another. Those writers who are comfortablenwith themselves think of it as anconversation in a pleasant and shelterednspace, maybe with a bar and angood library and pleasant nooks fornchatting with friends. But it can also bena club of the other kind, a bluntninstrument to beat enemies over thenhead with — and this was, clearly, hownPound saw it. He was an ambitiousnlittle huckster, vulgar, loud, and irksome.nHis domestic life was a disastern— his children were walking woundedn— and his friendships were, with only anfew exceptions, mutual benefit societiesnmore than impromptu associationsnof like-minded people. (Exceptingnonly Eliot and Williams, Pound eithernwithdrew himself or dismissed thenother party in these conjunctions; hisnonly constancy seems to have consistednof behaving badly.) He was a promoternand manipulator, a Barnum but withoutnBarnum’s generosity or high spirits,nand with acts that were less immediatelynpromotable. Not surprisingly, he wasnless successful than Barnum.nHe left the States and, from London,nwrote (in 1913 in an article thatnappeared in Poetry) that his aim innEngland had been to make friends withnas many as possible of “the two hundrednmost interesting people” on thenisland. As for the remainder, “I do notnsee that we need to say the rest livenunder them, but it is certain that whatnthese [two hundred] people say comesnto pass.” America, he said, resemblednEngland with “the two hundred mostninteresting people removed.” But itnwasn’t very long before he was railingnagainst the Brits, too: “I have an absolutenmistrust of anything English, particularlynof any ‘upper class’ interest innliterature … I don’t want to appearn[in print] in England. I have no beliefnin their capacity to understand anything,”nhe wrote in 1922—to his pal,nT.S. Eliot, that sedulous clerk to allnthings upper class and English. Tonsomeone else he expressed his animusnsomewhat difi^erently: “the history ofnEnglish literature,” he said, was solelyn”as shown in her exiles: Landor innItaly, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Beddoesnout of England, Browning in Italy.”nIn Paris and then in Italy, he continuednto mimic those Jews he hated,n’living in a small enclave of fellownexiles, reading exotic books, and writingna willful pidgin one would havenexpected of a caricature immigrant onnHester Street but laced with Latin,nGreek, Chinese, Egyptian, and otherntags of languages in which his ignorancenwas laughable to anyone whonknew them enough to see the joke.nThat some of his literary picks-npansnturned out to be accurate is notnsurprising — he was in the right placenat the right time, and if he madenenough bets, some of them werenbound to win. He could be helpful, asnhe obviously was to Eliot in his suggestionsnfor cuts and rewrites in The WastenLand. He could even sometimes manage,non his own, an interesting andnunblemished poem. (It is depressing tongo back and see how few of these therenare.) But The Cantos were a pompousnand absurd failure the wide acceptancenof which in academic circles is a betternand nastier kind of joke than any henever managed to put over on the rubes.nThe weakest part of HumphreynCarpenter’s generally excellent book isnthe middle, where he writes aboutnPound at work, either writing or wheelingnand dealing with editors, publishers,nand other writers. The comeuppancenat the end is interesting, too, andnalso depressing, as we watch Poundnpersisting in his demented Jew-baiting,nand- his less-than-gracious behavior tonhis old friends Archibald MacLeishnand Robert Frost, who were working tonget him liberated from the boobynhatch. Carpenter’s presentation of thenpoetry is diligent, but one gathers thatnhe doesn’t much like it even though hendoesn’t want to come right out and saynso. Any writer or critic who thinksn”The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”nis “indeed the most appealingnpoem of Ezra’s whole career” is probablynnot a committed Poundian. On thenother hand, had Carpenter dismissednmost of the poetic production, he’dnhave raised a difficult question aboutnwhat the point of the biography was —nor its excuse.nI do think this is a worthwhile andnimportant work that needs no excuse,nfor it seems to me that it has importanceninsofar as it explains, or exposes,nthe general Pound phenomenon. It isnnothing less than phenomenal that ancrude and contemptible fellow, quitenreasonably accused of treason (he wasncommitted to St. Elizabeths for 11nyears and the prosecution was finallyndropped), whose major work was, bynnnhis own estimate, a failure and is at anynrate posturing, batty, incoherent, andndripping with the worst kind of venom,ncould hold so honored a place in thenAmerican curriculum. At the BeineckenRare Book and Manuscript Library,nthe veneration is such that the cardboardnboxes in which many of Pound’snpapers arrived have been reboxed andnare, themselves, catalogued and, becausenthe poet had put his name andnreturn address on them, described asn”Autographed Boxes, Signed.” Thisnisn’t literary scholarship but the venerationnof a saint’s relics.nThat Pound was no saint, this booknmakes clear. Indeed, we are not farnfrom that depressing nightmare countrynDon DeLillo described in WhitenNoise in which there is, at The Collegenon the Hill, a department of HitlernStudies.nDavid R. Slavitt Uves in Philadelphia.nHis latest collection of verse isnEquinox, published by LouisiananState University Press. He is also thenauthor of the recent novel SalazarnBlinks, published by Atheneum.nMaking Historynby Clyde WilsonnRequiem: Variations onnEighteenth-Century Themesnby Forrest McDonald andnEllen Shapiro McDonaldnLawrence: University Press ofnKansas; 216 pp., $19.95nThe best historical writings, whateverntheir subject matter, have certainncharacteristics in common. All displayna deft mastery of primary sources,nbuilding up from a solid base of factnwithout allowing the data to drag themndown into pedantry. They also bear onntheir faces both an open and honestnviewpoint and objectivity. That is, thenbest historian is a writer of convictionnand values who is yet able to view allnsides of a question and to state opposingnarguments honestly, the rarest ofnall faculties in modern discourse.nThen, the best history must deal withnhigh and not trivial matters. Finally,nthe best histories are relevant, not innthe sense of pandering to the fashionsnAPRIL 1989/41n