Study Guide

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Summary

By Ezra Pound

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Summary

"Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is broken into two parts, and the second is sort of a poetic response to the first. In part one, Pound writes about the "Life and Contacts" of good ol' Huey Mauberley. Now Mauberley is a fine enough guy. The problem is that he's trying to make poetry cool again, and the world doesn't really have any interest in seeing that happen.

So Mauberley spends most of his twenties basically "out of key with his time," trying to make people appreciate how great poetry is, while modern culture just wants something ugly and simple, or "an image of its accelerated grimace." It's like trying to explain to kids today how funny Woody Allen is. It doesn't matter how right you are; it's tough to make people care.

But at the same time, Pound isn't totally satisfied with returning to the past. In section V of Part One, he actually goes on at length about how the Victorians (who lived around 1840-1890) were a bunch of stuffy weenies with no passion. No, Pound is interested in the mixture of classic beauty and intense passion (usually sexual and violent) that you find in the world of Greek myths.

In section IX of Part One, Pound also rants about a conversation that his character Huey once had with a bestselling novelist. As it turns out, the novelist's books only sell out because he is a sellout, who cares more about what his reviewers think than the quality of his work. For Pound, this is one of the biggest reasons for why mass culture will never be able to produce great art. The artists and publishers only care about sales.

In Part Two, Hugh keeps ranting on how great Greek myths are. But guess what? People still don't look as though they're going to start caring any time soon. At the end of the day, Huey was just born a few centuries (or millennia) too late. But poor Huey (and Pound) forge onward, bravely fighting to make the dumb modern world take notice and start learning about the great art of its past. Yeah, good luck with that, guys.