Hilda Doolittle 1886-1961

Man Ray
Gelatin silver print, c. 1925 (printed 175)

Enlarged image

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. John Schaffner
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

Hilda Doolittle 1886-1961
Man Ray
Gelatin silver print, c. 1925 (printed 175)

Hilda Doolittle met Ezra Pound as a young woman and became one of his first great protégées. He was the one who named her, signing her work “H. D. Imagiste” when her poems were sent to the publisher. Pound played a crucial role, as he did with T. S. Eliot, in editing and cutting Doolittle’s verse, paring it down to the bare essentials of word and meaning, rather like his reduction of her name to two letters. Pound’s editing came with a cost, however; Doolittle bridled against male control, whatever its literary benefits.

Doolittle had an exotically tempestuous and dramatic private life that gave her no peace, and she underwent treatment from Sigmund Freud. Worshipped by many, she became poetry’s acolyte as a way out of making meaning out of life’s vicissitudes. Doolittle hoped for the escape offered by the forest nymph Oread, whom H. D. urges in her poem to “hurl your green over us, cover us with your pools of fir.”



All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.

Hilda Doolittle
From “Helen,” 1924

Enlarged image

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. John Schaffner
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

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