Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski


Letter 1

B.C.

New Canaan,1 Connecticut

16. May. 1927

 

 

Dear Margaret Lawrence:

 

Your letter has just arrived—bless you. The magazine came two days since and I had already read the article2 most eagerly and with so much satisfaction over every paragraph. It was so good to find our adorable friend adequately treated in competent fashion. Such things are so difficult to do, and I thought as I read how finely and charmingly you had do[ne] your task of love. For of course only those who know and care can ever write about the rare wise ones like Albert Watson.3

That is why I was sorry not to have more talk with you on Saturday night.4 I am grateful to have had the privilege of meeting him while he was here, and thankful I had the sence [sic] to perceive something of his worth—though not all, I am sure.

So, my dear girl, pray accept my best thanks for this remembrance of one of the truly inspired, and all best wishes for you own growing success.

          "Have little care that life is brief,
          And less that art is long,"—&c.5

 

Most sincerely

 

Bliss Carman

 
  1. New Canaan is the residential and resort town in south-western Connecticut where Mary Perry King and her husband (see Letter 6 n.5) had owned a spacious home-cum-girls’ school named "Sunshine House" since 1908. In his Prefatory Note to Carman’s posthumously published Sanctuary: Sunshine House Sonnets (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1929), vii, Padraic Colum sets the compositional scene for Carman’s letters from New Canaan: "[e]very morning he would leave his rooms in the village and walk to Sunshine House where Dr. and Mrs. King live; there he would spend the day, writing, reading, walking, and dreaming, returning to the village at night." [back]

  2. "Sancta Simplicitas," Willison’s Monthly 2.12 (1927), 468-69, signed "Lawrence Dare." [back]

  3. Albert Durrant Watson (1859-1926), the subject of "Sancta Simplicitas," was an Ontario-born physician, poet, and mystic who practised medicine in Toronto up to the time of his death. He published several collections of poetry— Wing of the Wild Bird, and Other Poems (1908), Love and the Universe (1913), Heart of the Hills (1917), The Dream of God, (1922), and Woman: a Poem (1923)—and his Complete Poems appeared in 1923. His prose works include a study of the Canadian poet Robert Norwood (1923) and, in collaboration with Lawrence, Mediums and Mystics: a Study of Spiritual and Psychic Forces (1923), the former in the Makers of Canadian Literature series of the Ryerson Press and the latter in the Ryerson Essays series. On the title page of Mediums and Mystics, he is described as the "Some Time President Royal Astronomical Society of Canada [and] President Society for Psychic Research, Canada." His other prose works can be separated into relatively orthodox studies in the idealist and Methodist vein—The Sovereignty of Ideals (1904), The Sovereignty of Character: Lessons from the Life of Jesus (1906), and Three Comrades of Jesus (1919)—and studies that reflect his psychic and theosophical interests—The Twentieth Plane: a Psychic Revelation (1918) and Birth Through Death: The Ethics of the Twentieth Plane. A Revelation Received through the Psychic Consciousness of Louis Benjamin (1920). In Albert Durrant Watson: an Appraisal (Toronto: Ryerson, 1923), Lorne Pierce, with whom he had collaborated on Our Canadian Literature (1922), observes of him that he "believes absolutely in the spirit, believes that it is at the bottom, the top and the widest circumference of life. . . . [H]e believes that he inhabits a spiritual world, that at the centre and core of all life and all matter there is spirit, that you cannot evade it and that the only alternative is to accept it, and then get into immediate contact with it" (5-6). [back]

  4. See Introduction xi and Letter 11 n.3. [back]

  5. The first two lines of the final quatrain of Carman’s "Envoi":

    Have little care that Life is brief,
    And less that art is long.
    Success is in the silences,
    Though fame is in the song.

    The quatrain is an elaboration of Seneca’s "Ars longa, vita brevis." It appears on the front end-paper of Carman and Richard Hovey’s Songs from Vagabondia (1894) and as the final poem in Bliss Carman’s Poems (1931). [back]