Last year, I was lucky enough to be awarded the H.D. Fellowship in British or American Literature, and I spent the whole of September at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, which has the largest collection of Richardson’s letters and other materials. The fellowship is named after the American Imagist poet Hilda Doolittle, who wrote under the name of H.D. and was a close friend of Richardson.
The photocopies and microfilm copies of the letters that the project has are wonderful resources, but nothing can beat holding the originals in your hands, and squinting hard at words that Richardson scribbled hastily, trying to work out what they can possibly say. A lot of the transcription issues for letters in volumes one and two for the upcoming Collected Letters have been resolved, and we have now another resource: close-up and full page photographs of many of the letters in the Beinecke (including the faded pencil scrawls and water-damaged ink letters that were previously incredibly difficult to decipher).
The H.D. and Bryher Papers are also exciting treasure troves of material. One postcard I found in there, sent from H.D. to Bryher from Switzerland, was previously unknown to us. It features one of Alan Odle’s rather wonderful elephant sketches, a note from H.D. which reads ‘From “the slopes of paradise”’, and a handwritten message from Richardson to Bryher: ‘Salut!’ There are many letters from this period, when Richardson and H.D. are staying together in Switzerland, in which H.D. gives Bryher ‘dirt’ on the various goings-on: what Dorothy ‘Rat’ Richardson said in the hotel bar; how she held forth in ‘her best style’; and stood the flowers Bryher sent her up in her cup of tea on her table in a cafe, shocking H.D. and waiters alike.
The H.D. Fellowship has been incredibly useful (and enjoyable!), both for the project and for my own research. I’m grateful to the staff at the Beinecke, who were unfailingly helpful and friendly, and to Yale University for the award. There was much work done, much delicious food eaten, and many exciting places explored. Here’s to the next Beinecke trip!