Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929
by D.M.R. Bentley
by Margaret Maciejewski
Cited in the Introduction
A: Facsimile of "A Sea Rover"
B: Facsimile of "The Sun Room"
C: Facsimile of "Little Smoking Flax"
D: "Additional Items in the Lawrence Bequest
to the University of Western Ontario"
H. Pearson Gundy was completing work on his
selected Letters of Bliss Carman (1981)
in the late ’seventies, he visited the University
of Western Ontario to examine Carman’s letters
to Margaret Lawrence in the D.B. Weldon Library.
At that time, he described Carman’s seventy-nine
letters to Lawrence as the "quintessence"
of his correspondence with women, an assessment
echoed and modified in his published comment
that "a few of them [are] among his best
and most characteristic" (372). With
the generosity that was one of his own salient
characteristics, Gundy decided to draw sparingly
on Carman’s letters to Lawrence for the selected
Letters in order to leave the way clear
for an edition of the entire correspondence
by a junior member of Western’s English Department
who had already begun the process of transcribing
and editing it. The book in hand is that edition.
he started to correspond with Margaret Lawrence
on May 15, 1927, Bliss Carman (1861-1929)
was sixty-six years old and at the height
of his fame in Canada. In 1921 and 1922 he
had undertaken reading tours of central and
western Canada, and in 1923 McClelland and
Stewart of Toronto had published Ballads
and Lyrics, a selection of his poems "for
the Canadian market" (Carman 310). In
1925 he was elected a corresponding member
of the Royal Society of Canada and awarded
the Lorne Pierce Medal for his distinguished
service to Canadian literature. And in December
of the same year he delivered the "series
of lectures and readings at the University
of Toronto [that were] later published as
Talks on Poetry and Life (1926)"
(Sorfleet 17-18). Nor was Carman’s high reputation
confined to Canada in the mid-to-late ’twenties:
early in 1927 he read to audiences of as many
as "fourteen hundred or more" at
various colleges in the American southwest
(Letter 35, November 17, 1927) and later in
the same year he published his edition of
the Oxford Book of American Verse.
In 1928 and 1929, there were further reading
tours to the Maritimes and western Canada
and two more books of poetry, Wild Garden
(1929) and the posthumous Sanctuary:
Sunshine House Sonnets (1929), the former
published in the United States and the latter
eclipse of Carman’s literary reputation that
had been almost inevitable since the onset
of Modernism did not occur until after his
death on June 8, 1929, but there were portents
in the preceding years of what was to come.
The Oxford Book of American Versewas
"so widely criticized both for omissions
and inclusions as well as for bad copy-editing"
(Gundy 355) that in 1928 he was already hard
at work on a revised edition, and on April
27, 1927 the McGill Fortnightly Review
(Montreal) published F.R. Scott’s "Canadian
Authors Meet," a scathing satire of pre-Modern
Canadian writers that names all the major
poets of Confederation—Carman, Archibald Lampman,
Charles G.D. Roberts, Duncan Campbell Scott,
and William Wilfred Campbell—but singles Carman
out for special, albeit oblique, opprobrium:
"Shall we go round the mulberry bush,
or shall / We gather at the river, or shall
we / Appoint a Poet Laureate this fall?"
(Scott 248). On October 28, 1921, near the
beginning of the Indian summer of his fame,
Carman had in fact been crowned with a wreath
of maple leaves and proclaimed Canada’s unofficial
"Poet Laureate" by the Montreal
branch of the Canadian Authors Association.
It was an apotheosis pregnant with pathos
as well as bathos— an act of "friendly
appreciation" (Carman 282) that simultaneously
heralded the attention of the ensuing years
and touched the poet with the ludicrousness
that invites satire.
his affectionate Prefatory Note to Sanctuary:
Sunshine House Sonnets, the Irish poet
and playwright Padraic Colum provides a vignette
of Carman as he was in the nineteen ’twenties:
life had a frugal dignity which was in itself
a rare and a fine achievement. The tweeds
that he wore had given him long service;
they were always carefully pressed and spotless;
that wide-brimmed hat he had worn for many
seasons. Yet there was always something
in his attire that corresponded to the gaiety
and color of his mind—a bright neck-tie,
a silver chain, a turquoise ornament that
some Indian friend had bestowed upon him.
He was a tall man. But that exceptional
build was contained in a thin integument.
He bled easily; he was sensitive over every
part of his great frame. However, that irritability
that usually goes with the thin skin was
no part of his nature. Bliss Carman was
above everything else a sweet-natured man.
I am sure that no one ever parted from him
without thinking, "I hope I shall see
dear Bliss Carman again." (vi)
the struggle which every visionary must have
with the world [Carman] had no divided heart,"
observes Colum; "quietly, without any
argumentation, he took the side opposite to
the world’s. ‘Getting and spending we lay
waste our Powers,’ Wordsworth lamented. Bliss
Carman did with the minimum of getting and
spending. ‘Little we see in Nature that is
ours,’ that noble lament goes on. Bliss Carman . . . earned
the right to say these words with less bitterness
than most visionaries" (vi).
is apparent from her surviving letters to
him in the Archives of Queen’s University
that Margaret Lawrence (1896-1973) became
infatuated with Carman when she heard him
read at the University of Toronto in 1925
and that she sought him out at a literary
party in Toronto shortly before initiating
their correspondence in May, 1927.1
At that time, Lawrence was single, intellectually
accomplished, steeped in mysticism and thirty-one
years of age.2
She had graduated from the University of Toronto
in 1920 with a B.A. in Modern History and
a well-grounded "interest . . . in
the women’s rights movement" (Introduction
"After her graduation . . . ,
she pursued a freelance writing career for
the next twelve years," becoming "literary
and associate Editor for [the] Canadian
and writing two books, Mediums and Mystics
(with Albert Durrant Watson), published
in 1923, and Sieur de La Salle, published
in 1930 (Introduction [v-vi]).5
"In 1928 she joined the staff of Consolidated
Press," the publisher of the Canadian
Home Journal, Saturday Night, and
other periodicals, where she "worked
until 1943" (Dustcover).6
In 1943 she also married Benedict Greene (c.
the publisher of Who’s Who in Canada,
whom she had met "at a Toronto literary
party in 1929" and would have married
in the ’thirties had not Greene, the son of
an internationally known Jewish scholar, shrunk
from hurting his father by marrying a gentile.
Lawrence’s letters to Greene from 1936 (just
prior to their separation) and 1942-43 (preceding
their reconciliation) were published posthumously
as Love Letters to Baruch (1973).8
a number of Carman’s letters indicate, Lawrence’s
"interest in women’s rights continued
throughout" the ’twenties (Introduction
[vi]). Several of her reviews in Saturday
Night in 1928-29 substantiate this interest,
not least her review of three books on marriage
and birth control in the December 1, 1928
issue of the magazine.9
In 1931 she published a History
of the School for Nurses at Toronto
General Hospital, and in 1932 the Canadian
Club "sent her on a national speaking
tour during which she lectured to thousands
of women on the feminist movement" (Introduction
[vi]; Dustcover). In 1936, she published The
School of Femininity, a study of women
writers from Mary Wollstoncraft and Jane Austen
to Dorothy Parker and Pearl Buck that fully
reveals her alignment with the maternal feminism
which, as Veronica Strong-Boag has demonstrated
in The Parliament of Women: the National
Council of Women of Canada, 1893-1929
(1976), characterized mainstream Canadian
women’s movements prior to the Second World
War. The School of Femininity was also
published in Britain (as We Write as Women)
it was reprinted in the United States in 1972,
the year before Lawrence’s death.
essay "In Memory of Bliss Carman"
that Lawrence published in the June 1930 issue
of the Canadian Home Journal
intimations of her deep and abiding affection
is a year in June since Bliss Carman died.
Though at no time will it ever seem to Canadians
that Bliss Carman is dead. We do not hear
his soft woodsy voice, or see his strange
eyes that looked out at the world from far
away. We cannot laugh at his sudden whimsical
remarks or try to keep up with his long
strides. All this has gone. But the poems
remain, and the memories of people who loved
him. And that counts.
the papers of Canada were filled with editorials
and verses and letters from constant readers
about the death of Bliss Carman. It made
those of us who knew him well, cry quietly
to ourselves. For, however sweet the devotion
of people is, it seems to matter very little
after someone has died. I said to myself,
"if only he could have known this while
he lived." What it might have done
for him. For I have never known a human
being to be so responsive to appreciation
as Bliss Carman. I do not mean that he looked
for adulation. He shrank from the person
who hunted literary lions, and made great
to-do about him because he was Bliss Carman.
Many a time I have seen him almost congeal
in front of too gushing a person. He seemed
to know instinctively when it was real,
and then he gave royally of the lovely mind
that was his. When it was not real he looked
out from his house as he described it in
a letter, and wondered what all the excitement
was about. For, though he lived consecratedly
for his poetry, he did not take the business
of being a famous poet too seriously. His
joy was to be with a friend in whom there
was a lot of laughter, as well as sufficient
understanding of the inwardness of life.
But, for all of that, he would have been
touched by the editorials and letters and
poems. He would have been touched softly
as people are when triumph comes at the
end of sorrow and struggle. His life had
not been easy. It is hard to be a poet in
these days, when the measure of justification
is in how much money can be made. No money,
or very little of it, can be made by writing
I said to
him once that if I had a son, and found
one day that he was writing poetry, I would
not be elated, but infinitely concerned.
Because I knew there was a small place in
the modern world for the children of verse.
He said, you would be right. He went on
to tell me that it depressed him dreadfully
to think that at the end of his years he
was poor. Not that he would have changed
places with anyone else. He loved his verse-making
too much for that. But he was no fool about
the world. He estimated things correctly.
He knew he had adventured for poetry, and
he took what came of that adventuring graciously,
without any complaints against the cost,
and also without any self-congratulation
on account of the fame.
I am putting
this down because I think Canadians should
is something else they should know. That
the reception which Canada gave Bliss Carman
when he came back to read his work in recitals
gave him a new zest for life. He had been
very ill, as most of us know, but he recovered
amazingly, and was able to take long reading
tours. Everywhere he drew packed houses,
and though the soft voice had not power
enough behind it to carry much beyond the
first few rows, the people cheered and clapped,
out of love for the work of his which they
knew anyway. They were happy to look at
him, as indeed they might well have been,
because Bliss Carman, even in his old age,
racked with tuberculosis, and drawn with
fatigue lines from a disordered heart-action,
was fascinating to look at. He was like
an old king from a fairy story, tall and
slim and finely built. His hair had been
tawny, and was only touched with grey. His
eyes were golden coloured. His whole appearance
stimulated the imagination. The heroic lines
made one expect a booming voice, and here
was a gentle lovely tone, like the distant
sounds that come from the forests, or like
the mid notes of a fine cello. He spoke
his words distinctly, giving them their
due, as one who loved them dearly.
News of his
death came to me as I sat in my garden on
a mellow afternoon in the lovely early days
of June last year. There were scarlet poppies
blazing in the sun, and a silver birch tree
was making whispering sounds in the wind.
Strange as it may seem, I had a volume of
his poems in my hands. I was thinking that
no one else had ever loved the spring as
Bliss Carman. I was looking at the gorgeous
poppies and thinking how his perfectly sculptured
hands might touch their petals. I was hoping
that something would send him to Canada
soon, for I had been ill a long time, and
I wanted someone who had known the terrors
of convalescence to tell me that life was
worth being determined about. But, Carman
had gone on his long hike while I was thinking.
As the days
passed I could not be sorry. Death had no
horror for Bliss Carman. He was aware of
god, and quite content to follow the mortal
span with graciousness. As he said again
and again in his poems. The night before
he died, he planned happily to go on a long
walk the next day. June meant walks in the
woods to him. I sat in my garden and remembered.
I tried to write because everyone else was
writing who had loved him, and many also
who had loved his name and his work. But
I was not able to. It was all too recent.
I was disappointed in myself, until I recalled
what Carman himself had written in a letter
about his emotion over the death of Peter
MacArthur, who was his friend. He had written
"I have just been reading Peter MacArthur’s
Friendly Acres. It makes me cry like a simp.
But do read it, you won’t have to cry, you
didn’t love him." That comforted me.
Carman, for all his radiant spiritual faith,
was human, and lonely when his friend went
on to death, though not sorry in the ordinary
sense of things, any more that I was as
I looked at Scarlet poppies in June, and
knew that Carman would not pass my way again.
For in spite of all the lovely colors of
early summer, and all the strange sounds
of nature, there is nothing on earth beautiful
enough for a poet like Carman. So, I could
be glad in my soul that he was gone in search
a number of Carman’s letters to Lawrence attest
to the development of their relationship through
several stages. At the outset, it was the
cordial outcome of Lawrence’s interest in
the poet and his work, but very quickly it
developed into a long-distance romance that
had come to mean a great deal to them both.
"[Y]ou seem to grow darlinger
with every epistle," wrote Carman on
September 21, 1927; "[a] very few more
such letters . . . and
you will have passed the comparative and reached
the superlative!" (Letter 10). To Lawrence’s
request that he visit Toronto during his forthcoming
travels, he replied that this would be impossible
"[b]ut thanks be to Allah, or whoever,
nor space nor time can quite undo us.
‘Us’ meaning Margaret and Carman." The
epistolary lovers did meet in Toronto on at
least two or three occasions in 1927 and 1928,11
but their relationship probably remained platonic—a
meeting of minds that shared similar philosophical
and literary interests. Nevertheless, there
are sexual elements to their correspondence.
Carman’s letters of February 10 and 25, 1928
hint of some jealousy on Lawrence’s part in
regard to the women who inspired his Songs
of the Sea Children (1904) (see Letters
52 and 55), and in his letter of July 11,
1928 he uses his animalistic alter ego "Willie,"
first to flirt with various amorous possibilities
and then to discuss the amatory proclivities
of his cousin, Charles G.D. Roberts (see Letter
68). The fact that Carman’s next letter is
a plea to Lawrence "to WRITE"
(Letter 69) may indicate that such explicit
"gabble" (Letter 68) was not to
her liking. It may also indicate that the
pressures of her work and the attentions of
the "man" mentioned in Carman’s
letter of August 22, 1928 (Letter 71) had
moved him towards the margins of her thoughts.
For whatever reasons, the flow of their correspondence
slowed noticeably after the middle of July,
1928, and in the early months of 1929 when
Lawrence was acutely ill and Carman was continually
travelling, it ceased almost entirely (see
Letter 78). Carman’s last letter to Lawrence
was written a little over a week before his
sudden death of a brain haemorrhage on June
8, 1929. There is a certain poignancy to its
closing words: "Love to you as ever /
anyone interested in Carman’s poetry and ideas,
the principal value of his correspondence
with Lawrence will reside in those parts of
it in which her admiration and affection prompt
him to share his thoughts on a variety of
topics, from contemporary politics to the
Confederation poets. "I am a free-trade
Tory," he proclaims on October 6, 1927,
and on February 18, 1928: "In reading
over Duncan Campbell Scott I was disappointed
to find how very much of all his work suffers
for want of air. Too literary and old fashioned.
And he needn’t be. When he drops the conventional
old-style, and betakes himself to new free
rhythms, he is great" (Letters 17 and
54). External nature and its psychological
effects are a continual theme of the letters
as, less appealingly, are personal names and
their relation to individual identity. Of
no appeal whatsoever but of some historical
interest is the virulent antisemitism that
surfaces in several letters, prompted, in
the first instance, by Lawrence’s account
of being accosted by a young Jewish lawyer
in the Toronto home of the anarchist Emma
Of most interest, however, are Carman’s explanations
and intimations of his philosophical principles
and ideals. On February 2, 1928, Carman directs
Lawrence to The Making of Personality (1908)
as a summation of "the Evolutionary Delsartean
thought" that had dominated his "philosophy"
until "[Thomas] Troward and Theosophy
came into view" (Letter 51). Earlier
letters provide a succinct description of
the theory of mind-body-spirit harmonization
that lies at the heart of Carman’s Delsartean
or unitrinian philosophy (see Letters 18 and
20) and, as the annotations in the present
edition reveal, numerous other letters provide
valuable insights into the impact of "Troward
and Theosophy" on his thought and work
in the nineteen twenties.
letters of Carman to Lawrence upon which the
present edition is based were donated to the
University of Western Ontario by Lawrence
herself in September, 1936 (Notes 103). A
note in what could be Lawrence’s handwriting
states that there are "3 missing"
from the "[f]irst letters May to Sept.
Accompanying the letters are their envelopes
and enclosures, some of which cannot be linked
with certainty to a particular letter (see
Appendix D). Some of the photographs and all
of the holographs of Carman’s poems that accompany
the letters have been reproduced in the present
edition (see Appendices).
letters of Lawrence and Carman that are preserved
in the Archives of Queen’s University were
written between September 11, 1927 and June
26, 1928. They have been of considerable assistance
in clarifying some of Carman’s remarks and
references, but they have not been included
or quoted in the present edition. This is
partly for copyright reasons, and also out
of respect for Lawrence’s request to Carman
on October 3, 1927 that her self-revelatory
letters to him should be destroyed. In the
same letter she pledges to respect Carman’s
privacy in a similar way, a fact that may
account for the letters that are missing from
the collection that she donated to the University
of Western Ontario.
letters from New Canaan, Connecticut and Twilight
Park, Haines Fall’s, New York are written
on fine paper with printed letterhead. Most
of the letters from New Canaan include Carman’s
initials (B.C.) as part of the letterhead,
a grace-note that has been echoed in the present
edition. The printed letterheads of the hotels
at which Carman stayed between November 3
and December 2, 1927 have been simplified
to the name and location of the hotel. A similar
treatment has been accorded to Carman’s telegrams.
editing Carman’s letters for publication the
following procedures have been followed: equal
signs have been replaced by colons; square
brackets have been replaced by round ones;
hyphens have been treated as dashes except
between syllables and in compound words; single
underlines have been rendered as italics and
double and triple underlines as capitals.
Ampersands, abbreviations, and "American"
spellings have been retained. Carman’s corrections
and changes have been accepted, but his uncorrected
errors have been retained and noted by "sic".
When the grammar or sense has required the
addition of a syllable, word, or punctuation
mark, the addition is enclosed in square brackets.
When a word or punctuation mark has been deleted
because of repetition, the deletion is registered
with empty square brackets. Because Carman’s
intentions with regard to paragraphing are
frequently unclear—he often begins a new sentence
on a new line, for example, and sometimes
begins a new page with an indentation—all
the openings of paragraphs have been indented
with the exception of those at the beginnings
of letters and postscripts and, in the absence
of a clear indentation, materials judged to
be part of the same train of thought have
been treated as one paragraph.
am grateful to the Social Science and Humanities
Research Council of Canada for the research
grant that made this edition possible and
to the Department of English at the University
of Western Ontario for its secretarial assistance.
John Lutman and, before him, the late Beth
Miller graciously provided access to the Carman
letters at Western and Anne MacDermaid, Donald
S. Richan, and George F. Henderson kindly
furnished details and copies of the Lawrence
letters at Queen’s. Jennifer Francisco, Graduate
Assistant, Department of History, University
of Toronto and Marnee Gamble, Special Media
Archivist, University of Toronto provided
valuable information about Lawrence. Mary
Flagg, the University Archivist of the University
of New Brunswick, and Eric Swanick, the Legislative
Librarian for New Brunswick, were similarily
helpful in regard to Carman’s New Brunswick
connections, as was Rita S. Humphrey, the
Curator of Manuscripts at the Armstrong-Browning
Library at Baylor University, regarding his
visit there in 1927. My thanks also to Susan
Pryke and J.M. Zezulka for information about
the Canadian Chautauqua on Muskoka Assembly.
I am especially grateful to John Lutman for
permission to reproduce photographs and manuscripts
from the Lawrence bequest. Also deserving
of special thanks are Nancy Sanderson, Kerry
Breeze, Kim Verwaayen, and Danielle Seiggel,
who entered and formatted the edition, and
J.R. Sorfleet and Terry Whalen, who made valuable
suggestions towards its improvement. Finally,
I am grateful to Margaret Maciejewski for
her countless contributions to the annotations.
to the Introduction
Lawrence’s letters of September 26, October
3, and October 19, 1927 and February 13,
1928. See also Carman’s Letter 11. [back]
to the obituary of her mother, Anne Elizabeth
(Mitchell) Lawrence, in the December 6,
1930 issue of the Toronto Globe,
Lawrence’s father, James, was a representative
of "the Penman Company in Toronto"
and her brother, Alexander Mitchell, a
resident of Detroit, Michigan. Lawrence’s
mother was born in Castledawson, Country
Derry, Ireland and her father in Pitcow,
Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The Lawrence
home in Toronto was at 101, Glenholme
a letter of September 4, 1927 to Carman,
Lawrence states that problems with her
eyes in her final year at the University
of Toronto prevented her from completing
her programme but that she was awarded
her degree nevertheless because of her
consistently strong performance and a
superlative essay on the women’s rights
contributions to the Canadian
include articles under her own name, such
as "Romance" (in two parts)
and "Books and Women" in the
December, 1928, February, 1929, and December,
1929 issues, and regular articles in the
"Special Departments" section
signed "Eleanor Dare" (see also
Letter 1 n. 2). [back]
discusses her writings on various Canadian
explorers and pioneers in several letters
to Carman, and on June 13, 1928 mentions
her plan to write a series of historical
vignettes based on the chapters in a projected
book. She points to "Lescarbot and
his Order of Good Cheer: Memory of the
First Canadian Writers to Be Honored at
Quebec" in the May 19, 1928 issue
Night, 8-9 as
the model for such vignettes. Her "Sieur
de la Salle" appeared in the August,
1928 issue of Willison’s Monthly,
"join[ing] the staff of Consolidated
Press"—that is, becoming a regular
columnist for the Canadian
Home Journal— Lawrence
worked briefly in the Toronto office of
the British publishing house of J.M. Dent
and Co. (see her letter of June 13, 1928
and Letter 63 n. 6). [back]
obituary "Benedict Greene, 96, was
publisher involved in extraordinary romance,"
in the Toronto
8, 1984, A18 gives some details of his
life, noting that, among other things,
he was a playwright and the honorary curator
of the art gallery at the University of
Western Ontario. [back]
to the anonymous Introduction to Love
Letters of Baruch,
Lawrence converted to Roman Catholicism
between 1937 and 1942 and "was seriously
considering entering a convent" when
Greene re-entered her life after the death
of his first wife and father ([vi]). [back]
and Motherhood," Saturday
1, 1928), 16 and 19, a review of George
Riley Scot, The Truth about Birth Control:
a Guide for Medical, Legal and Sociological
Students, Joseph Collins, The Doctor
Looks at Marriage and Medicine, and
Margaret Sanger, Motherhood in Bondage;
from the Files of 15 Years Correspondence
on Birth Control. [back]
from the corrected typescript in the Lawrence
bequest, Special Collections, D.B. Weldon
Library, University of Western Ontario.
early December, 1927 (see Letters 41 and
42), in May 1928 (see Letter 60), and
possibly in June, 1928 (see Letter 70
account of the incident survives in a
letter of October 3, 1927. [back]
note by Jan Beveridge, who apparently
organized the Lawrence bequest in the
mid-’seventies, states that "letters
[are] missing from envelopes post [marked]"
November 2 and August 31, 1927. [back]
Cited in the Introduction
Greene, 96, was publisher involved in extraordinary
Star. 8 Feb. 1984.
Bliss. Letters of Bliss
H. Pearson Gundy. Kingston and Montreal:
McGill-Queen’s UP, 1981.
Padraic. Prefatory Note. Sanctuary:
Sunshine House Sonnets.
By Bliss Carman. Toronto: McClelland and
Stewart, 1929. v-viii.
Letters to Baruch.
By Margaret Lawrence Greene. Toronto: Musson
Book Company. 1973.
H. Pearson. Introduction and annotations.
By Bliss Carman. Ed. H. Pearson Gundy. Kingston
and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1981. xi-xvii
Letters to Baruch.
By Margaret Lawrence Greene. Toronto:
Book Company, 1973. [v-vii].
Margaret. History: the
School for Nurses, Toronto General Hospital;
Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of
Its Establishment, 1881-1931.
Toronto: Toronto General Hospital, .
de La Salle. Ryerson
Canadian History Readers. Toronto: Ryerson,
Letters to Bliss Carman. Archives, Queen’s
University, Kingston, Ontario.
School of Femininity: a Book for and about
Women as They Are Interpreted through Feminine
Writers of Yesterday and Today.
New York: F.A. Stokes, 1936.
Write as Women
London: Michael Joseph, 1937.
Letters to Baruch.
By Margaret Lawrence Greene. Toronto: Musson
Book Company. 1973. 102-03.
John Robert. Introduction. The
Poems of Bliss Carman.
By Bliss Carman. Ed. John Robert Sorfleet.
New Canadian Library Original 9. Toronto:
McClelland and Stewart. 6-18.
F.R. Collected Poems.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1981.
Veronica. The Parliament
of Women: the National Council of Women
of Canada, 1893-1929.
Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1976.
Albert Durrant, and Margaret Lawrence. Mediums
and Mystics: a Study in Spiritual Laws and
Toronto: Ryerson, 1923.
letter has just arrived—bless you. The magazine came
two days since and I had already read the article2
most eagerly and with so much satisfaction over every
paragraph. It was so good to find our adorable friend
adequately treated in competent fashion. Such things
are so difficult to do, and I thought as I read how
finely and charmingly you had do[ne] your task of love.
For of course only those who know and care can ever
write about the rare wise ones like Albert Watson.3
That is why I was sorry not to have more
talk with you on Saturday night.4
I am grateful to have had the privilege of meeting him
while he was here, and thankful I had the sence [sic]
to perceive something of his worth—though not all, I
So, my dear girl, pray accept my best
thanks for this remembrance of one of the truly inspired,
and all best wishes for you own growing success.
little care that life is brief,
less that art is long,"—&c.5
Canaan is the residential and resort town in south-western
Connecticut where Mary Perry King and her husband
(see Letter 6 n.5) had owned a spacious home-cum-girls’
school named "Sunshine House" since 1908.
In his Prefatory Note to Carman’s posthumously published
Sanctuary: Sunshine House Sonnets (Toronto:
McClelland and Stewart, 1929), vii, Padraic Colum
sets the compositional scene for Carman’s letters
from New Canaan: "[e]very morning he would
leave his rooms in the village and walk to Sunshine
House where Dr. and Mrs. King live; there he would
spend the day, writing, reading, walking, and dreaming,
returning to the village at night." [back]
Simplicitas," Willison’s Monthly 2.12
(1927), 468-69, signed "Lawrence Dare."
Durrant Watson (1859-1926), the subject of "Sancta
Simplicitas," was an Ontario-born physician,
poet, and mystic who practised medicine in Toronto
up to the time of his death. He published several
collections of poetry— Wing of the Wild Bird,
and Other Poems (1908), Love and the Universe
(1913), Heart of the Hills (1917), The
Dream of God, (1922), and Woman: a Poem
(1923)—and his Complete Poems appeared in
1923. His prose works include a study of the Canadian
poet Robert Norwood (1923) and, in collaboration
with Lawrence, Mediums and Mystics: a Study of
Spiritual and Psychic Forces (1923), the former
in the Makers of Canadian Literature series of the
Ryerson Press and the latter in the Ryerson Essays
series. On the title page of Mediums and Mystics,
he is described as the "Some Time President
Royal Astronomical Society of Canada [and] President
Society for Psychic Research, Canada." His
other prose works can be separated into relatively
orthodox studies in the idealist and Methodist vein—The
Sovereignty of Ideals (1904), The Sovereignty
of Character: Lessons from the Life of Jesus
(1906), and Three Comrades of Jesus (1919)—and
studies that reflect his psychic and theosophical
interests—The Twentieth Plane: a Psychic Revelation
(1918) and Birth Through Death: The Ethics of
the Twentieth Plane. A Revelation Received through
the Psychic Consciousness of Louis Benjamin (1920).
In Albert Durrant Watson: an Appraisal (Toronto:
Ryerson, 1923), Lorne Pierce, with whom he had collaborated
on Our Canadian Literature (1922), observes
of him that he "believes absolutely in the
spirit, believes that it is at the bottom, the top
and the widest circumference of life. . . . [H]e
believes that he inhabits a spiritual world, that
at the centre and core of all life and all matter
there is spirit, that you cannot evade it and that
the only alternative is to accept it, and then get
into immediate contact with it" (5-6). [back]
Introduction xi and Letter 11 n.3. [back]
first two lines of the final quatrain of Carman’s
little care that Life is brief,
And less that art is long.
Success is in the silences,
Though fame is in the song.
quatrain is an elaboration of Seneca’s "Ars
longa, vita brevis." It appears on the front
end-paper of Carman and Richard Hovey’s Songs
from Vagabondia (1894) and as the final poem
in Bliss Carman’s Poems (1931). [back]
New Canaan, Connecticut
Many thanks for your letter, and—maybe you
know this little essay1
already very well. If not, I am sure you will
be glad to have it.
June here now!
the letter is a copy of The Star in the
East Edition of At the Feet of the
Master (Chicago: E.W. Richard, 1926)
by J[iddu] Krishnamurti (1891-1986), with
a Preface by Annie Besant (see Letter
5 n.8). A note on the back fly leaf of
the book states that Krishnamurti is the
Head of the Order of the Star in the East,
an organization "founded in India
on January 11, 1911 . . . to
further the work of preparing for the
coming World Teacher. It is entirely non-sectarian,
welcoming without restriction adherents
of all beliefs." Interested readers
are invited to write to Krishnamurti at
the American headquarters of the Order
in Hollywood, California. The note also
claims that At the Feet of the Master
was written when Krishnamurti was "thirteen
years old," but it is now widely
believed to have been written by Charles
Webster Leadbeater, a leading figure in
the Theosophical Society (see Letter 20
n.4). It was Leadbeater who, in 1909,
discovered the Indian-born and Telugu-speaking
Krishnamurti at Adyar in southern India
where his father, Jiddu Narianiah, was
an employee in the international headquarters
of the Theosophical Society. At that time
Leadbeater was collaborating with Besant
on Man: Whence, How and Whither
(1922), an investigation into the past
lives of members of the Society, and the
pair became convinced that Krishnamurti
was the vehicle of the World Teacher or
Lord Maitreya who, two thousand years
earlier, had occupied the body of Jesus
Christ. In 1911, Leadbeater and Besant
formed the Order of the Star in the East,
with Krishnamurti as Head (Alcyone), to
prepare for the coming of the World Teacher
and Besant formally adopted Krishnamurti
and his younger brother Nityananda. In
1912, the two boys were removed to England
to be inculcated with theosophical principles
and English manners, and, in 1922, after
accompanying Besant on a trip to Australia,
they settled at Ojai in southern California,
where the climate would benefit the sickly
Nityananda and where, according the Leadbeater
and one of the prime movers of the Theosophical
Society, Madam Helen Blavatsky, a new
civilization was destined to develop.
While Krishnamurti was in Europe in 1925,
the death of his brother toppled his already
shaky faith in Theosophy, but in December
28 of the same year, under a huge banyan
tree in Adyar, he suddenly started using
the first person while speaking of the
World Teacher, an event that convinced
Besant of his identity with Lord Maitreya.
In subsequent speeches, Krishnamurti increasingly
deviated from theosophical principles,
however, and in 1929 he dissolved the
Order of the Star, distanced himself from
the Theosophical Society, and declared
that truth could not be approached through
any formalized sect, religion, or philosophy.
A succinct statement of his subsequent
beliefs is contained in the first of his
later books and pamphlets, Education
and the Significance of Life (1953).
Several schools and foundations in India,
England, and California still embody and
promote his ideas. A Bibliography of
the Life and Teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti
(1974) by Susunaga Weeraperuma lists his
works to the early ’seventies, and recent
studies of his life and beliefs include
Mary Lutyens’ Introduction to Krishnamurti:
His Life and Death (1990) and Hillary
Rodrigues’ Insight and Religious Mind:
an Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought