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Howard Comfort and Ezra Pound correspondence


Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. 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

Ezra Loomis Pound (1885-1972) was an American poet, translator, critic, and editor widely regarded as one of the foremost literary figures of the twentieth century. Born in Idaho, his family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 1889. At the age of 12, Pound entered Cheltenham Military Academy and by 15 he was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania due to the strength of his Latin. He remained at Penn for two years before transferring to Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, from which he graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1905. Pound returned to Penn to pursue graduate work in Romance languages, during which time he formed a friendship with the future poet William Carlos Williams, and he received his M.A. in 1906. In 1908 he left for Europe and published his first volume of poetry. He settled in London and produced several volumes of verse over the next few years. By 1911, Pound had established his reputation as an innovative poet and critic, and in 1913 he founded a poetic movement called Imagism. He married artist Dorothy Shakespear in 1914 and the following year left the Imagists due to an ideological falling-out and subsequently founded another poetic movement which he named Vorticism. Moving to Paris in 1920, Pound began associating with Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and others in the circle of American expatriates that dominated the avant-garde literary movements of the period.

Pound left Paris to live in Rapallo, Italy in 1924 and by the late 1930s began to devote much of his energy to supporting the Fascist cause. When World War II broke out, Pound started a series of fanatical and virulently anti-Semitic radio broadcasts to American troops and consequently was indicted for treason by the United States in 1945. He was kept for a month in a U.S. detention camp near Pisa and then returned to America. His lawyer successfully made the case that Pound was unfit to stand trial by reason of insanity. In 1946 Pound was committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. His indictment was dismissed in 1958 and after his release from St. Elizabeth's he returned to Italy amid a flurry of controversy.

Biographical information from Literature Online.

Howard Comfort (1904-1993) was the son of Haverford College president and professor, William Wistar Comfort, and Mary L. Fales Comfort. He received his B.A. from Haverford College in 1924 and earned a Master's degree and doctorate from Princeton University in 1927 and 1932, respectively. Comfort joined the faculty at Haverford College in 1932 as an assistant professor of classics and retired in 1969 as professor of classics, having served as chairman of the department from 1958 to 1969. In 1950, he took a two-year leave of absence from teaching to serve as cultural attaché with the American Embassy in Rome, and later as cultural affairs officer with the American Legation in Berne, Switzerland. Outside of teaching, Comfort published numerous articles on Roman ceramic archaeology and founded the Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautores, an organization for those who study Roman pots. A life-long Quaker, he was a member of the Haverford Monthly Meeting and served as clerk of the Meeting on Worship and Ministry of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting from 1958 to 1960 and worked with the American Friends Service Committee in Italy early in World War II. In 1931 he married Elizabeth P. Webb and they had two children.

Biographical information from Main Line Times, September 30, 1993.

Born Shirley Burns Brennan in Philadelphia, Martinelli (1918-1996) began going by "Sherri" in her teens and attended the Philadelphia School of Industrial Arts to study ceramics. She married Ezio Martinelli, a fellow artist, and they had one child together. After separating from her husband, Martinelli moved to Greenwich Village and began associating with an avant-garde group of artists and writers. As part of the Beat Generation, she began writing her own prose and poetry and became a protégée of the author Anaïs Nin. In 1951, Martinelli visited Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane and quickly became his muse and possibly his mistress. Under Pound's tutelage she continued to write and make art, publishing this work in her own magazine The Anagogic & Paideumic Review.

Biographical information from Moore, Steven: "Sheri Martinelli: A Modernist Muse" Gargoyle , (41:), 1998, 29-54.

The bulk of this collection contains correspondence between Howard Comfort and Ezra Pound. In 1955, Comfort contacted Pound at St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane to discuss the Roman poet Catullus. This began a several years long correspondence between the two men in which they primarily discussed the translation of Latin poetry and other classical matters. Also included in the collection is the correspondence between Comfort and Pound's protégée, Sheri Martinelli; avant-garde literary publications including The Anagogic & Paideumic Review published by Martinelli; and ephemera materials such as clippings for literary magazines and a report from the Defenders of the American Constitution backing the release of Pound from St. Elizabeth's Hospital. The collection contains three series: correspondence, publications, and ephemera.

Correspondence is arranged chronologically by recipient; publications are arranged alphabetically.

The Howard Comfort and Ezra Pound correspondence was donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in 1973 by Howard Comfort.

Processed by Sandra Glascock; completed October 2014

Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
Sandra Glascock
Finding Aid Date
October, 2014
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Collection Inventory

Letters to Ezra Pound from Howard Comfort,, 1955-1958, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Letters to Howard Comfort from Ezra Pound,, 1955-1958, undated.
Box 1 Folder 2
Letters between Howard Comfort and Sheri Martinelli,, 1959-1961, undated.
Box 1 Folder 3
Miscellaneous Howard Comfort correspondence, , 1955, 1959, 1968, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4

"Agenda." Nos. 2 & 4,, 1959. 2 items.
Physical Description

2 items

"The Anagogic & Paideumic Review." Vol I., nos. 2-4,, 1959-1960. 3 items.
Physical Description

3 items

"Colloquy" by C.V.J. Anderson,, 1960. 1 items.
Physical Description

1 items

"Ekstasis" by Philip Lamantia,, 1959. 1 items.
Physical Description

1 items

"Strike." Nos 1-4, 8-10,, 1955-1956. 7 items.
Physical Description

7 items

Writings by Sheri Martinelli,, undated. 4 items.
Physical Description

4 items

Clippings, undated. 4 items.
Physical Description

4 items

Report, April 1958. 1 items.
Physical Description

1 items

Print, Suggest