Duncan Campbell Scott

Addresses‚ Essays‚ and Reviews

[The Growth and Development of Canadian Fiction]


I have been given a hard but enjoyable task.  The difficulty is one of compression, the pleasure is in recalling old times.  How can I compress into four minutes any conspectus of the “growth and development of Canadian fiction” in my time, and how can I lighten it with memories of the literary life which will give my hearers any idea of gradual changes and improvements?  I can speak only of myself and of the literary scene when I made my first appearance as a writer of short stories, and to contrast the conditions with the present.  It is always well to remember Canada in 1887 with a population of less than 5 million and Ottawa with less than 30,000 citizens.  It was in February of 1887 that my first short story was published in Scribner’s Magazine which had just come to life again after a sleep of two years.  It was an adventure to send the editor a story:  it was a distant shock to have it accepted and to receive a cheque for $125 dollars.  Some of my confrères may smile at the amount of the cheque; but let them compare the purchasing power of the dollar then and now.  Not long after that the Editor of a Canadian Magazine asked me to write for him five short stories for one hundred dollars, twenty dollars a piece.  It will seem strange to you that I agreed and carried out the contract.  I hear there is yet little change in the ratio of payment between American and Canadian publications.  I continued to be a contributor both in verse and prose to Scribner’s Magazine and other American Magazines until my official duties became responsible and I had no strength after office hours for constant production.  My first book of Poems was published by Methuen in England in 1893 and by Copeland and Day of Boston in 1895; this firm also published the prose tales In the Villag of Viger, in 1896, which book received no Canadian imprint until [page 513] 1945.  One by one I saw my friends and associates leaving the country, Gilbert Parker, Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, and others, because they saw no chance of success here.  These incidents will give you an idea of the literary scene in 1887.  Has the picture improved in this interval of sixty years?  I think that it has, undoubtedly.  [page 514]


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