Ezra Pound: Poet – A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Volume II, The Epic Years 1921–1939 by A David Moody - review by Matthew Sperling

Matthew Sperling

Good, Bad & Ugly

Ezra Pound: Poet – A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Volume II, The Epic Years 1921–1939


Oxford University Press 426pp £25 order from our bookshop

When we left him at the end of David Moody’s first volume, published in 2007, Ezra Pound had gone from London to Paris, declaring with a flounce that there was ‘no longer any intellectual life in England’. It was 1920. In the final fifty pages of that book, several things happened which set the tenor for the next instalment of Pound’s life. He had discovered the Social Credit movement founded by C H Douglas, fuelling his major obsession of the next two decades: the need for an overhaul of the economic system so that a democratic people could control their own credit, rather than having the banks control it, and could distribute it justly through a national dividend to give increased purchasing power to the individual. In connection to his hatred of the banks, the first hints of anti-Semitism had entered his journalistic writing, and he had hit upon ‘usury’ as the great evil of world history. He had written Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, the poetic sequence which was both a ‘farewell to London’ and a way of killing off his earlier poetic styles. And, after considerable trial and error, he had established the method of The Cantos, the work of musically ordered historical fragments which would sustain him for the next five decades, and on which his reputation rests.

This is the central contradiction of the middle volume of Moody’s magnificent biography: that as the authority and achieved beauty of Pound’s mature poetry grew, so his thinking on social and political questions, in his vast output of polemical prose and letters, became more ugly and ranting.

Pound had gone to

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