Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski



Letter 55

B.C.
New Canaan, Connecticut

25. Feb. 1928

 

 

Darling Margaret:

 

Your half-typed letter is here.1 I must answer at once if I am ever to keep even on this elegant and immortal correspondence. So many thanks for all your wise suggestions & offers of help in the new anthol.2 I shall need it. But I make my own choice from myself3 as well as from others. Who ever doesn’t like it can damn me and be damned. I have had enough of other peoples [sic] choice.

I am almost tempted to make you my dragon. Anyone who even wants to be included will have to pass the flaming Margaret first, and then be considered by the old stuffed Poo-Bah4 [sic] himself! What?

Well, I wouldn’t expect Katharine5 to be rightly appreciative of you. Not up to it, old dear! (Meaning you, old dear! and meaning her or she "not up to") "If you know what I mean!"

And I never meant she is an eminent poet nor even near great. I only meant the most modern and without affectation in her stuff. Of course no poet (or pote) ever includes himself in any generalization, even when he is critical.

Consider—I am fed up on "poetry and style", both as taster and dabster. Hence I turn modern, but not unintelligible! Also, consider that I am near despair at the mass of desperate rubbish in print under the guise of poetry. How much of Garvin’s book6 or Campbells’ Canadian Anthology7 would you really care to keep? Yes, how much could you stand to read again. How many (how few) of these contributors ever rise above doggerel?

The saddest disappointment was my dear Duncan.8 I loved his first volume, chiefly for one poem, years ago. And have loved him for it ever since. And now it was very disappointing to find so few notable poems added to the first burst of lyric genius. Of course it is easily explained in his case—a too-busy life. Now as I can hardly hope for a free hand in my own stuff nor in C.G.D.R.’s,9 owing to copyright. It is rather a wet blanket. However—I shall try to be in Toronto when my one noble Krishna10 transfers his hospitable petticoatorium back from the West to the one and only Queen City, the land of the free and the home of the chased. No doubt I shall need his protecting arm—to say nothing of yours! (In the plural[.])

Who else in Canadian poetry is distinctly modern beside the flashing Katharine? Constance,11 of course with her Indian stuff. None else. If there is, show it to me.

I feel as you do about collections, somewhat envious; but more amazed at the mizer’s instinct. I have nothing like a set of my own things, and often wish I had a copy of some old volume to give away, when it is out of print. Your lose [sic]-leaf12 plan is the only way. I have little hope of a collected or selected edition.

For God’s sake, don’t cry over old poems, darling child.13 It is all so long ago. Life seemed so sad then. The sorrows of youth, before the soul has grown enured to this faulty world. And now, when one should be duly toughened,—the very thought of loss of a friend is not to be endured! So here we are.

Hair? What a shame! A bunch bestowed on the barber only yesterday. But it is much nicer now, and younger!

I enclose a new sonnet.14 How about it?

 

Yours to the last ash,

 

Francois15


  1. Lawrence’s letter of February 23, 1928. [back]

  2. The projected "Oxford Book of Canadian Verse." See Letter 51 n.10. [back]

  3. In her letter of February 23, Lawrence suggests that the poems of Carman to be included in the anthology might be chosen by someone other than himself. The critics of Canadian literature that she suggests for the task are R.H. Hathaway (the editor of Carman’s Later Poems [1921]), Archibald MacMechan (the author of Head-Waters of Canadian Literature [1924]), and J.D. Logan (the author, with Donald G. French, of Highways of Canadian Literature: a Synoptic Introduction to the Literary History of Canada (English) from 1760 to 1924 [1924, 1928]). [back]

  4. Carman is referring to the character in The Mikado (1885) by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan who fills many offices inefficiently. [back]

  5. Katherine Hale. See Letter 47 n.5. In her letter of February 23, Lawrence indicates that her promotional article on Hale has not met with its subject’s approval. [back]

  6. Canadian Poets and Poetry (1916; rev. ed. 1926), edited by John William Garvin (1859-1935), a Toronto teacher and publisher, and the husband of Katherine Hale. [back]

  7. The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1913; rpt. 1976), edited by William Wilfred Campbell (1858-1918), the Ontario-born poet and free-thinking Anglican priest who, with Lampman and Scott, constituted the Ottawa group of the Confederation poets. See Carl F. Klinck, Wilfred Campbell: a Study in Late Provincial Victorianism (1942; rpt. 1977) and George Wicken, Wilfred Campbell (Downsview: ECW Press, 1983). [back]

  8. Duncan Campbell Scott, whose first volume was The Magic House, and Other Poems (1893) (see Letter 54 n.2). [back]

  9. Charles G.D. Roberts’s (see Letter 41 n.1). [back]

  10. Jiddu Krishnamurti (see Letter 2 n.1 and Letter 5 n.8). [back]

  11. Constance Lindsay Skinner (1879-1936), the British Columbia-born editor, novelist, and poet whose "Songs of the Coast Dwellers," a series of free-verse poems treating of the Natives of her native province, was published in the October, 1914 issue of Poetry (Chicago). The series was later expanded into Songs of the Coast Dwellers (1930). Her essay on "The Indian as Poet" appears in The Path on the Rainbow: an Anthology of Songs and Chants from the Indians of North America, ed. George W. Cronyn (1918). 341-47. [back]

  12. In her letter of February 23, Lawrence mentions that she is making a loose-leafed collection of her favourite Carman poems. [back]

  13. In the same letter, Lawrence tells Carman that she has been crying over his poem "In the Heart of the Hills" (in By the Aurelian Wall, and Other Elegies. [1898]) and asks him to tell her for whom it was written. [back]

  14. It is likely that Carman enclosed with this letter the revised typescript entitled "The Sun Room" that is reproduced as Appendix B in the present edition. "The Sun Room" was first published in Sanctuary: Sunshine House Sonnets (1929). [back]

  15. See Letter 34 n.5 and Letters 40, 44, 45, 48, and 54. [back]