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H.D. and Bryher papers


Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Bryn Mawr College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

H.D. (1886-1961) and Bryher (1894-1983)

The poet and philhellenist H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) was born in 1886 in Bethlehem, PA. Around 1895, the Doolittle family moved from the Moravian community in Bethlehem to Upper Darby. While living in Pennsylvania, H.D. met fellow poets Ezra Pound, to whom she was briefly engaged, and William Carlos Williams. Both of the young men were students at the University of Pennsylvania, where Hilda's father was a professor of astronomy. She began attending Bryn Mawr College in 1905 as a day student and made the acquaintance of fellow students Marianne Moore and Mary Herr. After three semesters, H.D. withdrew from college. Her motives for leaving are not clear, although the catalyst may have been illness, poor grades, or her relationship with Ezra Pound. Years later she would write to Mary Herr (1959 July 19) that she was "practically invisible" at the college.

H.D. departed for Europe in 1911 with her friend Frances Gregg and her mother (Frances, with whom H.D. was in love, was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts). H.D. again associated with Pound, who was living in London. He helped to launch her poetic career in 1913 by sending three of her poems to Poetry Magazine with the accompanying signature "H.D., Imagiste." While in London, H.D. also mingled with such celebrated writers as D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot, and in 1918 she married the novelist Richard Aldington. Although H.D. later divorced Aldington, she retained his name.

In 1918 H.D. met the author Annie Winifred Ellerman, who called herself Bryher. Bryher was a writer, critic, and literary patron and friend of modernist writers including Marianne Moore and Gertrude Stein. She was editor of the early film journal Close-up and the literary magazine Life and Letters Today. Her best known works during her life were historical novels such as Beowulf (1948), The Fourteenth of October (1952), and The Roman Wall (1954). Two less-known early works of fictionalized autobiography, Development and Two Selves, which explore modernist modes of expression and deal with the development of an individual lesbian consciousness, have been recently re-printed.

The two women became friends, lovers, and lifelong companions. H.D. credited Bryher with saving her life during a period of severe depression and illness that coincided with the birth of H.D.'s daughter Perdita, whom Bryher later adopted. They spent time in Paris with other writers and were involved in the film industry during Bryher's second marriage to Kenneth MacPherson. Throughout her life, H.D. suffered episodes of depression and illness. While in Vienna (1933-34) she was analyzed daily by Freud at Bryher's urging and later wrote about the experience in her Tribute to Freud. H.D. and Bryher lived together in London through World War II, afterwards migrating to live in Switzerland, where H.D. died in September 1961. H.D.'s poems and novels, which are marked by a sparse use of language, a deep engagement with the classical tradition, and feminist thought, garnered a wider audience after her death. In 1960 she became the first woman to win the Award of Merit Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

There are other collections of H.D. and Bryher's materials at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, the Houghton Library Manuscript Department at Harvard University, the Lilly Library of Indiana University, Bloomington; the University of Rochester, Special Collections; the Film Institute of the Museum of Modern Art; and the Rosenbach Library of Philadelphia.

For additional information about H.D., see, among other publications: Friedman, Susan Stanford. Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981. Guest, Barbara. Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World. New York: Quill, 1984. King, Michael. H.D., Woman and Poet. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1986. Robinson, Janice S. H.D.: The Life and Work of an American Poet. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

The H.D. and Bryher papers house the personal papers of the poet Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) and her lifelong friend, lover, and companion, Annie Winifred Ellerman (Bryher). The collection, which ranges from 1916-1972, highlights H.D. and Bryher's correspondence with their contemporaries, and some miscellaneous materials.

The collection consists of one box of material, containing four series: "Series I: Correspondence," "Series II: Bryher's Correspondence," "Series III: Third Party Correspondence, and "Series IV: Miscellaneous Materials."

"Series I: Correspondence contains H.D.'s outgoing correspondence to John Cournos, Mary Herr, Katharine McBride, and others. She writes to Katharine McBride on several topics, including thanking her for considering her as a participant at Convocation and for a citation awarded her at the 1960 Convocation. "Series II: Bryher's Correspondence" contains Bryher's correspondence with Alice Alt, Mary Herr, and others. Bryher's correspondence with Mary Herr reveals much about Bryher's political opinions and life in London during World War II, while her correspondence with Alice Alt, the former companion of H.D.'s daughter Perdita, provides information about her later life in Switzerland and H.D.'s health. H.D. and Perdita occasionally added brief notes to Bryher's outgoing letters. "Series III: Third Party Correspondence" contains miscellaneous letters pertaining to Mary Herr, Norman Holmes Pearson, and others. These letters include one from Mary Herr to Katharine McBride reporting that she gave H.D. the Citation and programs from Convocation. "Series IV: Miscellaneous Materials" includes a photograph of H.D. from circa 1920, materials related to Bryn Mawr College (where H.D. attended for three semesters), clippings, programs from various events, book covers, and miscellaneous bibliographical lists.

H.D. was a unique poet: an exploratory feminist writer who was also deeply engaged with the classical tradition. However, this collection contains little of her writing, and instead highlights her personal relationships: with her friends; with Bryn Mawr; with her daughter, Perdita; and with her companion, Bryher.

Various gifts of Alfred Satterthwaite, Mary K. Woodworth, the Bryn Mawr Class of 1909, Norman Kane, Mary Herr, and Franz L. Alt.

Bryn Mawr College
Finding Aid Author
Jessica Sisk, Marianne Hansen, Melissa Torquato
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

The H.D. and Bryher papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Collection Inventory

Bryn Mawr College. ALS 2p. With original envelope. Writes that she cannot attend the 50th Reunion of the Class of 1909., 1959 Mar 3.
Box 1 Folder 1
Cournos, John. ALS. H.D. pleads for Cournos' help and contemplates leaving for the United States. Gift of the Class of 1912., 1916.
Box 1 Folder 2
Cournos, John. ALS. H.D. acknowledges his bitterness towards her., 1918 May 2.
Box 1 Folder 3
Cournos, John. TLS. Writes in confidence about Bryher's state of mind., 1919 Nov.
Box 1 Folder 4
Herr, Mary. 26 letters. TLS, ALS, APcS. Includes one letter with notes from Bryher and Perdita added. In these letters, H.D. maintains contact with Bryn Mawr through Mary Herr, gives periodic updates about her health (after breaking her leg), and share impressions of Norman Pearson Holmes., 1931 Dec 23-1960 Sept.
Box 1 Folder 5
McBride, Katherine. TLS. 2p. With photocopy. Regarding an invitation to lecture to the student body. Also contains a photocopy of letter from Norman Holmes Pearson to Professor J. Alister Cameron, 1945 Sept 25, Tl, 2p., 1945 Nov 8.
Box 1 Folder 6
McBride, Katherine. Cable to McBride. Writes that she is unable to arrive until March. , 1946 Jan.
Box 1 Folder 6
McBride, Katherine. ALS. 2p. Thanks McBride for considering her as a participant at the Convocation. (Mary Herr represented her.), 1960 Mar 17.
Box 1 Folder 7
McBride, Katherine. ALS. 1p. Thanks McBride for the citation awarded at the 1960 Convocatino., 1960 Jun 11.
Box 1 Folder 7
McBride, Katherine. ALS 1. Writes that she is unable to go to Bryn Mawr., 1960? Sept 28.
Box 1 Folder 8
Russell, Alys. TLS. 1p. With photocopy. Sends birthday greetings and responds to a suggested Bryn Maawr Collection of her materials. Also in reference to work she has just completed: "But though Prof. Pearson said that the War II novel was wanted, I can not publish it because of people mentioned, who don't want me to tell 'the story.'" Gift of Mary K. Woodworth., 1950 Jul 20.
Box 1 Folder 9
[Trumper], Jeannette. TLS. 1p. Catching up on her life with an old friend., n.y. Sept 25.
Box 1 Folder 10

Alt, Alice. 52 letters to Alice Alt. In her correspondence with Alt, Bryher often sends funds and German books and comments on the weather and H.D.'s health. Gift of Franz L. Alt., 1948-1967.
Box 1 Folder 12-14
[Alt], Ernest. TLS. Sends her thanks for his letter of sympathy upon H.D.'s death and gives brief details of her decline, death, and burial arrangements., 1961 Oct 5.
Box 1 Folder 15
Alt, Franz L. 9 letters (7 from Bryher to Alt and carbon copies of two of his letters to her)., 1969 Mar-1972 Jan.
Box 1 Folder 16
Herr, Mary. 59 Letters to Mary Herr. TLS, ANS. Some notes in H.D.'s and Perdita's hand. These letters are often politically oriented, occasionally refer to the magazine "Life and Letters", demonstrate a steady exchange of books, and discuss life in London during the war (raids, blackouts, rations, and so forth). The correspondence reveals Bryher's pro-euthanasia stance, in reference to Virginia Woolf's suicide; her attempts on learning Persian; her views on race; and her preoccupation with the role of women in the war efforts and the implication of the nwe sex equality for the athermath of the war. Other individuals mentioned include Marianne Moore, Edith Sitwell, Slyvia Beach, and George Plank. Gift of Mary Herr, 1940 Feb-1959.
Box 1 Folder 17-18

Alt, Franz L. TLS. To James Tanis regarding the letters he sent to Bryn Mawr and attaching his commentary on the letters. , 1992 Dec 23.
Box 1 Folder 18
Grimes, Gail. TLS. To Janet M. Agnew of Bryn Mawr College Library. Regarding manuscripts of H.D. at Yale and a suggestion of Norman Holmes Pearson about lending some manuscripts to Bryn Mawr. , 1959 Apr 7.
Box 1 Folder 19
Herr, Mary E. ALS. To Mary Herr. Signature of correspondent not clear. Removed from a copy of Bid Me to Live, gift of Mary E. Herr, 1960. Responds to having read H.D.'s book (title is not mentioned), which Mary had sent to her. , 1960 June 20.
Box 1 Folder 20
Herr, Mary. ALS. 2p. To Mary Herr from Ada L. Gardiner, thanking her for gift. , 1944 Jan 3.
Box 1 Folder 20
Herr, Mary. ALS. Mary Herr to Katharine McBride. Reports that she has given H.D. the Citation and programs from the Convocation and sends along H.D.'s copies of programs from the American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards event. , 1960 June 11.
Box 1 Folder 20
Holmes, Norman Pearson. 4 letters. TLS, TL, ALS. Correspondence with Mary Herr regarding H.D.'s materials at Bryn Mawr. Includes comments about Bryher's Roman Wall. With bibliographical lists. , 1954 July- Oct.
Box 1 Folder 21
Holmes, Norman Pearson. 2 letters. TLS. To Marian K. Appel regarding the Bryn Mawr College Alumnae Bulletin reviewing H.D.'s Tribute to Freud and mentions his hope that H.D. will return at last to America as a citizen. , 1956 Oct and Aug.
Box 1 Folder 21
McPherson, Mary Patterson. 2 letters. TL and TLS. Correspondence between Patterson and Leo M. Dolenski. Regarding H.D.'s materials at Bryn Mawr. , 1986 Sept.
Box 1 Folder 22

"Novelist Cozzens, Poet H.D. Win Arts Academy Awards." New York Herald Tribune. , 1960 Mar 21.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Cozzens and 'H.D.' to Get Awards." , 1960.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Hilda Doolittle Exhibit On at Yale." New York Herald Tribune. , 1960?.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Speaking of Books." The New York Times Book Review. By Horace Gregory. , 1961 Oct 22.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Hilda Doolittle Dies in Zurich." Philadelphia Bulletin. , 1961 Sept 29.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Meditation That Means What It Says." New York Times. Review of Helen in Egypt. , 1961 Dec 24.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Two Letters Were More Than Two Names: Hermetic Definition." New York Times Book Review. By Hugh Kenner. , 1972 Dec 10.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Hilda Doolittle: 'Pagan Mystic' of Bethlehem, Pa." The Philadelphia Inquirer. Review of Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World by Barbara Guest. , 1984.
Box 1 Folder 23
Photocopy of page 71 of the Author Index, entry "Doolittle, Hilda, pseud. H.D." From The Dial: An Author Index. , 1975.
Box 1 Folder 23
"New Books in Review: A Poet's Recollections of Freud." Review of H.D.'s Tribute to Freud. By Josephine Jacobson.
Box 1 Folder 23
"Eight American Artists Named to Receive Brandeis University 1959 Creative Arts Awards." News Release from the Brandeis University News Bureau. H.D. won a Creative Arts Awards Medal. With two pages from a Brandeis Newsletter, no date, concerning another year's awards. , 1959 Apr 9.
Box 1 Folder 24
Program from The American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters Ceremonial, at which H.D. received the Award of Merit Medal for Poetry, presented by Mark Van Doren. 2 copies. Includes inserts giving directions to the terrace after the ceremony and the seating plan on stage. , 1960 May 25.
Box 1 Folder 24
Booklet. "An Exhibition of Manuscripts, Scores and Books by Newly Elected Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters and by recipients of Literary Honors and Awards." H.D. is entry number one, and her items, lent by Pearson, are listed. , 1960 May.
Box 1 Folder 24
Friends' Central School Alumni News. Notice of H.D.'s death. , 1961 Fall.
Box 1 Folder 24
Clipping. "I Went to School with Hilda." For the Class of 1905, Jeannette K. Trumper.
Box 1 Folder 24
APcS. From H.D. to the Alumnae Association of Bryn Mawr College. Gives address in London. Under Volunteer activities she has written: "Psycho-therapeutic work with war-shock cases." , 1943-4?.
Box 1 Folder 25
1 letter to the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin. TLS. From H.D., giving her updated address. Signed "Hilda Doolittle Aldington." , 1957 Oct 14.
Box 1 Folder 25
Copy of biographical profile for Reunion 1959, sent and written by Norman Holmes Pearson. , 1959.
Box 1 Folder 25
Program. Bryn Mawr College: The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Convocation in Honor of Bryn Mawr Alumnae. Includes entry "Hilda Doolittle Aldington, 1909." With a copy of the presentation "What's Past is Prologue" interleaved. , 1960 Jun 4.
Box 1 Folder 25
"Imagist Poet H.D. Dies Overseas; Leaves Polished, Passionate Poetry." College News. Two copies. , 1961 .
Box 1 Folder 25
Typed copy of "The Shell." Note at bottom of page: "From a long unpublished poem called Sagesse." For the Alumnae Bulletin, 1988. .
Box 1 Folder 25
Postcard with photograph of H.D. , c. 1920s?.
Box 1 Folder 26
Book jackets. Tribute to Freud (Godine edition), Tribute to Freud (Pantheon edition), End to Torment, Trilogy, Helen in Egypt. , various.
Box 1 Folder 27
Miscellaneous bibliographical lists. .
Box 1 Folder 28

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