Always feeling “different” as the only girl among five brothers, H. remembered asking, “Why was it always a girl who had died?
” She later decided that her survival was linked to her “gift,” the combined capacity for artistic and religious inspiration that came from her mother’s family. Only she was allowed to play quietly in his study and cut the pages of his new books.
Gregg wrote poetry and was something of a mystic, whose psychologically difficult childhood led to psychic abilities that entranced H. She found in Gregg the lost sister, the “twin soul” whom she described in ,” which refers to the forbidden love between women, is the line that echoes through much of H. Objective—no slither; direct—no excessive use of adjectives, no metaphors that won’t permit examination. ” The opening lines of “Hermes of the Ways” bear out Pound’s praise of a poetic language cleansed of Victorian and Georgian excesses: The hard sand breaks, and the grains of it are clear as wine.
Her work is consistently innovative and experimental, both reflecting and contributing to the avant-garde milieu that dominated the arts in London and Paris until the end of World War II.
Immersed for decades in the intellectual crosscurrents of modernism, psychoanalysis, syncretist mythologies, and feminism, H. created a unique voice and vision that sought to bring meaning to the fragmented shards of a war-torn culture. D.’s increasingly complex and resonant texts is best understood when placed in the context of other important modernists, many of whom she knew intimately and all of whom she read avidly—especially poets such as Ezra Pound, T. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and the Sitwells: and novelists such as D. Lawrence, Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Colette, May Sinclair, Djuna Barnes, and William Faulkner. D.’s particular emphasis grew out of her perspective as a woman regarding the intersections of public events and private lives in the aftermath of World War I and in the increasingly ominous period culminating in the Atomic Age.
But their plans to marry gradually faded with the continued opposition of her family, the aftereffects of Pound’s sudden trip to Europe in 1908, and Hilda’s increasing discomfort with the idea of marriage. wrote about feeling “smothered,” “smudged out” by Pound, whose kisses presaged a suffocation of the spirit in which she feared that she would become the object of his poem rather than the poet. wrote that “Ezra would have destroyed me and the center they call ‘Air and Crystal’ of my poetry.” H. No longer her fiancé entangling poetry with the demands of a lover, Pound was her greatest promoter. However, the violence of his slashing pen in her description of his naming “H. Imagiste” suggests an ominous undertone in his support, as Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, and Janice Robinson have suggested.
She had dreamed of a bohemian life with Pound, but the more their courtship progressed, the more conventional the romance became. “You are a poem, though your poem’s naught,” Pound apparently told her. D.’s love for Pound, but disenchantment with her role as his muse, paralleled a deepening involvement with Frances Josepha Gregg, an intense young woman she met through her college friend Mary Herr, probably in 1910. Then we can send this, or I’ll type it when I get back. His power to name, upon which her new identity depended, carried with it a threat to her autonomy as a creative artist, as she was later to explore in stuff by an American, I say modern, for it is in the laconic speech of the Imagistes....
D.’s favorite half brother and her father’s assistant).
With Helen Wolle there were five more children: Gilbert, Edith (who died as a baby), Hilda, Harold, and Melvin.Her roots, however, were fully American and provided a heritage that permeated her later life and art.It is well worth knowing about her early life and the meanings she discovered in it because these clusters of associations appear repeatedly not only in memoirs such as (1979), but also in much of her poetry and fiction. D.’s childhood began on Church Street in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the close-knit Moravian community in which her mother’s family had been influential since its founding in the 18th century by a small band of people persecuted for their membership in the Unitas Fratrum, a mystical Protestant sect.However, the first poems which fully pleased her were the lyrics she wrote for Gregg. Breaking the traditional patterns of both creativity and love proved to be a difficult task. D.’s relationships with Pound and Gregg succeeded in loosening the control of her family and initiating her life as an artist. This bisexual pull remained one of the central patterns of H. D., but increasingly the persistent attention of Aldington began to fill the emotional gap left by Pound and Gregg. frequently met for tea to discuss life and art, chiefly, Aldington later wrote, to establish “a camaraderie of minds” and to laugh until their sides ached. had high hopes that their intimate companionship, based on mutual respect and love for poetry, would lead to a new kind of marriage, one which would foster the creative work of both partners. D.’s literary career was already underway, her reputation as the best of the imagists well-established, thanks to the efforts of Pound and her own hard work. had given Pound three new poems, “Epigram,” “Hermes of the Ways,” and “Priapus” (later titled “Orchard”), and he was impressed with their hardness, clarity, and intensity—the very qualities he associated with the best of poetic tradition and advocated for modern poetry. D., Aldington, Flint, and himself, as well as Amy Lowell, Joyce, Williams, Hueffer, and Cournos). Although the imagists were frequently attacked, imitators sprang up everywhere, and their anthologies sold extremely well (Aldington’s later estimate was 20,000 copies).She modeled these love poems on the pastorals of Theocritus that Pound had brought her. D.’s later life, one which she discussed extensively with Freud and encoded in much of her writing. was upset when she failed to convince Frances to stay with her in London (1911) and later devastated by Frances’s sudden letter from the United States announcing her marriage to Louis Wilkinson (1912). They studied Greek together at the British Museum, wrote poetry, and read widely in French and English poetry. D.’s talent and dedication, both of which he believed would lead to important achievements. They spent the spring of 1912 in Paris together, and after the arrival of her parents, Aldington and the Doolittles toured Italy, occasionally joined by Pound. were married in the presence of her parents and Pound. Imagism, the short-lived but influential movement officially in existence from 1913 until 1917, was launched in the tea shop of the British Museum in September of 1912. With publication arranged by Lowell, three more imagist anthologies followed. The devastating impact of World War I and a growing diversity of the imagist poets led to the official abandonment of the annual anthologies by 1918. D.’s life and work recapitulate the central themes of literary modernism: the emergence from Victorian norms and certainties, the entry into an age characterized by rapid technological change and the violence of two great wars, and the development of literary modes which reflected the disintegration of traditional symbolic systems and the mythmaking quest for new meanings. D.’s oeuvre spans five decades of the 20th century, 1911-1961, and incorporates work in a variety of genres.