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H. D. Papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 24

Scope and Contents

The H.D. Papers document the life and career of the poet Hilda Doolittle (H.D.). The papers span the dates 1887-1977, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1918-1963.

The papers consist of six series: Series I. Correspondence, (Boxes 1-19); II. Writings, divided into five sections, Novels, Poetry, Short Stories, Autobiographical Writings, Miscellaneous Writings, and Writings of Others, (Boxes 20-46); III. Personal Papers, (Boxes 47-49); IV. Subject Files, (Boxes 50-51); V. Photographs, (Boxes 52-55); and VI. Additional Papers, (Boxes 56-61). Oversize and Related Papers fill Boxes 62-63.

Series I, Correspondence , (Boxes 1-19), is divided into three alphabetically arranged sections, Incoming, Outgoing, and Third PartyCorrespondence.

Incoming correspondence is primarily from family members and friends, although some business correspondence is also included. Correspondence from Richard Aldington to H.D. is extensive, covering the years 1918-61. Among the subjects discussed are Aldington's daily activities, his business dealings, and his daughter Catherine. The correspondence from Bryher to H.D. spans the years 1918-61 and details literary projects and many aspects of Bryher's daily life, as well as news about Perdita, H.D.'s daughter, and about the activities of various friends and acquaintances. Letters from Perdita Schaffner to her mother span the years 1923-61 and chronicle many aspects of the daughter's life.

Other correspondents include Helen Wolle Doolittle, H.D.'s mother; Harold Doolittle, H.D.'s brother; Norman Douglas; Havelock Ellis; Anna Freud and Sigmund Freud; Robert Herring; Hermann Hesse; Erich Heydt; Viola Jordan; Robert McAlmon; Kenneth Macpherson; Brigit Patmore; Norman Holmes Pearson, George Plank; Ezra and Dorothy Pound; and Osbert and Edith Sitwell. Business correspondents include the publishing firms Chatto and Windus, Houghton Mifflin, and Oxford University Press.

Outgoing correspondence consists of three boxes of letters written by H.D. to various friends and family members, including Richard Aldington, Gretchen Wolle Baker, Helen Wolle Doolittle, Robert McAlmon, Robert Duncan, and Perdita Schaffner. Three folders contain transcripts and photocopies of letters to John Cournos during the years 1916-28.

Third Party Correspondence, housed in Box 19, consists of the correspondence of friends and family members. Included in this section are letters by others to Richard Aldington, Bryher, Robert McAlmon, and Perdita Schaffner, as well as a letter from Ezra Pound to Margaret Snively Pratt.

Series II, Writings , (Boxes 20-46) is divided into Novels, Poetry, Short Stories, AutobiographicalWritings, Miscellaneous Writings, and Writings of Others. Within each section the materials are alphabetically arranged. Most of the manuscripts in the collection are of works which were unpublished as of 1944, or were written thereafter. Prior to 1944 H.D. destroyed the drafts of her manuscripts as they reached the publication stage. Beginning with The Flowering ofthe Rod (1946), however, H.D. turned over all her manuscripts to Norman Holmes Pearson. Manuscript drafts are arranged in probable order of creation. Attempts have been made to identify typescripts prepared for or by Norman Holmes Pearson. Reviews, when present, are found with the drafts of each published work.

The Novels subseries contains some early manuscripts, including a draft of Asphodel (1921), and two drafts each of Her (1927), Paint it Today (1921), and Pilate's Wife (ca. 1924). H.D.'s later works are represented by notebooks, drafts, and notes for The Mystery, three drafts and carbons of The Sword Went Out to Sea, four drafts of The White Rose and the Red (1948), and a draft of Bid Me to Live (1960).

The Poetry section (Boxes 30-36) includes manuscripts of full-length works as well as individual poems arranged alphabetically by title. There are two drafts, and a German translation by Johannes Urzidil, of By Avon River; first and second drafts of A Dead Priestess Speaks; two drafts and galley proofs of The Flowering of the Rod; and various drafts and notebooks of Hermetic Definition, Palimpsest, and Vale Ave. The four drafts and notebooks of Helen in Egypt (1961) are arranged by section. Selected Poems of H.D. includes a typescript, notes, galley proofs, and reviews for both Tribute to the Angels, and The Walls Do Not Fall. Individual titles include "Scribe," "I Said," and "Temple of the Sun."

Short Stories (Boxes 37-38), contains primarily drafts, typescripts, and proofs of collections of short stories. These collections include The Moment, seven stories written in the 1930s, arranged by title and draft; and WithinThe Walls, thirteen sketches written in the early 1940s, also arranged by title and draft. There are typescripts and a printed version of two uncollected stories: "Ear-ring" and "Pontokonsi (Mouse Island)."

The Autobiographical Writings section holds drafts and notes of five works: Compassionate Friendship; End to Torment, an account of H.D.'s friendship with Ezra Pound; The Gift, an account of her Moravian child- hood; Thorn Thicket; and Tribute to Freud, which chronicles her analysis with Sigmund Freud.

Miscellaneous Writings, (Boxes 42-44), contains various drafts of manuscript for "Greek Lyric Poets," "Notes on Recent Writing," and "Notes on Thought and Vision." Also included are typescripts and proofs of H.D.'s submissions to Close Up, a magazine dealing with film, and four folders containing the Hirslanden Journal.

The Writings of Others segment of Miscellaneous Writings contains manuscript and printed materials that were given to H.D. Included are poems by Richard Aldington and Denise Levertov, typescripts of works by Bryher, miscellaneous writings by Hermann Hesse, an essay by Norman Holmes Pearson, a pamphlet by Nancy Cunard, a review of H.D.'s poetry by William Carlos Williams, and five folders of an untitled autobiographical manuscript by Perdita Schaffner.

The third series, Personal Papers , (Boxes 47-49) is arranged alphabetically by type of material. This series contains diaries, biographical information, birth certificates, medical records, documentation relating to H.D.'s divorce from Richard Aldington, genealogical notes, postcards, and astrological papers. The FinancialPapers section includes contracts and royalty statements from Chatto and Windus, Houghton-Mifflin, and Oxford University Press.

Series IV, Subject Files (Boxes 50-51), is made up of pamphlets and clippings collected by H.D. and arranged alphabetically by individual or subject. Richard Aldington, Havelock Ellis, Hermann Hesse, Robert McAlmon, William Carlos Williams, Sulamith Wulfing, and Bryher are represented here, while other folders are devoted to the Ballet of Lithuania, Moravians, and World War II.

Photographs , Series V (Boxes 52-55), are also arranged alphabetically by individual or subject. The series contains thirty-eight folders of photographs of H.D. from her infancy to her death, with gaps for the years 1889-98, 1910-15, and 1939-48. Also included is a photograph of H.D.'s death mask, which is also within the collection (in Series VIII). The photographs of Richard Aldington are divided into two groups, reflecting two different sources. In addition there are photographs of Bryher, Robert McAlmon, Kenneth Macpherson, and Perdita Schaffner, as well as photographs of family members and friends. Of particular interest are the three folders of photographs devoted to the film Borderline, starring H.D. and Paul Robeson.

Additional Papers, (Boxes 56-59), consists of two sections. Correspondence Not Belonging to Yale is made up of photocopies of letters belonging to other institutions or individuals and collected by Norman Holmes Pearson. Included in this section are copies of letters to Amy Lowell from H.D. and Richard Aldington. The Indexes section is composed of indexes to first lines, titles, and H.D.'s library. There are also two boxes of alphabetical and cross reference indexes.

Oversize papers are housed in Box 62 and include an original portrait etching of Sigmund Freud, clippings relating to the Royal family, and a scrapbook containing photographs of Bryher, H. D., Kenneth Macpehrson and others.

Related Papers contains material added to the collection after it was processed, including proofs for Bid Me to Live and Tribute to the Angels, and printed versions of "Two Poems," "Sagesse," "Leda," and "Prose Chorus," as well as a French translation of a portion of Tribute to Freud. It also includes needlepoint work and H.D.'s death mask.


  • 1887-1977


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 56 contains photocopies of material not owned by Yale, and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the institutions owning the originals.

Restricted Fragile in box 65 may be consulted only with permission of the appropriate curator. Reference prints have been substituted in the main files.

Box 70 (audiotape reels):Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copies of the audio recordings in Box 33, folders 877-879, are available for reference use.

Conditions Governing Use

The H.D. 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

The H.D. Papers are the bequest of Norman Holmes Pearson, H.D.'s literary executor. Needlework tapestries and related materials were added later as a gift of the Schaffner Family Foundation, 2017.


30.88 Linear Feet ((71 boxes) + 1 art)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers document the personal life and literary career of H. D. Major correspondents include Richard Aldington, Bryher, Helen Wolle Doolittle, Robert McAlmon, Brigit Patmore, Norman Holmes Pearson, George Plank, and Ezra Pound. There are manuscripts of many of her works, including Her (1927), The Walls Do Not Fall (1944), Helen in Egypt (1961), and her memoir End to Torment (1958). The collection also contains personal papers, subject files, and photographs, including items related to the film Borderline (1930).

H.D. (HILDA DOOLITTLE) (1886-1961)

1886 September 10. H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) born to Charles Leander Doolittle (Professor of Astronomy at Lehigh University) and Helen Wolle Doolittle (a Moravian) in Bethlehem, Pa.

1886-1905. Early years in Bethlehem; attends Moravian schools.

1895. Moves to Upper Darby, Pa.; Charles Leander Doolittle becomes Professor of Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Flower Observatory.

1901-1902. Attends Miss Elizabeth Gordon's School in West Philadelphia (8th grade).

1901 October. Meets Ezra Pound at the Burd School in Philadelphia.

1902-1905. Attends Friend's Central School in Philadelphia.

1905 April. Meets William Carlos Williams at a dinner hosted by Ezra Pound.

1905 June 16. At graduation from Friend's Central School H.D. is the first student commencement speaker, her topic being "The Poet's Influence."

1905 October-1907 January. Attends Bryn Mawr College, as a day student for three semesters; withdraws apparently due to ill health and failing grades; meets Marianne Moore.

1905-1908. Becomes engaged, then disengaged to Ezra Pound at least twice.

1908-1909. Enrolls in the college course for teachers at the University of Pennsylvania.

1910-1912. First prose publications in syndicated papers and Presbyterian papers.

1910. Meets Frances Josepha Gregg; writes first poems based on Theocritus to Gregg.

1910 Winter. Lives in New York City at Patchin Place.

1911. Departs for Europe with Frances Gregg and Gregg's mother; spends summer in Paris.

1911 Fall. Takes up residence in London, where Ezra Pound lives; meets May Sinclair, Violet Hunt, Brigit Patmore, and Richard Aldington.

1912 September. British Museum tea shop episode; Pound edits three of H.D.'s poems in accordance with the Imagist principles, they are signed "H.D. Imagiste," and Pound sends them to Harriet Monroe in Chicago for POETRY.

1913 January. First publication of H.D.'s poems: "Hermes of the Ways", "Epigram", and "Priapus" appear in POETRY: A MAGAZINE OF VERSE.

1913 October 18. H.D. and Richard Aldington married.

1914. DES IMAGISTES: AN ANTHOLOGY published; includes poems by H.D., Aldington, Pound, and others.

1914 Summer. Beginning of continuing friendships with Amy Lowell, John Cournos, F. S. Flint, and D. H. and Frieda Lawrence.


1915. Receives "Guarantors Prize" from POETRY: A MAGAZINE OF VERSE.

1915 Spring. Birth of Aldington's child; a girl, stillborn.

1916. SEA GARDEN published.

1916 Spring-1917. After the enlistment of Aldington, H.D. substitutes for him as assistant editor of THE EGOIST.


1917. Receives "Vers Libre Prize" from THE LITTLE REVIEW.

1917. Amy Lowell publishes first critical assessment, in book form, of H.D.'s poetry in TENDENCIES IN MODERN POETRY.

1917 December. Aldington sent to the front in France.

1917-1918. Events occur which H.D. later wrote about in "Madrigal" (published as BID ME TO LIVE): D. H. and Frieda Lawrence are sheltered in the Aldington's rooms; has an affair with Cecil Gray and goes to stay with him at Bosigran Castle in Cornwall, where she becomes pregnant.

1918 July 17. Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman) calls on H.D. at Bosigran Castle, beginning the relationship which lasted until H.D.'s death.

1919. Sees Havelock Ellis.

1919 March 31. Birth of Frances Perdita Aldington; H.D. recovers from an attack of influenza.

1919 April. H.D. and Aldington are permanently separated.

1919 July. H.D. and Bryher in Cornwall; H.D. has "jelly-fish" and "bell jar" experiences later described in NOTES ON THOUGHTS AND VISION.

1920 Spring. H.D. and Bryher travel in Greece and Crete.

1920 September-1921 February. H.D., with Bryher and Perdita, returns to America; spends four months in California; has reunions with William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore; meets Robert McAlmon, whom Bryher marries.

1921. HYMEN published.

1922-1939. H.D. and Bryher maintain residences in Switzerland and London and travel to France, Italy, Germany and Austria.

1922. H.D. and Helen Wolle Doolittle go to Greece, stopping briefly on the island of Lesbos.

1923 February or March. H.D., Bryher, and Helen Wolle Doolittle travel to Luxor, Egypt.


1925. COLLECTED POEMS OF H.D. published.

1926. PALIMPSEST published.

1926. Meets and falls in love with Kenneth Macpherson.


1927 February. Makes film debut in Kenneth Macpherson's WING BEAT, appears in FOOTHILLS the same year.

1927 June. Bryher divorces Robert McAlmon.

1927 July-1929 December. Articles on film published in CLOSE UP, the magazine founded by Bryher and Macpherson.

1927 September. Bryher marries Macpherson.

1928. HEDYLUS published.

1928 May 11. Perdita adopted by Bryher and Kenneth Macpherson.

1929. RED ROSES FOR BRONZE (poem) published as part of the POETRY QUARTOS.

1930-1931. Kenwin built in the foothills above Lake Geneva at Burier-la- Tour.

1930. BORDERLINE filmed, starring H.D. and Paul Robeson.

1931. RED ROSES FOR BRONZE published.

1931 April. Begins analysis with Mary Chadwick.

1931 November. Has a few psychoanalytic sessions with Hanns Sachs, Bryher's analyst.

1932 Spring. H.D. and Perdita take a Hellenic cruise.

1933 March 1-June 12. In Vienna, in analysis with Sigmund Freud.

1934. KORA AND KA and THE USUAL STAR published.

1934 October 31-December. Resumes analysis with Freud in Vienna.

1935. NIGHTS published.

1935. Bryher purchases LIFE AND LETTERS TO-DAY; over the years many of H.D.'s poems and prose writings, including "Writing on the Wall" and BY AVON RIVER, are first published there.

1936. THE HEDGEHOG published.

1937. EURIPIDES ION published.

1937 December-1938 January. H.D. and Bryher in New York; meet Norman Holmes Pearson.

1938. Receives the "Helen Haire Levinson Prize" from POETRY: A MAGAZINE OF VERSE.

1938 June 22. Receives final decree of divorce from Aldington.

1939 November-1946 May. In London.

1943 April 14. Joins other poets in a reading at Aeolian Hall in aid of the French in Great Britain Fund.

1944. WHAT DO I LOVE and THE WALLS DO NOT FALL published.

1945. TRIBUTE TO THE ANGELS published.

1946. THE FLOWERING OF THE ROD published.

1946 Spring. Has major breakdown.

1946 May. Taken to Klinik Küsnacht, near Zürich, Switzerland; remains there until the fall.

1946 Fall-1956 Spring. Resides primarily in hotels in Switzerland, alternating seasonally between Lausanne and Lugano.

1949. BY AVON RIVER published.

1950 June. Perdita marries John Schaffner in Maine.

1951 February 21. Valentine Schaffner born.

1951 April. Visits New York to see her grandson.

1953 January-March. At the Clinique Cecile in Lausanne for operation.

1953 January 28. Nicholas Schaffner born.

1953 April. Visits New York.

1953 June. Returns to Clinique Cecile for another operation.

1953 July-1954 June. In Küsnacht at the Klinik Brunner; meets Erich Heydt.

1956 TRIBUTE TO FREUD published.

1956 June 29. Elizabeth Bryher Schaffner born.

1956 September-October. In New York; travels to New Haven for an exhibition at Yale's Sterling Memorial Library honoring her seventieth birthday; visits Bethlehem with Bryher and Norman Holmes Pearson.

1956 November. Breaks her hip at Küsnacht.

1957. SELECTED POEMS OF H.D. published.

1957 Spring-1961 Winter. Resides primarily at the Klinik Brunner in Küsnacht.

1958. Receives the "Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize."

1959. Receives the "Brandeis University Creative Arts Award for Poetry."

1960. BID ME TO LIVE published.

1960. Receives citation for distinguished service to Bryn Mawr College, the "Longview Award," and is the first woman to receive the "Award of Merit Medal for Poetry" of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

1960. Timothy Schaffner born.

1960 May-June. Visits New York.

1960 May 25. Attends the annual ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

1961. HELEN IN EGYPT published.

1961 Winter. Klinik Brunner closes; Moves to the Hotel Sonnenburg in Zürich.

1961 July. Suffers a stroke and is taken to the Klinik Hirslanden.

1961 September 27. Dies at the Klinik Hirslanden.

1961 October 28. H.D.'s ashes are buried at Nisky Hill Cemetery, Bethlehem, Pa.

Appendix: Selective list of nicknames encountered in the H.D. Papers

Banabhard = Rachel Annand Taylor

Bear = Walter Schmideberg

Beaver = Helen Wolle Doolittle

Big Dog = Kenneth Macpherson

Br = Bryher

Buddy = Robert Herring

Cat = H.D.

Chiron = Havelock Ellis

Cole = Dorothy Henderson or Maud Cole

Cuth or Cuthbert = Richard Aldington

Deetie = H.D.

Dogs = Bryher and Kenneth Macpherson

Dragon = Silvia Dobson (from 1934 on)

Dryad = H.D.

E. B. = Elizabeth Bergner

Fido = Bryher

Horse = H.D.

Kangaroo = Harold Doolittle

Kat = H.D.

Lady Goat = Hannah Glover Ellerman

Little dog = Bryher

Little Dragon = Sheila Barnard

Lynx = H.D.

M. C. = Murray Constantine

Mog = H.D.

Mouse = Blanche Lewin

Polar Bear = Walter Schmideberg

Possum = T. S. Eliot

Professor = Sigmund Freud

Pup = Perdita Schaffner

Robin Hood = Silvia Dobson

Rover = Kenneth Macpherson

Small dog = Sheila Barnard

Turtle = Hanns Sachs

Processing Information

Most of the material came to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library after Professor Pearson's death in 1973. Prior to this time, selected groups of materials were given to the library by Professor Pearson and were placed with related documents in other collections; these materials have been retrieved and placed in the H.D. Papers. Materials from other sources are also found in the papers, with specific provenance information on the appropriate folders.

Folders 877-879 in Box 33 are unused. Audiotape reels are housed in Box 70.

Guide to the H.D. Papers
by Louis Silverstein and Tina Evans
May 1987
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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