Jun 16, 2022 - Sale 2609

Sale 2609 - Lot 252

Price Realized: $ 3,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 3,000 - $ 4,000
POUND SEEKS INVESTORS IN SCHEME TO HELP T.S. ELIOT LEAVE HIS BANK JOB POUND, EZRA. Typed Letter Signed, to Cleveland English teacher Clarence Stratton ("Dear Mr. Stratton"), acknowledging having seen the New York Times article [Alice Rohe's "Bel Esprit for Attic Dwellers" in the June 17, 1923 issue], sending a circular [not present], speculating how much annually Eliot would require in order to take care of himself and his ailing wife, characterizing Eliot's work at the bank as an impediment to his important work of writing, explaining that his goal is to help Eliot rather than to compete with him, and suggesting that investing in Bel Esprit is analogous to the initial outlay required to install electric light in a village. 2 pages, 4to, written on two sheets; few short closed separations at folds, slight even toning overall, several holograph corrections throughout. Paris, 1 August 1923

Additional Details

"I have at last seen a copy of N.Y. Times article on Bel Esprit. Miss Rohe has been O.K. as to aim of society, and very clear on everything save the main point, i.e., that T.S. Eliot has NOT got any benefit from it. . . .
"We can't rake up Eliot's private affairs every time the subject is discussed, but with his wife a chronic invalid he simply can't give up a sure 3000 dollars a year for an utterly uncertain 1500.
"Given a sure 1500 or 2000 he MIGHT make 1000 or 1500 by his writing, that is, by his really important work . . . .
". . . [I]f I wanted to prevent Eliot's writing better than I do, I shd, of course try to provide all possible impediments, a la Standard Oil.
"Unfortunately or fortunately literature differs from commerce. . . ."
In early 1922, even before the world could be astonished by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land published later that year, Ezra Pound hatched a plan to prevent his friend Eliot from wasting his talents working as a clerk at Lloyds Bank in London. The idea, dubbed "Bel Esprit," was to collect sufficient subscriptions from wealthy benefactors to allow Eliot to make his living by the quill, and the moment was ripe, because Eliot had left the bank to recover from a debilitating nervous condition. Pound explained to prospective subscribers that the money would be an investment in poetry. Only a few joined Bel Esprit, and before the project could gather steam, Eliot returned to the bank, seduced by steady income and a pension.
In the Spring 1971 issue of The Massachusetts Review, the letter in this lot is discussed in Donald E. Herdeck's article, "A New Letter by Ezra Pound about T.S. Eliot."
Also see Lot 356.