Skip to main content

Esquire correspondence concerning The question of Ezra Pound

Call Number: YCAL MSS 180
Scope and Contents

The Esquire Correspondence Concerning "The Question of Ezra Pound" consists of letters received by the magazine in response to an article by Richard Rovere which appeared in the September, 1957 issue. A few letters are accompanied by copies of the magazine's requests for permission to publish. The papers all date from 1957 and have been alphabetically arranged in one series, Correspondence.

Esquire's publisher, Arnold Gingrich, sent out advance copies of Rovere's article to a number of American and English literary figures with a request for comments on "the question of Pound's release" from St. Elizabeth's Hospital in the summer of 1957, then the subject of private discussions between Archibald MacLeish, Robert Frost, and the Department of Justice. Authors who sent comments include Van Wyck Brooks, John Dos Passos, Robert Graves, Norman Mailer, Marianne Moore, Howard Nemerov, Kenneth Rexroth, William Carlos Williams and Richard Wilbur. Many letters contain editorial markings by the Esquire staff. For example, any references by the letter writers to Esquire's solicitation of a response were scored for deletion.

Possibly due to careful selection by the magazine, the literary responders mostly favor Pound's release, often offering to sign petitions or join "any campaign" toward that end. Most, including Marianne Moore, express distaste for Pound's political views but refer to them as "a crotchet" not meriting further punishment. A common theme is that Pound has "suffered enough." Kenneth Rexroth, however, notes that "He is not being punished. If he is sane enough to be guilty of advocating genocide he is being indulged." John Dos Passos warns that "the Kasper disaster has been doing his case a good deal of harm," a reference to the recent Federal arrests of the violent segregationist and Pound disciple John Kasper.

The collection also contains several responses from students and disciples of Pound, including Giovanni Giovannini, T. David Horton, Charles Martell, and Sheri Martinelli. Mostly unsolicited, these letters present lengthy rebuttals of the treason charge; defenses of Pound's economic theories; and passionate denials that Pound is a racist. Martinelli, for example, sends a description of Pound's appreciation for the music of Charlie Parker ("Yardbird").

Finally, there are a few unsolicited responses from Esquire subscribers, most dated late in 1957. These are largely negative and highly critical of both Pound and his supporters. Arpine Hardidiau accuses Pound's sympathizers of being "blindly loyal to one of their select circle. Since when has talent been a justification for viciousness?" Leslie Hedley suggests that "fascist Pound be traded to fascist Franco Spain" along with his "admirers," while J. W. O'Banion writes, "Is he Crazy? Was Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Lenin crazy? Hell NO."

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Esquire Correspondence Concerning "The Question of Ezra Pound" is 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 Esquire magazine, 1958.

0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials