Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929
by D.M.R. Bentley
by Margaret Maciejewski
New Canaan, Connecticut
13. October. 1927
dearest: "Poets need to write love letters"
says you! Indeed it seems so. But other things first.
(Don’t be impatient, darling, lover will be there in
a minute!!!) I am just back last night from a reading
at Dartmouth College in Hanover. The journey, some six
or seven hours by train, is very lovely, specially at
this colorful time of year. The railway follows up the
beautiful Connecticut valley all the way, Vermont to
the West and N.H. to the East. The days were adorable,
and I had a very good reading indeed. I stopped off
at Northampton, Mass., to see my brother-in-law1
who is in Smith College (a huge wonderful place now).
I used to go there often when my sister was alive,2
but only seldom now. It is far too trying. I nearly
perish. That is why (for similar reasons) I never really
want to go back to N.B. I can’t bear things
after the people are gone.
my dear, I have a very delightful letter to greet my
returning. And I want to say at once that I am sure
much of these hurried scratches and dashed-off dashes
of mine, should not be too gravely considered when they
seem critical or didactic. Truth is I am the least censorious
person imaginable. Though I often sputter quite violently
and have far too quick a temper, I am very tolerant,
and never voluntarily criticise others or offer advice.
I seldom analyze, for in the first place I have no ability
for it, and then I don’t care. I have not the least
innate wish to reform people or things, nor to see people
grow. Too indifferent for that.
never mind what I say about history, or the Jews, or
it is only splutter. I am glad you have Miss Goldman.
I am sure I should enjoy her, too.
to the matter of incarnation—or—"nationS"[.]
How should I know? As I understand the Theosophs,4
they say the spirit incarnates in order to redeem the
animal being with which it manifests itself, or is associated.
And that every time we behave in a low down manner or
do what we are ashamed of, the spirit is crucified afresh.
But whose fault is that? Certain it is that our chief
task is in keeping the spirit supreme, and not giving
way to our less admirable impulses.
I am not at all sure that this dualistic notion is true.
I am very convinced that the most
important thing is to harmonize
ourselves, to think and act as a unit, to spiritualize
the physical, and embody the spiritual, in all daily
life and doing, and never to divorce body from soul,
nor soul from body, nor either from reason, (or mind.)
I incline to a triune philosophy of this sort.5
You know, among the Navajo Indians, to lose one’s temper
or self-control is considered a most dreadful thing,—one
of the worst faults. As it is. To do, or say, or think
anything which our inmost spirit (commonly called conscience)
does not approve,—that is evil. Perhaps the only evil.
I used the phrase "perhaps it doesn’t matter in
the end"— I don’t remember the context. Generally
speaking, what we do not only matters in the end, but
matters instantly, and eternally if it is good. I also
think that evil probably works itself out, and does
not persist eternally, being due to our mistakes and
ignorance of the law, and not in harmony with the Goodness,
which is the prime cause. See Thomas Troward’s works.6
Now I have great and untarnished happiness
in your friendship and caring, because of your great
understanding and your singleness and clearness of spirit.
It is a great pleasure and a solace. And I never have
the least impulse to be other than unselfish with you
and tenderly helpful or protective whenever I can, if
I can. Not to ask, not to give, and to enjoy a clear
glad companionship. This is almost all there is of love,
except its mystic (slightly insane) side, when it becomes
a possession, and carries one away body and mind! A
dangerous whirlpool, which ought to be marked "Danger!"
I promise not to philosophise any more,
until the next time.
Francis Ganong (1864-1941), the New Brunswick-born
husband of Carman’s sister Jean Murray (Muriel),
was the first Professor of Botany and the Director
of the Botanic Garden at Smith College in Northampton,
Massachusetts between 1893 and his retirement in
1932. See William Francis Ganong Memorial,
ed. J.C. Webster (Saint John: New Brunswick Museum,
Ganong died in 1920. [back]
Goldman. See Letter 17 n.3. [back]
proponents of the views associated with Madame H.P.
Blavatsky (1831-1891), Col. H.S. Olcott (1832-1907)
and their followers, including C.W. Leadbeater and
Annie Besant (see Letter 2 n.1). The Theosophical
Society arose out of meetings in New York in 1875,
at which time the term "theosophy," meaning
divine wisdom, was adopted to express the group’s
purpose and methodology, namely, the search for
"esoteric truth . . . [through]
occult research" (Bruce F. Campbell, Ancient
Wisdom Revived: a History of the Theosophical Movement
[Berkeley: U of California P, 1980], 28). In
1878, Olcott, with Blavatsky’s assistance, established
the three graduations of the Society (Brothers or
Adapts, "chelas" or pupils [see Letter
5 n.7] and ordinary members) and its threefold purpose:
"1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood
of Humanity without distinction of race, creed,
sex, caste, or color. 2. To encourage the study
of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
3. To investigate the unexplained laws of nature
and the powers latent in man" (qtd. in Kuhn,
Theosophy, 113). Among the tenets and characteristics
of theosophy are a belief in the transmigration
of souls, a denial of the existence of a personal
god, and preference for elaborate systems of psychology
and cosmology. According to Gundy, Letters,
316, "it was Ernest Fewster [see Letter 8 n.13]
and A.M. Stephen [see Letter 47 n.6] who ‘converted’
[Carman] to theosophy. The conversion, however,
was insecure and incomplete, for although he found
much to admire in theosophical thought, his scepticism
and his sense of humour kept breaking through [see
Letter 28 n.3]." See also Michele Lacombe,
"Theosophy and the Canadian Idealist Tradition:
a Preliminary Investigation," Journal of
Canadian Studies, 17.2 (1982), 100-18. [back]
Letter 18 n.2. [back]
Letter 5 n.6. [back]