Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski



Letter 57

B.C.
New Canaan, Connecticut

16 March ‘28

 

 

Dearest Child:

 

Your letter is mostest welcome: Miss you? Verily! You see we have both been doing the same thing at the same time. What more would one—or could? Up to my eyes in a feverish activity of destruction. Have been destroying poets. And despoiling them of their immortality! Revising the Book of American Verse,1 and have cut out a hundred pages of dead wood. Including 10 pages of Poe.2 Fearful rubbish. Was there ever a more over-rated poet? Poor chap! But most of him is too punky. And I am putting in newer stuff. Making an entirely different work, much better. My own initiative, and the Press agreed. Want to have it done by end of month. Then more feverish haste on the Canadian Book.3

Delighted you bought a new wrap! Perfectly right thing to do. You are a sane darling, though quite insane in the common eye in this instance. But one must live on something. Beauty for us, or we perish.

The enclosed is an interesting sidelight.4 I loved mathematics because I seemed to be arriving at real truth. Formal Logic was the one subject I made a perfect mark in. Compare Millay’s sonnet on Euclid, "Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare." & c.5

Am wanted in N.B. in May for Centennial of University.6 Oration. How fantastic! Much rather go to the Wellington Arms7 or elsewhere.

You are a darling as ever, and I am fast to your string of admirers!!

O more than that. Hardly anyone else has the insight, caring and devotion—all so undeserved. Certainly no two else.

The essay8 must be beautiful. I fear to see it.

I have never read Shepard’s book9 wholly yet, nor Lee’s.10 I glance between the leaves, and sip a line of approval, then dash away in embarrassment.

It doesn’t seem quite decent to read of oneself.

But I promise to read your every word.

Write soon.

 

Ever your

 

Carman


  1. The Oxford Book of American Verse (see Letter 44 n.2). [back]

  2. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1842), the American poet, short-story writer, and literary critic whose best-known poems include "The Raven" (1845), "To Helen" (1848), and "The Bells" (1849). [back]

  3. The projected "Oxford Book of Canadian Verse" (see Letter 51 n.10). [back]

  4. No enclosure remains with the letter. [back]

  5. Carman is directing Lawrence to "Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare" (1920) by the American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950). The final four lines of the sonnet read: "Euclid alone / Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they / Who, though once only and then but far away, / Have heard her massive sandal set on stone." [back]

  6. The University of New Brunswick, where Carman did his B.A. between 1878 and 1881, was founded in 1785 as the Provincial Academy of Arts and Sciences, but it did not receive a provincial charter until 1800. In 1828 it was granted a royal charter under the name of King’s College and in 1859 it was reconstituted as the University of New Brunswick. It was the centennial of the royal charter that Carman helped to celebrate as the principal speaker in the encaenia of May 17-18, 1928. [back]

  7. In Toronto. [back]

  8. In a letter of March 3, 1928, Lawrence tells Carman that her essay on him is progressing well and should be finished by the seventh of the month. She also characterizes it as less of a factual narrative than a spiritual drama. [back]

  9. Odell Shepard’s Bliss Carman (1923) (see Letter 51 n.6). [back]

  10. H.D.C. Lee’s Bliss Carman: a Study in Canadian Poetry (1912), the first book-length treatment of the poet. Lee (1879- ?) was a Scottish teacher and his book is his doctoral thesis from the University of Rennes in France. Carman corresponded with him for several years beginning in 1910, when he wrote requesting information for his thesis (see Letters 175-226). [back]