menu Language Is A Virus

Letters Across the Atlantic : H.D., Bryher, May Sarton, During World War II by Charlotte Mandel

Letters exchanged by well-known women of letters, written to each other as private conversations, elicit interest on biographical, literary, and personal levels. During World War II, a transatlantic "conversation" began in letters between May Sarton and the poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and between Sarton and H.D.'s companion, the historical novelist Bryher (Winifred Ellerman). The time period of the exchange extends through the bombings of London--undergone by H.D. and Bryher--until well after the war's ending. This article is based on 125 letters written between October 20, 1938 and March 5, 1951, the last five written sporadically after 1946.(1)

Today's scholar who inherits the benefit of these writers' published works reads their informally expressed thoughts with, perhaps, a sense of intrusion. The feelings may persist although, by making such papers available in special library collections, the correspondents (or their executors) have willingly opened private envelopes for perusal by scholars. These fragile pages--such as the waxy, tissue-thin sheets of rationed paper from England, textural demonstrations of wartime scarcity--bring us closer than anything else we have to their spoken voices and associative paths of idea from mind to page.

At twenty-six, May Sarton had published one book of poems and her first novel, and was seeking the support of interaction with established literary figures. Her letters from America were, in turn, supportive of the older writers H.D. and Bryher during a time of war anxieties and physical hardships. The ambience of the letters of this period is a feeling of trust, encouraged and reinforced by shared artistic, political and bisexual concerns. Their letters of formal address gradually evolve to use of first names and deepening expression of warm greetings. The topics covered by the three women writing to each other overlap continually, but include ideas about literary work in progress; the role of the artist in society; feminist consciousness--two decades in advance of the 1960's rising of awareness; exchange of feelings and information about personal friends--each had ties to both Europe and the United States; and socio-political concerns. Overall, the letters to and from H.D. enter more readily into personal feelings; those to and from Bryher speak more about intellectual and political matters.

In recent years, the attention of feminist critics has brought H.D. to the forefront as a great modernist poet; also, her prose works, many published posthumously, are earning definitive critical appreciation.(2) In 1940, however, at age fifty-four, H.D. was yet on the threshold of her epic long poems, Trilogy and Helen in Egypt. She was still primarily regarded as "The Perfect Imagist" whose early poems, signed "H.D., Imagiste," were sent by Ezra Pound from London to Harriet Monroe in America to appear in Poetry (1913). That same year, she married Richard Aldington, an English poet and novelist. Althought by 1919 the marriage had disintegrated, H.D. remained in London during the hardships of the first world war.

Beginning with a letter of admiration for the stark beauty of H.D.'s first collection of poems, Sea Garden, Bryher and H.D. were to sustain each other in a complex lifetime relationship. Bryher, eight years younger, daughter of a wealthy English industrialist, was an aspiring writer. Encouragement of younger writers was characteristic of H.D.; Bryher's letter elicited an invitation to tea on July 17, 1918, at a summer cottage in Cornwall. In 1919, at the close of the first world war, Bryher arranged for care of H.D. who was pregnant and dangerously ill with influenza. The child, Perdita, was born safely. Except for occasional visits, H.D. did not return to the United States, and stayed in London or on the continent. For a time, their lives were shared with Kenneth Macpherson, with whom Bryher legally entered a marriage of convenience; a house was built above Lake Geneva in Switzerland. As sensitive explorers of artistic expression, Macpherson, Bryher and H.D. became fascinated by the possibilities of the new art of cinema. To these enthusiasts, the silent art of cinema, free of barriers of language, might open paths toward universal fellowship and understanding. Bryher conceived and financed the extraordinary magazine Close-Up (1927-1933), a pioneer publication for cineastes. Macpherson's experimental "auteur" film Borderline dealt with the daring theme of an interracial love triangle, and starred Paul Robeson, his wife, Eslanda, and H.D.; Bryher also played a role in the film.

Shared fervor against all forms of racial prejudice connects the passions of May Sarton with those of H.D. and Bryher. Their correspondence begins just on the edge of the vortex, nine months before the German invasion of Poland pulled England and France into World War II. Sarton's early poems voice longings for universal fellowship, "where love, that airy tree, is separate nowhere" ("From All Our Journeys"). H.D. had been raised in the Moravian Fellowship, a religion sensitive to mystical connections of spiritual love and brotherhood. Bryher, in Switzerland, was actively helping refugees from Nazi persecution to escape, at much risk to her own safety.

It is during a visit to Bryher in Vevey, that H.D. writes the first letter to "Dear Miss Sarton," (October 20, 1938), expressing admiration for Sarton's first novel, The Single Hound (1938). H.D. had not heard of Sarton before reading The Single Hound but writes that Bryher did know of her "personally" through mutual friends. Because occupying German armies had silenced communication with Sarton's native Belgium, H.D. suggested that Sarton contact Bryher to seek information about relatives and friends. H.D. returned to London where Sarton paid her a visit in the summer of 1939. On the continent for another dangerous year Bryher continued her efforts to help refugees escape. At the last possible minute before all routes were cut, she herself managed to get away to Portugal, and from there to H.D.'s flat in Lowndes Square, arriving September 28th, 1940.

H.D. had enjoyed meeting the young American writer in London the year before. Following the visit, she writes, "Do give me a ring...and let me know when (if) I can see you again" (letter dated 1939 by internal evidence). They were not to see each other again, however, until after the war.

At H.D.'s recommendation, Sarton sent some of her new poems to be read by Bryher. In 1935, Bryher had financed and taken over the publication of Life and Letters Today--a literary magazine of international importance which she kept going until 1950. Included in the magazine's pantheon of authors are such indelible names as Jean Paul Sartre, Kafka, H.D., the Sitwells, Elizabeth Bowen, Dylan Thomas, Marya Zaturenska, Dorothy Richardson, Horace Gregory, Henry Miller, Eugene Jolas, Norman Douglas, Rumer Godden, Christopher Fry and Eudora Welty.

Threading the Sarton-H.D.-Bryher letters as an underlying bond is a shared consciousness of exile. H.D., born in Pennsylvania, had married an Englishman and lived almost her entire life in England or on the continent. Bryher, although English, was multilingual, liked to travel, and chose residence in Switzerland. Her return to London in 1940 was a gesture of loyalty, to stand by H.D. and their friends in beleaguered England. Her unique account, The Days of Mars: a Memoir 1940-1946 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), reads with the immediacy of oral history, offering a lively, graphic day by day view of the times. The long war years' experience ends with, quite literally, her homecoming to Switzerland: "It seemed as if again I were going back to my beginnings" (DM 182). May Sarton had been uprooted from her Belgian flower garden childhood at the age of two, wandering as a displaced person with her English-born mother and Belgian father. Her parents came as political refugees to England, thence to the United States, finally to settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Throughout the H.D.-Bryher-Sarton exchange of letters, feelings of transcontinental pulls and divided loyalties inform the quality of their affections. After Sarton's first visit to London in summer of 1939, H.D. writes, "It is so helpful to my confused, national, international, unnational consciousness, to communicate with one who knows the USA, the Continental--the English background. And to me, in you, it seems harmonious" (letter dated 1939 by internal evidence). Two years later, she reiterates, "It does mean so much to have the link with USA as so few people really have the deep tie with both continents" (June 26, 1941). The link mattered very much to Sarton as well, more and more as warships dominated the Atlantic Ocean; she confides to Bryher that it has been "a very long time since I have seen England and I mind terribly. I miss it. I miss friends there and the sense of civilization...Your letter did me good" (January 6, 1942). Bryher, too, eagerly opens arriving envelopes: "One just lives for American news" (February 20, 1942). The bond continues undiminished nearly three years later as H.D. writes, "It is good weaving impressions back and forth across the Atlantic" (September 24, 1944).

Although they were a generation apart in age, similarity of parental patterns occurred in the emotional constructs of both Sarton's and H.D.'s childhoods. Given financial support from Harvard University, Sarton's father devoted energies to his monumental lifelong work, Introduction to the History of Science. George Sarton's intellectual discipline and dedication to scholarly investigations recall the portrait of H.D.'s father, Dr. Charles Doolittle, professor of astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania--his night hours dedicated to observations at the telescope, day hours to writing mysterious symbols at his desk. The fathers' abstract pursuits were treated as sacred by the artistically gifted mothers who devoted themselves to care of family, household, and garden.

Of the correspondence available for this discussion, the first letter from Bryher, dated September 1, 1940, arrives from Switzerland in reply to Sarton's earlier inquiry about Belgium. Sarton's answer contains an arresting observation: "I was deeply grateful for the news from Belgium. Very little appears in the papers here--there are so many oppressed peoples now that none receives special attention. They are lumped" (September 17, 1940).

Today, Sarton's perceptive comment, written over fifty years ago, takes on poignant power. World War II is known as the twentieth century's military turning point where bombing strategies routinely sweep masses of civilians into the ranks of the war dead, and tides of refugees can overwhelm public sensibilities. In her twenties, May Sarton already demonstrates her ability to use anger as a force that transmutes inner passion into creative action. She writes to Bryher in 1940 about her planned travel across the country to read and talk "about poetry," intending to talk as well about the need for America to come to the defense of England. "One rages," she states, frustrated by "panic and indifference...We must accept and honor the responsibility and not wait until the guns are at the door before being willing to make personal sacrifices" (September 17, 1940).

Indeed, while differing as individuals, all three women shared passionate convictions of moral responsibility. That responsibility included loyalty to friends and dedication to their art. Tall, thin, visionary H.D. would not leave London for safety in the countryside; practical yet impetuous Bryher stayed on despite assults of air raids, the bad, inadequate food, and the stale wet ashes smell of rubble.

There are forceful traits of personality that link Sarton's liking for direct action with Bryher's. The Englishwoman had a natural inclination for the kind of freedom her upbringing had allowed only to boys, and her historical novels often use the persona of a young boy--a typical example is Ruan, a novel of 6th century Britain (Pantheon, 1960). Early in the war, speaking of the possibility of a German invasion, she expresses a fighting attitude that would be congenial to Sarton's spirit: "A friend in the Home Guard has promised me half his hand grenades if I can get to his trench in time...and what a pleasure it would give me to throw them at an advancing enemy" (February 5, 1941).

One of the letters offers a direct clue to the artistic patterns of Sarton's creative mind. In her memoir, A World of Light: Portraits and Celebrations (1976), she gives a frank account of her intense attraction to the writer, Elizabeth Bowen, who had allowed her one sexual encounter, but thereafter had kept the relationship at friendship level. Nevertheless, Sarton's interest in Bowen's life and loves continued undiminished. H.D. was also tremendously attracted to Bowen, and writes of her often, as an affectionate letter from H.D. rushes to report: "I have just rung up El. Bowen" (June 19, 1940). Because the latter declared a total dislike of writing letters, Sarton would turn, sometimes with a wistful overtone, to H.D. and Bryher for news of their charismatic friend. "Your letter was like a spell," Sarton writes to Bryher, "it rapt me off onto one island after another of Ideas and Emotions--so strange to think of you and Elizabeth sitting and talking. I am now and then full of the aches and pains of homesickness for her big windows on Regents Park...I meant to write to her...and then didn't. There is no incentive when the answer will be silence" (February 13, 1942). Too long to quote in full here, the letter includes a vivid memory description of Bowen's home, its visitors, comings and goings. The scene which flows into Sarton's dreamy letter to Bryher echoes the description in her later memoir, I Knew a Phoenix (1959). Sarton's correspondence with these two sensitive mutual friends may have been instrumental for her future memoir. "It is fun," Sarton writes to Bryher, "to have someone who makes one define what one does feel instinctively and privately" (April 12, 1942).

In every genre, Sarton's prolific verbal energy may be perceived as that of a mind in dialogue. She has stated that "the poem is primarily a dialogue with the self and the novel a dialogue with others...I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something" (Journal of a Solitude, 1973, 41). In her writings to H.D. and Bryher, she appears to do both.

Sarton's published journals may be seen as a variation on her thought/feeling process--informal prose dialogues with the self, nevertheless written with the idea of possible publication to a wide, amorphous audience. Personal correspondence sparks yet another wire of energy. Letters written to a specific artist friend who shares one's deepest concerns engage on the level of passion and are honed by sophisticated response. To be able to write of feelings with trust helps the solitary writer clarify the yet unvoiced phases of her art. Often the narrative of a Sarton novel unfolds by means of dialogues whereby characters test and explore evolution of the self in a world of others. In her poetic process, as Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar observe, Sarton has, at times, used a technique of "analyz[ing] her own creativity through dialogues with other literary women (The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, 1985, 1772). Writing letters, H.D. confirms her own sense of trust in Sarton: " not feel you are 'writing for posterity' when you write me" (March 2, 1942). There had been other people, H.D. goes on to say, to whom she could no longer write letters because the recipients had quoted her words out of context.

A half-century later, women writers have absorbed axioms of feminist consciousness that appear self-evident--not least, the gratitude now offered to the written legacies of these three imaginative women. Sarton and Bryher compared views on education; neither had patience with rituals of education that deadened young minds and spirits. "I do agree with you," Bryher writes, "that boys and girls ought to be brought up together and treated in the same way" (July 2, 1941). In England, exigencies of war were transforming accepted views of occupational roles. "It will be curious to know what happens afterwards...[ellipsis Bryher's] all the boys are being taught to fly and the girls to drive. I like the implication that now the skies are left to the males, the girls can have the earth" (June 17, 1941). A desire to articulate the feminine principle, with allegiance to one's own inherent muse, had been evolving in each one's consciousness.(3) H.D. thanks Sarton for a poem (not identified in the letter) "which says what one knows and feels. Women. WOMAN--this new Aquarian age we have been told is well on the way--a woman's age, in a new sense of WOMAN" (December 6, 1944). During this period, Sarton's poem "My Sisters, O My Sisters" offered new perspective toward the traditional figures of Eve and Mary. Writing to Bryher after the death of Virginia Woolf, Sarton names the latter's "nation" as "Woman" (October 19, 1941). Each writer, in her life and in her dedication to artistic vision, refused to lie motionless within a decorative sarcophagus of inherited mythologies.

The three-way transatlantic dialogue often focussed upon the tension between an artist's need for solitary concentration and her social conscience--a dilemma Sarton has addressed as a theme in many forms. In some of these letters written during the life and death struggle of the war against fascism, Sarton expresses pangs of anguish about doing too little, that she feels "terribly anxious" to be actively involved in war work, possibly on the assembly line of a weapons factory, that her writing must take second place at such a time (February 13, 1942). She was given vital encouragement by H.D. and Bryher--by their example no less than by exhortation--to keep faith with her inner self and not to dilute her artistic energies. Bryher scolds the younger woman for the factory idea, and offers practical advice: "Can't you keep office hours for your writing? Simply hang up a card with working hours from --to--? I used to do this at home in Switzerland" (March 24, 1942).

Bryher, living on the continent through the 1930's, had been sensitive to the seismic vibrations of the Nazi war machine. When she underwrote Life and Letters Today in 1935, she set up an office with Robert Herring as resident English editor, and, with unusual practical prescience, anticipated wartime shortages by purchasing a large stock of printing paper in 1938.(4) As the war dragged on, despite such exigencies as bombs that demolished their offices at three different locations, the magazine survived. What is more, every issue sold out as fewer books and magazines were printed. "Books!" Bryher writes in her war memoir, "They were all we had...the book was a fortification...against the overwhelming grimness of the moment" (DM 121). The Life and Letters enterprise proved in tangible form that literary art was necessary, that intellectual thought was active, and that the spirit of a people should not be reduced to the physical materials of survival. For May Sarton, the magazine's existence was an inspiration as well as an opportunity to have her own work published in good company and appreciated abroad by discerning readers.

On September 17, 1940, Sarton writes to Bryher, "I wonder if Life and Letters still goes on. The fact that poems and plays and books of all sorts are still being published every day is one of the most thrilling things, I think....The English are plucking flowers out of the nettles and that is the glory." For the issue of May 1941, Bryher chose Sarton's peom "Definition." "[It] made me swell with see it there," Sarton responds after receiving the magazine in the mail (September 4, 1941). Her pride increased when "The Sacred Order" appeared in November 1941, and "Song" the following September.

H.D. is often an exquisitely sensitive mentor to the younger woman: "The writing if not self-indulgence, or even if self-indulgence, is for us a form of living--more than food even, actual breath. So go on breathing and feeling...and don't get discouraged" (September 6, 1941). Given such spiritual understanding, and the intellectual nourishment of receiving books and magazines from England (such as France Libre), Sarton was unquestionably helped to blossom: "I refuse to be motivated by guilt an instant longer--I am not going into a factory unless I have to" (December 12, 1942).

More than harmony of thought may prove the mettle of friendship. Sarton disagreed fruiously with comments Bryher made about her dependence on older forms in poetry (April 12, 1942). On one occasion, she did not conceal her anger at what she saw as Bryher's misinterpretation of a poem. "I don't mind the machine age at all and I don't see where you get that idea from the poems...I loved Boulder Dam passionately because it was the living proof of the potentialities of the machine age. But to say we have realized them yet is simply idiotic" (May 24, 1942). Sarton's anger here is stimulated by growing confidence across the country on poetry-lecture tours. Her tirade in this letter concludes, "...don't be cross with me for this explosion! Your postscripts are provocative!"

Despite such outspoken disagreement, Sarton sees Bryher "from afar" as a guiding torch, "like the burning bush" (October 21, 1942). As a concerned mentor, Bryher justifies this accolade. From time to time, Sarton had been suffering prolonged and debilitating bouts of intestinal illness. Bryher believed the cause must be psychosomatic and urged her to see an analyst, recommending Dr. Hanns Sachs who had been significantly helpful to her. Dr. Sachs was then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from Sarton. Sarton explains, "When I was worried at one time about the possible ill-effects of bisexuality I did go to an analyst and he said it would be crazy to be analysed that I didn't need it at all" (July 31, 1942). Nevertheless, she expresses warm gratitude for Bryher's concern.

In any writer's life, the blows of rejection by publishers or wounds inflicted by reviewers may be inevitable. Bryher briskly dismisses the opinions of publishers who had left Sarton devastated by rejection of two early novels. "I never met a publisher yet who had the glimmering of an idea what literature was...Most of the best stuff that I have read has been in manuscript, or else it has been published by acccident...I'm looking forward to seeing your new book and don't listen to the publishers, they never know anything about art" (July 2, 1941). And H.D. offers spiritual solace: "O, my dear--don't worry about your work. It is wonderful, you have wonderful gifts. The fact of the writing is the thing--it trians one to a sort of yogi or magi power, it is a sort of contemplation, it is living on another plane, it is 'travelling in the astral' or whatever it is, they are supposed to do. That is the thing" (July 26, 1941).

Attacks by reviewers, Bryher believed, had been instrumental in driving Virginia Woolf to suicide. H.D. and Bryher had not sought to know Woolf personally. Sarton, on the other hand, had pined to meet her; during a visit to London in 1937, she was given the opportunity to be introduced through Elizabeth Bowen.(5) As the shock of Woolf's suicide by drowning is shared in the letters, each states a differing point of view. H.D. sees the act as a giving up of will to endure (May 6, 1941); Bryher feels that suicide can be an act of courage (May 16, 1941); Sarton adds a socio-political element--Woolf's death as "a fearful defeat of the spirit...the tangible example of what Hitler means" (April 28, 1941).

In the course of the years between 1940 and 1944, Sarton's letters gradually gain in maturity and sense of assurance toward her abilities and identity as a woman and author. When some American reviewers do not appreciate H.D.'s major work, the first volume of her war trilogy, it is the younger writer who criticizes the attitudes of some of the critics: "Dearest Hilda, here is a poverty-stricken sheaf of reviews which will tell you more of the abysmal state of criticism in America than it will about your book. I have had several seizures of imaginative apoplexy as I read these over--...And, for God's sake, are we still in the dark ages that 'female poets' are considered a race apart, a sport of monsters to be reviewed as such?" (October 29, 1944). Sarton also begins to advise the older poet on the state of publishing in America. She recommends an agent to H.D., and warns, "Have nothing to do with Houghton-Mifflin...They use up all their paper on best-sellers" (May 11, 1944).

Upon the liberation of France and Belgium, direct word could reach England and the United States from friends who had survived the Nazi occupation. "The most unexpected people turn out to be heroes," Sarton writes of quiet, unassuming former neighbors (February 2, 1945). On December 13, 1944, Bryher received her first letter in five years from Sylvia Beach, founder of the landmark Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Beach was suffering greatly from malnutrition. Because it was forbidden to send rations out of England, Bryher asked Sarton for help. At once, Sarton wrote to an army major she knew, based in Paris, who was happy to visit Sylvia Beach and help transfer food and other necessaries that Sarton began to mail regularly from the United States. Another soldier friend contributed money to pay for the expensive postage (April 22, 1945). Sarton was extraordinarily touched to learn from her friend that her books were displayed in Sylvia Beach's bookcase, and admired.

Toward the end of the war, H.D. wrote words of hope for world transformation: "Maybe this last terrible bout of most personal and intimate view of suffering will cleanse the human psyche" (February 3, 1945). Bryher and Sarton were less visionary. Bryher had predicted the war in Europe and resented the public's failure to take warning from history. Sarton anticipated future patterns of international conflict: "More and more the war looks to me like a world civil war where over and over again the pattern is repeated--the sell-out to fascism from fear of revolution" (May 11, 1944). The same letter to Bryher shares further foreboding, "You are dead right about racial prejudice. Here it is assuming frightening proportions."

Only five letters, two written by H.D. and three to her by Sarton, appear between 1946 and 1951; there may, however, be additional letters not available at the time of this study. In 1986, May Sarton recalled that she met H.D. and Bryher "only once after the war, it must have been in 1945, and had tea with them" in the Lowndes Square apartment. Bryher departed from London on the first of April, 1946, returning home to Switzerland with concern, however, at leaving H.D. who had become seriously ill. From the continent, she arranged for H.D. to travel to be nursed back to health in Switzerland. As postwar travel restrictions eased, Sarton sailed for England in April, 1947, from there going to Belgium and France. Another trip in the summer of 1948 included a three day stay at Bowen's Court in Ireland. A letter from H.D., dated February 14, 1947, warmly praises Sarton's newly published The Bridge of Years, a novel that brings to life a Belgian scene familiar to H.D. The last postwar letter from Sarton to H.D. (of the group available for this discussion), dated April 19, 1949, mentions that "Judith Matlack, with whom I live," will join her for a holiday in Europe. There are no plans mentioned to visit either H.D. or Bryher in Switzerland. Although two years later, a letter from H.D. thanks Sarton for the gift of her latest novel, and consoles her upon the death of her mother (March 5, 1951), the steady three-way transatlantic correspondence had concluded its work as a spiritual lifeline.

May Sarton was now coming into her full strengths, happy in a stable relationship, aware of herself as a writer of poetry and prose. There had been always so much that Sarton felt called by--the need to work for a living; tensions between writing poetry or fiction; and strong desire to work for a humanitarian world. All of these calls are expressed in the letters she wrote and received from H.D. and Bryher. Their correspondence was, indeed, a friendship of letters rather than of personal meetings. Although many of Sarton's writings tell of persons she has known--by name in autobiographical accounts, or as models for fictional characters--references to H.D. and Bryher have not appeared in Sarton's memoirs, nor do any of her novels' protagonists suggest either of their personalities as specific models. (In a letter to me dated May 31, 1991, May Sarton confirms that none of her characters is based on H.D. or Bryher). Sarton has stated that, for her, intense feelings are often "lived out" by writing a novel, as, in her first novel, The Single Hound, "Elizabeth [Bowen] appears as the painter, Georgia" (A World of Light 197). Writing to H.D. and Bryher, Sarton participated in a stimulating, honest interchange without deep psychological roots. World events and geography had created the matrix for a uniquely supportive relationship. The friendship was nourishing to all three women during the wartime merging of needs across the Atlantic. For May Sarton, the flow of letters furthered her evolution at a critical time when she was not yet sure how best to focus her powerful youthful energies. The correspondence ended like a graduation--a time of intense interaction between rare minds had come to appropriate closure, as each friend's life continued to evolve.

Grateful acknowledgments:

Letters from May Sarton to H.D. and Bryher are quoted with permission of May Sarton, and The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; letters from H.D. and Bryher are quoted with permission of Perdita Schaffner, and The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Many thanks to May Sarton and Perdita Schaffner for their gracious assistance. Thanks also to curators Vincent Giroud and Patricia Willis, Beinecke Library, and Francis O. Mattson, Berg Collection. Appreciation is given to Lois Marchino for valued encouragement and editorial suggestions.


Bryher. Days of Mars: a Memoir 1940-1946. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanich, Inc., 1972.
---. Letters to May Sarton. Sept. 1, 1940-June 23, 1945.
---. Ruan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1960.
DeShazer, Mary K. Inspiring Women: Reimagining the Muse. New York: Pergamon Press, Inc. (The ATHENE series), 1986.
Doolittle, Hilda (H.D.). Letters to May Sarton. Oct. 20, 1938-March 5, 1951.
---. Helen in Egypt. New York: New Directions Books, 1961.
---. Trilogy. New York: New Directions Books, 1973.
Friedman, Susan Stanford. Penelope's Web: Gender, Modernity, H.D.'s Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Friedman, Susan Stanford and DuPlessis, Rachel Blau, editors. Signets: Reading H.D. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.
Gilbert, Sandra M. and Gubar, Susan, editors. The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English. New York: Norton, 1985.
King, Michael, ed. H.D.: Woman and Poet. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine at Orono, 1986.
Life and Letters Today, 1935-1950, edited by Robert Herring and Bryher.
Sarton, May. "From All Our Journeys," Cloud, Stone, Sun, Vine: Poems Selected and New. New York: Norton, 1961.
---. I Knew a Phoenix: Sketches for an Autobiography. New York: Norton, 1959.
---. Journal of a Solitude. New York: Norton, 1973.
---. Letters to Bryher (Winifred Ellerman). Sept. 17, 1940-April 22, 1949.
---. Letters to H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). Oct. 29, 1944-April 19, 1949.
---. Letter to Charlotte Mandel. May 31, 1991.
---. The Single Hound. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1938; reissued Norton, 1991.
---. A World of Light: Portraits and Celebrations. New York: Norton, 1976.
Straw, Deborah. "Interview: May Sarton." Belles Lettres (Winter 1991) 34-38.


1. Available in the Berg Collection of The New York Public Library are the letters addressed to Sarton, fifty-three by H.D., forty-eight by Bryher; available in The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University are the letters written by Sarton, four addressed to H.D., and twenty to Bryher. Seven of the letters from H.D. have been published by May Sarton, with a brief introduction, in H.D.: Woman and Poet, edited by Michael King (Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, Univeristy of Maine at Orono, 1986) 49-57.

2. For a perceptive introduction to H.D. with an overview of current critical appreciation, see Signets: Reading H.D., edited by Susan Stanford Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990). See also H.D.: Woman and Poet, cited above. Most recent is a landmark study of H.D.'s fiction in modernist context by Susan Stanford Friedman, Penelope's Web: Gender, Modernity, H.D.'s Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

3. For an interesting discussion of the identity of the muse in the works of Sarton and H.D., see Mary K. DeShazer, Inspiring Women: Reimagining the Muse (New York: Pergamon Press, 1986) 67-134.

4. Ironically, in 1942, Life and Letters Today was accused of hoarding and obliged to divide its supply with less forethoughtful publications.

5. Recently interviewed at age seventy-nine, Sarton still speaks of her meetings with Woolf as highlight emotional experiences. Deborah Straw, "Interview: May Sarton," Belles Lettres (Winter 1991) 34-38.

Copyright Charlotte Mandel. This article originally appeared in A celebration for May Sarton : essays selected and edited by Constance Hunting. Orono, Maine : Puckerbrush Press (c/o University of Maine, Dept. of English, 5752 Neville Hall, Orono, Maine, 04469-5752), 1994, p.89-104, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Charlotte Mandel and the permission and generosity of Constance Hunting.