Skip to main content

COVID-19 Update

Read the Library Reopening FAQ and other COVID-19 updates. Library staff are providing online services and support.

William Bird Ezra Pound papers

 Collection
Call Number: YCAL MSS 178

Scope and Contents

The William Bird Ezra Pound Papers consist of part of the contents of a never-retrieved trunk stored by Pound with William Bird when Pound moved from Paris to Italy in 1924. (Other material from this trunk is now located at the Lilly Library, University of Indiana at Bloomington.) The papers span the dates 1900-1926, although most of the material dates from between 1921 and 1924. They have been organized into four series: I. Correspondence; II. Writings; III. Personal Papers; and IV. Music.

Series I, Correspondence , is alphabetically correspondent and contains both letters received by Pound during his years in Paris and some carbons of his replies. Most correspondents are represented by one or two letters addressing a specific business or literary matter; these include such figures as Granville Bantock, Fanny Butcher, R. W. Chapman, Peggy Guggenheim, Alice Corbin Henderson, Fernand Léger, Samuel Roth, and Ernest Walsh. A carbon of a Pound letter to Maxwell Bodenheim, found in folder 4, contains Pound's comments on Bodenheim's interpretations of "Homage to Sextus Propertius" and "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley." A lengthy letter from Robert McAlmon discusses T. S. Eliot's limitations as a poet and his "intellectual tired adolescent quality" and comments that perhaps Pound has "spent too much time 'doing your share for others.'"

Pound's lifelong interest in physiological theories about mood and temperament is reflected in his correspondence with "gland theorist" Louis Berman (Box 1, folder 3); a carbon of his initial letter to Berman expounds his beliefs about the importance of the pineal gland in creativity. Letters from Agnes Bedford, the English musician with whom Pound collaborated on The Testament of François Villon, include references to that work and descriptions of concerts by George Antheil and Olga Rudge that Bedford attended in London.

Folder 26 contains letters and enclosures from the Japanese artist Tami Koumé (Tamijuro Kume). Koumé discusses plans for a Paris exhibition of his work and an eventual return to Japan; his planned marriage to a Frenchwoman; and his views on Japanese culture and art. A letter dated April 11, 1921 attempts to explain Zen to Pound: "ZEN means nothing! & everything. Without bodyly experience ZEN is nothing!"

The series also includes letters from Pound's publishers Boni & Liveright and Elkin Mathews, some accompanied by recent royalty statements. An October 1922 letter from Horace Liveright is addressed to "Dear Ezry" and comments on the low royalties to date: "I wish to Christ I knew how to sell your books.... Your time will come, but I hope that it won't take as long as it took for Samuel Butler." There are also letters connected to the Pounds' move to 70 bis, rue Notre Dame des Champs late in 1921, including correspondence with carpenters and plumbers concerning household repairs and improvements.

Letters to Pound from his English friend Bride Scratton are located in folders 45-49. Scratton, whose marriage was failing, visited Pound in Paris in 1921 and 1922, and Pound was named co-respondent in the 1923 Scratton divorce. Scratton's letters are highly personal in nature, and contain arrangements for meetings with Pound; description of her negotiations with her husband Ned and her concern for her children; mentions of her fear that she and Pound are being followed by detectives in Paris; and references to her feelings for Pound. In a letter of December 12, 1921 she writes that "It would be very ennuyant for both of us if I got to the stage of not being able to do without you, which is what I'm beginning to feel." There are several letters referring to Dorothy Pound's hospitalization in December 1921, which caused a postponement in a planned visit; an undated letter from this time refers to "a very cross letter" Scratton received from Pound and continues "You are stupid not to understand how much I want you." Finally, letters from 1923 refer to the imminent divorce, the Cantos manuscripts that Pound had sent to Scratton, and the possibility of a future meeting in Italy.

Series II, Writings , is organized into three subseries: Writings in English, Writings in French, and Writings of Others. The first, Writings in English, contains extensive holograph and typescript drafts of Pound's earliest Cantos, as well as the corrected setting typescript for A Draft of XVI Cantos, in which they first appeared. Other writings include the original typescript draft of Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony; a printed copy of "Bel esprit," Pound's appeal for funds to support T. S. Eliot; and an incomplete setting copy for Poems 1918-1921.

The second subseries, Writings in French, is housed in folders 103-121 and contains holograph and typescript draft translations by Pound of some of his shorter poems into French. The material is arranged alphabetically by title of draft. Folder 120 contains a typescript of a collection of such translations; titles are listed in the order in which they appear in the typescript. The third subseries, Writings of Others, contains typescripts of two unidentified poems.

Series III, Personal Papers , is housed in folders 124-144 and includes a copy of Pound's citation as co-respondent in the Scratton divorce case; his 1919 passport; photographs, including a portrait of Thaddeus Pound; printed material and notes by Pound relating to concerts by Antheil; an astrological chart in Pound's hand; and miscellaneous notes, bills and receipts.

Series IV, Music , is housed in box 4 and consists of manuscript music sketches and scores, primarily for Le Testament de Villon, the opera composed by Pound with assistance from the pianist Agnes Bedford. Folders 148-149 contain "Fiddle Music," sketches for a violin suite Pound composed for Olga Rudge, and folder 159 contains violin music in the hand of George Antheil.

Dates

  • 1900-1926

Creator

Language of Materials

Chiefly in English; some translations into French by Pound.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 5: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Bird Ezra Pound 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

Purchased from Sally Wilson Hall, Ann Remington Southerland and Thomas W. Wilson III in 1977. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Extent

2.38 Linear Feet ((5 boxes) + 1 broadside folder)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.bird

Overview

Correspondence, writings, personal papers and musical compositions by Ezra Pound dating from his sojourn in Paris during the early 1920s.

WILLIAM BIRD, 1888 or 1889-1963

William Augustus Bird was born in Buffalo, New York, on or about January 2, 1889. He graduated from Trinity College, Hartford in 1912 and became a journalist in New York City, where he married Sarah (Sally) Costello. In 1920, he and longtime friend David Lawrence founded the Consolidated Press Service, and Bird moved with his family to Paris to take charge of the office there. They were to remain in France for 20 years.

Shortly after arriving in Paris, Bird became interested in the "hobby" of hand printing, bought a full set of Caslon type, and began printing brief works, including his own A Practical Guide to French Wines (1922). He moved the press into offices at 29, quai d'Anjou and announced the formation of Three Mountains Press; the colophon stylized both his initials and the three mountains of Paris and carried a verse from Psalm 121, "Levavi oculos meos in montes."

In April 1922, Bird met fellow journalist Ernest Hemingway as they were traveling to the Conferenza Internazionale Economica de Genova; he suggested that Bird contact a friend of his, American poet Ezra Pound. Pound immediately began to argue that Bird should "print the MODERNS." Bird agreed, appointing Pound editor of Three Mountains.

Between April 1923 and the end of 1925, Three Mountains Press published nine works. They included Indiscretions, Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony, and A Draft of XVI Cantos by Ezra Pound; The Great American Novel by William Carlos Williams; in our time by Ernest Hemingway; and Distinguished Air by Robert McAlmon. In addition, Bird provided free office space to Ford Madox Ford for the founding of transatlantic review.

Bird lost interest in the press, however. In 1928 he sold his handpress and typecases to Nancy Cunard and supervised its transportation to her home at Réanville, where it became the press for her Hours Press. In the following year, he sold his remaining stock of unsold books to "an American named Schwartz" for $150.00.

Bird continued his successful career as a journalist. He covered Admiral Byrd's flight over the North Pole from Spitzbergen in 1926, and in 1928 became president of the Anglo-American Press Association. The Consolidated Press Service was dissolved in 1933, and Bird joined the New York Sun as chief foreign correspondent. Bird and his family fled to Spain after the fall of France in 1940; in July of that year he wrote a series of articles for the Sun warning Americans war with Hitler was imminent.

After World War II the Birds moved to Tangier, where he was appointed an American representative to the Legislative Assembly of the Tangier International Zone in 1948. He was the editor of the English-language Tangier Gazette until 1960, when the Moroccan government, which had assumed authority over Tangier in 1956-57, closed the newspaper. Bird returned to France, where he died in Paris in August, 1963. He was survived by his daughter, Ann France Bird Wilson.

Processing Information

Former call number: ZA Pound Bird
Title
Guide to the William Bird Ezra Pound Papers
Author
by Diane J. Ducharme
Date
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

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.