Calendar of Composition
“As far as we can tell, Pound began the composition of the China Cantos – that is, taking notes from De Mailla– in the spring of 1938. We know that Pound owned DeMailla’s history, apparently acquiring it in late 1937. It is clear that the composition began sometime after 18 November 1937 and that by May 1938 he had taken notes from De Mailla for at least what is now the first three pages of Canto 53. By June 1938, one month later, Pound had reached the reference to Taï Tsong’s Notes on Conduct in what is now near the end of Canto 54. By the beginning of January 1939 Pound had completed the notebook draft of the China cantos and had started drafting the Adams cantos by the ninth of January, for he wrote then to T. S. Eliot, ‘I am sailing along into the seventh decad. The six isn’t polished yet.’ (Cantrell & Swinson I: 122). By 21 March 1939, he sent Faber the finished typescript of the whole section.
[It is] not unlikely that he wanted to take a copy of the completed manuscript to the United States to show to interested officials. The planning for the trip dovetailed with the composition of the Adams cantos: Pound decided in December 1938 to return to the United States early in the following year (Stock, Life, 356) to try to influence the American government. Having completed and sent to his publisher the twenty-canto set (Stock, Life, 360), Pound left Italy in April 1939 to act on what he thought were the lessons of history that he had set forth in the China-Adams cantos.” (Cantrell & Swinson I: 125-6)
Correspondence by Ezra Pound: (c) Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reproduced by permission.
LIST of ABBREVIATIONS
Ten Eyck, David. Ezra Pound’s Adams Cantos. London: Bloomsbury, 2012.
Qian, Zhaoming, ed. Ezra Pound’s Chinese Friends. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound and Japan. Letters and Essays. Ed. Sanehide Kodama. Redding Ridge CT: Black Swan Books, 1987.
Moody, A. David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Vol. II: The Epic Years, 1921-1939. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.
Izzo, Carlo. “24 lettere e 9 cartoline inedite di Ezra Pound” Civiltà americana. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1976. 249-85.
Pound, Ezra. “Dear Uncle George”: The Correspondence Between Ezra Pound And Congressman Tinkham Of Massachusetts. Ed. Philip J. Burns. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1996.
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: Norton, 1994.
Nadel, Ira. “Visualizing History: Pound and the Chinese Cantos.” A Poem Containing History. Textual Studies in The Cantos. Ed. Lawrence S. Rainey. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1997. 151-166; Richard Dean Taylor. “The History and State of the Texts.” 235-65.
Pound, Ezra. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941. Ed. D. D. Paige. New York: New Directions, 1971.
Beinecke Library, Ezra Pound Papers YCAL Mss 43 Box no./ Folder no.
In September 1931, Japanese forces occupied Manchuria, following the so-called Mukden incident. The puppet state of Manchukuo was established and the Japanese gained a foothold on the Chinese mainland, allowing them to bring infantry forces and dispose them along the main railway lines to the south. This activity continued until July 1937, although China and Japan were not officially at war.
June 1937 – Pound publishes Confucius: Digest of the Analects. Milan: Giovanni Scheiwiller.
7 July 1937. The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) erupts with the Incident at Marco Polo Bridge at Tianjin. In view of the subsequent Japanese invasion of China, a number of historians regard the incident as the real start of WWII.
“The Second Sino-Japanese War was the largest Asian war in the 20th century. It accounted for the majority of civilian and military casualties in the Pacific War, with between 10 and 25 million Chinese civilians and over 4 million Chinese and Japanese military personnel missing or dying from war-related violence, famine, and other causes. The war has been called ‘the Asian holocaust.’”
Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Japanese scored major victories, capturing Beijing, Shanghai and the Chinese capital of Nanjing in 1937, which resulted in the Rape of Nanjing. After failing to stop the Japanese in the Battle of Wuhan, the Chinese central government was relocated to Chongqing (Chungking) in the Chinese interior. Wikipedia: Second Sino-Japanese War.
13 August – 26 November 1937 – Battle of Shanghai
The Battle of Shanghai was one of the “largest and bloodiest battles of the entire war, later described as ‘Stalingrad on the Yangtze’. […] After over three months of extensive fighting on land, in the air and at sea, the battle concluded with a victory for Japan.” Wikipedia: Battle of Shanghai.
“In this same year  he devoted much attention as well to his Chinese studies—his translation of the Analects was published in June (Stock, Life, 346) and in August and the first half of September Pound ‘isolated [himself] with the Chinese text of the three books of Confucius, Ta Hio, Analects, and the Unwavering Middle, and that of Mencius, together with an enormously learned crib’ (SP, 82). The immediate result was probably the composition of his essay on Mencius [Mang-Tse] published in July 1938. Most likely during this same period, the second half of 1937, Pound wrote ‘The Jefferson-Adams Letters as a Shrine and a Monument,’ published in the winter of 1938” (Cantrell & Swinson I:120).
The “enormously learned crib” must have been James Legge’s bilingual edition of the Four Books.
To James Laughlin, 21 October 1937
Cantos have to be PAID fer. and not the moment for 52 anyhow.
“Exactly how Histoire [de Mailla. Histoire générale de la Chine] came to Pound’s attention is not clear. He may have noticed a comment in Giles’ The History of Chinese Literature (which Pound had used in his London years) that the T’ung Chien Kang Mu was ‘still regarded (1901) as the standard history of China.’ He may have picked up the title in the footnotes of Pauthier’s Chine, which relied mainly on Jesuit sources. Indeed, most nineteenth and twentieth century surveys of Chinese history acknowledge their debt to de Mailla in one way or another. He simply may have seen an advertisement in a bookstore catalogue. In any case, on November 18, 1937, the Libreria Antiquaria, Umberto Saba, of Trieste billed Pound for a copy of Histoire Générale de la Chine at a cost of £ 200. It had been listed as item #226 in Catalogue 76.”
(John Nolde, Blossoms, 27)
To W. H. D. Rouse, 1 December 1937
Moyrac de Mailla “Histoire de Chine” which I have just bought from continental bookseller for 200 lire.
10-12 December 1937 – The battle of Nanking.
Japanese troops advanced from Shanghai at rapid pace, aiming to force the final Chinese surrender by conquering the capital of China, Nanking. The commander of Chinese armed forces, Chiang Kai-sheck, gave up the city without a fight, declared it an open city, and withdrew the army to the interior, establishing a new de facto wartime capital in Wuhan and later, after Wuhan’s surrender, at Chonquing, further to the west. After taking Nanking, the Japanese forces did not respect the open city status and massacred the civilian population (deaths estimated at around 300,000). The massacre has gone down in history as the Rape of Nanking.
To George Tinkham, 23 February 1938
Dear Uncle George
I have at last thought of something useful. Get me over to Heaavud or Yale to give a few lectures on Confucius and Mencius.
With the light of two thousand years of Chinese history, there wd. be NO NEED to allude to the present administration or indeed to anything later than the founding of the Ming dynasty.
Note: The Ming dynasty was founded in 1368.
March 1938 – Germany annexes Austria
Developments in the Sino-Japanese War
“At the start of 1938, the leadership in Tokyo still hoped to limit the scope of the conflict to occupy areas around Shanghai, Nanjing and most of northern China. They thought this would preserve strength for an anticipated showdown with the Soviet Union, but by now the Japanese government and GHQ had effectively lost control of the Japanese army in China. With many victories achieved, Japanese field generals escalated the war in Jiangsu in an attempt to wipe out Chinese resistance, but were defeated at the Battle of Taierzhuang (March–April 1938). Afterwards the IJA [Imperial Japanese Army] changed its strategy and deployed almost all of its existing armies in China to attack the city of Wuhan, which had become the political, economic and military center of rump China, in hopes of destroying the fighting strength of the NRA [National Revolutionary Army] and of forcing the KMT [Kuomintang – Chinese Nationalist Party] government to negotiate for peace. On 6 June, they captured Kaifeng, the capital of Henan, and threatened to take Zhengzhou, the junction of the Pinghan and Longhai railways.
To prevent Japanese advances in western and southern China, Chiang Kai-shek, at the suggestion of Chen Guofu, ordered the opening of the dikes on the Yellow River near Zhengzhou. The original plan was to destroy the dike in Zhaokou, but due to difficulties in that place, the Huayuankou dike on the south bank was destroyed on 5 June and 7 June by excavation, with flood waters over eastern Henan, central Anhui, and north central Jiangsu. The floods covered and destroyed thousands of square kilometers of agricultural land and displaced the mouth of the Yellow River hundreds of miles to the south. Thousands of villages were flooded or destroyed and several million villagers were forced to evacuate from their homes. 400,000 people including Japanese soldiers drowned and an additional 10 million became refugees. Rivers were filled with corpses as Tanka boat dwellers drowned from boat capsize. Damage to plantations also affected the population which generated later hunger. Despite this, the Japanese captured Wuhan on 27 October 1938, forcing the KMT to retreat to Chongqing (Chungking), but Chiang Kai-shek still refused to negotiate, saying he would only consider talks if Japan agreed to withdraw to the pre-1937 borders. In 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army quickly marched into the heart of Chinese territory. With Japanese casualties and costs mounting, the Imperial General Headquarters attempted to break Chinese resistance by ordering the air branches of their navy and army to launch the war’s first massive air raids on civilian targets. Japanese raiders hit the Kuomintang’s newly established provisional capital of Chongqing and most other major cities in unoccupied China, leaving many people either dead, injured, or homeless.” Wikipedia: Second Sino-Japanese War.
To Katue Kitasono, 2 June 1938
I don’t yet know enough to deal properly with the rest of Fenollosa’s notes. I have a good translation of the Li KI (Bk of Ceremonies, with the original text, French and latin)
I am in the middle of de Mailla’s Histoire Generale de la Chine/ translation of Tong Kien Kang Mou/ but only in french; not printed with the original.
Do you know of any (good) History of Japan, translated into any european language FROM original sources?
I have found mention of the “Ti-San” sort of notes left by Emperor Tai-tsong/ Tang a.d. 648, for his son.
I am trying to think out the “100 best books” for proper Ideogrammic library/
Possibly this ought to be one of them?
If it still exists.
The first government note (state ticket not bank note) that I have yet found record of is of Kao tsong 650/ but the form already developed, so I suppose Tai tsong knew the system. Sane economics very interesting.
BUT all this is Chinese/ Whether de Mailla gets round to notice of intercourse with Japan later, I don’t know. At least by 800 a.d. there ought to be Japanese records// in detail/
What sort of Japanese history do you people get in schools?
(Tsai Tsong very respectable emperor.)
30 September 1938 – The Munich Agreement.
France and the UK allow Germany to annex the Sudetenland,
a territory belonging to Czechoslovakia.
To Olga Rudge, 13 October 1938, London
he gotta start on Canto 61 or thaaarabahts/ i; e; wot is to foller ChinKantos when he gits enough Chinkese to finish ’em and FollowEM
To John Crowe Ransom, 15 October 1938
My dear Ransom
As final inquiry: are you ready for a revival of American culture considering it as something specifically grown from the nucleus of the American Founders, present in the Adams, Jefferson correspondence; not limited to belles lettres and American or colonial imitation of European literary models but active in all departments of thought, and tackling the problems which give life to epos and Elizabethan plays, without rendering either Homer or Bard of Avon dry doctrinaires?
The style of Justinian is not necessarily of less interest than that of the Pervigilium Veneris or of Augustine’s purple.
Developments in the Sino-Japanese War
“From the beginning of 1939, the war entered a new phase with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at Battle of Suixian–Zaoyang, 1st Battle of Changsha, Battle of South Guangxi and Battle of Zaoyi. These outcomes encouraged the Chinese to launch their first large-scale counter-offensive against the Imperial Japanese Army in early 1940; however, due to its low military-industrial capacity and limited experience in modern warfare, this offensive was defeated.” Wikipedia: Second Sino-Japanese War.
To T. S. Eliot, 9 January 1939
I am sailin along into the seventh decad. The sixth isn’t polished yet
Note. The seventh decad is The Adams Cantos. The letter to Eliot marks the beginning of intensive work on the Adams, whereas the China cantos are still in draft. See also the date closing canto 62 (11 Jan 1938), a misprint for 1939 (AC 26; 62/350)
To Olga Rudge 1 February 1939
Chewing thru Adams
To Olga Rudge, 3 February 1939
he on vol. Ten and ult. of J. Adams
To Olga Rudge, 7 February 1939
EPP 270; AC 26
he got to the end of vol. XI and last of J Adams
J. Adams, wottaman
To Olga Rudge, 12 February 1939
rereading his 20 canters / and finished or at any rate got to end of 10 folios Adams/
To Olga Rudge, 19 February 1939
having helluva time with cantos 53 and 54 and with 60 and 61
humanised| too condensed as they set.
To Hubert Creekmore, February 1939
SL 322; AC 26
Am I American? Yes, and buggar the present state of the country, the utter betrayal of the American Constitution, the filth of the Universities, and the –––– system of publication whereby you can buy Lenin, Trotsky (the messiest mutt of the lot), Stalin for 10 cents and 25 cents and it takes seven years to get a set of John Adams at about 30 dollars. Van Buren’s autobiog not printed till 1920.
An Ars Poetica might in time evolve from the Ta Hio. Note esp. my “Mencius” in last summer’s Criterion. And as to “am I American”: wait for Cantos 61/71 now here in rough typescript.
T0 Willis Overholser, January-March 1939
[John Adams] much more the father of Jackson and van Buren than Jefferson ever was.
To Katue Kitasono, 3 March 1939
Dear K 2
There is a mention of Japan at the edge of my chinese Cantos/ now on desk, hope to publish in Autumn
52/61 China 62/71 John Adams pater patriae U.S.A. more than Washington or Jefferson/ though all three essential and (all) betrayed by the first congress.
I must go on making clean typescript of them. Now on Canto 67
I want a “Tong Kien Kang Mou”
and a translation of the ECONOMIC volume of the Chinese encyclopedia. I think it is vol 3/
I have a
Nippon O Dai itsi ran
but it is mere chronicle, as far as I have time to read.
Note. Pound used the Japanese chronicle in canto LVI: ll.65-73. Klaproth was the editor of Pound’s source: Nippon O Dai itsi ran was translated into French by Isaac Titsingh. See it in the Sources for canto.
To Henry Swabey, 6 March 1939
AC 27; Nicholls 112
[…] retyping 52/71.
To F. V. Morley, 20 March 1939
Surette 146-7; PCH 151; AC 27
you are gittin something NEW in the Cantos; not merely more of the same. Trust at least two advances in mode will be perceptible by you and the PSM [Possum, i.e. T. S. Eliot]
bar snags I shall be sendink you the ms/ of CANTERS tomorrow
To Agnes Bedford, 4 April 1939
EPP 396; Carpenter 569; AC 6; PCH 151
Cantos 52/71 to Faber
progress on the earlier ones
tenny rate somfink different
April 1939 – Italy annexes Albania.
13 April 1939 – 25 June 1939 – Pound makes a trip to the United States
22 May 1939 – Italy and Germany sign their economic and military alliance, called The Pact of Steel.
From T. S. Eliot, 15 July 1939
I don’t find anything libellous about Chinese emperors that isn’t made safe by lapse of time, similarly about Adams’s, but they [the Faber directors] now agree with me that if you remain keen on jew-baiting, that is your affair, but that name of Rothschild should be omitted. Obvious to me from the start, but you can’t expect all minds to work as fast as mine. Alternative blank or fancy name, and if you care to have it will present you with Bleistein which is almost of equal value METRICALLY.
To T. S. Eliot, 18 July 1939
[Pound suggested Faber use] a line of ten dots. To hell with Bleistein, a mere Baerlein. If you must have it scan, at least conserve a few implications and use the form STINKSCHULD.
23 August 1939 – Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Germany invades Poland on 1 September 1939.
On 3 September, France and the UK declare war on Germany.
World War II officially begins.
To T. S. Eliot, 1 September 1939
I find I must have my ‘Stinkschuld’ on galley one/ as the dots repeated 3 times have no phonetic body / just a silence with no coherence to make a body for the verse.
To Henry Swabey, 2 September 1939
Dear Swabe: If for any reason postal communications are interrupted, will you please correct the proofs of my Cantos, now in press at Fabers? Do the best you can, a few misprints in a first edition won’t matter, and better to get the book through the press somehow than to have it hung up indefinitely.
To T. S. Eliot, 21 September
I should prefer a blackout by slugs to a line of dots – but do as you see fit. every word I write is for England[’]s good.
From Lawrence Pollinger, 22 September 1939
Faber reports that your corrected galleys 1-58 of the CANTOS reached them
From Arnold Knible, 22 September 1939
I am afraid to disappoint you over the endpages map as this is regarded by the directors as one of those luxuries that must be, in the interest of wartime economies, eliminated from our book production.
To Katue Kitasono, 28 October 1939
My Cantos 52/71 are in the press/ Chinese dynasties and John Adams. Creator of the United States and of something not unlike a dynasty in America. The fall of which meant the END of decent civilisation in the U.S. or at any rate a great and pestilent sickness in American government.
I wd prefer to write about history for the moment, including current history.
To A. B. Drew, 7 November 1939
FABERS, Production Dept.: Re yours 1st inst., details of proofs.
Canto appears in heading where it is intended to be read aloud (if one is reading aloud), so please retain it on page 88.
The one thing that is not wanted is uniformity in lots of places where a variant is intended. This also goes for hyphens in Chinese words. No need to go into all Lin Yutang has been writing on how to help Europeans remember Chinese names.
Your letter evidently posted before you had got my page proofs.
I put in the page numbers for the Cantos. The contents is grouped under the cantos. Can’t very well be sorted out as to pages as the topics are frequently spread or used on variant pages. ––––
Page 30: variations of “can not” are O.K.
“Ouan Soui” O.K. with or without hyphen. Spell it “banzai” if you prefer. Sound changes from one dynasty to another. Etc.
The TçIN can stay as is.
Likewise “TAOzers.” I want in every way to get into reader’s head I am speaking disrespectfully of Taoist.
French accents: Do please correct them.
At what degenerate period did an “E” get into “aquaduct”? I don’t care how you spell it.
“Nutche” can stay either way.
On 97: The hyphen certainly STAYS after “up-.” That is essential to the meaning, though you might add another hyphen after the) and before “held”; sic: “)-held,” if you think that is clearer. I dare say the second hyphen would be more amusing and clearer: “up-(as they say)-held.”
109: “Quarrell.” O hell, put in as many hells as you like.
Page 125: The Moses Gill referred to, as in individual capable of suing for libel, is DEAD. Of course the race of him exists, but he is both Aryan and Shumarian and Palestinian; nevertheless, the race, including its Aryan members, is not a person-at law. If you mean you wish all of him were dead, that is up to you.
134-5: You can use accents as in yr. Frog dictionary and spell him Richelieu. Same goes for Séville and état.
P.155: lines 2-3, yes, the repetition is intended. predominance
157: “erected” is correct.
158: you can lard in some lines of three or four dots… …. in the Latin if you like. I can’t put in a whole page of Cicero’s prose at that point. Got to abbreviate. 
172: yes, do as you like; accent and cap.
Schuyler is DEAD. Hamilton’s god damn father -in-law. Dead for a hundred years; and if you believe in hell, you are ad lib. to think he rots.
182: spell ’em as you like.
Don’t be “sorry.” I am truly grateful for the care spent on those details.
Will get back the remaining page proofs as soon as possible, i.e. as soon as I can give ’em due care. They came this A.M. along with yr. letter.
To James Laughlin, 13 November 1939
MAP to serve as end paper to Cantos 52/71
It shows the various invasions of China. Aim being to aid the reader through Cantos 52/61/ see also dates in page margin/ AND th[e] table of contents.
got to London too late for Fabers edition.
idea was to do it on yellow paper; both inside front and back cover/ opening to double page. carefully measured to size of Faber pages.
Note. The map did arrive in time, see Arnold Knible’s letter of 22 September 1939. Laughlin rejected the map as well, see his letter of 29 February 1940. PCH 159.
From James Laughlin, 5 December 1939
L/JL 108-10; [in part in] PCH 157
As I told you these next years are going to be bleak for you because of your views and the sentiment against you but I believe in you and I will stick with the ship and see it through to better times. I think when monetary sanity does return to this earth the Cantos will be recognized as an epic of money, of the greatest world importance, in fact, a sort of prophetic monument to the new age… […]
I think antisemitism is contemptible and despicable and I will not put my hand to it. I cannot tell you how it grieves me to see you taking up with it. It is vicious and mean. I do not for one minute believe that it is solely the Jews who are responsible for the maintenance of the unjust monetary systems. They may have their part in it, but it is just as much, and more, the work of Anglo-Saxons and celts and goths and what have you. Now I dare say that will male you mad with me, but there’s how it is. Furthermore, in regard to The Cantos I will not print anything that can be fairly construed as an outright attack on the Jews and I want that in contract in the libel clause. You can take all the potshots at them you want, but no outright attack on the jews as jews.
To James Laughlin, 10 January 1940
YCAL 28/1207; [in part] L/JL 112
yrs/ 5 dec/ Indianapolis just to hand.
I have already writ you. YES. go ahead and get the swag from Farrar.
Simplets [sic] calculation is 10% to me on everything. If you get too stinking rich at that rate you can pay a bonus.
/ Now about jews/ I INVENTED the term aryiokike. I have also used iperebreo in Italian. or the Thyssens etc. / the Yid has NO more right to immunity from criticism than has the godddam brit/ the hun or the murkn.
On opening page I protest against poor yitts paying for Rothschild. Is THAT antisemitism? So far as I know Sherman was aryan. hell rot him/ Wilson was I believe the cheapest scotchirish trash. and I aint started no pogrums/ but I understand WHY they are.
As the jews are quite distinctly in favour of an european war; I dont see that this can be hidden. / the question of WHY? and or gold/silver/nickel is not to be dodged.
I have partic/ pointed out that England’s stopping neutral ships is NOT jewish but England, with the stink of 1812.
and that it is NOT to be blamed on jews.
all right / d’accord / not “solely as jews”. But no immunity SOLELY as jews; solely because jews.
as artists in pathos they DO beat the world’s record.
but also in patience and persistence. Santayana’s sez they allus liked what he said of their heroic materialism.
only whaar you git this stuff about my bein enraged when or whenever I try to CLARIFY or make a plain statement
??? izza mizzery to muh.
Why not get on with 52/71 NOW when they are needed, and let the Faber prose remnants wait?
Note/ my order of interest in getting the stuff printed
is? FIRST, Cantos 52/71
second/ Mencius (ethics of)
then any damn thing you like.
re/ yet again anti/yitt/ Am I anti jap or anti chink because I recognize a racial difference? I agree one shd/ govern all public expression/ PRECISION of speech etc.
desideratum. Napoleon said. O.K. one by one/ dangerous as a race.
History? no capacity to form govts. ... all this is in the record.
also fair crit. of their literature..
which damn it has been put on a stinking pedestal and infected Europe for 1900 years.
It is the damn exaltation of the bleating bible among other things that necessitates a thorough debunking and reestimate.
Word of God/ write by his little hind feet business/ THIS is the cause of trouble.
Forget WHAT I said/ my letters are usually hurried/ Didn’t I ask how far one COULD DISCUSS the jewish PROBLEM.
the PROBLEM exists and can’t be dodged. I am for solving it.
For 20 years I have wanted to discuss usury and money ultra any question of race or politics.
Liveright was O.K. a fighting jew if ever was one. Have I ever crabbed Horace?
To James Laughlin, 11 January 1940
YCAL 28/1207; [in part] L/JL 112
Having had 24 hours to think and now ten minutes free time amid the multiple.
Not going to work meself to death to transmit unless I can also GET what I want to read // also other indications (I wrote 30 or 40 letters) seem to be that the Huns are being intelligent and that any american who wants European news can get at least the German version.
THEY are onto the usury racket at last.
AND all the EUROPEAN neutral countries are publishing at least enough to make amusin reading when quoted in the Italian press.
Anyhow, I shant say anything in Cantos that I wont say to my friend Levi whom I absolve from starting the war and who knows I have absolved him.
The Italian policy recognizes the jew who has been italian actively.
I wish to hell you wd. PRINT 52/71 in time to prevent at least six electors voting for Roosevelt. The American system of govt is worth restoring. I think you will find a kind word for Gallatin in the Jeff/ cantos.
Notes. 1940 was election year in the United States. On 5 November, F. D. Roosevelt won the Electoral College by a the huge margin of 449 to 82 electoral votes. Albert Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1801-1814) and is mentioned in cantos 31 and 34.
To James Laughlin, 18 January 1940
If you want a statement that shd/ satisfy yr/ scruples you can take this over my signature.
I do NOT consider it anti-Semite to WARN the millions of working jews that THEY and NOT the big usurers and monopolists are endangered by the activities of high finance and monopoly.
CANTOS LII TO LXXI published by Faber & Faber on 25 January 1940
To Lulu Cunningham, n.d.
[the volume was] easier to understand than the earlier ones … 52/71 ought to establish the fact that I am an AMERICAN writer, not a collector of bric a brac.
To James Laughlin, 26 January 1940
Waaal Kanters iz, I spose pubd/ yesterday/ and everybody but me been gettin their copies/ at least 3 arruv in Italy and the reciters had time to inform me,
waal it is a fine wurrk, and teh sooner the murkns git their enlightenment therefrom the QUICKER.
From James Laughlin, 5 February 1940
YCAL 28/1207; [in part in] PCH 152; L/JL 113-4
Extreme Bard & Venerable Sir:
I am glad that you approve of the plan for ND to take over the Cantos, and send this letter by the plane in order to clean up the details, hoping you will also give wings (ah, we bards) to your reply.
In the matter of the Chews. I see what you mean, but how about giving me some tangible armor athwart the rage of all my hebe friends and customers. What about including in the contract, along with the libel section, something like this: “The author further affirms that the book contains no material that could properly be called ‘anti-semitic,’ that is, which treats of the Jews in a propagandistic, as opposed to an artistic, manner.”
How would that be? That’s pretty broad, but also gives me protection. I mean I can shove that under the nose of any kike editor who accuses me of being anti-semitic because of printing you. What do you think?
The flat 10% on list price is OK by me. [...]
Now as to date. I wanted to do the CANTOS next Fall as that is when I bring out my list, but they could be done right away if you really think it is vital. I haven’t read ’em yet, so I don’t know how they would stop the hostilities. The objections to doing them now are these 1) It might prevent me from going out to California to ski 2) We can’t afford to give a lone book the kind of promotion and pushing that we can give a whole list grouped together 3) I think that I ought to write a preface, or something, to these new CANTOS, explaining what is what: I mean, linking them up with what has gone before and giving a summary of the earlier ones. You see the attitude over here is that the CANTOS are incomprehensible. People pretend they are too complicated and elliptical and obscure and disjointed to understand. I think that is a lot of balls, and would like to set forth some suggestions on how to digest them, along with a very simple commentary on the general structure and the various major themes. What do you think of that idea? I am convinced it would help a lot. There has been no decent criticism of the poem in years. All the reviewers just balk at it and act smart. I think a lot of people who like your earlier stuff could be enticed back to you by a little sympathetic sugaring of the pill. What do you think of that?
Of course, that would take some time. But, if I could bag a visa for Italy, it might give me a chance to do my skiing at Sestrieres and Cortina, bask in the light of your radiance, acquire further wisdom, and have some fun with that little blonde from back behind the tracks... I mean it would be best to do this job in co-operation with your magnificence, as then it would not be just a mass of Jas’s lurid inaginings about the Soul of Western Man.
Let’s see, if I came over for March and April, we could have the book out by the end of May.
To Benito Mussolini, 12 February 1940
Zapponi 53; AC 6
Spero di aver fatto un lavoro utile, almeno nel condensare alcuni fatti storici nei miei CANTOS 52/71.
Il libro è così poco neutro che i miei editori hanno cancellato il nome di Rothschild dalla prima pagina.
[I hope I have done some useful work, especially in condensing some historical facts in my CANTOS 52/71.
The book is so far from neutral that my editors have cancelled the name Rothschild from the first page.]
To James Laughlin, 24 February 1940
L/JL 114-5; PCH 157; YCAL 28/1207
I don’t mind affirming in contract, so long as I’m not expected to alter text. You can putt it this way. The author affirms that in no passage shd/ the text be interpreted to mean that he condemns any innocent man or woman for another’s guilt, and that no degree of relationship, familial or racial shall be taken to imply such condemnation.
But no group national or ethical can expect immunity not accorded to other groups. // Damn the word artistic. This poem is HISTORY.
Certainly the crime by whomever is committed, is crime and membership in a race (whatever race) does not free the members of same from censure. I think LII/71 ought to be brought out as soon as they can be got off the press / I also think the black out on first two pages, shd. be restored to original as I believe in proofs that Ann Watt[kins] [Pound’s literary agent for the US] has.
Cantos can NOT have a preface IN the book. Cover gives ample space for blurb […]
The new set is NOT incomprehensible. also its sale dont depend on the immediate condition of pubk/ shitterentality.
Nobody can SUMMARIZE what is already condensed to the absolute LIMIT
I can, on half a page LOCATE the new cantos/ […]
The POINT is that with Cantos 52/71 a NEW thing IS.
Plain narrative, with chronological sequence. Read ’em before you go off half-cocked. Write whatever you like but NOT IN the book. Plenty of room in Nude Erections [Annual]. Come on over, thazz O.K.
a booklet ON the cantos. thazz O.K. but God damn prefaces IN books. I never, tho’ tempted, putt prefaces in my early vols.
/ however, c’mon over. thazz O.K.
again/ in Cantos all institutions are judged on their merits/ idem religions/ no one can be boosted or exempted on grounds of being a Lutheran or a Manichean. nor can all philosophy be degraded to status of propaganda merely because the author has ONE philosophy and not another. Is the Divina Commedia propaganda or NOT?
From 72 on we will enter the empyrean, philosophy/ Geo/ Santayana etc. The pubr/ can NOT expect to controll the religion and the philosophy of his authors/ certain evil habits of language etc/ must be weighed / and probably will be found wanting.
I shall NOT accept the specific word anti-semitic in the contract. there will have to be a general formula, covering Mennonites, mohamedans lutherans, calvinists. I wdn’t swear to not being anti-Calvinist/ but that dont mean I shd/ weigh protestants in one balance and anglo/ cats in another. ALL ideas coming from the near east are probably shit / if they turn out to be typhus in the laboratory, so is it. So is Taoism / so iz probably ALL Chinese philos; and religion except Kung // I am not yet sure.
From James Laughlin, 29 February 1940
Rev & superb Sir:
I wish I knew whether you had gotten my letter I sent by the clipper or whether the fishes got it, or the censors got it. Or what. Anyway, you haven’t replied and so I am making my plans to go west rather than to Rapallo.
Natheless after reading the Adams CANTOS I am convinced that an explanation is essential and I hope you can be brought to that view and also to supply the facts for the same. Please tell your admirer your views in this matten.
Ann [Watkins, Pound’s literary agent in the US] didn’t give me any Chinese cantyers. Just Adams. Now did she have the ideograms. She did give me the China map, which I don’t think I would want to use for fear of throwing people off. Tho, I dunno. Why don’t yer behaptitude just correct thoroughly a copy of the Faber edition and ship me that.
April 1940, Germany invades Denmark and Norway
From James Laughlin, 25 April 1940
YCAL 28/1207; [in part in] L/JL 116
I am sorry to have been silent these several weeks, but, as you may have guessed, have been off in the mountains skiing and acquiring natural wisdom. I wanted to come over to Italy to see you but couldn’t seem to manage it. Or rather your invitation didn’t arrive until all my plans were made to come to the West.
I think that everything is now in shape to go ahead with all the Cantos. I am satisfied about the Jewish situation and dare say I was being rather childish about it. It was really a good deal presumptuous of me to start telling your honour what not to write. I hope you understand the purity of me boyish idealisms.
I have asked Ann to draw to draw up a contract and I trust she will do so with all dispatch.
About the commentary. Agreed that there should be none in the book, would you object to a small pamphlet to be included with each copy, but quite unofficial? I really think that would help a lot. I will just try to explain a few things about the structure and nature of the poem in plain language and remind a few of these here conks that poetry is not a matter exclusively of birds and bees. Further, D. Schwartz is willing to say a few words about your mastery of metric and idiom. He has been reading the last bunch very attentively and writes to say that he thinks you are one of the great masters of English poesy in this respect. I would like to have him handle this end of it as you know me I have no ear to speak of and cannot catch the finer etc. Will that be OK? I little enconium on yr metric by me pal, and a few hints to the puzzled reader from Jas. I agree with you that Time will resolve these little perplexities but in the meanwhile it would be nice to sell some books. I have told Ann I would like to offer youse a hundred advance on these new ones. That’s against a straight ten per cent royalty. I take it also that ten per cent will be satisfactory on the other ones. Will send you a report of what stock F&R [Farrar & Rinehart, the American publishers of cantos 1-51] are passing on to me when I know.
To Carlo Izzo, 4 May 1940, Rome
L/CI 273-4; Bacigalupo, 99
I think ALSO that we cd/ get a bilingual version of these Cantos printed here [Rome]. You are my best translator.
What I shd like is an article starting from my definition. An epic is a poem CONTAINING history.
10 May 1940 – Germany invades France.
10 May 1940 – Winston Churchill is appointed Prime Minister.
From Carlo Izzo, 15 May 1940
thank you for your praises, but in case you want me to do longer work must be prepared to help and help and help me. should like to translate from page 12 “know then” to page 15 “by his imposts” but don’t know anything about chinese emperors.
To James Laughlin, 24 May 1940
YCAL 28/1207; L/JL 116; PCH 153
Yes/ I like the idea of YOUR doing a pamphlet/ whether you hand it out, or sell it.
I dunno az Mr S[chwartz]/ knows any more about metric than you do.
Note. The American edition of Cantos LII-LXXI had a run of 1000 copies, half of which had two additions: an 8-page pamphlet by James Laughlin “Notes on The Cantos” and a 3-page essay on Pound’s metric, “Notes on the Versification of The Cantos” by Delmore Schwartz. These were not added to the later prints of The Cantos. (PCH 153-4)
From James Laughlin, 4 June 1940, postcard
Will have checks for you on ABC and TA HIO when you let me know do you want this sent to you or kept in this country? Also do you want an advance on the new CANTOS? Am agreeable to shelling out a hundred on them now.
These are bad days indeed and I hope no ill befalls you. Let me know if you need any help. Ann tells me you have parted company with her. Where shall I send the contract for the CANTOS?
26 May–4 June – the evacuation of British military forces at Dunkirk
To James Laughlin, 9 June 1940
Waaal go to it and print and REMIT.
About that there modus vivendi. You can quote me to this effect. I have nothing against jews in general. All I want is to cut the liver and lights out of thirty or 40 big jews who makes wars and cause famines.
AND the process whereby they, and their cronies who are the filt[h], the utter shit of the aryan race, do this has got to be KNOWN. It has got to be part of the common school education, so that before much longer these finance buggars will be killed off on sight like vipers.
Mebbe 30 or 40 is too low an estimate, but the process/ the gold hoax and the renting of national credit FROM shits, has got to be taught.
The possum states he has been readin my econ/ essays with suprise and approbation. Yr last beahrs th dat/ of AP/ 27.
10 June 1940 – Italy declares war on France and Britain. Germany takes Paris on 14 June.
July 1940–May 1941 – Battle of Britain.
To James Laughlin, 24 July 1940
Dr Jas/ YAS; go on paying money, the more the quicker direct into Jenkintown Bank and Trust Co., Jenkintown Pa. to my account. Though you might also WHEN PASSING their door, ask American Express Co if they will take yr/ money and pay me here/ AT 23 24 lire the dollar/ if they can’t get the extra legal 2P%; t[hen], go on with the Jenkintown bank.
I aint PARTED company with Ann/ she done left me cause I said England wd/ lose the war or something. Amyhow, I never did see why a agent wuz necessary between us, ONCE you git the habit of payin me on time. / letters recd/ today via ordinary post/ dated any time from May 24 to June 24. so go ahead and git out the Cantos and send me the contract here, in due time. whether via Portugal or Japan/ no need to spend five bucks sending it air mail.
You thought we ought to have Ann or a naygent, cause otherwise YOU wd:nt feel like a businesslike publisher. waaal, waaaaal;
From James Laughlin, 4 August 1940
YCAL 4 August 1940
Cyantos is hon the press now. Wot was in them places where they put hin plack lines in Febrz? If you send me along those immortal voids by return hairpost we might manage to slip them instead of the nigsticks.
We are getting ahead with the little pamphlet about the CANTOS. I am stressing the money angle and ponting out that the present turn of heckognomix in Yurrup puts you rather solid on yr feet as to a moral structure as basis of heppik poem. Right?
Say, I howes you a little bit of money. Do you want this send to you. If so, how would that be done. Wuddn the brixshits just swipe it at Barmuda? Haven’t you a bank here whr cd deposit same. Lemme know. It hain’t much – 30 bucks or so – unless you would like now an hadvance on new cantyers.???
Note. Although Laughlin was scared in advance that the new cantos were antisemitic, he had not read the incriminating lines in canto 52 by this time. He was working on the basis of the Faber edition which had blacked out the problematic lines (what he calles the "nigsticks").
From James Laughlin, 9 August 1940
YCAL 28/1207; PCH 153
Just received yours of 24 Julius, which seems to have been read by the Pa-writtish at Bermuda but nothing deleted. I will as you instrcut send money to the bank mentioned and extract from them receipts for same. Do you wish an advance on the new Cantos? Can let you have a hundred bucks if you desire. re American Express, they are worse than the men of Florence as to deceipts, corruptions, and malfaisance, and I’ll none of them.
I am sending along the copies of the Contrax, marked via Japan, Siberia, etc., so Gawd knows when they will get to you, but I suppose they will in time.
Have just read first proofs on Cantyers. Out of question to send any proofs to you if we ever want to get book out. We will read careful and make hidentical with Faberzed, unless you happen to think of ennything you want different in which case you better hanswer by clip-clop.
To Dorothy Pound, 15 August 1940
no use holding up Cantos for those lines.–& no use in saying STink etc. in U.S. either Hank or Will Rothschild–anyhow
To Dorothy Pound, 16 August 1940
I think ref enc. the fact of cancellation more interestin’ in view of subsequents than the text.
From James Laughlin, late August 1940
Re them chinese endpapers, hell, boss they didn’t make no meaning to me at all, though I looked at them all four sides up, so we just left them out.
To James Laughlin, 11 November 1940
YCAL 28/1207; [in part in] PCH 153
WHAT about PROOFS of that pamphlet.
An America without EVEN a John Quinn or an Harriet Monroe
Gheez I orter see proofs/
does you no comfort
If you cd/ send ’em in duplicate, I cd/ make one
“A variety of textual problems quickly surfaced with the publication of the Faber and new Directions texts of 1940: ideograms were irregularly placed, reversed, turned upside-down, or dropped; punctuation was inadequate–or added by compositors; Chinese transliterations were erratic; and factual errors were reprinted” PCH 154.
American edition of Cantos LII-LXXI published by New Directions
in New York on 17 September 1940.
To James Laughlin, 24 November 1940
[…] Possum sez he haz read canters (52/71) sevurl times and thet they are readable.
Bloke from Rhodesia sez: “You oughtn’t to hide THAT in a poEM”
meaning th contents. thaaaar iz yr/ sales tawk […]
The place fer thet book iz th White House
From James Laughlin, n.d.
Rev Boss – Glad to get yours of 22 nov which arrived here 9 D[ecember]. We all feared you were dead were [...] your ashes. Glad you approve of the contract. We didn’t wait fir it as we didn’t know we would ever hear from you and the book came out early in September and has had a mild sale, perhaps 300 copies or so. With one accord the reviewers have set upon it, but that was to be expected and causes me no concern. A few of them have been deferential to your earlier works and regretted etc that you didn’t confine yourself to lyrical effecshions. Etc.
“The bars, however, remained, although in 1948, when resetting the text for the first collected Cantos, Laughlin again inquired about removing them. Pound wanted them kept. In March 1963, the issue reappeared when Laughlin wrote to Mary de Rachewiltz suggesting that the blackouts be removed and the original text restored, ‘provided that it does not appear so objectionable as it must have then, and that Mr Gleason does not consider it dangerous from any legal point of view.’ ‘The trouble is,’ he adds, ‘that I cant remember what the lines were that we deleted! It is the same way in the London edition, so that is no help.’ Here, what had been done to a text had been forgotten, confirming a stage in the socialization of the work. In 1984 Laughlin suggested to Mary de Rachewiltz that it was perhaps time to take them out, and the original lines were restored for the tenth printing of the complete text in 1986, having orginally appeared in the Faber bound page proof dated 13 October 1939 now at the Beinecke Library.” (PCH 157)
“That summer  Pound’s American publisher, James Laughlin of New Directions, forwarded to him a letter from a ‘Reverend Fang’ suggesting consistent and correct spellings of Chinese names in Cantos 52-61. On 28 September 1950 that man wrote to Laughlin again to inquire about how ‘the remaining Cantos [would] turn out’ and if some of them might ‘deal with modern China.’ (Lilly)” EPCF 40.
From James Laughlin to Achilles Fang, 19 July 1950
Very tactfully I enquired of Ezra whether he would like to have you suggest certain changes for the new printing of the Cantos, with respect to the spelling and date errors in the Chinese Cantos. here is his response which I quote to you verbatim: “No need to correct chinese Cantos–they are not philology, all the funny spellings indicate tradition, how the snooz got to your-up[;] some latin, some by Portergoose, some by frog... when it comes to tradition–yes, thank Fang for any precisions, but, there is another point, even where diagrames (romanj) fer Ez to study, and work on theory that changes of dialect, etc. – do not affect melodic coherence– this not dogma, it is conjecture.
To James Laughlin, n.d. 
Carpenter 812; AC 6—7
[subdivisions of The Cantos]
- dominated by emotions
- Constructive effort – Chinese Emperors and Adams, putting order into things.
- the domination of benevolence. Theme in Canto 90. Cf. the thrones of Dante’s ‘Paradiso’
To James Laughlin n.d. (1953-54)
Fang ain’t to make changes in TEXT, but if he deigns, he can supply a lot of pretty IDEOgrams fer the margin... all fer the distant future, not fer present emission.
To Boris de Rachewiltz, 16 August 1954
I do not think Spelling of chinese names of ANY importance/ No spelling will ever content anyone/ so shd/ leave ’em as in orig/ wop edtns/.