Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski



Letter 52

B.C.

New Canaan, Connecticut

10. Feb. 1928

 

 

Dearest Margaret: Here is another script from you, which I hasten to acknowledge. Thousand thanks. I send the University addresses.1 It is really a very indifferent piece of work, kindly meant though it was, and I am sorry I allowed it to be done. Even if taken down verbatim, which this was not, such a report of extemporaneous talk must always seem thin and poor. You will see how miserable it sounds (or reads) compared to the essays. It never should have been. Also I send another address, printed as written and delivered.2

What do you wish?

Which face is it in The Friendship of Art?3 I do not recall, and haven’t the volume. But, my darling young animal, what thoughts are these? Knowest though not, wild creature, that the "Sea Children"4 were begotten of the joys and sorrows of youth, and their putative parent long since passed into the penumbra atiquity [sic] along with nearly all of the Victorians big and little. Moreover should it not content thee to look with indulgence upon the shadowy features of a bygone age, and hear an occasional cackle of a tone that once was lyric. What more couldst ask than wise cracks and parlous platitudes from an ancient mentor.

 

                         "Now the lyric days are over,

                         Lay the singing robes aside!

                         Pan is gone with all his music,

                         And the echoes all have died." &c. &c.5

 

and so on in dolorous blasphemes, Piffle! As a truth we know that the spirit has no age, being so endowed by Allah that even when foolish it can acquire wisdom, if only it will be faithful to its best. Ever and Ever Amen!

The Sea Children were issued separately, but the volume is long out of print. Only hope of finding one is from a dealer or collector. I will have for you before long a set of the 2-vol edition,6 very handsome. Kennerley7 is giving me a few sets of sheets which I am having bound. They have some things not printed elsewhere.

I love your leaving all the data for Pierce.8 That made me laugh. You are quite right. All the data you need is the poems and a luncheon or two at the Wellington Arms and an evening party or two at Giordano’s9 or the Campbells10 [sic]. Yes, and perhaps an hour on a mountain trail or on a woodland lake. Or on snowshoes. But certainly somewhere in moccasins!

But anyhow I welcome your idea of an essay—original. Nothing that is not the writer’s own could ever be me,—could it? How could it?

I have drawn on the Bank of Patience enough to last until the April frogs begin in the marsh, and I live on that. All is well, including this frame, but I am gnawed by a pest of small disappointments at not seeing the coast this season.

 

Lots of love, my dear

 

Ever

 

Carman


  1. Talks on Poetry and Life (1926), a "Series of Five Lectures Delivered [by Carman] before the University of Toronto" in December, 1925, transcribed and edited by Blanche Hume. [back]

  2. Probably Carman’s Address to the Graduating Class MCMXI of the Unitrinian School of Personal Harmonizing Founded by Mary Perry King at Moonshine, Twilight Park, in the Catskills (1911). [back]

  3. In a letter of February 6, 1928, Lawrence enthuses about the photograph of Carman that appears as the frontispiece in The Friendship of Art (1904) and links it to Songs of the Sea Children (1903). [back]

  4. See Letter 5 n.2. [back]

  5. Carman is quoting an unidentified poem. [back]

  6. See Letter 8 n.10. [back]

  7. Mitchell Kennerly (1878-1950), with whom Carman shared an apartment in New York for some two years in 1897-98, was thereafter a close friend and regular correspondent (see Letters 117f. and "Kennerley on Carman," ed. H. Pearson Gundy, Canadian Poetry: Studies Documents, Reviews, 14 (1984), 69-74). When Carman first knew him, the British-born Kennerley was the New York manager of the London publishing firm of John Lane. Between 1916 and 1929 he was the president of Anderson Galleries in New York. [back]

  8. Lorne Pierce. See Letter 34 n.6. [back]

  9. The home of Caesar George Finn (see Letter 4 n.6). [back]

  10. The home of Austin Campbell and his wife (see Letter 11 n.3). [back]