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Olivia Rossetti Agresti Papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 173

Scope and Contents

The Olivia Rossetti Agresti Papers document Agresti's relationship with the poet after World War II and her own political and economic beliefs during that period. The papers span the dates 1947-1963 and have been organized into two series: I. Correspondence and II. Writings.

Series I, Correspondence is housed in folders 1-33 and has been arranged alphabetically by correspondent. The major correspondent is Ezra Pound himself; the letters begin in 1947 while he was confined in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Pound's letters usually deal with the political and economic themes that preoccupied him during this period. Attacks on Roosevelt, Churchill and the postwar Western democracies, approval for Fascism mingled with regret that Mussolini and Hitler were uninterested in Social Credit, dismissals of Christianity and denunciations of Jewish ideas and influence, are mixed with demands that Agresti read Brooks Adams and Del Mar, discuss recent events with Luigi Villari, or translate some work that Pound has recently discovered.

Pound's vivid condemnations of Christianity and of Jews were perhaps intensified by his knowledge that Agresti disagreed with him on these subjects. The carbons of her letters to him contain many approving references to the Catholic Church in Italy and to the necessity of faith in the postwar world, while a 1954 attack on Judaism and Jews brought her response: "I am profoundly convinced that it is wrong to foster generalizations that make a whole people or race responsible for the actions of some. Samuel Lloyd and Hamilton seem to me good Bt. names." Agresti and Pound also frequently clashed with her on the topic of David Lubin: while Agresti admired his thought, Pound was inclined to argue that Lubin's work was inferior.

Other topics include Pound's growing concern about drug addiction among the young in the United States, particularly heroin addiction, and his belief that the drug trade was a racial conspiracy; various projects for obtaining Pound's release from St. Elizabeth's; the profound social changes in postwar Italy and America; contemporary literature and the arts; and Pound's daughter Mary and Agresti's family.

The letters of Pound's wife Dorothy, located in folders 11-12, contain news of Pound's health and daily activities and messages dictated by Pound.

Agresti's brief correspondence with T. S. Eliot is found in folder 6; while he responded politely to her announcement of the founding of the Committee for the Defense of Classical Culture, he declined to take an active role in freeing Pound from confinement, pointing out "that Mr. Pound has never been tried, and therefore cannot be pardoned." Other correspondents include Buddhadeva Bose, Louis Dudek, Hugh Kenner, and Olga Rudge, who writes seeking Agresti's support for defenses of Pound. Giovanni Giovannini's letters document the sale of a group of Pound's letters to Yale University.

Series II, Writings , contains two short biographical pieces by Agresti; a statement, apparently by Rossetti, that Pound "has never mixed up in the internal affairs of Italy;" and a transcript of Pound's "Four Steps."


  • 1947 - 1963


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Restricted Fragile in box 2 may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies or photographic prints for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Olivia Rossetti Agresti Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ezra Pound and purchase from Olivia Rossetti Agresti through Giovanni Giovannini on the George B. Alvord Fund and the Library Associates Fund, 1959; also purchase from Bertram Rota on the Danford N. Barney Fund and the Frederick W. Hilles Fund, 1972. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Associated Materials

Ezra Pound Papers (YCAL MSS 43).


0.63 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection contains correspondence between Agresti and Pound documenting their political and economic views; their opinions of Mussolini and Fascism; and their disagreements on antisemitism and the Catholic Church. Other topics include news of family and mutual friends and Pound's confinement at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, as well as various efforts made on his behalf to free him. There are also letters from Dorothy Pound and several other friends of Pound, including T. S. Eliot; a few short pieces by Agresti, including one in defense of Pound; and a transcript of "Four Steps."


Olivia Rossetti Agresti, the eldest daughter of William Michael Rossetti, was born in London on September 30, 1875. In 1892 she and her younger sister Helen began printing and distributing their own Anarchist journal, The Torch, an adventure described in their novel A Girl Among the Anarchists, published under the pseudonym Isabel Meredith in 1903.

Olivia married author and journalist Antonio Agresti in 1897, and the couple settled in Florence and later in Rome. In 1904 she was hired as a secretary and interpreter by David Lubin, founder of the Internatiional Institute of Agriculture, and worked closely with him until his death during the 1918 influenza epidemic. She joined the staff of the Italian delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva in the following year. Throughout her life, she continued to work as an interpreter at international conferences held in Italy and at the annual assemblies of the League of Nations.

In 1921 she joined the staff of the Italian Association of Joint Stock Companies as the editor of their monthly newsletter, a position she held until 1942. After Antonio's death in 1926, Agresti continued her work as editor and interpreter, and also lectured several times in the United States on such topics as "The Historical Development of the Italian Garden," "The Growth of Italian Industries," and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. She also converted to Roman Catholicism and adopted two Italian girls.

Agresti's published works include Giovanni Costa: His Life, Work and Times (1904); David Lubin: A Study in Practical Idealism (1922); and The Organization of the Arts and Professions in the Fascist Guild State (1938), the last with Mario Missiroli. While she disapproved of Pound's antisemitism and his attacks on religion, she shared his approval of Fascist Italy and his belief that he had not committed treason, and in 1954 translated "Prometheus Bound," the text of a Radio Vatican broadcast on Pound's case, as a contribution to efforts to free him from St. Elizabeth's. In her later years, Agresti began work on a memoir and frequently visited Schloss Brunnenberg, the home of Pound's daughter Mary de Rachewiltz. Olivia Rossetti Agresti died in Rome in 1960.

Processing Information

Former call number: ZA Pound Agresti

Guide to the Olivia Rossetti Agresti Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
June 2003
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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