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Julien Cornell papers relating to Ezra Pound

Call Number: YCAL MSS 176

Scope and Contents

The Julien Cornell Papers Relating to Ezra Pound document Cornell's role as Ezra Pound's defense attorney during the initial stages of Pound's trial on charges of treason. The papers span the dates 1945-1965 and are organized into two series: Series I. Ezra Pound Correspondence Files and Series II, 'U. S. v. Ezra Pound' Case File.

Series I, Ezra Pound Correspondence Files , has been organized into two subseries: Individual Correspondent Files and Third-Party Correspondence. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. While the bulk of the correspondence concerns Cornell's legal efforts on Pound's behalf from 1945 through 1948, there is also documentation of his assistance to Dorothy Pound; a few related legal cases; and attempts by others to gain Pound's release or to create favorable publicity about him.

Cornell's first contact with the Pound case was through their mutual friend James Laughlin, whose correspondence is located in folders 14-19. Topics include Cornell's first meeting with Pound and his conviction that Pound was "under a mental cloud;" Cornell's and Laughlin's agreement that a plea of insanity would be "Pound's best chance of escape," given that "Pound appears crazy;" and Cornell's unsuccessful efforts to free Pound on bail. Other subjects include legal matters concerning Pound titles published by New Directions Press, and real estate contracts and ski lift investments by Laughlin at Alta Ski Area.

During this period, Cornell began to correspond with the Pounds' London solicitor, Arthur V. Moore of Shakespear & Parkyn (Box 1, folders 24-28). Moore, who had known the Pounds for many years, attempted to qualify Cornell's opinion of Pound's sanity as early as December 10, 1945: "undoubtedly he seemed to his wife more normal than he is....and to you much more unbalanced than he is....he is a person requiring much understanding, and to the average man he appears crazy." Cornell and Moore corresponded on several aspects of Pound's defense, including Cornell's plan to have counsel appointed for him if the case went to trial and the difficulty of obtaining Pound's cooperation in any defense strategy. The letters also deal with Dorothy Pound's ambiguous legal status, as she had relinquished her British citizenship upon marrying Pound, while the United States had categorized her as an enemy alien. Both lawyers detail the difficulties they faced in their efforts to clarify her nationality and to make her income available to her.

In turn, Moore put Cornell in contact with both Dorothy Pound and her son, Omar Pound. Omar Pound's telegrams and letters to Cornell are located in Box 2, folders 51-52, and concern his efforts to obtain compassionate leave from the U.S. Army and his questions about Pound's condition. A cable dated January 3, 1946 forwards his APO address and asks "Are health reports legal strategy or genuine stop."

Dorothy Pound's letters to Cornell are located in Box 1, folders 32-44. The earliest letters, written from Rapallo, detail her attempts to be allowed into the United States to see her husband and her worries about his mental status: "my presence would be of great help to him: I know and understand the very delicately balanced creature so well," she wrote in December of 1945. When she did see Pound, in July 1946, she reported that she found him "very nervous and jumpy" and that "he holds my hands most of the time during my visits," which she judged uncharacteristic of him. Much of her correspondence with Cornell, however, concerns financial matters, both her own and Pound's, for whom she had been named "Committee" by the court. Another frequent topic is her desire to return to Italy with Pound, which Cornell believed to be an unrealistic goal. Also in the collection are her refusals to support the 1948 appeal of habeas corpus, and a 1957 letter declining an ACLU-financed appeal.

Ezra Pound's letters to Cornell are found in Box 2, folders 45-50. The earliest, from January and February of 1946, are somewhat disjointed reports on his own mental condition: "absolute futility of might have been-- coherent areas constantly invaded aiuto Pound," reads the first. "Problem now is not to go stark screamin hysteric," he wrote a week later, and "young doctors absolutely useless." By the middle of March, however, he was sending firmly worded business letters to Cornell on a variety of financial matters, including the transfer of publication rights for Personae to New Directions Press and instructions on fees and payments: "$25 per poem has been the minimum anthology fee for years and years with $50 for a canto." Pound also directed Cornell to send payments and messages to Olga Rudge and to their daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz, for whom he wished to execute a power of attorney. There are few letters after 1946, although folder 50 contains a typed statement of Pound's "Position" on his political views and on the radio broadcasts.

Cornell's efforts to carry out his client's wishes brought him into contact with Olga Rudge, whose correspondence is located in Box 2, folders 55-56. Rudge, like Dorothy Pound, urged Cornell to seek Pound's quick return to Italy, and her first letters argued that his mother's illness in Rapallo would be a suitable rationale for his release. By January 1947, however, Rudge had become concerned about Pound's mental state and angered at Dorothy Pound's control of his affairs, and sent Cornell a lengthy letter outlining Pound's personal and marital history and announcing her intention to take "steps to regain my place near E.P" and to care for him after his release. Cornell noted that her questions "were quite beyond my ability to answer. The personal relations between you, Mr. Pound, and Mrs. Pound, are a matter for the three of you to settle." He also undertook to dissuade Rudge from publishing a selection of Pound's radio broadcasts (If this be treason....: Siena, 1948). Later correspondence deals with Rudge's critiques of his efforts to free Pound; her attempts to publicize Pound's cause in Italy; and the idea of publishing a larger selection of the broadcasts.

Several correspondents represented in Series I were personal friends of Pound whom Cornell queried about Pound's mental state, including E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Archibald MacLeish, and Allen Tate. While Tate and MacLeish both declined comment, Hemingway responded with a warm letter declaring that Pound "has not been normal mentally for at least the past ten years" and claiming that he heard the broadcasts while with the American troops in Europe but "never felt any bitterness toward Ezra Pound." Cummings responded with a declaration of friendship and appreciation for Pound.

The letters between T. S. Eliot and Cornell are housed in Box 1, folders 6-10, and reflect Eliot's continuing concern for Pound's welfare and his careful judgements about strategies to turn public opinion in favor of Pound's release. Eliot cautioned Cornell against publication of the radio broadcasts, fearing that "the amount of irritation which Ezra's incidental remarks might cause" would outweigh any possible benefit. He also argued at length against publication of the trial record, which Cornell thought might sway the public in Pound's favor. Eliot believed that it would convince the public that Pound should be permanently confined, and also that Pound would be upset by it: "To have his economic theories publicly branded as the ravings of a paranoic could hardly be indifferent to him unless he were a great deal further removed from contact with reality than I believe him to be."

Cornell was eager to obtain favorable public notice for his client whenever possible. He wrote encouragingly to Léonie Adams of the Bollingen Prize Committee in response to her suggestion that they might award the prize to Pound; he negotiated tactfully phrased footnotes with Bennett Cerf and wrote letters of correction to newspapers whenever Pound was referred to as "guilty of treason." However, he often found himself discouraging "undesirable publicity" such as Charles Norman's 1946 book project, and the public relations efforts made by Tiffany Thayer of the Fortean Society and the "currency reformist Clara Studer. A 1957 letter from Moore refers to his "files crowded with proposals from well-meaning people for securing the release of Ezra Pound."

Other correspondents include Pound's old friends Viola Baxter Jordan and Ida B. Mapel and Dr. Winfred Overholser, Superintendent of St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

The subseries Third-Party Correspondence is alphabetically arranged by author and consists of letters by Clara Studer, Willis A. Overholser and Jose Garcia Villa to different recipients.

Series II, U. S. v. Ezra Pound Case File, is housed in Boxes 2-4 and has been organized into three subseries: Chronological Correspondence File; Chronological Legal Documents; and Other Case Material. The first subseries, Chronological Correspondence File, consists primarily of business and official correspondence and associated documentation exchanged between Cornell and others with official roles in the case. These include Judge Bolitha Laws and other officers of the court; employees of the Departments of Justice and of State; the psychiatrists who were members of the expert witnesses panel, Wendell Muncie and Theron Caudle; and staff of St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane. Subjects include trial dates and deadlines for the filing of motions and briefs; Cornell's business trips to Washington, D.C. and visits with his client; the psychiatric reports on Pound's mental state; and the legal status of Dorothy Pound, who had been listed by the government as an enemy alien. Box 3, folder 84 contains correspondence relating to Cornell's proposal to file an appeal of habeas corpus on behalf of Pound, which was withdrawn when Dorothy Pound objected. Cornell's later correspondence with the American Civil Liberties Union on the Pound case is located in folder 88.

The second subseries, Chronological Legal Documents, contains Cornell's working copies of all official court documents pertaining to the case, from the initial Grand Jury indictment of Pound on treason charges through the aborted 1948 habeas corpus appeal. Other Case Material includes miscellaneous notes about and by Pound; papers relating to Cornell's billing and expenses in the case; and a complete set of transcripts of Pound's Rome Radio Broadcasts, four of which formed the basis for the charge of treason.


  • 1945 - 1965


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Box 19: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Julien Cornell Papers Relating to Ezra Pound 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 Julien Cornell (1933 Law), 1966.


1.88 Linear Feet (5 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 and professional files relating to Cornell's representation of Ezra Pound in the initial stages of the U.S. government's case against him for treason. In addition to Ezra and Dorothy Pound, correspondents include T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Laughlin, Arthur Moore, Omar Pound, Mary de Rachewiltz, and Olga Rudge. Topics include Pound's physical and mental condition in 1945-46; the treason charge against him; the efforts to have him declared mentally incompetent to stand trial; his court appearances; the use of the Alien Property Act against Dorothy Pound; and conditions at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
The collection also contains legal documents relating to the Pound case, including psychiatric evaluation reports; notices of court dates; material relating to a writ of habeas corpus prepared by Cornell in 1948; and transcripts of Pound's radio broadcasts from Rome.


Julien Cornell was born in Brooklyn in 1910 and graduated from Swarthmore College in 1930. He received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1933 and opened a practice in Manhattan shortly thereafter.

A member of the Society of Friends, Cornell had a strong interest in civil liberties law, and during World War II he handled many cases for conscientious objectors to the draft. He was Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union National Lawyers National Committee on Conscientious Objection (ACLU-NCCO) and served as chair of the Lawyers Committee of the Metropolitan Board for Conscientious Objectors. During this time, Cornell published The Conscientious Objector and the Law (1943), and Conscience and the State (1945), and served as an expert consultant on the issue of conscientious objection and assignment to alternate service in the CPS (Civilian Public Service).

In November 1945, his friend James Laughlin of New Directions Press contacted him and asked him if he would be willing to represent Ezra Pound, who had been arrested in Italy and charged with treason for broadcasts he made over Rome Radio in 1942 and 1943. Public opinion was strongly against Pound, but Cornell agreed, as he "always enjoyed fighting for the underdog" and did not consider that the speeches met the American legal standard for treason. After meeting with Pound, however, and consulting with several of his old friends, Cornell resolved to enter a plea of insanity for his client. Hearings were held and expert witnesses retained, and on February 13, 1946, a jury impanelled by Judge Bolitha Laws returned a verdict of "unsound mind." While Cornell had hoped to secure Pound's release on bail once he had been adjudged insane, Pound was remanded to Federal custody at St. Elizabeth's Federal Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C., where he remained until August 1958.

Cornell moved his law practice to Central Valley, New Jersey in 1950, but continued to offer legal and strategic advice to Pound and his representatives. He was the author of New World Primer (1947), which advocated a world federal government and was published by Laughlin's New Directions Press; The Trial of Ezra Pound (1966), which reproduced a selection of the legal documents relating to the Pound case; and A Tale of Treasure Trove (1977), a collection of essays that included "The Last Years of Ezra Pound," a restatement of Cornell's personal belief in Pound's insanity.

Julien Cornell married Virginia Scratton in 1932; the couple had two sons and two daughters, all of whom survived him. After his retirement from active practice, he traveled extensively in Europe and continued to pursue his interests in local history and home winemaking. Cornell died in Goshen, New York, on December 2, 1994.

Processing Information

Former call number: ZA Pound Cornell.

Guide to the Julien Cornell Papers Relating to Ezra Pound
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
October 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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