Pound releases edited setting copy of Cantos I-V and XII-XVI to Bill Bird.
Source: curator’s note Beinecke YCAL MSS 43 Oversize Box 241, Folder 55.
At the end of the typescript in that setting copy, with the final lines of Canto XVI, Pound writes 6 Jan. 1924, and signs the page by hand “E.P.”
Also see Moody, Ezra Pound: The Epic Years 1921-1939, 58. (Beall 2017)
To Homer Pound, 29 January 1924
Bird is still preparing the de luxe CANTOS.
Baldy Bacon is F.S. Bacon. he visited us in Wyncote once or twice. also turned up in Paris last year 2 days after I had typed out that canto. there is a hell (2 cantos) & war (one canto.) & the honest sailor 1/2 of that canto - that you haven't yet seen - reserved for the book.
From Ernest Hemingway, 10 February, 1924
Henry is working hard on the Cantos.
From Ernest Hemingway, 17 March, 1924, Paris
Henry left for America. Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
His initials and head and tail pieces for your book are god damn good.
To William Bird, 6 April 1924, Hotel Berchielli, Lungarno Acciaioli, Florence
Lilly Library, William Bird Papers. ALS
Re/ enclosure poor Henry has probably bitched this capital. I can’t do much about that either but for Xt’s sake delete
- The love knot lower right corner
- The scene under the word canto
- The tail of the P from line marked
a lot of detail ought to be erased or hammered down in the centre design but that is a more complicated process
DELETE all H’s drawing outside the hole in the P. if anything can be done by yr. engraver
1. to take the leaves out of those trees
2. to thicken the bordering lines
let him do it.
Try the page with just the red part of the P [as designed by H. except for its being cut off at the black line – outside word Black cock
at any rate leave me a few copies – say sixteen with the plain letter. = better 30.
you can leave the emended design for them as wants it in return for lucre.
but in ALL copies delete excrescences 1. 2. & 3. and let me see proofs of other letters & ornaments early – not necessary to do the 2 colour proof.
Hell – I told him to cut off trail of the P – at least I thought I did.
However – will save what we can - & no love knots.
William Bird to Dorothy Pound, 10 April 1924, Paris
Lilly Library, William Bird Papers. TLU
Dear Dorothy: Ford says he has heard from Ezra that he has another attack of appendicitis, and is laid up with ice-bags. I am awfully sorry to hear it and hope he is pulling through in good shape.
But I don’t want to add to his worries, so am writing this to you to use your judgment about the opportune time to take it up with him, if at all.
Yesterday I got a letter from him, returning the proof I sent him of the Prospectus, with various suggestions for altering the initial. He was apparently under the impression that I was awaiting his corrections before printing, which was not the case. The Prospectuses are now all printed, so of course it’s too late to make any changes.
But, anyhow, it would be quite impossible for me to alter the drawings in any way. Apart from the fact that I haven’t the skill, I haven’t the authority. I would no more think of taking liberties with Mike’s designs than with Ezra’s text.
I don’t see at all why Ezra thought I could do this. Of course he may have had some understanding with Strater to that effect, but I know nothing about it. That is strictly a matter between Ezra and Mike. The latter turned the drawings over to me, and I have had the cuts made exactly according to his instructions. They represent an investment of 2000 francs or more on my part.
The only practical way to handle this matter as things stand now is to let the book go ahead, with Text by Pound, decorations by Strater and printing by Bird. Each one will have to be responsible for his own share. I cannot shoulder responsibility for the initials, and Ezra shouldn’t.
I feel most unhappy about this thing. After all, Mike was Ezra’s selection, the sketches were submitted to Ezra, and I was firmly convinced that we were all three in agreement down to the last details. I have sunk about 6000 francs in this book thus far, mostly for paper and cuts, the whole thing is planned out to the last comma, and it is absolutely too late to plunge into any such wholesale alterations as Ezra seems to want. We are ready to begin printing the first form of the book, pressman is engaged, press is ready, all set. It’s a damn shame if Ezra doesn’t like the drawings, and a terrific disappointment to me, but what can be done about it?
My first impulse was to ignore E’s letter altogether, but I think it’s better to have everything down plainly and white, so here goes, and if Ezra is not worrying about the thing any more use your judgment about communicating this to him.
Affectionate salutations to you both.
To Homer Pound, 10 April 1924
Proof of Prospectus of Bird's edtn - of Cantos – has arrived & been returned with suggestions re modification -
To William Bird, 10 April 1924, Hotel Berchielli, Lungarno Firenze
Lilly Library William Bird mss. (Partially printed in L 257)
Dear Bill: Yrs. to D. to hand. There seems nothing to do but print 6o copies with Strater designs (or 70 copies) and the rest with plain red letters.
or better, let me have proofs of all designs to see how they have come out. 2 were O.K. (once).
I never sanctioned any loveknots in the lower right hand corner = I tried to get Mike to do something decent by confining him to the caps. Restricted space to intensify output.
The 'A' and the 'H' were O.K. in one stage, but the quality of the line wd. depend on final form. You understand I'm not worrying so long as I am absolootly helpless.
I do want at least ten copies either with plain red caps (all) or with plain red caps (some) and the Mike ornaments on the caps that have come out well.
My other letter was too brief, but I was trying to hold down to essentials.
I appreciate the quality of the printing - paper - presswork - everything that you have done.
But with some standing as art critic, I can't sanction all them damn curleycues & Mike's relapse into the same state of idiocy he was in when I first found him. All you can now do is, I take it, to print some copies with Strater ornaments and some either wholly without 'em or with those that I can approve. For which purpose of approval, for XTs his sake send me proofs of all the ornaments NOW [proofs needn't be made on press].
Your position to Henry is that requests were recd. for certain copies PLAIN == that is if he ever learns that they exist - which he needn't = if he ever sees a plain one he can think it an accident or a request copy.
I take it he didn't see the result of the block making???
or did he.
The first small "T" was O.K. = the Demi-semi size = - that can stay in.
I think possibly yr. block maker may have contributed to the error - embedded in the shit of this age - he probably insisted on H's drawings looking like the Century for 1886. But damn the man - you had various things in decent style for him to look at.
Fortunately for the financial side the book collectors are probably no better judges than Henry is himself.
I take it that it is too late for me to communicate with H. In fact Transatlantic communications too cumbersome & plan to leave part of edition ornatified & part in ornate - or at any rate simplex munditiis - the best course.
At any rate my minimum demand is 20 copies that I can approve, i.e., with plain red caps in place of designs that to my mind offend. The' A' and the 'H' were O.K. in the last form I saw them in. The small ·'T' was excellent.
Have probably been god damn fool to trust design to man not working straight in medium. Only the lead blocks of black and white do occasionally come out extremely well. (And the small 'T' was O.K.)
Henry's emotional crises last summer of course of setting his train of thought & action.
About the 'P'. Can't have the tail to it in my copies. Print yr. 70 and then mutilate the block by removal of tail at line marked & omission of design. Or else use the old device of ordinary small cap in square.
Only do for gawd's sake BEAR in mind that I want nothing that will hit you financially & that I do appreciate your activity in the whole matter & that I am not indulging & will not indulge in any soul tantrums, romantic qualms, hysterias, etc.
Merely that I must have a few copies of the book that won't tum my stomach. As far as the collectors go, the value of the book will be only higher. There will be fewer ornamented copies and only those in the know will get the plain letter copies, author's approval & autograph. If the plain ones aren't snapped up at once, they will be sold at the tail end when the price has been raised ANNY HOWE. You said each sheet wd. be-what was it?-individual hawl, so that removal of ornament after 70 copies have been printed oughtn't to complicate yr. life very much.
Henry's last pathetic note was to the effect that he hoped to please me and that he didn't care a cuss about the subscribers.
& don't lets be dahn hearted.
To William Bird, 17 April 1924, Hotel Berchielli, Lungarno Firenze
Lilly Library W. Bird mss. (partially printed in L 258; SL 188)
Deer Bull: I had no intention of giving away 20 copies. I wanted 'em to be sold to people who won't stand Mike's illustrations and who will sit on my chest and bellyache about 'em tomorrow an' tomorrow an' tomorrow.
I enclose Mike's letter which might be taken as licence to eliminate superfluous muck--such as the love knot in lower right hand comer.
Also if we can't-for technical reasons have a few clean copies, it seems to me ALL the more reason for cutting away offending parts: I.E 1) the love knot; 2.) the tail of 'P '; and 3) the extra scene across top of page: P ----.
It will be perfectly easy to do this, = though I see [and saw] that it wd. probably be too difficult to effect composition of lines inside the loop of the'P.'
Mike is hopeless = I got him out of a slough he trembled - he was grateful "for a chance" - Then he led his private life through the summer - no blame attacking - only there was equally no chance of communicating with his reason.
He has now resigned from the arts & returned to NY = & he cant collaborate in the book - but I dont think he ever expected designs to go in until I had approved them.
And I certainly will be held responsible for the designs - having been associated with artists like Lewis, & Gaudier - & it being known to various people that I know something about the matter! The idea or lunacy was that Mike was a bum painter on canvass & cd. Never hope to paint a picture - It might be possible by concentrating his intelligence [hand pardon the abuse of that term] on a limited space - he cd do something-
He did several promising things - also the water down edge of A = which was very good -//
the only thing to do now is to cut away not only curly cue = it is not a phallus but a penis, an eunuch's penis = a thing that never had any significance save that of a piss tube -
The phallus is not the cock = It is the cock erect.
φaλos, φaλλos = object of worship - penis did not inspire primitive religions.
Mike has I suppose no capacity for observation.
I appear to have destroyed his letter in disgust =
Oh yes. Point was to restrict Strater to Design. Instead of staying in the design, he has wandered all over the page. I know that he started in correct ambition to make the page good as a whole. But it has in this case bitched the original idea. He said in his letter that the stuff had got “sophisticated” i.e., apparently lost all quality.
Re yr. last: the only course now open is to cut away superfluous rubbish.
Ci inclus: the tail of ‘P’ & the scene across the top of the page.
And other such delenda in other caps.
Such operations as can be performed by simple scission & omission.
Considering the amt. of work you have put into the matter, I don't see why you want the edtn. damaged by retention of same. As to the quality of line in the 'P', it is equal to any 1890, Walter Crane hammered brass.
I have probably been an ass to think that any external action cd. transmute Mike into an artist = but into being on a spot for final process. Last put a lid on.
Error probably entered in doing drawings exact size - the Wordsworth caps were done large - with result that the lines in final blocks have some ratio & style =
The RED was O.K. = a damn good tone.
Also = you try taking a picture of supposedly moving object - falling body etc. & to give you some idea of [way?] good art represents stasis.
& dont tell me a knotted condom is a phallus.
if Mike moved his cock and think a little more about his line instead of thinking about his cock & basing his art on the unconscious = it might get him further.
Your position with Mike is O.K. = the time is so pressing & he so far - & so much cash spent - that you can not have further emendation of designs from him. & have no course save to omit designs & parts that I refuse to have in the book.
As he has redrawn lots of 'energy to suit the engraver & for process reasons he wd presumably have done so in fact he certainly wd have done so for author & for aesthetic reasons. The bill for use of chisel & saw to cut away superfluidity can be chgd to my account.
If there are enough good designs in the lot = the bad ones might be reduced to simple large red caps. //
As to work: I have had to scrap a full year's work more than once = that is what art is & why it is so damn rare. Mike may think he has spent a year on this job, but most of the year he spent on his private life.
Certainly the edtn is to stay within the 100. The 20 copies I mentioned were intended to come out of the 100 = careful reading of my last effusion shd. convey this. & to be for sale.
However, as you point out so Konclusively that the block has to be the same in all copies, that is washed off = & we concentrate on ELIMINATION - economical, but severe = and you leave Mike to me.
Do you want me to write him. I can't until I see the whole set of letters anyhow = & had come to conclusion that it wd. be waste effort. & there wasn't enough likelihood of his ever learning anything to make it worth the postage & expenditure of time.
As to how much time you are putting into the job = = I think I can guess = as anybody who has ever made a good job of anything knows the last 2% of excellence takes more time than the other 98% = that's why art & commerce never savvy one another. you try looking at that page of the P with no excrescences covered with white paper.
The condom is silly = not got any form whatever just the coil of shit as it fell. = no can't draw in bed on a soft piece of paper any better than Mike at large = but any clean shape wd have done better.
To William Bird, 7 May 1924
L 25; SL 189
D.B.: Do recall that the title of that book is 'A DRAFT of 16 Cantos for a poem of some length.' If you will stick to that you will produce something of gtr. val. to collectors. Also it ain't an epic. It's part of a long poem. Yr. best ad is the quiet statement that at auction recently a copy of Mr. P's A Lume Spento published in 1908 at $1.00 (one dollar) was sold for $52.50.
No use selling people things on false pretences. The collector will prefer this half-time report on the poem to a pretended complete edition.
To Homer Pound, 16 May 1924, Assisi
Have read vast work on Ferrara - & blocked out course of a few more cantos.
Some of Henry's designs are good - I dont care for the one Bill is using as an ad. [the Fourth Canto] but I am pleased quite definitely with some of the others.
Shd have been in Paris to make final selection etc - but still. - it will be a fairly good looking book. - you are NOT expected to subscribe - an exemplaire will reach you in due course.
Am beginning to want typewriter again = sign of awakening energy.
To IWP, [after 16 May 1924], Albergo Belle Arti Perugia
Tell Dad - if people kick at price of XVI cantos he can remind 'em that A Lume Spento was pubd. @ $1. & that he sold a copy for $40 & that J.Q. sold same again for $52.50.
As those are the only terms in which the native can think.
Reassure dad that he will get his copy when it is printed - without any further action on his part.
To Dorothy Pound, 6 August 1924
Lilly Library, Pound Mss., III Box 1
Have approved page size, type etc and Bill expects proof in a fortnight, but that don’t mean the book will be out for six weeks.
To Dorothy Pound, 30 August 1924
Lilly Library, Pound Mss., III Box 1
It is the Jeff. correspondence, not the FREE PRESS that I want. Thanks for the Wash. matter.
Must cart proofs over to Bill.
To Homer Pound, 12 September 1924, Paris
Cantos being very magnificently done, but job goes slowly.
To Homer Pound, 15 October 1924
The title page of the Cantos has been set up; but the book wont be done for two or three months, yet.
To Homer Pound, 29 November 1924, Rapallo
The Cantos are advertised for end of THIS year. Exhibition of sample pages now going on in Paris.
To R. P. Blackmur, 30 November 1924
L 260-61; SL 189-190
Dear Mr. Blackmur:
Why the 100 readers? There were only five men hanged with Villon, or rather without him. Nobody can pay 25 dollars for a book. I know that. I didn't make the present economic system. The book, of course, can't be made for 25 bucks. Not if Strater and Bird and I were to be paid. That is not the point.
Neither is it my fault if America is so mentally and spiritually rotten as to permit filth like S-- and Article 211 of the U.S. Penal Code to lie around empesting the atmosphere.
My American publishers do not exist. It becomes more and more evident that the American publisher must be left out of one's calculations. Likewise English and henglish publishers. There may some day be a cheaper continental edition. One hopes that the Three Mts. and McAlmon's press in Paris will lead to some more general system of printing over here. At least I have suggested the matter. I do not, personally, intend to devote much energy to it; and as I see things at present, I shall never again take any steps whatever to arrange publication of any of my work in either England or America. Tant pis pour les indigenes. They will have to cure their own sores and spew out their idols.
There will be a public copy of the XVI in the Malatestiana at Cesena, if Dazzi consents to house it for me. Dad has typescript of XVIII and XIX, but I do not want them commented on, yet. ETC.
To IWP, 3 December 1924, Rapallo
Sample pages of the Cantos, binding, etc. are being exhibited in the rue de l Odeon. I think I sent dad a notice. Am continuing labour on further chunks of the opus.
To Wyndham Lewis, 3 December 1924
L 262-63; SL 190-91; L/WL 138-140
Am also letting out another reef in my long job. Installment of which should soon be inspectable. XVI have gone on, I think with more kick, since arrival here.
Question being (now that we have emerged, or if you like, now that I have emerged) from VARIA, that you found alien: Can we kick up any more or any new devilment??
I am going down to Etna, d.v. in a fortnight. Have you any suggestions?? I don't know what the - - - -you are doing. It strikes me that ten or a dozen BLACK designs about the size of this type sheet wd. be serviceable.
(Can't remember whether I have ever discussed Strater's initials with you. Need something for press, etc. etc. etc. proportion of design lines to type. Lot of boring detail-had to be ••• between printer and omator.)
Neither here nor there, but perhaps ten or a dozen designs for the two cantos dealing with Hell might be circulatable. As that section of the poem can NOTbe circulated freely.
You did years ago in Kens. Gds. discuss a book of verse and designs. In this case it wd. be designs only but with cantos as reference. You will readily see that the 'hell' is a portrait of contemporary England, or at least Eng. as she wuz when I left her.
I don't know that the designs need have much to do with the text, or anything. Merely that I have failed on various occasions in attempts to RAM unrelated designs of yours into the continental maw; and shd. like a try at ramming designs related, or supposed to be related to something that had already gone in.
The de luxe had more than paid for itself some time ago. 2 of 100buck copies had gone when I last heard, and requisite number of the 25, also some of the 50.
Anyhow, wait till you see the text, and if you approve, or if it starts you, I shd. be glad to try either to make Bird print' em, or to get some other sort of ballyhoo in action on the matter.
Have also iron in fire for some more general sort of publishing that the 3 Mts. offers and more satisfac. than afforded in Eng. or Am. pub. circles.
(In parenthesis, I aimed a kick at that - - - - D.B. this morning. This purely en passant. Of no importance. Really a country that will tolerate that pyper for any purpose, even that of wiping pigs' arses, is beneath the jo level.)
It rained yesterday, the feast of St. Bibiana. That is said to mean rain for forty days. So that I shd. have leisure to attend to your correspondence if there were any ••••• Benedictions.
P.S. You understand this suggestion of designs for the hell is merely an idea that came to me as I was writing this note. If you can think of something better, blaze away. Only I think the idea of ten or twelve BLACKS of size that cd. go by post, and that cd. be done in line block, might be useful. No use trying to drag J.J.A. or W. Robs. or anything or anyone else into it. The rest of our companions presumably HA VE belonged to the decade just past. Apart from Robert and young George I think the rest of the buds have disappeared in unblossomed fragrance.
Whether we can produce further and larger detonation by a new combination I leave to yr. wisdom to konsider.
From William Carlos Williams, 23 December 1924
Bill Bird tells me in a recent letter of his struggles to complete the printing of your Cantos. It is all so slow that at times it drives me to despair. I do not wish to become Hinduistic and wait for all completions to take place in another life-or is that American Indian lore?
To William Bird, 26 December 1924
L 263; SL 192
On further consideration, better NOT send copy Cantos to Hardy. He may drop off at any moment. Don't want the hell to fall into the wrong hands until there are enough later chants to bring it into proportion with the hole.