Ezra Pound: Poet: Volume III: The Tragic Years 1939-1972 - A. David Moody (2015)

APPENDIX. The Settlement of the Estate

On Thursday 2 November Olga Rudge wired to Omar Pound in Cambridge, England, ‘AFTER THREE DAYS ILLNESS EZRA DIED IN HIS SLEEP IN HOSPITAL STOP PLEASE BREAK NEWS TO DOROTHY STOP DETAILS FOLLOW’. Dorothy Pound, ‘parked’, as she felt, in an ‘Old Home’ twenty miles outside Cambridge, was now too deaf to be telephoned, and Omar went out to tell her that Pound was dead. Dorothy instructed him to arrange a Protestant funeral in Venice. A further telegram from Olga gave details of the arrangements she had already made: ‘SERVICE FRIDAY 10.00 AM CHIESA DI SAN GIORGIO CINI FOUNDATION PROVISIONAL INTERMENT CEMETERY ISLAND MICHELE VENICE.’ That would be 10.00 a.m. the next day. Pound had told Dorothy, in his 1967 letter about how he wanted to be buried, that Olga should ‘take charge of the arrangement. She knows my wishes.’ Possibly Dorothy did not mention that to Omar, who made every effort to have the arrangements made by Olga, in collaboration with the Cini Foundation, prevented or at least postponed. A telegram from the American Embassy in London reported that

The widow has given specific written instructions for a Protestant funeral in Venice, and for final arrangements to be postponed until son Omar can arrive in Venice and see to his mother’s wishes.

Another telegram, this one from the American Consulate in Milan to the Secretary of State in Washington DC, with copies to the US embassies in Rome and London, added that the Consulate General and Omar Pound had talked to Olga but she refused to alter her plans. The Consulate had also sent a telegram to the Mayor of Venice informing him of Dorothy Pound’s wishes, but had been unable to contact officials in Venice because it was a civil half-day holiday. Omar Pound, with Peter du Sautoy of Faber & Faber, took the first available flight from London but that got them to Venice only in the afternoon of Friday 3 November, after the funeral. Olga took them out to San Michele the following morning.

On 26 October, just a few days earlier, on the petition of Dorothy Pound and Omar Pound, the Court in Washington had ordered that Herbert P. Gleason be appointed Conservator of the person and property of Ezra Pound to serve as successor fiduciary to Dorothy Pound whose resignation was then accepted. In agreeing to take over as Committee Gleason had made a point of saying that he would not be sympathetic ‘if a new effort is mounted to increase Omar’s share’ of Pound’s estate. That was because he had worked out what he thought would be an equitable settlement of the estate, only to have Omar’s lawyers, who, according to Laughlin, appeared to be ‘without heart or conscience, just looking for everything they can get for their client’, throw ‘a monkey wrench in the works’. That had set the lawyers ‘at each others’ throats’, and made Laughlin fear that ‘Mary is going to get royally “screwed”.’ In the event Gleason did not act as Committee, and the 26th and Final Report of the Committee for Ezra Pound was presented in the name of Dorothy Pound in October 1973. It was then ordered by the Court that ‘said Committee shall stand discharged’ after filing ‘a verified certificate of Distribution and Settlement of the Patient’s estate’. The Order was filed 19 November, and Dorothy Pound died just three weeks after that, on 8 December 1973.

The Committee’s lawyer, John B. Jones of the distinguished Washington law firm Covington and Burling, had been appointed Administrator of the estate of Ezra Pound deceased. He had declared the estate to consist of about $82,000 in bonds and deposits, and—this comprising the really interesting portion—15 trunks and boxes of papers at Yale, ‘the value of which is stated to be unknown’, these containing the Ezra Pound Archive. The Archive had been transferred from Brunnenburg for safe keeping and with a view to its ultimate purchase by the Beinecke Library. The other personal property which had been credited to the Patient annually over the twenty-five years during which he had remained subject to the Committee, namely ‘two portable typewriters, folding desk [sic] chair and pocket watch’, were stated to have become ‘lost or are inoperative’. Silently disappeared from the estate were the trunks and boxes of papers accumulated over Pound’s thirteen years in St Elizabeths and left in the United States after his release—these Omar Pound had appropriated as his own and sold to the Lilly Library of the University of Indiana at Bloomington. Also disregarded for the moment were Pound’s books and papers still in Italy in care of Mary de Rachewiltz at Brunnenburg or of Olga Rudge. The Administrator’s fees and the outstanding fees of other law firms with claims on the estate amounted to over a quarter of the total, which, after other deductions such as for tax, and apart from the papers at Yale, came down to $52,822 net.

Other claims amounting to $37,620 still remained to be met. The Report explained that the Committee had needed the services of several attorneys to advise her regarding the precise assets which comprised the property of the Patient, and on account of disputes among persons who might claim an interest in the disposition of the testamentary estate. Covington and Burling were claiming a further $15,416 for services rendered between March 1966 and November 1972 and connected with the disputed ‘disposition of the Patient’s testamentary estate rather than the immediate administration of Committee assets’. For similar services rendered over various periods of time Hill & Barlow and Bircham & Company, Cockburn’s London firms, were claiming between them $13,452; and Kelley, Drye, Warren, Clark & Ellis, Warren’s firm, were claiming $8,752. It was left open for these services to be charged to the Patient’s estate—services which had been commissioned by Omar Pound or in his interest, and with a view to having the Patient’s known testamentary wishes disregarded.

A final settlement of the estate was agreed by all parties in January 1973, ‘with a greater proportion going to Omar, the legal heir’. A Trust was established to receive future royalties and earnings from Pound’s works, with Olga Rudge the primary beneficiary up to a certain amount annually, the rest to go to Omar Pound and Mary de Rachewiltz in the agreed proportions. The purchase of the Ezra Pound Archive for the Beinecke Library was then completed, with the promise—not kept—that a Center for the Study of Ezra Pound and his Contemporaries would be established there. Mary de Rachewiltz was able to serve as a curator of her father’s Archive at Yale for a number of years, and has constantly welcomed Pound scholars at Brunnenburg. Olga Rudge died there in her daughter’s care on 15 March 1996, aged 100, and was buried beside Ezra Pound on San Michele.