Head, 1972), p. 155. Also see Lawrence Rainey's Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), ch. 1, on Pamela Wyndham Tennant, Lady Glenconner.
(85) Pound, Patria Mia (London: Peter Owen, 1962), p. 43; quoted Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 211.
(86) Bush, The Genesis of Ezra Pound's ‘Cantos’, p. 258.
(87) Kingsley Amis's distinction between ‘allo‐ rather than autobiography’: Memoirs (London: Hutchinson, 1991), p. xvi
(88) Pound, ‘How to Read’, Literary Essays, p. 25.New York Herald Tribune Books
(89) The Cantos, p. 446. See Brooker, A Student's Guide, p. 217.
(90) ‘Literary Portraits—XXXVI. Les Jeunes and “Des Imagistes” (Second Notice)’, Outlook, 33 (16 May 1914), 682–3.
(91) Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford, p. 16.
(92) Pound, ‘Mr. Hueffer and the Prose Tradition in Verse’, Poetry, 4 (1914), 111–20; Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford, p. 16.
(93) Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford, p. 10.
(95) Literary EssaysFord, Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 1997), p. 35
(96) Pound, ‘Arnold Dolmetsch’, Literary Essays, p. 433.
(97) ‘Mr. Hueffer and the Prose Tradition in Verse’, in Pound/Ford, p. 16. Pound, ‘Ford Madox (Hueffer) Ford: Obit’, Selected Prose, pp. 431–3; and Lindberg‐Seyersted, ed., Pound/Ford, pp. 171–4 (p. 172).
(98) Pound's contrast between an active Imagism and passive impressionism has remained influential. See for example Peter Nicholls, Modernisms: A Literary Guide (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995). It has had unfortunate consequences for Ford's critical reputation though, since Pound has nothing to say about Ford's impressionist masterpiece The Good Soldier, in which the passivity of the narrator is not to be confused with the formal energy of the author. See Saunders, ‘Ford/Pound’, Agenda, 27:4/28:1 (1989/1990), 93–102.
(99) Brooker's annotations to the second sequence cite de Gourmont, James or his character Lambert Strether, Huntley Carter, John Gould Fletcher, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
(101) ‘Et Faim Sallir Le Loup des Boys’, Blast, 2 (1915), 22.
(102) With thanks to Paul Skinner for this shrewd observation: email to Max Saunders, 15 March 2008.
(103) Pound to Harriet Monroe, 30 September 1914: Selected Letters, p. 40.
(104) Carpenter, A Serious Character, p. 241
(105) Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, trans. Michael Henry Heim (London: Faber and Faber, 1985), p. 221.
(106) Pound, Gaudier‐Brzeska, p. 89.
(107) Pound, ABC of Reading (London: Faber, 1951), pp. 17–27.
(108) Saunders, ‘Verbal and Other Manifestations: Further thoughts on Ford/Pound/Ford’, in Redefining the Modern: Essays on Literature and Society in Honor of Joseph Wiesenfarth, ed. William Baker and Ira B. Nadel (Madison, WI and London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004), pp. 165–80. Also see Stephen J. Adams, ‘Irony and Common Sense: The Genre of Mauberley’, Paideuma, 18, 1 & 2 (1989), 147–60.
(109) Davie, Ezra Pound, pp. 58–9.Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor
(110) Brooker, A Student's Guide, pp. 161–2.
(111) See for example the version of ‘Donna mi priegha’ in The Translations of Ezra Pound, introduced by Hugh Kenner (London: Faber, 1970), p. 133. Pound wrote to W. H. D. Rouse, 23 May 1935: ‘The Nekuia shouts aloud that it is older than the rest, all that island, Cretan, etc., hinter‐time, that is not Praxiteles, not Athens of Pericles, but Odysseus’: Selected Letters, p. 274.
(112) James Laughlin, Pound as Wuz (London: Peter Owen, 1989), p. 173.
(113) Terry Eagleton, ‘Living as Little as Possible’, London Review of Books (23 September 2004), 23–4.
(114) ‘The verse is extraordinarily subtle, and its subtlety is the subtlety of the sensibility it expresses’: Leavis, New Bearings in English Poetry (1932) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), pp. 104–5.
(116) Carpenter, A Serious Character, p. 372.
(117) Gallup, Ezra Pound: A Bibliography, p. 35.
(118) Pound, ‘Indiscretions’, in Pavannes and Divagations (New York: New Directions, 1974), p. 3.
(120) Modernist Journals ProjectCarpenter, A Serious Character, p. 3