New Canaan, Connecticut
1. October. 1927
Oh, Margaret, I’m so thankful you are all right!1
For several days I have been worried that I did not hear from you, and
had a fear you must be ill. You see I was right. Perhaps you told me.
Please don’t do it again. You see I have been quite spoiled by your
lavish giving of yourself in these delightful letters, so packed with you,
and yet never egoistic. Always giving.
The terror on your behalf was rather revealing. And
for the moment was worse when I read your news.
My banishment to the Great North Woods six or eight
years ago was a little dashing, but I found that courage came abundantly
The actual was not so bad, for I was after all only
going to my own wintry north. Did I send you my pamphlet "Open
Letter" about it?3
The worst I ever went through was a Nervous
Prostration (deserving of capitals) many years ago.4
It lasted some months with hideous waves or spells of dreadful
apprehension, a perfectly abnormal fear, which would settle down on me
as definite and distinct as an ague, yet wholly mental. This Summer in
September I had a slight return of it in the mountains.5
But it is all over now. It was due to over-fatigue.
Oh, I’m not kind to you exactly, darling thing, I
only correspond—I mean we correspond, being fitted and alike, needing
and being needed. Letters take the place of the all-sufficient silence
of the Mountains or the desert which would enfold us if our trails
crossed in them. (Better say "will" and "when"
instead of "would" and "if"—) The senses are
friendly and full of solace, and scarcely need the perilous golden gift
of speech. Still the ancient worthy who invented the alphabet should be
canonized, as the Saint of lovers. Should he not?
I glory in the phrase "to make a havoc of
geography"[.]6 That is
lovely. It recalls the "Would we not shatter it to bits" of
Omar7 and our youth. (Excuse me!
I should never have said our
youth.) But I fear I cannot make Toronto as I don’t know any wires to
pull in the emergency. But I rather expect to be disengaged for two or
three weeks over Christmas. If so I shall come back North and East over
the holidays. It might happen then.
I cannot finish answering your precious letter now,
as it is late and I have to run home. But I will finish in the morning.
Such wonderful warm Indian summerish days now!
Good night, dear heart.
With love Carman
In a letter of
September 29, 1927, Lawrence tells Carman that she has been quite
ill with a digestive disorder but is now fully recovered. [back]
a lung haemorrhage symptomatic of tuberculosis early in October,
1919, Carman spent some four months in sanitaria in Saranac Lake and
Lake Placid, New York. See Letters 263-67.
Open Letter (1920) is Carman’s poetic statement of
gratitude to those who helped to pay for his medical expenses in
1919-20. These included Dr. Gertrude M. Johnson, who, with the
assistance of an anonymous donor (probably Carman’s close friend
Gladys Baldwin), gave him tests and treatments in March and April,
1919 at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and
Mary Perry King, who "publicized his illness and gave benefit
readings of his verse." A letter and a cheque from Ernest
Fewster early in 1920 initiated Carman’s
friendship with his "Vancouver family" (see Letter 8
n.13). See also Letters 259-67. [back]
following the unexpected death of his friend and collaborator
Richard Hovey on February 24 of that year, Carman suffered a nervous
breakdown that necessitated a rest cure in a sanatorium in
Thomasville, Georgia. See Letters 127-30
and, for the medical and literary context of Carman’s
"Nervous Prostration," D.M.R. Bentley "Carman and
Mind Cure: Theory and Technique," Bliss
Carman: a Reappraisal, ed. Gerald Lynch, Reappraisals:
Canadian Writers 16 (Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 1990), 85-110. [back]
In a letter of
September 10, 1927 to Ernest Fewster, Carman writes "I have
much enjoyed walking the trails all summer, but in the past few days
have been feeling rather ragged and nervous—chilly in the early
hours of morning, with a distinctive touch of mental apprehension,
my old enemy, most unpleasant . . . . I don’t
like living under the shadow of terror, even if it is only
imaginary" (Letters 346). [back]
quoting from Lawrence’s letter of September 29 in which she urges
him to arrange a poetry reading in Toronto as an excuse for visiting
the city. [back]
remembering the third line of the seventy-third stanza of Edward
Fitzgerald’s 1859 translation of the Rubáiyát
of Omar Khayyám:
Ah Love! could thou and I with
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits—and
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
(In the 1872, 1879, and 1889
editions of Fitizgerald’s translation, this stanza becomes number