August 1923: Ezra Pound’s third walking tour in southern France

Gordon McKechnie



Ezra Pound in southwest France, photographed by Olga Rudge1

In August 1923 Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge travelled south from Paris to the lands of the troubadours in southwest France. Pound had twice previously visited this region - on his 1912 walking tour and again in 1919 with his wife, Dorothy. In 1919 he was joined for some of the time by T.S. Eliot.

The 1923 trip is covered by a single sentence in David Moody's biography of Pound: "In August Olga and Ezra went walking together in the Dordogne, ’25 kilometers a day with a rucksack’, and visited Ventadour, Ussel, and villages pictured but not identified in Olga’s 1923 photograph album" (Moody 54). His source is Anne Conover who devotes only a little more space to the 1923 walking tour:

In late summer, while Dorothy was in London to assist her mother, Olivia Shakespear, in caring for her husband during a long illness, Ezra introduced Olga to the land of the troubadours. No written record remains of that summer holiday, or their itinerary, only a fading black-and-white photograph album labelled "August 1923 - Dordogne." Olga was the photographer and Ezra often the subject, appearing under gargoyles of the cathedrals in Ussel and Ventadour and other unidentifiable French villages.2 In her eighties, she reminisced about "the photos EP and I took on our walking tour... 'I never sailed with Cadmus,' she recalled referring to a line in Canto 27, "but he took me to Ventadour." On the back of one snapshot she wrote: "note how elegant a gentleman could be, walking 25 kilometers a day with a rucksack - in those days, no hitchhiking." (Conover 7)

This is the most complete description to date of the 1923 walking tour. Earlier writers do not mention the trip at all. They were quite possibly unaware of it. The circumstances of the August 1923 tour required a degree of discretion.

In 1923 Ezra and Dorothy Pound were living in Paris. In the spring of that year Dorothy's father took ill, and on 19 June Dorothy went to see him and her mother in England. On 21 June, Ezra wrote to his parents, "D. went to London Tuesday. H.H.S. seems to be rather ill. He's 72 and has been working full bust" (L/HP 514). On that the same day, 21 June, a correspondence began between Pound and Olga Rudge, both of them in Paris (Conover 6).3 On 6 July, Dorothy wrote to Ezra of her father’s death, "Dearest Mao, Hope died this afternoon just before lunch time.

2 Neither Ventadour nor Ussel has a cathedral.

3 This is the first item in the Rudge-Pound correspondence held in the Beinecke Library at YCAL MSS 54, Box 1, Folder 1.

Durrant has been & signed certificates etc.etc. Harry is writing letters – &

So am I. Don’t come – It’s no earthly use…” (Lilly). On Sunday 8 July, Ezra wrote again to his parents, "Mr Shakespear died on Friday, so D. will stay on in London with her mother, I suppose, rather longer than usual. I may go over later. He has been ill since middle of April getting steadily weaker; apparently with no pain" (L/HP 515). Dorothy stayed in England with her mother until about the middle of August.

Ezra Pound had met Olga Rudge in Paris in the autumn of 1922. By early summer 1923, "signs of growing familiarity masked a rapidly developing intimacy" (Moody 54). Then, in early August, while Dorothy was still in England with her recently widowed mother, Ezra took Olga Rudge for a walking tour in the French départements of Corrèze and Lot - mainly, it would seem, along the valley of the Dordogne River.

The "fading black-and-white photograph album labelled ‘August 1923 - Dordogne'" (Conover 7) no longer exists. According to Diane Ducharme, archivist at the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Olga Rudge in her later years rearranged and relabeled many materials, including photograph albums, and she may well have done this with the “August 1923 – Dordogne” album.

Photographs that presumably were once part of the album are, however, among Olga Rudge's papers in the Beinecke Library. The folder containing these photographs is labelled “PLACES” and “Dordogne: Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge’s walking tour snapshots [1922-23?]”.4 I have

attempted to use these photographs to begin a reconstruction of the August 1923 itinerary.

4 Olga Rudge Papers Addition YCAL MSS 241, Box 21, Folder 716. There are also three other photographs in Olga Rudge Papers YCAL MSS 54, catalogued as 1923, in which Ezra Pound appears against a backdrop of places that are probably in southwest France.

Unsurprisingly, the correspondence during the summer of 1923 between Ezra in France and Dorothy in England, as kept in the Lilly Library, fails to shed light on the route of the August 1923 walking tour. But it does help us with the dates of the trip. Ezra posted a typewritten letter to Dorothy from Paris on Wednesday 1 August. He typed another letter to Dorothy on Tuesday 7 August. So the trip to Corrèze would seem to have taken place between those two dates. It would thus have been quite a short tour. He was expecting Dorothy to return to Paris on Friday 10 August.5





IGN map of the area to the south east of Brive where Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge walked in August 1923, showing Malemort, Turenne, Belcastel, Martel, Beaulieu and Argentat


5 The Rudge-Pound correspondence held at the Beinecke Library (YCAL MSS 54, Box 1, Folder 1 - Correspondence June- October 1923) does not shed any further light on the date of the 1923 walking tour.

The general area of the August 1923 walking tour is indicated in Olga's handwriting on an airmail envelope. This envelope would appear at some stage to have held the photographs of places visited on this trip and is now held at the Beinecke Library in the same folder as the series of photographs of places. On the envelope Olga wrote "Correze Dordogne Brives [sic] 1923 or 1922? Walking Tour E.P. & O.R.". There is, however, a complication. One of the photographs in the folder is of a church in the département of Vienne – in other words, not in the “Correze Dordogne Brive” area at all. Other unidentified photographs may also have been taken elsewhere.

Based on the evidence of the envelope, it seems reasonable to suggest that the 1923 walking tour began in Brive. Brive is the largest town in the département of Corrèze, and lies on a main rail line south from Paris.

Pound had been to Brive before, both on the second leg of his 1912 walking tour (WTSF 34-35), and several times in 1919 (McKechnie 59- 96). He would pass this way again in the summer of 1924, again with Olga. Olga would also visit the area, without Pound, in July 1926.


In late August 1919 Ezra and Dorothy had been joined in Brive by T.S. Eliot, who had earlier that month spent time with them in Excideuil.

Pound and Eliot had then walked out to Malemort and Aubazine to the east of town. This was on the last day before Ezra and Dorothy began their journey back to London, by way of Orléans and Paris. Eliot continued eastwards towards Ussel (LTSE1 388).


Postcard sent from Brive by Dorothy in 1919 (PFP 37)

On a 1919 postcard of Brive, Dorothy wrote, "Every corner of the old town is lovely: all in stone, with roofs at all angles in old coloured slate" (PFP 37). While a number of the old buildings have been preserved, the old town of Brive has been much modernized since, and it is unlikely that a 21st century visitor would write of its every corner and roofscape in such glowing terms.


La Tour de Nesle in Brive, March 2018

Pound mentions Brive in Near Perigord as one of the places surrounding Bertrand de Born in his castle at Hautefort.


And all the while you sing out that canzone Think you that Maent lived at Montaignac, One at Chalais, another at Malemort

Hard over Brive - for every lady a castle, Each place strong.

How would you live, with neighbours set about you H

Poictiers and Brive, untaken Rochechouart, Spread like the finger-tips of one frail hand;

Malemort, “hard over Brive”, is today an eastern suburb of Brive. The Church of St Xantin at Malemort-sur-Corrèze left a sufficient impression on Pound for it to appear in Canto VI. The background to the relevant lines in Canto VI is that the troubadour Bernard de Ventadour “had been banished from his native fief for employing his amorous skills too successfully in praise of the Countess of Ventadour” (Kelly 85). The

countess herself was being kept under close guard in the citadel of Ventadour. The exiled poet made his way to the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, recently separated from Louis VII, King of France, and remarried to Henri Plantagenêt, soon to become King of England.

In Pound’s Canto VI, Malemor-sur-Corrèze became the location of a speech by Bernard de Ventadour, “seeking the help of Eleanor, by asking her to certify to Eblis that he, Bernart, is safely distant, so that the lady may be let out” (Makin 78).

Eleanor, domna jauzionda, mother of Richard,

Turning on thirty years (wd. have been years before this) By river-marsh, by galleried church-porch,

Malemorte, Correze, to whom: "My lady of Ventadour

"Is shut by Eblis in

"And will not hawk nor hunt nor get her free in the air

"Nor watch the fish rise to bait

"Nor the glare-wing'd flies alight in the creek's edge "Save in my absence, Madame.

'Que la lauzeta mover,' "Send word, I ask you, to Eblis,

you have seen that maker

"And finder of songs, so far afield as this "That he may free her

who sheds such light in the air."6

Malemort and its galleried church-porch are some 50 kilometres to the south-west of Ventadour and safely outwith the medieval fiefdom of Ventadour.

6 In a draft of Canto VI the lines relating to the galleried church-porch were slightly more expansive - And before all this

By Correze, Malemort

A young man walks, at church with galleried porch By river-marsh, a sad man, pacing

Come from Ventadorn... (Bush 316)


The galleried church-porch at St Xantin, Malemort-sur-Corrèze, March 2018

Why does Pound set this scene in Malemort? Was it because of its name – “a place with so fine & sinister a name”? (WTSF 35). Or because he identified Eleanor with Audiart of Malemort?7 “The detail of the connections that he [Pound] sets up is strictly mythopoeic: there is no point in trying to prove that Bernart de Ventadour met Eleanor at Malemort, that Bertran’s ‘Audiart’ was Eleanor…” (Makin 275).

The core of the church of St Xantin dates from the 12th century, but the galleried church-porch facing the river Corrèze - that features in Canto VI

- is a nineteenth century addition. It was the only church building in Malemort to survive the Revolution, after which, although St Xantin is some distance from the centre of Malemort, it became the parish church. The church suffered a major fire in 1997, but has since been restored.

My hypothesis, based on such of Olga Rudge’s Beinecke photographs as I have been able to identify, is that Pound’s August 1923 walking tour

7 In Ezra Pound’s translation of Bertrand de Born’s Donna, puois de me no·us chal (“Lady, since you care nothing for me”), the poem that lies in the background to his own poem Near Perigord, he renders de Born’s simple N’Audiartz as “Of Audiart at Malemort” (Kehew 152). This probably accounts for the inclusion of Malemort in Near Perigord in the context of “for every lady a castle”.

took him from Brive through the regions to its south and south-east. While it is possible to identify some of the locations Ezra and Olga visited, it is not possible to reconstruct an exact itinerary.

Some fifteen kilometres south of Brive by road or rail lies Turenne. Pound’s 1912 and 1919 travels had seemingly not taken him to Turenne, although it has associations with at least two of the medieval characters that feature in his poetry. Maent of Montignac and Maria de Ventadour were two of the three celebrated sisters of Turenne. The three were daughters of Viscount Raimon II of Turenne, and - in the words of Bertrand de Born - De tota beltat terrena/ Ant pretz las tres de Torena (Of all earthly beauty/ The three of Turenne take the prize) (de Born 165).8

Today a picturesque village climbing the steep slopes of its hill and surmounted by two castles, Turenne was once one of the great fiefs of France, controlling a significant surrounding area stretching from well north of Brive to south of the Dordogne River. Centuries after the times of the troubadours and the three beautiful sisters, the Tour d’Auvergne Viscounts of Turenne and much of the vicomté became Protestant. The town’s church owes its design to having been built in the time when the Reformation ruled here. Later still, Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne (1611-1675), one of France’s greatest soldiers was popularly known as “Grand Turenne”. Turenne retained its independence from the Kingdom of

France, with French law not applying there and French taxes not collected, until 1738, when its ruler sold it to the King of France to pay off his gambling debts.

8 The third daughter was Elis de Montfort, the wife of Guillaume de Gourdon. She features in the vida of Raimon Jordan, Viscount of St Antoni. (See The Cantos Project -

One of Olga’s photographs seems to be of Turenne, looking north along a

road towards the hilltop village and taken from somewhere in the vicinity of Turenne Gare.




Olga Rudge’s 1923 photo of Turenne


Turenne, July 2019

Olga Rudge apparently returned to Turenne three years later, in July 1926. She was living in Italy by then, as was Pound; but she, Ezra and Dorothy had all returned to Paris for the summer. Olga sent a postcard of Turenne, posted on 19 July 1926, to Ezra at the Hotel Foyot in Paris, on which she wrote only lundi and her initials. A simple and discreet reminder of their passage through Turenne three years earlier?



Postcard of Turenne (PFP 263) sent by Olga Rudge to EP in July 19269





Turenne, September 201910

Other photographs in the Beinecke collection that I have been able to identify are of places that lie along the valley of the Dordogne. I present them here beginning with the farthest downstream and working up the

9 While the date on the postmark is clear, the place of posting is not. It could be Capdenac. A railway line runs from Brive, through Turenne, to Capdenac.

10 Photograph by Robin Dormer

river. This would have been a logical direction of travel for Pound and Rudge in 1923, but I cannot confirm that it actually was the direction in which they travelled.

Belcastel sits prominently on a cliff top on the south side of the Dordogne River some 25 kilometres, as the crow flies, south of Turenne, and midway between Souillac and Rocamadour. Pound had been in this vicinity in both 1912 and 1919. In 1912, coming south from Brive, he had turned west from Souillac towards Sarlat (WTSF 35-39) and so in the opposite direction from Belcastel. But in 1919, he and Dorothy had walked from Souillac (probably) to Rocamadour. On a postcard sent from Rocamadour on 5 August 1919, Dorothy wrote in glowing terms of that walk:

Aug 5, 1919

We came over the hills across gorgeous bare scrub, stirring up 1000s of butterflies, from a town on the Dordogne. This is a place of pilgrimage, since all time - and there are a black Virgin & a miraculous bell & 200 and something steps up the village that they crawl up on their knees in Sept: full of tourists devout & otherwise, but a really amazing place all tucked against the huge rock. The Dordogne is gorgeous scenery & a large river. We struck a dozen or so Russian soldiers singing magnificently in a café on Sunday evening. train today to Brive. Have had three long wonderful walks. D. (PFP 2534)

The three 1919 walks were probably Hautefort to Montignac, Sarlat to Souillac, and Souillac to Rocamadour. The route of the 1919 walk between Souillac and Rocamadour would have taken them close to Belcastel. “Gorgeous bare scrub” is a good description of the limestone hills south of Belcastel.

Belcastel features rather distantly as the centre point in two of Olga’s

1923 photos.



            Olga Rudge’s 1923 photo of Belcastel




A more distant snapshot showing Belcastel along the Dordogne valley

Atop its cliff rising directly from the river, Belcastel is an obvious site on which to build a stronghold, but the first record of it being fortified goes back only to the Lords of Turenne in the 10th century. It later became a monastery - a 14th century chapel remains on the site - then a fort again, and finally a farm, before being remodelled as an habitation de plaisance in the 19th century (Deshouillières 385).


Belcastel, July 2019

Travelling up the river from Belcastel you pass below the Causse de Martel rising on the north bank. High on this limestone plateau is the town of Martel itself. In 1952, Freda White wrote “that all of the towns of the Dordogne basin, little Martel, old, dreaming and untouched by tourist maquillage, is my choice” (White 50). Since then the tourists have

arrived in abundance, but Martel remains a charming little town.

There is no positive indication from the photographs that Ezra and Olga passed through Martel, but its historical associations might well have interested Pound. It was at Martel that Henri Court Mantel, the EYoung KingI, died in 1183. The Young King had sided with a rebellion against both his father, Henri Plantagenêt, King Henry II of England, and his brother, Richard Coeur de Lion, Duke of Aquitaine. Leading the rebels was a coalition of Aquitaine nobility that included Aimar V of Limoges, Hélie V Talairand (the Count of Périgord) and the Viscounts of Ventadour, Comborn and Turenne. Among the lesser nobility in rebellion was Bertrand de Born (“a stirrer-up of strife” as Pound describes him in Sestina: Altaforte).


Plaque on the house in Martel where Henri Court Mantel died

Bertrand de Born was probably with Henri Court Mantel when he died at Martel during the rebellion. On the Young King’s death he wrote the moving Si tuit li dol e·il plor e·il marrimen, which Ezra Pound translated as Planh for the Young English King:

If all the grief and woe and bitterness, All dolour, ill and every evil chance That ever came upon this grieving world

Were set together they would seem but light Against the death of the young English King...

(Kehew 165)

Continuing to follow the curves of the river upstream beyond Martel will bring you to the riverside town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. There are two photographs in the Beinecke collection of the building in Beaulieu now called the “Maison Renaissance”, one with Ezra Pound and one without. The “Maison Renaissance” stands on medieval foundations, but was rebuilt or remodelled in the 18th century. It takes its current name from the Renaissance sculptures that were added to the façade at an unknown date.


Ezra Pound in front of the Maison Renaissance, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, 192311





Maison Renaissance, July 2019

11 On the back of this snapshot, Olga Rudge has written, “Walking Tour with E. 192 – Dordogne”. The photograph is in YCAL MSS 241, but not in the folder labelled “PLACES”.

The “Maison Renaissance” stands across a small square opposite the west door of the Abbey Church of St Pierre in Beaulieu. Around the corner is the church’s famous tympanum above the south door. Olga snapped another picture here.



The Tympanum of the Abbey Church of St Pierre, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, 1923

The town of Beaulieu, controlled like Belcastel and Martel, by the vicomté of Turenne, grew up around the abbey of St Pierre and became a major port and boatbuilding town on the Dordogne River. In Pound’s day it had a reputation as “a dirty derelict place” (White 57). Today it owes much of its significant summer tourist trade to the attractions of the river, running broad and shallow at this point.


The Abbey Church of St Pierre, July 2019

Curiously there is also a postcard of the Beaulieu tympanum in the Pound Family Postcard Collection - posted to Boston from Montreal in 1960.



1960 Postcard of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in PFP12

12 Not numbered

A further twenty-five kilometres upstream from Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, a day’s walk according to Olga, brings you to Argentat. Argentat is another river port of the old vicomté of Turenne, and the riverside houses there that Olga photographed in 1923 have scarcely changed in the past hundred years.


Olga Rudge’s 1923 photograph of Argentat

Olga took this picture from the quay on the right bank of the river, from in front of what is today the Auberge des Gabares, but what in 1923 would have still been a boatman’s house. It shows a range of houses on

the left bank and, from the position of the shadows on the buildings, it appears that the photograph was taken in late afternoon. Argentat was probably an overnight stop on the 1923 walking tour.


Houses on the left bank of the Dordogne at Argentat, July 2019

None of these places to the south and east of Brive and Malemort - Turenne, Belcastel, Martel, Beaulieu or Argentat - is referred to in Pound’s Cantos. Nor are they mentioned by Moody or Conover in their brief descriptions of the 1923 walking tour. Indeed, the only places specifically mentioned by David Moody and Anne Conover in connection with the 1923 walking tour are Ussel and Ventadour.


As noted above, Conover quotes Olga Rudge as saying that “he [EP] took me to Ventadour”. Ventadour and Ussel are both in the département of Corrèze, but at some distance from Beaulieu and Argentat. Ussel is some 75 kilometres from Argentat and 100 kilometres from Beaulieu. Ussel is, however, on a direct train line from Brive, a line that passes through Egletons, the nearest town to the ruined castle of Ventadour. Argentat was then connected to that railway line by a branch line from Tulle. Ezra and Dorothy used trains to connect legs of their walking excursions in 1919, and there is no reason why Ezra and Olga might not have done the same in 1923 - if indeed they actually did visit those places in 1923 on

what was probably quite a short walking tour of no more than a week. I have not, however, identified any of Olga’s photos as being either Ventadour or Ussel.


Part of an early 20th century railway map of southwest France (Baedeker)

Ventadour was, in both 1919 and 1923, a remote ruin, as reflected in Canto XXVII (132):

Where was the wall of Eblis At Ventadour, there now are the bees,

And in that court, wild grass for their pleasure That they carry back to the crevice

Where loose stone hangs upon stone.


Ventadour, July 2019

Ventadour, of course, was the home of Bernard de Ventadour, the troubadour whose relationships both with Maria de Ventadour (wife of the Viscount of Ventadour) and with Eleanor of Aquitaine are referred to in Pound's Canto VI. Located on a long flat-topped promontory, with steep drops on three sides to the rivers 100 metres below, Ventadour was virtually impregnable in the Middle Ages. As the Duke of Ventadour said at the time of Louis XIV, “all the straw of the kingdom” would be

insufficient to fill these natural moats (qtd. in Maison 33).

But with the Revolution and its campaign against the visible vestiges of feudalism, the castle of Ventadour was abandoned and largely demolished, its stones being sold for buildings in nearby villages. The farmland that had surrounded the castle in feudal times was also gradually abandoned. The fields that had once encircled the castle came to be covered with low-growing heath, and it was in that state that Pound

would have seen them. That relatively open aspect of the countryside around Ventadour disappeared beginning in the 1950s under a programme of reforestation, mainly of Douglas firs. The hilltop ruins themselves, however, are probably now more open and in a better state than when Pound saw them in the 1920s. An archaeological programme to stabilise the ruins and to provide easier access for visitors has been underway since the beginning of the 21st century.

References to Ventadour recur twice in Canto LXXIV (448 and 456):

el triste pensier si volge

ad Ussel. A Ventadour

va il consire, el tempo rivolge


Past Malmaison in field by the river the tables Sirdar, Armenonville

Or at Ventadour the keys to the chateau; rain, Ussel13

In each case Ventadour appears in conjunction with Ussel, and in the first instance together with memories of other places and people of the Limousin and Périgord (the young salesman at Limoges, Mme Pujol, the urochs caverns). Ventadour memories reappear in Canto LXXX (529), yet again with memories of people and places of south-west France:

and the red-bearded fellow was mending his

          young daughter’s shoe

“Me Hercule! c’est nôtre commune”

(“Borr,” not precisely Altaforte) with such dignity

13 Sirdar was a fashionable restaurant in the Champs-Elysées at the time Pound lived in Paris in the early 1920s. Armenonville was a restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne, and Malmaison is on the Seine a little farther to the west. The reference to “the keys to the chateau” seems strange for ruins on a hill in open countryside. Ventadour was built for defensive reasons on a hill with steep sides falling away in three directions. Access up those hills remains difficult. Today access to the ruins is through the old main gate to the castle. It is quite possible that in the 1920s this gate was kept locked, such that access was only really possible with the key to the gate. It was, however, not locked when Justin Smith visited Ventadour a quarter of a century earlier than Poud – “…the old gateway, opening into the castle enclosure through a long arched passage, now filled with debris and guarded only by a great locust tree” (Smith 153).

and at Ventadour and at Aubeterre

or where they set tables down by small rivers,

and the stream’s edge is lost in grass

In Canto LXXVI (472), the short comment "rain, Ussel" of Canto LXXIV is expanded:

and the rain fell all the night long at Ussel

Justin Smith described Ussel in the late 19th century as falling into decorative dilapidation – “Very quaint and cozy it looks in the distance...Cozy and still more quaint when we are there...It seems to matter little if a few panes of glass are wanting, or a whole window is closed with storm-worn boards, or one leaf of a door is taller than the other… For Ussel really is old” (Smith 26). Some corners of Ussel’s old town centre remain in a state of decay, but most has been tastefully restored. Ussel is built of pale grey granite that sparkles in the midday summer sun. Many of the houses in its narrow winding streets sport a round tower capped by a conical slate roof. Terrel writes that “Pound had strong memories of it [Ussel] and its 15th and 16th century houses. The Hôtel des Ducs de Ventadour has on its façade an inscription honoring the last troubadours” (Terrel 367).


Ussel, July 2019

In the times of the troubadours, four troubadours came from Ussel, three brothers and a cousin, the best known to posterity of the quartet being Gui d’Usse. Smith, whom Pound had consulted before his travels on the trails of the troubadours, relates a tale about Gui d’Ussel and Lady Gidas, who told the troubadour, “I cannot resist my inclination to do whatever will please you. I am a rich lady and I wish to marry. So I tell you that you may have me as you prefer, - as mistress or as wife. Consider which it shall be.” Gui, steeped as he was in contemporary ideas of marriage and love, “persuaded himself that a lover was more blessèd than a husband. He announced his decision to Lady Gidas, and thereupon she cuttingly dismissed him, bestowing her person and her wealth upon a knight of Catalonia” (Smith 28). Allegedly in the castle of Ventadour, Gui d’Ussel was challenged to a tenson by Maria de Ventadour (Audiau 13), the exchange now preserved as Gui d’Uissel be·m pesa de vos (Audiau 73).

This tenson is the only work poetic work by Maria de Ventadour that has come down to the present time.

If Pound did indeed visit Ventadour and Ussel in 1923, would that trip with Olga Rudge have been his first or second visit to these places?

Commentators are in general agreement that he did not visit these places on his 1912 walking tour. It has been generally accepted (for example, WTSF 32) that he first visited them with Dorothy in the summer of 1919. Wilhelm sets the date of the 1919 trip to Ventadour, Clermont and Ussel precisely as 28 July 1919: "They took a long side trip northeast [from Excideuil] to Clermont where the First Crusade was announced.

Along the way, they passed through Ussel, the home of at least three troubadours. On a side road that was difficult to locate, they found the high windswept ruins of Ventadorn/Ventadour..." (Wilhelm 232).

Neither Eloisa Bressan (Bressan 44-55) nor I (McKechnie 59-96) was, however, able to find direct evidence of the 1919 trip to Ventadour.

Wilhelm seems to have been unaware of the 1923 walking tour and does not mention it in his chronology.

The night of rain, sufficiently impressive to feature twice in the Cantos, should be able to provide a clue as to when Pound visited Ussel. There is no record of rain in the vicinity of Ussel in late July 1919 (though weather recording was patchy in the immediate aftermath of the War).

The summer of 1923 was a notably hot one, with several references to the heat in correspondence between Ezra and Dorothy - for example, Dorothy wrote, “Don’t send more than a p.c. if the heat is 90* in the shade” (Lilly). On 8 August 1923, in Toulouse, the temperature reached 44*C, the highest temperature recorded in metropolitan France during the entire twentieth century, surpassed only on 12 August 2003 by a

temperature of 44.1*C in the département du Gard. That record itself was surpassed in 2019.

Walking23 copy

Weather Map 8 August 192314

The first half of August 1923 saw clear settled weather across all of France and even in the second half of the month there was only very little rainfall. While localised summer storms occur regularly in the semi- mountainous area around Ussel, a short article on 19 August 1923 in La

14 Source: Bibliothèque Météo France, Paris

Montagne corrézienne would suggest that no local storm accompanied by a notable night of rain had recently occurred.



From La Montagne corrézienne of 19 August 192315

Although there does not appear to have been a notably rainy night in Ussel on appropriate dates in 1923 (or 1919), Pound did make two more walking tours in south-western France the next year, in the summer of 1924. On one of these tours he passed through Ussel. Might the night of rain have occurred then?


On 10 July 1924, Dorothy left Paris for England (L/HP 536). In contrast to the August 1923 trip, Ezra wrote to Dorothy about his plans for the

15 Source: Archives départementales de la Corrèze, Tulle.

1924 trips and, at least from the first of the two trips, sent postcards to her. On 17 July 1924, he wrote to Dorothy from Paris:

Heat here rather oppressive. If I get my identity book at Equitable today, I shall start tonight . & go up the other side of Brive16. = Eygurande17 is marked 2493 ft. = & Chatel-guyon has some intestinal waters. write or telegraph to Poste Restant. Ussel. Clermont-Ferrand. or write to Riom. also. Clermont Ferrand. (Lilly)

He seems to have followed his proposed itinerary when he travelled and to have visited Ventadour on this trip, for he sent Dorothy, a postcard (PFP 156) of its ruins from nearby Egletons on 21 July, signed with their customary cat’s “mao” – “Monday. Egletons. one day repose. feeling better than in Paris. digestion functionne. Mao. 21 juillet.”



The post card of Ventadour sent by EP to Dorothy on 21 July 192418

16 “other side” presumably means the opposite side of Brive to Excideuil where EP had stayed with Dorothy in 1919.

17 Eygurande lies some 20 km to the NE of Ussel at the far eastern end of Corrèze.

18 In my 2017 article “Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot in Excideuil” (McKechnie 59-96) I unquestioningly followed the Hamilton College cataloguing of PFP 156 and attributed it to Miss N. Juillet. This is in fact a misinterpretation of the date 21 juillet in Pound’s hand.

A week later, on 28 July, Ezra sent another postcard (PFP 248) to Dorothy, still in England. This one was sent from Clermont-Ferrand: “Clermont Sunday. Shd be in Riom by evening”. 19 Riom is 10 kilometers to the north of Clermont and close to Châtel-Guyon.



Postcard sent by Ezra Pound to Dorothy on 28 July 1924 from Clermont- Ferrand (PFP 248)

It seems that he also sent a postcard to Dorothy from Bourges on his return journey north to Paris from the Auvergne. Dorothy acknowledged receiving it in a letter that she wrote to Ezra on 2 August. (Lilly).

19 Note that this is five years to the day after the date on which Wilhelm puts Ezra and Dorothy in Clermont-Ferrand.


IGN map showing the areas of Pound’s 1924 walking tours – in July “up the other side of Brive” to Egletons (for Ventadour), Ussel, Eygurande, Clermont-Ferrand, Riom and Châtel-Guyon; and in August in the vicinity of Poitiers and Chauvigny.

By 31 July, Ezra was back in Paris, writing to Dorothy, “I am certainly much better for my walk. Feel much better, and am apparently O.K. so long as I keep in action. First day I was sickish, next day better, and then began to eat two large meals daily. am certainly much stronger.” (Lilly).

Dorothy was still in England when Ezra set off for yet another walking trip in late August. This time his intestinal complaint appears not to have been such an issue. Not long before setting out on the August 1924 walking trip, he wrote to his mother, “Hospital reports favourably on my innards” (L/HP 538). On 30 August, shortly before Dorothy returned to Paris, he wrote, “am just back from a short walking trip (six days) another

one, in the Vienne (i.e. about Poitiers) found a couple of good towns and a good inn” (L/HP 539).



Postcard of Poitiers Cathedral (unsent - PFP 258)

Poitiers, of course, was where troubadour poetry had first appeared. Pound had symbolically begun his 1912 walking tour here (WTSF 3), and Canto VI begins with the first troubadour, William (Guillaume) – “Seventh of Poitiers, Ninth of Aquitain”.

With reference to the August 1924 walking trip in the département of Vienne, Moody writes, “On this one at least Olga was with him” (Moody 62). Wilhelm also (Wilhelm 341) chronicles the August 1924 walking tour: “Circa 27 August. He has just returned from a six-day walking tour in the Poitiers area. (He did this with Olga, who says that some days they covered as much as 20 kilometers)”. 20 Olga’s presence would appear to be confirmed by one of the photographs now in the Beinecke folder: “Dordogne: Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge’s walking tour snapshots [1922-23?]”. This photograph is of the apse of the church of St Pierre in

20 Wilhelm does not mention the July 1924 walking tour. Neither of the 1924 walking tours is mentioned by Conover.

Chauvigny. Chauvigny is in the Vienne département, approximately 25 kilometres to the east of Poitiers.



Olga Rudge’s 1924 photograph of the apse of the church of St Pierre in Chauvigny


St Pierre de Chauvigny in the 21st century21

In writing of the August 1924 trip that “[o]n this one at least Olga was with him”, Moody seems to imply that Olga may have been with Ezra on the July 1924 walking trip in Corrèze and Puy-de-Dôme as well. I suspect that this may well have been the case, and that it was on her 1924 visit to Ventadour with Pound that Olga Rudge was reflecting in her conversation with Anne Conover: “‘I never sailed with Cadmus,' she recalled referring to a line in Canto XXVII, ‘but he took me to Ventadour’" (Conover 7).

In contrast to 1923, the summer of 1924 was mostly cool and wet in England and France. Dorothy comments regularly on the appalling summer weather in August in Devon in her letters to Ezra. There were frosts in Normandy and the Paris region as late as 16 June. After a brief

21 Photograph by Jochen Jahnke, CC BY-SA 3.0,

hot spell in mid July (as noted in Ezra’s letter of 17 July), the weather turned cool and wet and remained like that through the rest of the summer. A notable night of rain in Ussel in late July 1924 is not improbable.

If my conclusions are correct, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge visited Ventadour and Ussel in late July 1924, rather than in early August 1923. Their 1924 itinerary was probably Paris - Brive - Egletons/Ventadour - Ussel - Eygurande - Clermont-Ferrand - Riom - Châtel-Guyon - Bourges - Paris. For Pound this was quite possibly his first visit to Ventadour and Ussel, and his lines in Cantos LXXIV and LXXVI mentioning Ventadour and Ussel reflect thoughts turned back, in Italian, to that journey with Olga Rudge in July 1924. Ezra and Olga often used Italian between themselves.

The precise itinerary of the August 1923 walking tour remains somewhat more elusive. Pound’s discretion about the trip persisted. My suggestion - as set out in this article and based on the few photographs that I have been able to identify - is that in early August 1923 he and Olga followed a route that took in Brive, Turenne, Belcastel, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne and Argentat. To establish the route in greater detail we would need, I think, to look chiefly at the area to the south and south-east of Brive. Except for those pictures in the Beinecke folder that may have been taken on other trips, such as the one of the church in Chauvigny, it is in this area that we should find the locations of the photographs that were once in Olga Rudge’s “August 1923 – Dordogne” album.



In addition to those that I have been able to identify, there are a number of other photographs in the Beinecke collection that presumably once formed part of Olga Rudge’s “fading black-and-white photograph album” (Conover 7). It is of course possible that some of the photographs in the folder - and, where Ezra is in the picture, in YCAL MSS 54 - are actually from other times and places, like the one of St Pierre de Chauvigny. Some of the more distinct among Olga Rudge’s snapshots are reproduced below.



This distinctive castle appears from different angles in two of Olga’s photographs


This picture of Ezra under gargoyles is reproduced in Anne Conover*+ Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound.


This church portal is somewhat unusual by virtue of the sculpture immediately above it. Parts of it appear in two of Olga Rudge’s snapshots.




There are a number of doorways in the region in this style, but I have not found this particular one.





This collection of reliefs is quite possibly not in the same place now as it was when Olga Rudge photographed it in 1923. A similar collection of reliefs appears in another of the photographs.


Ezra Pound in front of a castle tower.


1 Source: Beinecke Library, Olga Rudge Papers, YCAL MSS 54


I am grateful to Jacqueline Desthomas-Denivelle, Robin Dormer, Diane Ducharme, Verena Feola, Marilynne Morgan, Pierre Paillot and Roxana Preda for their assistance with the research underlying this article.

List of Abbreviations

Lilly - Correspondence between Ezra and Dorothy Pound, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Pound mss. III, Box 1.

L/HP - Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound to his Parents: Letters 1895 - 1929. Eds. Mary de Rachewiltz, A. David Moody and Joanna Moody. Oxford: OUP, 2010. Print.

LTSE1 - Eliot, T. S. The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 1, 1898-1922, Revised Edition. Eds. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton. London: Faber & Faber, 2009. Print

PFP - Hamilton College Collection of Pound Family Postcards.

WTSF - Pound, Ezra. A Walking Tour of Southern France: Ezra Pound Among the Troubadours. Ed. Richard Sieburth. New York: New Directions, 1992. Print

Other Works Cited

Audiau, Jean. Les Poésies des Quatre Troubadours d'Ussel. Paris: Delagrave, 1922. Print.

Baedeker, Karl. Southern France including Corsica, 5th edition. Leipzig: Karl Baedeker, 1907. Print.

de Born, Bertran (ed. William D. Paden, Jr., Tilde Sankovitch and Patricia H. Stäblein). The Poems of the Troubadour Bertran de Born. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1986. Print.

Bressan, Eloisa. "Regionalism and Mythmaking: A Map for Ezra Pound's Walking Tour in Southern France, 1919." Make It New, 2.4 (2016): 44-55. Digital.

Bush, Ronald L. The Genesis of Ezra Pound's Cantos. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977. Print.

Conover, Anne. Olga Rudge and Ezra Pound: "What Thou Lovest Well...". New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. Print

Deshouillières, François, “Le château de Belcastel: commune de Lacave (Lot).” Bulletin Monumental, Tome 95, No. 3. 1936 : 385-386. Print.

Kehew, Robert (ed.). Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2005. Print.

Kelly, Amy. Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1950. Print.

McKechnie, Gordon. "Ezra Pound and TS Eliot at Excideuil." Make It New, 3.4 (2017): 59 - 96. Digital.

Maison, François. “Ventadour, un site sublime.” In Ventadour, Passé, Présent, Avenir. Moustier-Ventadour: Cahiers de Carrefour Ventadour, 2006. Print.

Makin, Peter. Provence and Pound. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978. Print.

Moody, A. David. Ezra Pound: Poet. Volume II, The Epic Years, 1921- 1939. New York: OUP, 2014. Print.

Pound, Ezra. The Cantos of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998. Print.

Smith, Justin H. The Troubadours at Home: Their lives and personalities, their songs and their world. Volume II. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899. Print.

Terrell, C.F. A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984. Print.

White, Freda. Three Rivers of France. London: Pavilion Books. 1989. Print.

Wilhelm, J.J. Ezra Pound in London and Paris, 1908-1925. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990. Print.