A Serious Character

Humphrey Carpenter’s long biography on Pound is indeed thorough. Most of the way through I think he knows how to handle Pound, and that is no small feat. It has to be ironic a lot of the time (I’d guess he picked up the idea from Eliot’s correspondence), but without forgetting which parts are serious. The rough bit in the biography is the whole stay in the bughouse. I wish it had not been done chronologically and had been executed more briskly. One understands how it sapped and finished old Ez.

Carpenter is good on his insights, and a thorough chap. His one grand opus remaining to me is the one on the Inklings which I shall get my hands on I trust before the month is out.

This reading of biographies is often a mixed thing. I did Blake not long ago and Ackroyd did a really good job of unsentimentally evoking the pathos of Blake’s latter days. It ended with beautiful lament, and Blake singing from the bed of his poverty. With Carpenter’s Pound it is something similar the sadness of the ending, but mostly unredeemed by any brightness. Not unmingled, then, I say, is the experience one has in reading biographies. Makes one reflect.

I did Ackroyd’s Eliot between the two and that was another thing: the unhappiness of most his life bursts into a happy ending which goes on with serenity to the grave. Give me an ending like Eliot’s, though Blake’s was beautiful. Pound’s, alas, was not.


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