were four small children very close together,
there being not much more than five years between
us all. Margery was the eldest, then Faith, then
Basil the only boy, and Dorothy the baby. Our
early childhood was spent in a small cottage,
enclosed in a smaller garden, under the brow of
a hill near the banks of the Rideau River. Those
were very stirring and happy days for all of us,
full of dreams and visions of great things that
were to be one day accomplished by our family,
for we lived with a poet called Wilfred Campbell
who painted these visions for us in bright and
startling colors. When certain things came to
pass we were to go and live in England— the land
of dreams and promises, such things for instance
as the acceptance of one of the poet’s plays by
Sir Henry Irving, or perhaps one of his novels
being a financial success. These triumphs were
to be the means wherewith more visionary things
were to be accomplished. Spring succeeded spring
and we did not go, but there was always hope that
the next one would see us all in England. I remember
each year making new outfits for the dolls to
wear on the ship going over, for I was the family
dolls’ dress maker. I also remember telling, as
a great secret, the mother of a baby I greatly
admired (for of course we were told not to say
anything about it) that we were all going to England
the following Spring and that I was getting the
dolls’ clothes ready.
was a very attractive Irish girl who had certain
gifts for the stage and hoped one day to become
an actress. She had a most enchanting voice, and
used to recite for us as we sat round the fire
in the evenings and after we had been sent to
bed we would steal to the top of the stairs to
listen to her reciting certain passages from my
fathers poems or dramas.
there were days when certain dear old friends
such as Alexander McNeil a member of parliament
for North Bruce, Dr. Weldon and Mr. Dicky, members
from the Maritimes, would come to the house and
there would be great discussions. We children
loved all these men. Mr. McNeil was a most interesting
Irishman of the old school, and every inch an
aristocrat. He had very fine Irish terriers and
used to bring some of them to Ottawa every session.
father was a great believer in ancient civilizations,
and believed rather that the races were on the
decline, than that we evolved from monkeys. The
idea of a man being descended from a beast hurt
his conception of God in us, or that part of us
that is called the soul. All myths and legends
arise from some truth, and he believed that the
idea of the Greek Mythology, when the Gods and
Godesses came down from heaven and mixed with
man, had its origin in some great truth centuries
back, when perhaps we were closer to God and more
divine. This is all so vague and very questionable,
most people would say, but it was one of his beliefs,
I heard him lecture once on the subject. He called
it "The Dual Origin of Man," and he
always meant to write a book about it. His Creator
was very real to him and he was always searching
for the truth in life as he says in his poem,—
first I trod in wistful gropings lonely
And felt for God in crude impassioned youth
I longed to know thee and thy spirit only
Thou great clear-orbed Truth.
"For Thee alone I sought mid earth’s
By Thee and Thee alone I measured life.
Mighty or petty; drew its deep conclusions
Plumbed its abysses, felt its ebb or strife."
in "My Creed" he says:—
is my creed in face of cynic sneer
The cavilling doubt, the pessimistic fear;—
We come from some far Greatness, and we
Back to a Greatness, spite of all our woe."
was a great deal of the Celt in the poet, and
he was a firm believer in family traditions, and
had a tremendous pride in his Scotch origin. My
mother’s family were mostly Scotch too, and he
had every member of her family for generations
back at his finger tips. He was a great genealogist
and could tell you the history of any Scotch family
and a great many other families in England and
this country. "Burke’s Peerage" accepted
more than one of his corrections for some of their
family trees. His position here in the Archives
enabled him to study a great deal about Canadian
families. We were made to look at family trees
and listen to all sorts of legends, and tales
of second sight, and travellings in far countries.
For Scotland, and Argyllshire in particular he
had a most romantic love, and if it were possible
he would have restored to the old Scottish chiefs
all their original prestige and power. I have
never known him to scoff at tales of second sight
or ghosts. When he was still at college he met
the Marquess of Lorne, who was Governor General
of Canada at the time, and there sprang up a friendship
between them that lasted all their lives, and
on my father’s part at least meant a great deal
to him, for the Marquess was "The Campbell,
The MacCallum More," hereditary chief of
his clan. Then the Marquess of Lorne was also
a poet and a man of high literary standing.
I was quite a small girl, I remember waking up
one morning just as it was beginning to get light.
The night nursery had a door at each end, and
there was a long low window running parallel with
my bed, through which I could see the pale grey
light beginning to break. As I lay there looking
at the window, I suddenly heard somebody walking
in the stillness and the sound of the steps kept
coming closer and closer. I was terrified and
presently the steps came so close that I could
feel their presence as a little lady in a poke
bonnet passed by bed. I could see her profile
quite distinctly against the light of the window.
Even now it makes me shudder as I write about
it. I never mentioned it at the time, but some
years later, I told it in my father[’]s hearing,
and he was very much excited about it, and said
my grandmother had seen a similar apparition.
thing that influenced my father very much was
the fact that his maternal grandfather was a son
of one of the Georges or of one of their brothers
the Royal Dukes. His mother, who was the youngest
of four or five children, said her father Major
Francis Wright was sent out to this country, when
she was quite a small child, and was given a large
grant of land to settle on. He had been in one
if the smart English regiments and was a godson
of the Duke of York who gave him letters to the
Governor General, and leading men of his time
in Canada. My grandmother remembered walking in
Kensington Palace gardens with Queen Caroline.
I am not able to verify any of these facts, but
I am telling them as they were told to us as children.
My grandmother had an older brother and sister
who never married and lived together in Toronto.
They kept very much to themselves, and had very
little to do with the rest of the family. When
my father was a student at the university in Toronto
this aunt Mary showed him a partiality that she
did not show the others. She would not discuss
the family with anybody, but admitted to him that
her father was a son of one of the Royal family,
but would not say who, as the matter was much
better forgotten in a new country. The place they
had lived at in England was Wallworth Manor in
Surrey. The mystery of this intrigued the poet.
My father was quite impressed at being descended
from some of these super beings as he thought
them. He was a great Imperialist and lived very
much in the past glories of ancient Kings and
their times. It was not only the worldly side
this poet thought of, but he tried to paint visions
of super beings in gilt crowns and velvet robes
in high places of honour and responsibility governing
a great Empire wisely and well. To him this was
the religion and duty of British Kings and Statesman.
As the years went by and he perceived the clay
feet of some of his idols he feared for the safety
of the Empire. This feeling coloured much of his
verse during this phase of his experience, as
for example in:—"Show The Way England."
Then again he expressed his love for his mother
country Scotland in:—"The World Mother."
As time went on and the Prophets and Kings heeded
not the voice of the Poet weeping and pleading
for his country, he cries bitterly at their inattention
in:—"A Present Day Creed"
matters down here in the darkness
Tis only the rat that squeals
Crushed under the iron hoof
Tis only the fool that feels.
"Tis only the child that weeps and
For the death of a love or a rose
While grim in its grinding soulless mark
Iron, the iron world goes.
"God is the artist, mind is the all
Only the art survives
Just for a curve, a tint a fancy
Millions on millions of lives.
"If this be your creed, O late world
Pass with your puerile pose;
For I am the fool, the child that suffers
That weeps and sleeps with the rose."
as children were so imbued with the idea of making
ourselves worthy of our ancestors, but as the
years went on, and we were faced more with the
realities of life the ancestors lost a great deal
of their importance.
father had a very simple nature, and though lacking
in much real humour he had the simple joyousness
of a child in the genuine beauty of nature. The
colour of a flower, or the note of a bird would
make his heart sing with happiness. You see it
expressed in such poems as:—"A Wood Lyric"
"Glory of The Dying Day," "A Northern
River," "The Mystery of The Wind Danau,"
"Snow," [and] "The Dryad’s House."
Thus we spent our childhood among a poet’s dreams.
Poet[’]s first dream came true when we
were still quite small, my father and mother went
to England without the children but whether their
anticipations were realized or not I can’t say
for I don’t remember, except that they made the
acquaintance of some of the Scotch cousins.
Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott were contemporary
brother poets of my father’s and great friends
of his. I remember spending one if not two Xmas
days at Duncan Scott’s house when we were very
small. Archibald Lampman did not live very long
and I still remember the dreadful tragedy of his
early death, and even see the gloom of that winter
day in February when we heard of it. There was
a snowstorm and I sat and watched in out of the
window. Archibald Lampman died on Feb. 10th. 1899
of pneumonia, leaving a young wife and two small
children. My father mourned his loss in:—"The
Bereavement Of The Fields"[.] In appreciation
of my father’s book "The Dread Voyage"
published in 1893 Mr. Scott says—
second volume shows a great advance upon the
first in maturity of thought and mastery of
technique. The subjects are taken from the human
life and are identified closely with the aspirations
of the race. Mr. Campbell’s rare imaginative
gifts have found adequate expression in such
poems as "The Mother" and "The
Last Ride" and one of the main characteristics
of his genius is its power of presenting abstract
ideas and images in the fullness of their conception.
This is indeed a high power and one of the highest
attributes of the poet."
is a touch of Lampman as a brother poet. During
some literary controversy in which my father was
concerned he writes in a letter in July 1895 to
is never anything to be gained by getting up
a row. Let each of us silently possess his own
soul and develop whatever is brightest and best
in it, and give the product to the world, when
we can and as we can after moulding it to the
fairest shape possible."
Henry Drummond the Habitant poet was also my father’s
fellow friend. He too died on April 6th. 1907
and my father commemorated his death in the poem,
"William Henry Drummond." In a letter
written to Wilfred Campbell in Dec. of 1899, Henry
thanks for remembering me—your book is a beautiful
one—there isn’t a weak thing between the covers.
All Hail Sir Wilfred Campbell I bow to you as
the premier poet of the Dominion and easily
too. I say this for two reasons: One is it is
deserved, and secondly, yours is not the head
to swell under such treatment."
of the greatest and truest friends my father ever
had was Dr. Thos. Gibson, a man of rare insight
and sympathy. He is a fine musician and has an
artistic temper[a]ment that is keenly sensitive
to all beauty at the heart of things. Such a man
it is needless to say my father loved, and there
was a great understanding between them. There
is a little poem my father wrote as a surprise
to be read at a dinner party he was invited to
at Dr. Gibson’s house on the Doctor’s birthday,
Oct. 27, 1914 "To Dr. Thomas Gibson"
my mother and father went to England for the second
time taking Basil with them. He was a dear little
red haired boy. It was quite a happy successful
visit, and the poet visited his Highland chief for
the first time in the home of his ancestors, and
sold his first novel, "Ian of The Orcades,"
which ran as a serial in "The Gentlewoman"
deities presided at his birth,—
Apollo and that healing one, divine;
Who with their spirits mixed his Scottish
Melting all to generous human wine.
"The Surgeon’s skill and music’s magic
Upon his hands were laid that natal morn,
When those rare powers to heal or to uplift
Twin geniuses were in one being born.
"Tonight, we meet to keep that rare event
To celebrate the glad auspicious day,
When strength and skill and tenderness were
With godlike music, crystallized in clay."
1899 "Beyond the Hills of Dream" was
published, and "The Collected Poems"
in 1905. In these early days William Lyon MacKenzie
King, a grandson of William Lyon MacKenzie, came
to our house a great deal. He was then the Deputy
Minister of Labor. Mr. King was very much interested
in his work, and was a great friend of the people,
and hoped in his position to be able to do something
for them. After he left the university he was
in London for a time doing social settlement work
at Toynbee Hall. It was after this that he was
connected with "The Labour Gazette,"
and came to Ottawa. Mr. King was very sincere,
and a dreamer and idealist like my father. It
was this that was the great bond between them,
for their politics, and some of their ideas were
entirely different. Mr. King was an orator of
ability, and had great personal magnetism, and
he was able to settle many strikes and questions
of arbitration. As deputy minister he realized
the scope of his opportunities, and under his
regime the work grew so that they created a separate
portfolio for the Minister of Labor which was
given to Mackenzie King. Previous to this the
work had not been of sufficient importance, for
a separate portfolio, and was combined with some
other ministerial post in the cabinet. Mr. King
was quite a lion, even in those days, and the
young hope and protégé of Sir Wilfred Laurier
and the Liberal party. They said that one day
he would be Prime Minister of Canada and his dream
and their prophecy has come true. As minister
of Labor he was by far the youngest man in the
Cabinet. There are people who say King is a sentimentalist,
if so he is a sincere one, for I listened to him
talking to my father in the old days, when I was
old enough to gather impressions. He shows this
in his friendship for Henry Harper when he wrote
the little book about him "The Secret of
Heroism" and had the statue of "The
Young Sir Galahad" erected in his memory
of Wellington Street. It is far better to have
a sincere and sentimental vision that keeps one
in touch with the higher things of life, than
it is to have no vision but the daily grind for
money[:] "Tis the visionaries, and idealists
who live with God[.]" Many were the evenings
after Mr. King had dined at Government House that
he would come to us on his way home, and he and
my father would talk far into the night. At the
outbreak of war there was some difference between
them with regard to Canada’s responsibility to
the mother country. Such questions were very vital
to my father, but is was all forgotten in their
true affection for each other, and Mr. King has
proved to be my father’s true and generous friend
even after death.