Ezra Pound: Poet: Volume III: The Tragic Years 1939-1972 - A. David Moody (2015)
PART FIVE: 1958-1972
17: HIS SICKNESS & HIS WEALTH, 1962–4
Ezra and Olga would be inseparable for the rest of his life. As for Ezra and Dorothy, they would henceforth be separated in fact, if not in law; but Dorothy, as Committee for Ezra Pound, would maintain to the end her hold over him, and while not able either to care for or wholly to control his person, she would contrive to have absolute control of his literary property and of his increasing income from it. She would allow him a monthly dole out of his funds sufficient for his necessities, every cent of which, she would continue to insist, had to be accounted for ‘to the Court’. And she would decide whether to grant or to withhold permission to publish his writings, often without bothering to consult or even to inform him.
In April 1962 Olga was renting a small cottage in Sant’Ambrogio; but two years later, in the summer of 1964, she would be able to move back to Casa 60, this time occupying with Pound the middle and not the top floor of the house. She had also kept free her little house in Venice’s Calle Querini for them to go to in the winter, refusing her tenant’s request to extend his lease. They would spend the cold months there when Venice was most itself, uncluttered with tourists; but would rent out the house for the summer season and return to Sant’Ambrogio above Rapallo and its Gulf of Tigullio.
The immediate concern, in May 1962, was Pound’s physical state. Dr Bacigalupo was disturbed to find his old friend lying on a bed, strikingly thin, his face hollowed out, quite silent, only his blue eyes alive to everything going on around him. He quickly determined that the root of Pound’s problems, including his not wanting to eat and his depression, was an enlarged prostate causing retention of urine and thence serious uremic blood poisoning. In the clinics in Rome and Merano all attention had been on his nervous condition, and his talk of being diseased and infected had been dismissed as delusional. Now treatment of his physical condition was urgent, but because he was not a free person the permission of his legal guardian had to be sought, and Dorothy had returned to Brunnenburg and Dr Bacigalupo was having difficulty contacting her. Then in early June Pound suffered a serious haemorrhage, his temperature shot up, and it became imperative that he be admitted to hospital at once. Dr Sacco, a leading urologist at Genoa’s Galliera Hospital, was called in and confirmed the diagnosis of serious uremic blood poisoning and the immediate need for detoxification by the insertion of a catheter above the pubis to draw off the poison. Dorothy, now back in Rapallo—Omar was with her there for a week or two—signed the permission for the operation on 15 June, and it was carried out, under local anaesthetic, on the 19th. It was foreseen, however, that the surgical removal of the prostate would probably be called for once Pound had recovered sufficiently.
He left the Villa Chiara on the 30th and did get back his physical energy fairly soon, but, as Dr Bacigalupo noted, he still spoke very little, and when questioned struggled to find words, though what he did manage to say would be to the point and would show that there was nothing wrong with his memory. Thomas Cole who had visited and corresponded with Pound when he was in St Elizabeths—Cole was then the precocious young editor of Imagi and a poet in the old romantic way—saw Pound while he was still in the Villa Chiara, and found his silence ‘frustrating, uncomfortable’. ‘Other than a few forced words (he repeated “I remember”), he merely smiled forlornly and nodded and held me with his piercing eyes.’ Pound attempted to explain in a note addressed to Cole, written just after he had gone, what it was like from his side of the non-conversation: ‘My malady “includes” an absolute wall or vacuum | For indefinite period between interlocutor’—and here he drew the wall or vacuum, resting on ‘time lag’—with ‘ez or eg’ on the other side of it. Then he elaborated: ‘During your call —NO perception on my part that you had come FROM the U.S.’ In consequence he had failed, if one follows his thought, to send his best ‘to old Bill whose patience is & of right ought to be EGzausted’. He resumed: ‘There is an insanity | neither illogical [?nor] incorrect in registering what is said to it | BUT INcapable of perceiving the person speaking while the talk is going on.’ The note ends, ‘& pray that I recover (not from the disease they think I have but from this particular insensibility which is not defined by any psyc I have read —but then I havent read any of em’.
Next day, instead of sending the note to Cole who had probably left Rapallo, he enclosed it with one to Bill Williams, ‘almost first letter have writ since recovery’, asking him if he could help define ‘this impenetrability’. ‘Dante’s hell is COLD at bottom,’ he remarked, discriminating a difference from his own, in which there was ‘nothing loco | no hate, no coldness, but just that eg condition’. It was not ‘indifference’, he insisted, this ‘insensitivity I am briefly jabbing @’—and again he drew his diagram,
speaker || vacuum transmitting NO sense of the speaker || Eg
—‘Eg’ apparently standing for himself as exhibit in the case. ‘Am not yapping re/ stupidity in general or insensitivity as such’, he added on a fourth sheet, and ended, ‘I spose there is an equation in electronics for it.’ One significant feature of this struggle to articulate his condition is that Pound does not mention the difficulty of finding and uttering words. It is rather as if the poison in his blood had affected the electro-chemical functioning of his brain and brought on a form of autism. There was more to his silence than an inability to get his words out, and something much harder to bear. Now he feared that he really was insane. 1
He was in good form, however, when Henry Swabey saw him up at Sant’Ambrogio in August, ‘much thinner now and quiet’, but ‘the same keen eyes…Nor, after severe illnesses, had his mind clouded.’ Pound appears to have conversed without difficulty, and, when Swabey was leaving, he and Olga walked with him some way down the salita. He was doing well and eating now, Dorothy had heard.
She was sending Olga a monthly cheque ‘for Ezra’s “keep”’—allowing ‘60,000 lire a month for food’, or just under $100. ‘Please let Ezra have all the little luxuries,’ she instructed, while requiring lists of all expenditures for the monthly accounting. Then she wrote, ‘let me send you something extra for all your work; I did not understand he could not bathe and dress himself. What do you suggest as a monthly stipend?’ That was very kindly putting Olga in her place as Ezra’s carer. In 1963 she would make the monthly cheque $200, then the Court allowed $300 for ‘care and maintenance of the Patient’, this to include medical expenses. In 1964 the allowance was raised again to $400—eventually it would rise to $800. But not until July 1970 would the Court be petitioned by the Committee ‘to make monthly payments to Miss Rudge in the amount of $100 per month as compensation for her services to the patient’.
News came that Ezra Pound had been awarded Poetry’s 50th anniversary Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize. To mark the special occasion the prize money had been raised to $500, and was to be awarded for any contribution to Poetry since its foundation by Miss Monroe in 1912. The citation named Pound, ‘the great poet’, as the ‘one inevitable choice’, because of his many contributions to the magazine, and because ‘No other person in the history of this magazine helped her to do the proudest things that Poetry has done.’ Laughlin, who had selected the opening section of canto 113 for publication in the anniversary issue, must have given instructions for the $500 to be sent to Dorothy as Committee for Ezra Pound, since she wrote to Pound in mid-October to let him know that she was holding the cheque. It was made out in his name, ‘but perhaps after your signature I had better put DP Co for EP? Or if you make it over to me I can send it to the B. di Roma Merano, which is all your money although in my name.’ At the end of December Pound would write a brief note to Dorothy—they were both then in Rapallo—wishing her ‘Happy New Year’, and asking her to send $200 ‘from my account’ to Mary as a Christmas present. But, as Dorothy would insist to Olga, ‘no money is supposed to be his “own” nowadays’.
Olga had taken Pound to Venice at the end of September, as soon as he was fit to travel by train. That winter and early spring Richard Stern, a young American writer, saw him from time to time in Calle Querini. He judged that Pound was not fully recovered from his operation and was still adjusting to having to live with the ‘physical inconvenience’ of his urinary apparatus. At the same time he was reading a lot. During his first visit Stern encountered ‘that famous silence’; but the next time they ‘talked for a couple of hours, fairly easily’—
He asked me what was going on. I told him what I knew, we disagreed about Eliot’s plays—he liked them a lot—he spoke of the coherence in Frost and Eliot (‘Frost wanted to be New England’), men who had their feet planted in one place, a fortunate, an enviable thing. Nothing overwhelming, but every sentence, clear, complete and underwritten by thought, so rare that the word sanity took on a new depth for me.
Pound could be playful as well, or at least Stern took it to be playful when Pound would reply to the formulaic ‘How are you, Mr Pound?’, with the single word, ‘Senile’. His style though was generally simple and courteous, creating a sense of occasion. Once, however, something said brought Pound’s feelings of guilt and failure welling up, and he gripped Stern’s hand and drew him close, ‘“Wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ve always been wrong,”’ he said, ‘“I’ve never recognised benevolence,”’ and ‘he’d left only notes, scattered notes, he hadn’t made anything clear’. Stern could not comfort him, ‘The old man was touching bottom.’
Others were wanting to assure him that he had not failed, his errors notwithstanding. George Oppen, who had turned to Communism in the 1930s, wrote to him, ‘Dear Pound’,
I suppose if we should take to talking politics to each other I would disagree even more actively than all those others who have disagreed, but there has been no one living during my life time who has been as generous or as pure as you toward literature and toward writers. Nor anyone less generously thanked.
I know of no one who does not owe you a debt.
Lowell wrote, praising the Paris Review interview as ‘the best statement of our and your case that anyone has made’, and telling Pound that the words of his favourites among the Cantos ‘stay with me and sing, and are not just the words of a poem but a message and a record’. ‘Be proud’, he urged, ‘that for so much of your long life you have been a fountain for your friends and readers.’
When William Carlos Williams died on 4 March 1963, Pound cabled to Flossie Williams, ‘he bore with me for sixty years. I shall never have another poet friend like him.’ At her house after the funeral Flossie extracted Pound’s cable from a bundle she was clutching and said to Denise Levertov and Mack Rosenthal, ‘This is the one that means most to me.’ She wrote back to Pound, ‘it is just as true for Bill and his respect love and admiration for you. He counted on you—that I know.’
About that time Pound granted an interview to an Italian journalist, Grazia Livi. Her first impression, she wrote, ‘is that his genius is now vanquished’, and that ‘he is not himself any more and that all the elements of his being are coordinated in a purely physical, functional way’. When she wrote up the interview from her rough notes, she began it with her remarking to him that she was a little afraid coming to see him, and had him reply with the since often quoted statement, ‘I understand. I spoil everything I touch. I have always blundered.’ The journalist then wondered ‘what a man like you must think of the mass media, such as television or the press, intruding into the private lives of people’, and to that he replied, revealing a mind in perfect working order, ‘would you prefer to live alone in a room, or in a sewer with dozens of drains?’ Livi put the interview back on her track by having him say,
all my life I believed I knew something. But then one strange day came when I realized that I knew nothing, yes, I knew nothing. And so words became void of meaning.
That statement too is often quoted, but not what followed—
Livi. Perhaps they became void of meaning also because new elements had forced their way into men’s lives. I mean increasing mechanization and its antipoetic and alienating effects on humanity.
Pound. Yes, that too. But at the same time I believe that is all temporary. I think there is something ‘seminal’ in humanity that can outlive mechanization. In short, I believe something of man’s consciousness will remain, despite everything, and that it will be able to fight against the forces of mindlessness.
While the advertised theme of the interview, the one critics have fastened on, is Pound’s having arrived at ‘ultimate uncertainty’, at knowing only ‘that I know nothing’, there is also this strong counter-theme, that ‘there is something “seminal” in humanity’, and that there is a world to be known. That counter-theme is developed and becomes dominant in this later exchange:
Livi. Then what is it that binds you to life now that you have attained the supreme certainty of uncertainty?
Pound. Nothing binds me to life any more. I am simply ‘immersed’ in it.
Livi. And I was hoping that the pure wisdom which comes with old age might also bring beauty and peace!
Pound. Yes, it can bring peace also. The universe is so very marvellous.
Or, as he had expressed it in canto 116, ‘it coheres all right | even if my notes do not cohere’. Livi seems not to have comprehended the wisdom of being conscious of one’s immersion in the vital universe; nor to have realized how Pound’s knowing nothing is inseparable from his positive affirmation of the universe and of the potential of human consciousness. At one point she brings The Spirit of Romance into her interview, but she quite misses the profound continuity between Pound’s youthful and his aged mind. He had not lost his confidence in the intelligence that ‘makes cosmos’, but only his confidence in his own verbal formulations. Livi ends her interview upon her key note, Pound’s confessing ‘I have lost the ability to reach the core of my thought with words,’ but that is far from meaning, as she assumes, that his mind had stopped.
An American, Jean McClean, spoke with Pound in Venice about the same time as Grazia Livi, and protested that she could not discern in the latter’s interview the man she had seen. In reaction to what she regarded as Livi’s total failure to comprehend Pound, she portrayed ‘a beautiful, quiet, humble, almost Chinese mystic’, and recalled
the clean clear beauty of his blue eyes as they passed from gentleness to intensity and back again, his gracious manner, the calm serenity with which he explained to me most coherently what it is like to have to re-examine all one’s values at so advanced an age.
She was left with the sense of an ‘always searching…brilliant intelligence, softened by the lacerated wisdom of a sage’. McClean’s enthusiastic account is of course wholly subjective, and it tells us nothing of what Pound actually said; but it does accord with his more positive statements in Livi’s report.
When the Academy of American Poets awarded its $5,000 Fellowship for 1963 to Pound he acknowledged the honour with a considered statement of his position in a letter drafted for Dorothy to send to its founder and president:
Dear Mrs Bullock.
40 or more years ago I believed that my work for a clarification of language deserved commendation. This belief endured for some time.
If a majority of the Chancellors now believe that the good in the work as it stands outweighs the errors I can gladly accept their judgement as encouragement to get on with the present search for a true basis.
‘Thank you’, he concluded, then added ‘for magnanimity’, and crossed that out, wrote ‘for the good you have done’, and crossed that out. It was left to Dorothy to close ‘With sincere appreciation for what you have done & are doing for “us”.’ In December she let Olga know that her lawyer in Boston, Mr Gleason, had advised that she, Olga, ‘may draw on the prize money at the rate of $200 a month’ in lieu of what the Committee would otherwise send her, until the said prize money is exhausted—this so as not to spend ‘in excess of the Court’s allowance’.
When Ezra and Olga moved back to Rapallo in May Dr Bacigalupo recommended a total prostatectomy, and this was performed by Dr Sacco at the end of the month. Three weeks later ‘a perineal insertion of the urethra’ was carried out, assuring ‘a perfect continence’. Bacigalupo had sworn to Pound that ‘he can remake normal men’. However, although the two operations were declared successful, they did render the patient impotent, as Olga noted, and he would need to wear the bothersome ‘apparatus’ for the rest of his life.
Pound was well enough to accompany Olga to the final concerts of the Accademia season in Siena, and to return with her to Venice in early September, going by way of Rimini so that he might see Sigismundo’s Tempio once more. In November, in the hope of completing his recovery, Olga took him to Clinique La Prairie in Clarens, Montreux, which specialized in restorative and rejuvenating treatments. To judge by the vivid and disturbing portrait of Pound drawn by Oskar Kokoschka while he was in the clinic—Kokoschka was then living in Montreux—Pound was in need of such treatment. There is a suggestion of suffering age about the face and hair, while the fierce gaze is inward-directed, angst-ridden. The treatment, by Dr Niehaus, an endocrinologist and diet specialist, did successfully ‘disintoxicate’ Pound and restore him to stable physical health. It did not, however, cure his mind of its profound depression.
The Committee’s agenda
While he was in the Villa Chiara for his operations Pound wrote a ‘formal letter’ to Dorothy: ‘if my old will is not valid, will you see how my possessions can go to Mary. as committee find how this can be done legally.’ He wanted his literary estate to provide for his daughter and for her family.
Dorothy’s and Omar’s lawyers, who were also the legal advisers and agents of Dorothy Pound as Committee for Ezra Pound, had in fact been poring over the 1940 will, seeking grounds on which to dispute its validity. Dorothy had obtained photostat copies from Boris who held the original at Brunnenburg, and had sent them to Moore and to Gleason. Moore who was now retired, though continuing to advise Dorothy and Omar, had passed his copy on to a cousin of Omar’s wife Elizabeth, Frank Cockburn, who had taken over their legal affairs in England. Moore suggested to Gleason and to Dorothy, and no doubt to Cockburn also, that a date on the will was suspect, that a witness’s signature appeared to be missing, that it was very odd that Mary, who was only 14 in 1940, should be appointed literary executor, that no ‘true Executor’ was appointed by it, and that he doubted whether the Will was ‘good according to Italian or U.S. law’. 2 He implicitly looked forward to Pound’s dying intestate, when much would depend on ‘whether E.P may be regarded as domiciled in Italy’, in which case his property would be administered under Italian law; but if it could be argued that he should be regarded as domiciled in the USA, then ‘the certificate of Omar’s birth’ would certainly be taken into consideration as establishing him as ‘one of E.P.’s next of kin’ and therefore as having a direct claim on his property after Dorothy herself. In any case ‘The Will is definitely bad,’ Moore assured Dorothy, ‘unless Mary finds something to prove her legitimacy’. There was the nub of the matter: a determination, shared by all three lawyers with the Committee, to prevent the inheritance going to Mary, as Pound expressly wished it to go, and instead to secure it, or as much of it as possible, for Omar. They appear not to have been bothered by conflicts of interest—though Gleason did later recommend that Omar employ another lawyer, Louis Warren—nor by the fact that their fees, which could amount to between a third and a half of what was being allowed to Pound, were being paid out of the Committee’s, that is, Pound’s, accounts.
There was the awkward fact that Omar had signed a notarized document in 1949 renouncing in favour of Mary and her children ‘all rights and claims to proceeds (royalties or whatever) from Ezra Pound’s work’; and that, moreover, Dorothy had assured Mary that Omar would never ‘violate E.P.’s wishes in the matter’. Moore knew the document, and knew Pound’s wishes, but still gave it as his opinion that ‘E.P. had not then the slightest idea what his archives might be worth’ and that he would not now ‘want to deprive you [i.e. Omar] of your just inheritance’. It appears to have been accepted by the lawyers, and by Laughlin, that the ‘old understanding’ should be forgotten.
Another document they found reason to disregard was a letter of instruction to Laughlin, dated 9 November 1957 and formally signed by Pound and by his Committee, confirming ‘the statement that all income royalties fees or whatever from publication of Ezra Pound’s writings on the continent of Europe are to be paid to Mary de Rachewiltz’. That, Laughlin would inform Cockburn in 1968, ‘seems to say’ that Mary should receive ‘the whole proceeds’ of European royalties. However, Dorothy Pound had subsequently instructed that Mary’s ‘agent’s commission’ should be held down to 10% of the net amount, and that is what he had done. When the matter came up in 1963 Dorothy was instructing Gleason to handle all translation rights for her, but Mary was claiming Europe as her territory. Gleason and Laughlin—Gleason was also New Directions’ adviser on copyright matters—suggested that it would be tactful and might make for future harmony to treat her as agent for the Committee and to pay her an agent’s commission. Dorothy declared, and Moore echoed, that Mary was overworked with her family and the castle and could not cope with the business. She should be kept out of things, Moore urged. It was agreed, however, that Mary should get ‘something nominal’—2½ per cent, Moore proposed, sure that Mr Gleason would object to anything more. But evidently Gleason allowed the 10 per cent Laughlin paid out, while Mary was effectively stripped of her territory. Again in 1965, when Dominique de Roux was negotiating permissions with Faber & Faber for translations in his big L’Herne volumes on Pound, Moore arranged that Faber should allow her just ‘5% of what they collected from France’. Dorothy thought that right since, she told Moore, Mary could not expect to paid at a rate that had been arranged twenty years before ‘so she could earn tuppence’.
Omar was so worried that Mary might somehow establish a claim to the papers and correspondence still at Brunnenburg that he had a long talk about it with T. S. Eliot when the latter was in Boston in March 1962; then he had Eliot discuss the matter with Gleason; and afterwards wrote begging him to see Moore in London ‘to explain his anxieties…and discuss the situation’. Moore, however, was sure that ‘now that he has both Gleason and Cockburn acting in his interests he should have nothing further to worry about’. Two years later, when Gleason was trying to arrange the sale or at least the safe custody of the papers on Omar’s behalf, Moore had to reassure him again that all necessary steps would be taken to protect his ‘inheritance and social position’.
The ‘social position’ in question was Omar’s being accepted as the son of Ezra Pound. Dorothy was constantly in fear of ‘scandal’ being spread about herself and Omar and causing problems for Omar both socially and legally. She had had Laughlin and Gleason, with Omar’s help, eliminate from Charles Norman’s 1960 biography of Pound ‘any reference to certain personal matters which would have been embarrassing to the family’. Norman had been required to be economical with the truth, writing simply, ‘Omar Shakespear Pound was born in the American Hospital in Paris on September 10, 1926, and registered as an American citizen, his mother being American by marriage’. But then Ronald Duncan, in an article in the Sunday Times in February 1962, wrote of Pound’s having ‘returned to Italy to live with his only child, Princess Mary de Rachewiltz’. And the following year Dorothy questioned whether action should be taken on Omar’s behalf against something ‘detrimental to the family’ which Duncan had published in an extract from his autobiography in the Daily Telegraph. When the autobiography, All Men Are Islands, appeared in 1964 Duncan had learnt discretion. While being explicit about Mary being the daughter of Pound and Olga Rudge, he mentioned Omar simply as ‘their son’, leaving it to be understood that this meant the son of Ezra and Dorothy.
Protecting Omar and herself from scandal became a main motive in Dorothy’s exercise of her control over Pound’s literary property. Their private letters were a particular concern, one shared by Moore, who urged her to get her letters to E.P. into her own hands since they needed special safe custody for Omar’s protection. Dorothy had indeed been doing that, and when she was not sending them to Omar for safe custody she was burning them. She was also telling Omar that all the letters she had sent him should be embargoed for forty or fifty years after Ezra’s death. In any case, biographers would be required to submit their manuscripts for her approval, later for Omar’s approval.
The ‘scandal’ of Omar’s origins was successfully suppressed for nearly the whole of his lifetime. But the fear remained that Mary might somehow establish a stronger claim on Pound’s estate. Dorothy foresaw that if she were to die before Ezra then ‘Olga will almost certainly try to marry him’, and Moore saw that if this were to come to pass it would give the world proof of what Duncan had said about Mary in the Sunday Times and thus strengthen her legitimacy. He could only hope, he told Dorothy, that she would survive Ezra; and Dorothy confided to Omar that she saw it all ‘as a race—who dies first—EP or DP’. However, Omar was able to put that anxiety to rest after Mr Warren, his new legal adviser in America, remarked that Pound ‘may not re-marry without the consent of the Court since he is an “incompetent”’. That assumed that he would be still subject to his Committee; and the Committee, it was being suggested, in the event of Dorothy’s dying or giving it up, might consist of Omar himself with or without Gleason.
There was still the problem of Pound’s will. On 15 August 1964, Pound had attempted to re-execute the will of 17 June 1940. He made ‘a copy of a typewritten will which I made in Rapallo in 1940 and which I intend as my will, this day 15th of August 1964 [signed] Ezra Pound’. He then added:
The proceeds from any sale of archives must be placed in some form of trust fund to be applied to pay my expenses during my lifetime and such gifts as I choose to make.
Omar to have the W. Lewis work if he renounce claim to the other material and future rights for self & descendants for sums accruing to me from author’s rights and other sources.
[signed] Ezra Pound
This reassertion of his testamentary wishes, written by hand as required by Italian law, and signed by three new witnesses as required by US law, made no difference in the end.
In spite of all the efforts to find arguments against the 1940 will there was no certain view. In February 1965 Omar was complaining to Moore that no one among his American advisers was willing to state whether the will was valid or not. He wanted to know whether Mary would have ‘to PROVE that the will is valid’, or would someone have to claim that it was ‘INVALID’. That now seemed to him the important question. However, the lawyers, unable to give any watertight assurances about the will, and faced with the complication, which Warren had established, that Pound was legally domiciled in Italy, were now seeking a way of resolving the rival claims to Pound’s estate before the issue could come to court. It was being suggested that the estate should be put into a Trust, and that there should be an agreement as to how the proceeds should be shared.
Dorothy apparently put this suggestion to Ezra, as she reported to Moore on 26 February 1965. He had been in Rapallo briefly for a check-up, and over coffee alone with him on the 22nd she had told him what she planned to do with his money. He would not speak to her, but listened carefully, and a day or two later wrote to her. Omar was to have the Wyndham Lewis pictures provided ‘he renounced all claims on M.S.S. art-works, royalties —other money coming in, for himself & his descendants. Trust for any money accruing from sale of letters etc. to be income for his life-time. All to go to Mary.’ Dorothy sent copies of Pound’s letter to Gleason and to Cockburn, ‘without comment’. Her concern, she told Moore, was ‘to head-off Mary’s hogging everything’, and the letter, while it showed Pound’s wishes, ‘is only a letter, & not a legal document’. Like his formal letter from the Villa Chiara it would be disregarded.
Shortly after writing that letter Pound received from the Librarian of Congress, L. Quincy Mumford, a formal invitation to make the Library of Congress ‘the permanent repository for your literary manuscripts and personal papers’. Pound replied:
I appreciate the honor of your proposal, but an acceptance would be conditioned by a promise made by me in favour of my daughter Mary de Rachwiltz the terms of my will appointing her as my sole literary executor & leave my archives unconditionally to her. It would be necessary for me to add a codicil stipulating that certain of my effects be presented to the library of congress.
He would give the matter his consideration, he ended. It must have been a tempting offer given the official recognition it implied, but Pound appears to have let it lapse. He was holding fast with absolute consistency to his wish that all should be entrusted to Mary.
To justify their efforts to head off Mary’s entitlement Moore and Dorothy were calling her a ‘gold-digger’. But it was Omar who appeared eager to sell off the estate to the highest bidder, and who needed to be reminded that the Court might want the proceeds of any sale to be applied ‘for the benefit and maintenance of the Patient during his lifetime’. Mary’s concern, beyond her financial interest, was that Pound’s literary legacy should be preserved for future generations. Dorothy, reporting this to Moore, was inclined to scoff at Mary’s ‘solemn’ attitude’, and repeated the old joke, ‘what has posterity done for me?’
In September of 1963, over a cup of tea, Boris had given Dorothy a ‘long very quiet explanation—that all his [i.e. Pound’s] property [is] his own, to do as he wishes with. He has the usual alien’s papers—like myself’, and,
before EP. came back in ’58—he, B, interviewed ministers & such—result that EP. is here as a free man, like any other alien—that his signature is valid, that he can sign cheques, as long as he is here in Italy—‘committee’, as I knew, does not exist here—but B—ought to have told me—would have saved me much worry— but as soon as EP leaves, & is under U.S.A. again; then committee begins at once to function…I have written this talk at once to Gleason—It entirely alters my position—As long as he stays here, I am free of responsibility.
That remarkable account was written for Omar, and Dorothy had repeated the gist of it to Pound who was then in Venice—
Boris tells me that in Italy you are considered a free man, that your firma [signature] is valid. I wish I had known this earlier—it changes my situation—but the moment you leave Italy, coming under USA jurisdiction, the ‘committee’ begins to work.
That last assertion appears to have been not correct. At least Cockburn advised Omar in November 1967 that ‘USA jurisdiction’ did not extend to Great Britain. The unavoidable implication was that the Committee had no legal standing outside the United States—an implication that was in line with what Furniss and Arnold had advised in 1958 and 1959. But in spite of Boris de Rachewiltz’s explanation, Dorothy felt able to go on insisting to Olga that ‘E.P.’s signature is not valid’, and to continue exercising her burdensome responsibilities as Committee. And her lawyers and Omar’s lawyers, in spite of their better knowledge, went on keeping up the false pretence that Pound and his property were legally subject to her control, and that he was not ‘competent’ to re-marry or to make a valid will. Apparently none of them cared that they were depriving him of his human as well as of his legal rights.
But there is another mystery here. Boris must have told Pound what he had told Dorothy, that he was not subject to the Committee in Italy. Why then did he not claim and exercise his freedom there? Why did he submit to being bound in this net of falsehood? Was it the abuleia he confessed to, a failure of will? Or was it some deliberate and strong-willed refusal to assert himself against the fated working out of his life? Whatever we may surmise, the fact is that Pound appears to have lived out his last years in a state of extraordinary detachment from the ways in which his Committee was exercising its duty of care.
1 In fact most if not all his recent afflictions could be accounted for by uremic blood poisoning. As the blood flows to and serves every function of the organism so toxins in the blood can cause multiple dysfunction. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite leading to loss of weight, clouding of the mind, depression, dry skin, and impairment of speech.
2 ‘a.d. 140. Era Facsista XVIII’ had been typed, then, by hand, ‘140’ had been cancelled and ‘1940’ written in above it; and in the photocopy the signature of the second witness is indistinct. The will is reproduced p. 18 above—see also p. 250 above.