Ezra Pound Collection
The Ezra Pound Collection at Hamilton College contains manuscripts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and photographs documenting the powerful, if occasionally strained, relationship of six decades between the quixotic writer and his alma mater. The items were collected over the past century by Hamilton College staff, faculty, and alumni who maintain relationships with Ezra Pound and his family members.
- Creation: 1900-1970
- Pound, Ezra (Ezra Weston Loomis), 1885-1972 (Person)
- Saunders, Arthur Percy, 1869-1953 (Person)
- Dunn, James Taylor (1912-2002-09-08) (Person)
- Pound, Dorothy (Person)
Biographical / Historical
In the summer of 1903, Pound visited Hamilton College, set down amdist farms and forests on the edge of New York's Mohawk Valley. A mediocre performance at the University of Pennsylvania had worried his parents. A family friend, the Rev. Carlos Tracy Chester, a Hamilton alumnus, recommended the college as a classics-oriented institutions devoid of urban temptations. The school was headed at the time by Rev. Melancthon Woolsey Stryker, famous for his brassy sermons and strong emphasis on a well-rounded education. Whether Pound or his parents pushed for the transfer is not clear. Pound took the train up tot Utica and visited the school in June. He wrote to his father: "Saw Dr. Stryker this P.M. & I arranged my course. I Shall graduate with '05'. O.K."
Pound showed up that fall with his mother, Isabel, in tow. As a result, he was pegged as a momma's boy by rural upstate students. Pound, with his shocking red har, theatrical manner and, even then, a self assurance bordering on arrogance, was seen as a pompous, wealthy loner by many of his contemporaries. Unlike the later stages of his life, Pound did not embrace the role of outcast. He tried to fit in, at least initially. He attended dances in Utica. He was the school's chess team. Pound also was eager to join Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity; however his rebellious reputation preceded him. The fraternity received a telegram from its chapter at Pennsylvania. "Under no consideration pledge Ezra Pound," it read. Pound was one of only three students in his class not poledge to a fraternity. At one point, the lonely Pound bolded from the school to spend several days in an Ithaca hotel. "As you can see I have broke out," he wrote his father in November 1904. "I'd been bottled on that desolate mountain top about as long as I could stand it, so I'm taking a little vacation."
Though he felt alienated from the campus social life, he seemed to know intrinsically that the academic environment on the Hill was exactly what he needed. Pound was impressed with President Stryker (1851-1929), known as "Prex," who headed the school from 1892 to 1917. Stryker urged his students to make a big splash in the world, a message Pound certainly never forgot. Six decades after he graduated, Pound included Stryker's translation of a Martin Luther hymn "Eine feste Burge is unser Gott," ("A Mighty Fortress is Our God") in his anthology Confucius to Cunnings (1964). "My favorite ammusement 190/03/05 was lighting M/ Woolsey's Stryker's fuse; for the fun of watching him explode," Pound once wrote. "I still recall that purposeful walk of the Prexy / As he exsurged toward the Commons [dining hall] on the question of the third breakfast biscuit."
Pound thrived under the guidance of bright Hamilton faculty, who were accessible and open to teaching beyond the contraints of curriculum. Pound developed, in part, his own course of study, something impossible at large schools like Penn. The classes were small - Hamilton graduated only about 40 students a year at the time. As Hamilton historian Frank Lorenz wrote in the pamphlet "Ezra Pound at Hamilton Colege: A Summing Up, 1905-1969," "The College environment was one of unavoidable intimacy for students and faculty alike.... Virtually everyone was known by first name, and frequently by nickname as well." Pound explored a range of topics, including romance languages, economics, parliamentary law and English history. He read Dante, Browning, Mereson, Moliere, Chaucer, Swinburne, Goethe, Beddoes, Galdo, Blake, St. Augustine, Plato, Villon and the Book of Job. He student Provençal under Professor WIlliam Pierce Shepard, even though no formal course was offered. Shepard lent him many books from his private collection. The broad scope of had a purpose: Pound was preparaing himself for a life of poetry.
The breadth of his studies was due in large part to his teachers. Chief among them was Shepard (1873-1948), professor of the romance languages and literatures and a recognized expert on Provençal poetry. Pound sent Shepard first editions of his early books, and wrote admiringly of Shepard throughout his life. Pound's interest in the Troubadours is a direct result of Shepard's influence. The two wrote each other well into the 1930s. Other professors developed lasting friendships with Pound. Arthur Percy Saunders (1869-1953), professor of agriculatural and general chemistry, known as "Stink" for the chemical smell that often accompanied him, encouraged Pound. Herman Carl George "Schnitz" Brandt (1850-1920), professor of the German language and literature, let Pound skip German prose and go right to German poetry, despite Pound's admitted weak grasp of German.
The aspiring writer's most durable Hamilton friendship was with Joseph Darling Ibbotson (1869-1952), professor of English literature, Anglo-Saxon and Hebrew. He latere became the college librarian, starting what has become the Ezra Pound Collection. Ibbotson was known affectionally by his students as "Bib," apparently because he once was seen absentmindedly crossing campus with a dinner napkin still stuffed on his shirt. The 1905 Hamilton yearbook lists Ezra Pound as "Bib's pride." Pound's letters to Ibbotson from 1935 to 1952 has been collected and annotated in book form by Vittoria I. Mondolfo and Margaret Hurley, members of the Hamilton College Library staff. These letters illustrate the long-standing affection between the two men. Pound considered a conversation with Ibbotson to be the starting point for The Cantos, his lifelong magnum opus.
In May 1905, Pound published in the Hamilton Literary Monthly his first poem, a translation of the short Provençal work that he entitled "Belangal Alba." On June 29, 1905, Pound graduated from Hamilton College. After he began his self-imposed exile from the United States in 1906, he only returned three times of his own free will, once in 1910, once in 1939 and again in 1969. On the last two visits he traveled to Hamilton. The college had a profound impact on the poet's thinking more than any other edcutional institution he attended. Throughout his life, he reach out repeatedly to Hamiton professors and alumni. Pound's alma mater served as his link to the United States and to academia. The Ezra Pound Collection at Hamilton College is a testament to a powerful, if occasionally strained, relationship of six decades between the quixotic writer and the small, rural college.
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Language of Materials
The Ezra Pound Collection at Hamilton College is arranged into four series: I.) Manuscripts; II.) Correspondence; III.) Photographs; and IV.) St. Elizabeths material.
The Ezra Pound Collection at Hamilton College has grown over the last century through the generosity of many contributors, the dedication and guidance of Walter Pilkington (1952-1976) and Ralph Stenstrom (1976-2000), college librarians, and the efforts of Frank Lorenz, curator of special collections. Of particular note are the contributions of Professor Wiliam P. Shepard, who donated some of Pound's early works to the library; Joseph Ibbotson, who established an endowment fund that provided for the purchase of Pound items; and James Taylor Dunn, who donated books and his Pound correspondence to the college. Most of all, the generosity and support of Ezra, Dorothy and Omar Pound has been cirtical to the collection's growth since the 1950s. Omar Pound was unflagging in his support, both in terms of ideas and materials.
Walter Pilkington was instrumental in establishing the current Pound Collection. While Ibbotson began seriously collecting Pound materials, Pilkington brought the Ezra Pound items together and created a separate collection. Pilkington continued to purchase items by and about Ezra Pound, and sought to secure gifts, principally from alumni. He communicated with Ezra Pound and visited him on a number of occasions at St. Elizabeths. Pound took an interest in this developing collection and donated a number of items for Pilkington to add to it. When Pilkington retired in 1976 his successor, Ralph Stenstrom continued collecting Pound material and established relationships with book dealers. Working under the direction of Pilkington and Stenstrom, Frank Lorenz oversaw the collection from 1972 to 1980. From 1980 until his retirement in 2001, Lorenz handled Pound's manuscripts in the college archives. He added new secondary works to the collection and assisted scholars in their use of the material.
The current collection poliy of the library is to aquire through gift or purchase all publications of Pound's works in English and translation, as well as monographs or periodical articles about Pound. In addition the library seeks gifts of Pound manuscript material, photos and ephemera.
The Pound Collection consists of more than 4,600 cataloged volumes (searchable through the library catalog), 4 boxes of manuscript material and photographs, ten oversized flat boxes of pamphlets and newspaper clippings collected by Pound at St. Elizabeths, and approximately 650 individual periodicals by and related to Pound from the Sir Joseph Gold Collection. Of the cataloged volumes, more than 800 are works by Pound; 125 contain his translations; and 150 are works for which Pound was an editor or contributor. In addition, the collection contains more than 1,000 volumes of secondary sources and more than 2,300 periodical articles by or about Pound.
Published material in the Ezra Pound Collection at Hamilton College is cataloged in the library catalog, searchable online here: https://hamilton.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/.
Ezra Pound Collection, Hamilton College Library Digital Collections, A collection of 268 postcards collected by Dorothy (Shakespear) Pound, wife of Ezra Pound, showing correspondence between her, her friends, her relatives, and her husband: https://litsdigital.hamilton.edu/collections/ezra-pound-collection.
Artwork by Dorothy Shakespeare Pound housed at the Wellin Museum of Art: http://emuseum-2022.hamilton.edu/people/931/dorothy-shakespear.
Oil painting of Ezra Pound by Roman Tybinko, 1970, housed at the Wellin Museum of Art: http://emuseum-2022.hamilton.edu/objects/170/ezra-pound-class-of-1905-h1939?ctx=f18ef94a6033d9da2c3017fb5ac192cd63d4b92a&idx=0.
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