Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski



Letter 51

B.C.
New Canaan, Connecticut

2 Feb 1928

 

 

Ground Hog Day, and fine and sunny as Arizona. Mr. Ground Hog could have seen his shadow all day long if he had the nerve to stay out. No doubt he is sound asleep again for another six weeks.

Your delightful MSS. arrived this morning and the more delightful (because more personal) letter came this evening. Many thanks dearest Margaret Madeleine!

I like all three immensely. Read the Hall1 first, as it was on top, in the post office, couldn’t wait, and was joyous over it. NEVER try to do the conventional. Fatal! It only confirms my first conviction that you have the gift, the incommunicable touch. You and no one else. Glad they had the sense to "see" it. Also I liked the Queen2 greatly and old Lescarbot.3 Both most excellent. No criticisms to make,— except, keep on, and never rush.

I am glad you are going to do one on Francois Felipe4 soon. I am very eager to have you the first in the field—after what has already been done. Don’t pinch it. Take all the space you want or need. Don’t think of the possible market, paper or magazine, and write to please yourself. You can do the subject, so far as you know it, better than anyone. No one can do the heretofore. All that can be got of the past is, impressions that other survivors may have. That is all that L.P.5 can get, of course. But I am sure you will get more of the "inside information". Shepard’s book6 is good, too. I am sorry not to have any prose here. The one prose book you need most is "the making of personality".7 It has all the philosophy up to that time and until a very few years ago, when Troward8 and Theosophy9 came into view and, of course, modified the Evolutionary Delsartean10 thought.

The poetry is everywhere full of characteristic thought—even at times perilously verging on the didactic.

But I’ll tell you all about it. Only go ahead and make up your own mind, and put down your own impressions of here and now, alive and loving.

I don’t mean you should hurry it. There will be plenty of time for you to be first in view. That is all I want.

A secret. I may do an "Oxford Book of Canadian Verse".11 Heaven defend me. But don’t tell. It is not certain.

 

Good night, dear thing!

 

C

 

A fairly brief, fairly long, essay such as could get into print now, would perhaps be best at present. That would preempt you rights.


  1. Not identified. [back]

  2. Possibly "These Queens," Lawrence’s review of Lytton Strachey’s Elizabeth and Essex: A Tragic History (1928) and Mary Agnes Hamilton’s Mary Queen of Scotts (1928) (a translation from the German of Margaret Kurlbaum-Siebert), in Saturday Night, December 29, 1928, 8 and 12. [back]

  3. See Letter 47 n.3. [back]

  4. An essay on Carman. See Letter 4 n.1. In an undated letter written between February 6 and 13, 1928, Lawrence tells Carman that she has finished the essay. [back]

  5. Lorne Pierce (see Letter 34 n.6). [back]

  6. Odell Shepard’s Bliss Carman (1923). Shepard (1884-1967) was an American poet, novelist, and critic who taught English at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He visited Carman in January, 1917 with the intention of gathering information for a study of his work and thereafter the two became "firm friends" (Gundy in Letters 241). [back]

  7. The Making of Personality (1908), a book that was largely the work of Mary Perry King (see Letter 6 n.5) but "rewritten by Carman at the request of [his American publishers] L.C. Page who would not have Mrs. King’s name on the title page" (Gundy in Letters 157). [back]

  8. See Letter 5 n.6. [back]

  9. See Letter 20 n.4. [back]

  10. See Letter 18 n.2. [back]

  11. The tale of this projected volume is best told by Gundy, whose father, Samuel Bradley Gundy (1868-1936) was the manager of the Canadian branch of the Oxford University Press at this time: in July, 1928 the Press’s "manuscript and literary advisor, Dr. S.H. Hooke . . . took exception on literary grounds to Carman’s choice of poems for the Oxford Book of Canadian Verse. When Carman declined to take Hooke’s advice, Gundy asked Lorne Pierce to revise the selection. When this was done, the book was accepted for publication, but was later withdrawn because of copyright complications. The Ryerson Press then bought publication rights, cleared the copyrights, and finally published the volume after Carman’s death under the title Our Canadian Literature: Book One: Poetry, edited by Bliss Carman and Lorne Pierce (Toronto, 1935)" (in Letters 360). [back]