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Olga Rudge & Ezra Pound

Olga Rudge & Ezra Pound: "What Thou Lovest Well . . ."

Anne Conover
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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    Olga Rudge & Ezra Pound
    Book Description:

    A loving and admiring companion for half a century to literary titan Ezra Pound, concert violinist Olga Rudge was the muse who inspired the poet to complete his epic poem,The Cantos, and the mother of his only daughter, Mary. Strong-minded and defiant of conventions, Rudge knew the best and worst of times with Pound. With him, she coped with the wrenching dislocations brought about by two catastrophic world wars and experienced modernism's radical transformation of the arts.In this enlightening biography, Anne Conover offers a full portrait of Olga Rudge (1895-1996), drawing for the first time on Rudge's extensive unpublished personal notebooks and correspondence. Conover explores Rudge's relationship with Pound, her influence on his life and career, and her perspective on many details of his controversial life, as well as her own musical career as a violinist and musicologist and a key figure in the revival of Vivaldi's music in the 1930s. In addition to mining documentary sources, the author interviewed Rudge and family members and friends. The result is a vivid account of a highly intelligent and talented woman and the controversial poet whose flame she tended to the end of her long life.The book quotes extensively from the Rudge-Pound letters--an almost daily correspondence that began in the 1920s and continued until Pound's death in 1972. These letters shed light on many aspects of Pound's disturbing personality; the complicated and delicate balance he maintained between the two most significant women in his life, Olga and his wife Dorothy, for fifty years; the birth of Olga and Ezra's daughter Mary de Rachewiltz; Pound's alleged anti-Semitism and Fascist sympathies; his wartime broadcasts over Rome radio and indictment for treason; and his twelve-year incarceration in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the mentally ill.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13308-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Olga and Ezra in Paris 1922–1923 “Where everything in my life happened”
    (pp. 1-9)

    Olga Rudge had nothing to gain by an alliance with Ezra Pound. Her reputation as a concert violinist was firmly established, her social position secure. She was living in her late mother’s tastefully furnished flat near the Bois de Boulogne on the fashionable Right Bank; her only contact with the bohemian side of the Seine was the atelier of the Grande Chaumière, where her brother Teddy had studied landscape painting before the Great War. As Olga remembered the Americans on the Left Bank: “They stayed to themselves; they did not know theFrenchas we did.”

    Ezra Pound was Left...

  6. 2 Julia and Her Daughter 1895–1909 “One had the best, or one went without”
    (pp. 10-23)

    Meeting Olga in Paris, Ezra’s friend Ford Madox Ford was astonished to discover she was an American from Ohio: “I did not know such beautiful flowers blossomed in that desert!”

    When Olga visited her birthplace of Youngstown for the first time as an adult, in 1969, it was a pleasant valley town. But in 1895, the year of her birth, the air was polluted with smoke from the mills. In summer, townsfolk escaped to Mill Creek Park on the new open-air trolley line, boat and tub races on the Mahoning River drew large crowds to the water’s edge, and excursion...

  7. 3 Halcyon Days No More 1910–1918: Between the Turn of the Century and the Great War
    (pp. 24-40)

    Soon Julia decided it was time to send her daughter to the Paris Conservatoire to perfect her technique under Maestro León Carambât, first violinist of the Opéra Comique. She resigned her position at the Delle Sedie School and, taking the two young brothers with her, signed a lease beginning September 1910—renewable every two, four, or six years—on a choice apartment in the Sixteenth Arrondissement.

    “Mother always insisted that we live in beautiful places,” Olga recalled. The Rudges were tenants of theprémière étageof 2, rue Chamfort, a graceful six-story building with iron balustrades designed by the contemporary...

  8. 4 Lost Loves 1918–1922 “We make our own tragedies”
    (pp. 41-49)

    The Armistice was signed by the Allied Powers and Germany on November 11, 1918—too late for Arthur and many of the gifted youth of his generation (as Pound commemorated in Canto 110, “the holiness of their courage forgotten”). A million Parisians filled the streets and public squares, celebrating the end of hostilities. But eight million on all sides had died in the war. Julia returned to Belsize Park to be near Ted, her surviving son, but Arthur’s death was a blow from which she never recovered. The pain and disillusionment she suffered are evident in this thinly veiled warning...

  9. 5 A Marriage That Didn’t Happen 1924–1926 “The past is forgotten, the future is ominous”
    (pp. 50-69)

    Ezra was slow to acknowledge Olga’s importance in his life. He invited her to Rapallo the middle of February 1924 on the pretense of further collaboration on the Villon opera. He tried first to book a room at the Hotel Splendide but, finding no vacancy there, settled her in the Mignon, where he and Dorothy were temporarily lodged. Angry at Pound’s indiscretion, Olga left the scene and climbed to Monte Allegro, a village above Rapallo, where she took a room at the Albergo Fernigotti. When Ezra tried to reach her by telephone, he was told that the signorina was out,...

  10. 6 The Hidden Nest 1927–1928 “The house that changed my life”
    (pp. 70-85)

    Ezra was not in Budapest for Olga’s January 28 concert at the Music Academy with Antheil and Kosa Gyorgy. An early press notice announced the event, but “what sort of reception the temperamental Budapesters gave them has not yet been told.” Ezra sent a telegram ofauguri(congratulations) to the Hotel Bellevue and wrote to Sisley Huddleston, the Paris critic: “I learned from collateral evidence that OR played exceedingly well (3rd and 1st violin sonatas), and that M. Antheil tried out a new piano concerto”—which caused another riot. Pound believed in “big drum” to publicize the concerts, and Olga’s...

  11. 7 The Breaking Point 1929–1931 “She wants her god incarnate”
    (pp. 86-102)

    Early in the new year of 1929, the hard work, the uncertainty, the coldest winter in many years—in Venice, the canals froze over—had broken Olga’s spirit. In deep depression, she wrote to Ezra, crossing out some of the more painful passages: “I have tried very hard to go on working, but I can’t . . . nearly two months since I tried to finish things. You didn’t want to keep me—or to give me any reason, except unjust ones. . . . Caro, I beg you, if you can explain or help, to be quick—I am...

  12. 8 Rare and Unforgettable Little Concerts 1931–1936 “The real artist in the family”
    (pp. 103-125)

    Back in her world of music, Olga was beginning a flirtation with Arturo Brown, a possible patron from Argentina by way of London and Venice, enjoying elegant dinners à deux. The worldwide economic depression was worsening, and even the wealthy Don Arturo was forced to give up one valet and refused to pay more than a thousand francs daily—in the 1930s a considerable sum—for his hotel suite.

    Olga was still seeking translation jobs, hoping to get “something French, old or new,” and that Colette might like it well enough to write a foreword. Colette seemed “as if she...

  13. 9 The Red Priest of Venice 1936–1939 “Scraper of catgut and reviver of Vivaldi”
    (pp. 126-134)

    Long before theFour Seasonsbecame part of the standard repertoire, Olga was drawn to the long-forgotten early-eighteenth-century composer Antonio Vivaldi, not only because he composed so prolifically for her instrument but because of his colorful personality. Red was Olga’s color, and in midlife she tinted her dark auburn curls with henna to mimic the socalled Red Priest of Venice.

    Count Chigi addressed her as “Miss Rudge-Vivaldi” and adopted a teasing tone in his letters when he wrote: “O prophetic apostle and devotee of that Antonio . . . as undeniably a great artist as he is a womanizer, a...

  14. 10 Overture to War 1939–1940 “Waitin’ for one or other cat to jump”
    (pp. 135-142)

    In the spring of 1939, Ezra returned to the United States for the first time in twenty-eight years. He had corresponded with senators and congressmen, expounding his economic theories in an attempt to convince them of the errors of the Roosevelt Administration. The time had come to go to Washington to straighten things out. He boarded the S.S.Rexin Genoa on April 13, Jefferson’s birthday—“andhers,” Olga wrote; “she hates being out of everything—yeow!”

    “Glad you have come over in the nick of time, for eye-opening,” wrote the Princesse de Polignac, who had preceded him on the...

  15. 11 The Subject Is—Wartime 1941–1945 “Two different consorts of one god”
    (pp. 143-156)

    The war began in earnest. Ezra was in Rome expounding his economic and political theories on theAmerican Hourfor Rome Radio, for which he was paid 350 lire (then approximately twelve dollars) a broadcast. On January 23 he wrote to Olga: “made 2 discs yesterday . . . 9 discursi in a fortnight. . . . No goddam light / no goddam stamps / no tabac open . . . can’t see—God damn hotel with no light! . . . typing in the dark / typing in the twilight / she decipher if she can.”

    He composed a...

  16. 12 The Road to Hell 1945 “Four days . . . the happiest of my life”
    (pp. 157-169)

    In the spring of 1945, the Rapallese were beginning to hear rumors—the Americans are coming! On April 25, the Italian partisans rose up against the Germans, and orders went out from the High Command not to resist.

    On Friday, April 27, Olga—as was her custom every weekday morning—went down to Rapallo to meet her students at the Technical School, but there would be no classes that day. The students were being let out to celebrate the liberation. When someone told her the U.S. Army Command was headquartered at the Hotel Europa on the waterfront, she went there...

  17. 13 What Thou Lovest Well Remains 1946–1949 “J’aime, donc je suis”
    (pp. 170-191)

    Like so many others, Olga was putting the pieces of her life back together after the war. Count Chigi urged her to return to the Accademia. La Scala in Milan was staging a new production of Vivaldi’sJuditha Triumphanswith conductor Antonio Guarneri (who had sent the academy five thousand lire for rights, to be added to their scholarship fund). “We will take up our work again . . . renewed and revitalized.”

    Mary, who had been in Sant’Ambrogio since Ezra’s capture, returned to her foster family. She wrote to her father at St. Elizabeth’s: “I am now convinced that...

  18. 14 A Visitor to St. Elizabeth’s 1950–1955 “Sitting on His lawn is paradise”
    (pp. 192-212)

    The Fifties began with new life, and Olga passed along the good news: “Born—Washington’s birthday, a granddaughter, Patrizia Barbara de Rachewiltz.” The answer from St. Elizabeth’s: “Banzai!Warn’t sure if Mlle. X arrov on 22nd, but thought so—hadn’t calculated the Birthington Washday.”

    Ezra sent other news from Washington: Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the President’s widow, was to have her own television show, James Laughlin was in Aspen skiing, Holy Year rates reported in the press at the luxury hotels in Rome, the Hassler and the Excelsior, were a minimal six dollars per day. The ambiance at St. Elizabeth’s was...

  19. 15 A Piece of Ginger 1956–1962 “Between presumption and despair”
    (pp. 213-226)

    While Olga’s personal life suffered and her talent diminished, she still held a respected position at the Accademia Chigiana. For the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration in May 1956, Arthur Rubinstein came to perform the works of Chopin. The summer session enrolled a number of promising young people. Zubin Mehta, a former student, came from India for an all-Tchaikovsky evening. Daniel Barenboim conducted Beethoven in August, and the versatile Claudio Abbado led a program of Wagner, another of Bach. Count Chigi disdained contemporary composers (and shut the door to thesalottinoto block out the sound), but he did not allow his...

  20. 16 The Last Ten Years 1962–1972 “The sea in which he floated”
    (pp. 227-257)

    After his reunion with Olga, Ezra was moved to the Villa Chiara, the Casa di Cura of Dr. Giuseppe Bacigalupo, whose mother, Elfreide, had been Pound’s doctor before the war. A clear case of prostatitis had been “shamefully neglected.” Olga never forgave the doctors at St. Elizabeth’s for having dismissed the patient without a complete physical checkup. Yet a urologist from Genoa and Dr. Bacigalupo were both of the opinion that an operation was unnecessary at the time.

    The doctor had shown Olga how to manage without a nurse. A local woman came in the mornings for two hours, a...

  21. 17 Olga Triumphant 1972–1996 A Prize in the Campidoglio
    (pp. 258-287)

    The hospital room was needed. Ezra’s body was taken to the barecamera ardente,which was opened up for him and then sealed until eight o’clock the next morning. Olga was not allowed to stay the night. News of his death went out over radio and television immediately, and soon the international news services picked it up. Olga was the only eyewitness to record the scene in thecamera ardenteand at Pound’s memorial service.

    Ezra Pound lay under a tattered but beautiful ancient brocade, old gold and green, scattered with real roses. His granddaughter Patrizia whispered, “Nonno, under his...

  22. Coda: It All Coheres “The dross falls away”
    (pp. 288-290)

    Life alone in the Venice house was becoming too difficult. Mary came to take Olga home. Schloss Brunnenburg rises out of the mountain mist like one of the turreted fairy-tale castles of the Brothers Grimm that Olga had read in childhood. Reaching the castle requires taking a bus or funicular to the village of Dorf Tyrol, or a half-hour’s hike up a steep mountain road past chalets of the German-speaking natives who unofficially refuse to accept their Italian citizenship.

    In 1991, the Fourteenth International Ezra Pound Conference convened at Brunnenburg, with four generations of Pound’s “other family.” Mary’s suite adjoined...

  23. Notes
    (pp. 291-328)
  24. Secondary Sources
    (pp. 329-334)
  25. Index
    (pp. 335-351)