Virginia L. Smyers

Dale Davis

Barbara Einzig


Cataloging Bryher's book collection, box by box, is a constant surprise--travel, history, fiction, film, psychoanalysis--thousands of volumes to come out of two hundred cartons, all shipped over from Kenwin in Switzerland. Once in a while, though, I open a box full of books that are unmistakably HD's. One such carton contained a group of books on Christian Mysticism written by someone I've never heard of--Harriette Augusta Curtiss (in collaboration with her husband, F. Homer Curtiss). They were all published by "The Curtiss Philosophic Book Co." in Washington, D.C., during the 1920s and 30s. Nine of the fourteen books I found by the Curtisses have HD's rose bookplate pasted inside and several of these volumes are annotated in pencil by HD. That was what made me pause over them, since I rarely come across any book actually annotated or marked up by HD. What "philosophy" did the Curtisses espouse, I wondered.

The advertisement at the back of one of the volumes proclaimed "The Fellowship of the Order of Christian Mystics," a "non-sectarian spiritual movement for the promulgation of a Cosmic and all-inclusive spiritual philosophy which gives a satisfactory and scientific explanation of every phase and condition of life both here and hereafter . . . . "! It is apparent from her markings that HD read these books carefully, probably in 1934 and 1935. While I have not had time to study the marked passages and annotations, one passage she marked caught my eye as I skimmed through The Key of Destiny (inscribed on front flyleaf "H.D. Aldington London 1933-1934):

"If one who has passed the cycle of ten and is ready to make a New Beginning and start out on his real life-work seems to be standing alone and another with like development should become vitally associated with him through similar attainments, aims and ideals, instead of having the strength and force of two individuals, they would have the power of 11, for between them is the experience of the intervening digits of the strength of ten. But to attain this there must be a vital inner union and not a mere intellectual association. Standing thus shoulder to shoulder they can start out on a New Beginning in a higher cycle than either could have attained alone." (p.3) In the margin next to the last sentence HD has pencilled in:


That trip to the Scilly Islands, 15 years before HD marked this passage, was the first that the two women took together. It was truly a "new beginning" for them both, and I looked for a long time at HD's writing on the page before I closed the book and turned to more prosaic tasks.

-- Virginia L. Smyers


Virginia L. Smyers, librarian and bibliographer, is currently cataloging Bryher's collection of books, now housed with Perdita Schaffner in East Hampton, N.Y. Smyers was formerly the Editor of Bibliography of American Literature, vol. 7 (Yale University Press, 1973) and is co-author of a forthcoming book on 20th century women writers. She was research assistant for Barbara Guest's Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World (1982).


In all of the critical writing, the biographical writing, the research, and the commentary on modernist women writers and neglected modernist women writers, I find no mention of Jonathan Williams, the Founder and Publisher of The Jargon Society. Jonathan, without independent means, pretty much single-handedly raised the necessary funds for the publication of The Last Lunar Baedeker and From This Condensery. He was the driving force behind bringing the work of Loy and Niedecker into print and, in addition to raising the funds, he designed both books and oversaw their production.

Hugh Kenner once wrote that Jargon is the "Custodian of Snowflakes," but for those of us who view the publication of the work of Loy and Niedecker as a major contribution to literature, perhaps there might be a more permanent way of addressing the contribution.

Ed. note: a major event of literary importance this year has been the publication of From This Condensery: The Complete Writing of Lorine Niedecker (Edited by Robert J. Bertholf), 300 pages, $30, from The Jargon Society. HOW(ever) invites informal commentary from women poets and scholars on Niedecker's work, as presented in this collection.


While it is true that the illustrations you included from Susan Hiller's work in the last issue of HOW(ever) are quite recent and while I realize your space is very limited and that you try especially to feature writers who are not published elsewhere, I think that more context would acquaint the readers of HOW(ever) with what Susan is actually up to. I think her work is very important, from the standpoint of ethnopoetics and performance, two areas that I would like to see brought in more to HOW(ever). In an interview with her, she writes, "I think Barthes said a long time ago that all societies put a tremendous amount of effort into making things and an equal amount of effort into saying that these things are natural and couldn't be any way other than the way they are, and that they don't mean anything or express anything. I'm unravelling that denial of meaning, or that contradiction in our way of looking at things." Susan sees cultures as forms of reading/writing, and from her background as an anthropologist has a wonderfully multiple eye, like a fly, that sees a thing and reads it in simultaneous registers. Would love to see the history of modernism, of women in modernism, read within a multicultural context that includes women of oral cultures, oral traditions, and performance/multiple artists such as Susan who incorporate such viewpoints into work that also is completely in "our" world.

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