Kenneth Leslie: A Biographical Introduction

by Burris Devanney

     Kenneth Leslie’s life and writings deserve attention not only because of their considerable intrinsic merit but also for what they have to tell us about the social history of our times. Although his work is not widely known in Canada, or even in his native Nova Scotia where he so deeply desired recognition, he was in fact a distinguished and influential Canadian writer.

     In a career that spanned more than half a century, Leslie published six books of poetry, including one for which he was awarded the Governor-General’s medal; created one of the more controversial and influential religious-political publications of the 1930’s and ’40’s, which earned him a national reputation in the United States as well as the praise and condemnation of powerful public figures; delivered literally hundreds of forceful, incisive speeches during a twelve year period of intensive propagandist activity which brought him before a vast North American audience; produced a mass circulation anti-fascist comic book; and composed the words and music for a well-known popular song.1 Among his less successful ventures were a ‘Broadway’ musical, which collapsed in rehearsals, and a few dozen songs which did not sell in Tin Pan Alley. Throughout his life he corresponded with well-known writers, thinkers, and religious and political leaders, sometimes answering dozens of letters a day. A list of his correspondents would read like a veritable Who’s Who of the western world.

     Leslie held strong left-wing convictions to which he gave vigorous expression not only in his poetry and his personal letters but in a remarkable public career as a crusading editor and political activist. Although one critic has suggested that he tried to “juggle” too many interests and occupations “to remember to be a first-rate poet,”2 his religious and political values seemed to demand multifarious expression, and his careers as editor, activist and poet were for many years almost completely integrated: “Good poetry’s good propaganda,” he wrote, and professed a low regard for “poets whose lives weigh lighter than their words,” considering them “word-men only, not fit to be named / With the great healers of men’s selfmade wounds.” He defined the poet’s function as essentially a political one: “to disenthrall / The world from all these hitlers great and small,” and identified poetry with the “hammer blows that build men’s homes.”3

     Leslie’s heroes were men of action who had the courage and the imagination to seek a new and better order, men such as Mao tse-Tung, Norman Bethune, Patrice Lumumba and, in a smaller arena, Moses Coady of the Antigonish Movement; these were men in tune with history who fought for “the creed / That history kept faith with / In 1917.”4 The prototype of Leslie’s heroes was the Carpenter of Nazareth who was no mere word-man and “wrote no parchment,” but “let truth fly forth in winging word.”5

     Leslie dedicated himself to truth as he saw it, and he saw it at times with singular vision and startlingly prophetic insight. He committed himself and all his intellectual and literary resources to vigorous political action during a very dangerous period in North American history, a commitment for which he endured scurrilous and slanderous attacks from all sides and a degree of political persecution which would have frightened and embittered a lesser man.


     Leslie was born at midnight on October 31, 1892, in Pictou, N.S. to a family of hardy and independent Scottish entrepreneurs. His father, Robert Jamieson Leslie, a native of Spry Bay, N.S. was soon to become “one of the brightest young businessmen” in the Maritimes, with large fishing interests on the Magdalen Islands and a partnership in a growing steamship operation. Although Halifax was his business headquarters and place of residence, R.J. Leslie was elected to the Quebec legislature in 1905 as the Liberal member for the County of Gaspe, which included the Magdalens. The Conservatives put forward an experienced French-Canadian candidate, but Leslie was so well-known throughout the Magdalens that, though he never once visited the riding during the campaign, he won by a large majority.6

     R.J. Leslie sat in the Quebec legislature for only one session before being drowned in the sinking of his company’s 113 ton steamship “Lunenburg” on December 4, 1905, when the ship went down in a blinding snowstorm off Amherst Island in the Magdalens. One lifeboat made it safely to shore but that carrying Leslie and eleven others turned over “like a barrel” in the rough seas and the men had to cling desperately to lifelines attached to the overturned boat. According to Captain Pride, the lone survivor of the second lifeboat, “Mr. Leslie was continually cheering the party with the assurance that help would come from shore,” but after more than an hour in the freezing waters “one by one they dropped off,” Leslie being the second last to go.7 Kenneth Leslie’s impressions of his father are recorded in two poems: “To My Father Drowned at Sea” and “Lowlands Low.”8

     Leslie’s mother, Bertha (Starratt) Leslie was a graceful and sophisticated woman who took a purposeful interest in her son’s intellectual, religious and artistic development. He states that she impressed upon her children’s minds “the music-that-makes-no-sound”9 and remembers that her hands were “sheer grace / Touching a fern.”10 She sent him to a oneroom private school in Halifax known as the Arnold School, where he studied Latin “at an early age” and played rugby and cricket. Here Leslie encountered the first in a series of outstanding teachers, W.H. “Duck” Waddell, the “Halifax version of the Irish hedge-schoolmaster, a never to be forgotten experience.”11 When he was entering grade eight, his mother made extensive inquiries to identify the most highly regarded teacher in the Halifax public school system. Convinced at length that this was G.K. Butler, principal of Alexandra School, she made her son walk the three miles each day from their residence in the affluent south end of the city to Butler’s school in the working class north end.12

     Leslie entered Dalhousie University at the age of 14, but when he failed Chemistry his mother made him repeat his whole freshman year.13 While still in his mid-teens he endured the first of a life-long series of brief j and discontinuous teaching experiences by accepting a summer school assignment to a small rural schoolhouse at Seaforth in Halifax County. On the first day in the classroom he announced his policy: “little love and lots of leather,”14 a strategy completely out of character for him and one which he almost certainly never put into effect. At Dalhousie he studied literature under Archibald MacMechan and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912.15 Novelist Thomas Raddall (who seems, incidentally, to have taken a personal dislike to Leslie) identifies “Professor John” of Leslie’s sharply satirical poem by the same name as MacMechan and makes the unsubstantiated suggestion that the poet’s criticism of the professor was motivated by resentment of “MacMechan’s failure to recognize his own budding ‘genius.’”16

     By this time Leslie had already become drawn to the three central intellectual interests of his life: Socialism, mysticism and poetry. In later years, whenever asked where he had learned his socialism, he always answered without hesitation (and to the bafflement of many of his Nova Scotia friends): “At the First Baptist Church in Halifax.”17 Here, apparently, he came to appreciate the social gospel and the value of an unhierarchical church. Two undergraduate essays now preserved among the Leslie papers in the Dalhousie University Archives reveal his early and intensive interest in mysticism. And, of course, he had begun writing poetry as a boy.18

     At about age twenty Leslie entered Colgate Theological Seminary where his maternal uncle Frank Starratt was a teacher of divinity. He helped form the Socialist Club at the seminary, but left after a year to take an M.A. at the University of Nebraska. His dissertation was entitled A Modern View of Mysticism (1914). He went on to study philosophy at Harvard under the brilliant idealist Josiah Royce but failed the lingual test for the Ph.D.19 However, one of Leslie’s cherished possessions was a handwritten letter from Royce which praised him as an outstanding student and urged him to pursue his interest in philosophy,20 an exhortation which, with respect to his poetry and religious writing at least, did not go entirely unheeded.

     Whether Royce had any profound influence upon Leslie’s thinking is difficult to determine, but it is evident that there was between them a sufficiently substantial correspondence of thought as to make a knowledge of Royce’s philosophy enhance one’s appreciation of Leslie’s poetry. Royce’s belief, for example, that “the whole universe, including the physical world also, is essentially one live thing, a mind, one great spirit”21 has a parallel in Leslie’s belief in the essential continuity of matter and mind in the God inspired evolution of the universe. In the original version of “Theology,”22 dedicated to Royce, Leslie presents human evolution in the image of a dream and a “dream undone” (i.e. not yet realized but impelling the dreamer to move toward its realization) which, governing heart, lungs, brain and hands, direct the individual and the human race toward the fulfilment of divine purpose:

            One is their master, only,
            knowing himself as one,
            dream and the dream undone,
            one is their master, only.

Royce’s analysis of loyalty may have also had some influence on Leslie. Royce taught that loyalty is not merely an emotion of feeling but the very basis of ethical behavior in that it constitutes a willing, practical and thorough devotion to a cause.23 In Leslie we find the conviction, expressed in deed as well as in word, that being fully human involves taking risks and making total commitments. In “Harlem Preacher,”24 for example, Leslie praises the minister for “throwing himself away” and preaching “Not arguments but God himself”: “God in the flesh is what this black man brings, / into the hungry throng it is himself he flings.”

     Despite the acknowledged excellence of several of his teachers, however, Leslie did not have a high regard for public school or university education. In “Cobweb College”25 (written in about 1938 for Robert Frost) Leslie scorns contemporary education which swaddles students in a “warm cocoon of cosy thought / through which we gain the world but lose surprise.” His judgement of university education did not ameliorate with time. In the early 1950’s, financially down-and-out and reduced to driving a taxi to earn a living, he entered the education faculty of Dalhousie University, only to withdraw after a few weeks, thoroughly disillusioned with the feeble intellectual quality of the program.26

     Leslie was married four times. His first wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of the wealthy Halifax candy manufacturer, James Moir, a shrewd but (according to Leslie) kindly capitalist27 who vainly tried to make a successful businessman out of his daughter’s wayward husband. He financed a number of Leslie’s romantic sallies into the business world, including a disastrous attempt to raise prize bulls and grow vegetables in the Annapolis Valley. Leslie’s friends are virtually unanimous in assigning a reason for his failure as a farmer; namely that, in spite of his tremendous intellectual vigour and zest for life, as well as his socialist sympathy with the working class, he had a very noticeable aversion to manual labour. He gambled heavily on the stock market; legend has it that he lost a great deal of his — or his wife’s — money on the New York Stock Exchange in the late 1920s. Estimates of the loss run from $25,000 to $250,000.28 This was perhaps a somewhat bizarre manifestation of his need to take risks and make grand, if not total, commitments. That his life-long attraction to the stock market was in contradiction to his professed opposition to the capitalist system did not, according to Leslie’s friends, seem to bother him at all.29 Although he enjoyed, with apparently unalloyed pleasure, the comforts and accoutrements of wealth, particularly fine clothes, he placed little real value upon wealth and squandered money and possessions lightly and without remorse. One winter day in New York he blithely gave away an expensive fur overcoat to a tramp on the street. “I had on two coats,” said Lesley, “he had none.” The coat had been a gift from his father-in-law.30 It would seem that Kenneth Leslie was not one of James Moir’s more lucrative investments.

     It can be imagined that Leslie was not an easy man to live with. He underwent periods of frustration and wanderlust, and, besides farming, writing poetry and playing the stock market, tried his hand at a number of occupations — preaching, broadcasting, composing music and operating a restaurant. Nevertheless, the early years of his marriage to Elizabeth Moir were not generally unhappy ones. They had money, traveled widely, led an active social life and enjoyed the fellowship of some of the leading literary and artistic figures of their day. In about 1928 they went with their children to Paris for a year, ostensibly to enable Leslie to study at the Sorbonne; in actuality they spent most of the year touring the continent.31 During their sojourns in Nova Scotia the Leslies were members of the Song Fisherman’s Circle led by their friends Andrew and Tully Merkel, whose home in Halifax was a favourite rendezvous for writers and artists. Their activities are charmingly described by Thomas Raddall in his memoirs:

In the mid-1920s some of the poets formed a sort of flying squad, calling themselves whimsically the Song Fisherman, including Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, Robert Norwood, Evelyn Tufts, Stewart MacAuley, Kenneth Leslie, Ethel Butler and other lively spirits. . . . From time to time this group made sallies by car into the countryside or by sail along the coast, always on the spur of the moment, and staying a day or a week wherever they chose to alight.32

     One of Leslie’s daughters, Rosaleen Dickson, has in her possession a marvellous photograph taken in the 1920’s of Charles Roberts, Bliss Carman and her father, dressed very elegantly in suits, vests, and ties, upon their return from a rather formal looking Sunday afternoon “hike”. Leslie’s closest friend among the Song Fishermen, however, was Robert Norwood, a native of New Ross, N.S. who published eight books of poetry and became, as rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York, one of the most renowned preachers in North America. According to Andrew Merkel, Norwood was a “scintillating conversationalist” and a “profound student of mysticism.”33 He had a considerable influence upon Leslie’s thinking and was the inspiration for one of his longest and most mystical poems, “The Shanachie Man,”34 a poem written in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s which provides a valuable key to the interpretation of a great deal of Leslie’s work.

     Norwood’s deep conviction that as a preacher and as a poet he “was merely an instrument trained to give voice to a message that was not necessarily his”35 is the thematic basis of Leslie’s poem. In Irish folklore a shanachie man is a teller of tales and legends and an instrument for the transmission of wisdom and cultural values from generation to generation. Leslie’s shanachie man, modeled upon Norwood, is identified with the evolution of human consciousness and is presented both as a representative man and a poet-interpretor of the human condition. He embodies the most ancient and fundamental of human aspirations, which “sleeps in the seed” and governs the course of human evolution like a divine law; there burn in his eyes the “dream and [the] dream undone” which, “like a low insistent sun,” have inspired man’s “slippery evolutionary climb / Out of the swamp, clear of the slime.” The shanachie man tells of how God, a powerful, proud and passionate lover, “tumbles creation up out of its lair” and lavishes beauty upon it with “feverish art” and almost savage fury, and pursues or drives men inexorably through “blood-lit ages,” harrying them constantly in and through their own dreams, their own deeds and their own art. He is:

            Troubler of Iknaton’s dream,
            Sword of Agamemnon’s woe,
            Brush of Fra Angelico,
            Pulse of Robert Burns’ pen.

The shanachie man interprets all that is bloody and fearful in human history and the natural world as but the design of nature partially seen. The poet is an instrument of “the will of the world” by which knowledge is born, a means by which the creative principle of the universe becomes intelligible not only to man but to itself. The poet and man in general constitute the means (or a means) by which God speaks to himself, knows himself: “I have felt the soul of this other / Who talks to himself in his shanachie brother.”

     The Incarnation is a central motif of Leslie’s poetry; he presents it not as a single historical event but as an on-going evolutionary process: matter thrusting continuously, irrepressibly into life; spirit haunting hill and stone and stream; mind infusing flesh with consciousness; the perpetual re-incarnation of Christ in human form; God’s love as the impelling evolutionary force in the universe — the “low insistent sun” which determines the direction of human history.

     In “The Shanachie Man” Leslie suggests, by the quite unusual portrayal of Christ as a happy-go-lucky “toppler” of prisons, that political evolution (or indeed revolution) is an integral part of the evolutionary process leading to the brotherhood of man. In his rather visionary belief in the fundamental goodness of mankind and the inevitability of human progress, a belief strongly reinforced by the mystical views of Robert Norwood, Leslie recognized that he shared common philosophical ground with Marxist thinkers, and years later he was to describe the Russian Revolution as an essentially religious event.36 Although some of the images of God presented in “The Shanachie Man” are rather ambivalent, depicting him as a passionate lover, at once both tender and violent, careful and ruthless, constant and wayward, the poem is an essentially optimistic comment on the human condition. We are told that the shanachie man could tell “the terrible story / Of man’s dark glory,” but it is, after all, a tale which ends in glory; one may experience the silence and desolation of a northern winter, but the singular beauty of the snowflakes (“blizzards of diadems, flung on the air”) is, according to the shanachie man, a “token” of God’s passionate love of his creation; human history is a “slippery climb,” but a climb nonetheless “Out of the swamp, clear of the slime”; man is not a fallen creature, weakened or depraved by Original Sin, but an evolving one, moving at the behest of universal laws toward a new world order, a new humanity, a profound kinship with Christ.

     Leslie and Norwood had more in common than an interest in religion and poetry. They were handsome, charming and very attractive to women. Although Leslie was eighteen years younger than Norwood, they operated as a devastatingly successful pair of ladies’ men when they gave poetry readings or attended social functions together.37 Norwood was also Leslie’s original contact in New York City, which was to become the centre of Leslie’s most vigourous political activity. Norwood’s death in 1932 at the age of 60 was a serious personal loss for Leslie and became the occasion for several elegiac poems, notably “It Cannot Be Easy”.38

     During the early years in New York, Leslie became quite active with theatre people. He was acquainted with Frank Harris; he studied acting; his children performed in a David Balasco play on Broadway; and he wrote an ill-fated musical of his own. Leslie had learned to play the violin and piano as a child and had always liked to sing. He hosted a radio program over station WOR in Newark, N.J. in the early 1930’s on which he read Gaelic poetry, sang Gaelic songs and played the violin; he collaborated with his brother Robert and his sister Marjorie in writing and peddling (quite unsuccessfully) popular songs in Tin Pan Alley;39 and, according to one report, he even led a dance band orchestra.40 He used his radio experience and his theatrical skills to good advantage as a part-time lay preacher at the First Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J. and at the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.41 And, of course, he continued writing poetry.

     Leslie has said that his first poem, written when he was just a boy, was about Bonnie Prince Charlie.42 He contributed poetry to the broadsheets of the Song Fishermen as well as to other small literary publications in Halifax in the early 1920’s and published single poems in Literary Digest and Scribner’s Magazine in the late ’twenties.43 His first collection, Windward I Rock, was published by Macmillan in New York in 1934 and received favourable critical attention on both sides of the Atlantic. The Times Literary Supplement praised him for having “broken through the crust of the conventional to something that is burningly alive”44 and, in general, reviewers commended him for craftsmanship and thought. Several of the poems are addressed to Elizabeth (Beth) and deal poignantly with the bitter-sweet quality of their married life. However, by the time this volume was published he and Beth were divorced.

     Thomas Raddall speculated that an explanation of the break-up of the marriage can be found in Leslie’s satirical poem “Amos and the Lady,” in which Amos of the rich brogue and rough repartee is Leslie himself and the Lady who loved her “vanities and rings” and her “rich coat of sable” is Leslie’s unkind portrait of Beth (whose name, incidentally, Raddall mistakenly gives as “Ethel”).45 While it seems likely that differences in social and political values contributed to the break-up, Leslie gave friends a very prosaic account of what happened: “My wife had the habit of taking all the children away to stay with relatives for months at a time, leaving me alone. I stepped out on her and she divorced me.”46

     Leslie apparently never lost his love for Beth and was deeply hurt by the divorce and, most of all, by the enforced separation from his children. In her unrelenting bitterness Beth never let the children see their father again during her lifetime and even changed the name of their young son from Kenneth Alexander Leslie to Alexander Moir Leslie. Although in later life Leslie renewed contract with his three daughters, Kathleen, Gloria and especially Rosaleen, and corresponded with some of his grandchildren, he never saw his son again.47

     Marjorie Finlay Hewitt, a divorcé, became his second wife. The final poem of Windward Rock is dedicated to her: “you / have wrought my world anew / in patterns out of reach / of lame and stuttering speech.”48 The years of their courtship and marriage were undoubtedly the most productive years of his life. Marjorie had become enamoured of him when she attended a poetry reading he was giving in Montclair, N.J., and for the next dozen years provided tremendous support and inspiration to him in his literary and political endeavours.49 During the first five years of their relationship Leslie published four books of poetry and founded the Protestant Digest. After the publication of Windward Rock in 1934, he published Lowlands Low and Such a Din! in 1935 and 1936 respectively in Halifax. They were not widely distributed and received very little critical attention. But in 1938 he won considerable acclaim and the Governor-General’s award with the publication in Toronto of By Stubborn Stars and Other Poems. Charles G.D. Roberts, by then the grand old man of Canadian letters, ranked Leslie at this time a better poet than E.J. Pratt,50 and Pratt himself wrote to Leslie as follows: “You are a royal fellow and my memories of you, though few indeed, have been most pleasant. I gave an address the other day on the newer poets and quoted at length from your book.”51

     By this time Leslie had already entered vigorously into the busiest and most political period of his life. He took little time to savour the GovernorGeneral’s award and scarcely mentioned it to friends. With the moral and financial support of his second wife, who provided almost all of the initial investment money (approximately $40,000), he created the Protestant Digest, a monthly publication devoted to religion and politics which eventually attained a circulation of 50,00052 and became a powerful voice in the war against fascism and anti-semitism in the United States.

     Leslie had been turning about in his mind the concept of such a publication for a considerable period of time, as he had become increasingly disturbed by the growth of fascist and anti-semitic attitudes in the United States throughout the ’thirties and the concomitant influence of isolationist sentiments on American foreign policy. He was particularly dismayed by the tacit and sometimes overt support given to such ideas by prominent churchmen, of whom the most popular and possibly the most extreme was the charismatic Roman Catholic priest Father Charles Coughlin, whose Sunday afternoon broadcasts attacking international Jewish bankers and alleging the existence of a Marxist-Zionist conspiracy to rule the world attracted audiences of up to forty million. Ultra-conservative and blatantly anti-semitic organizations had begun to come out into the open all over the United States, groups such as the German-American Bund, the Protestant War Veterans Association, the Christian Mobilizers, the Christian Front, and William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Shirts — and Coughlinism was galvanizing these elements into something like a movement. The largest and most effective, if not the most militant, of these organizations was the Christian Front, which had been spawned in Brooklyn with the encouragement of the Tablet, the of ficial newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn, edited by Coughlin’s friend and supporter Patrick Scanlan. Chapters of the Christian Front sprang up all over the United States espousing Nazi ideals and using Nazi methods. “They organized ‘buy Christian only’ movements and in 1938, 1939, and 1940 made the streets, subways and movie theatres of many cities in the United States unsafe for Jews.”53 Leslie believed that anti-semitism was but a smoke-screen for Fascism and that it was urgent that liberal-minded persons of all faiths confront the Fascist movement head on, in the churches, in the schools, in the media, and in the political arena. He recognized the mass influence and the political ‘clout’ that could be exercised by hundreds of liberal-minded clergymen if they could be brought together to form a common front of their own. It was therefore his intention that the Protestant Digest serve not only for the dissemination of liberal democratic ideas but as an instrument for organizing American clergymen into an effective democratic voice and a powerful political lobby.54

     With this goal clearly in mind, Leslie shrewdly established the offices of his publication at 14 Beacon Street in Boston, in the very heart of an area of the city remarkable for its number of influential liberal protestant ministers, whose support would lend prestige and respectability to his publication and provide the basis of the political organization he hoped to build. It was always Leslie’s intention, however, to move his headquarters to New York, the media capital of the nation, once the necessary respectability and organizational base had been established.55 The political arm of the Protestant Digest became known as the Protestant Associates and included Catholics, Protestants and Jews who saw the need to do battle “for the preservation of the political framework in which the spirit of protest may be free to express itself.”56 For Leslie and his associates the spirit of protest had a positive rather than a negative connotation: it emphasized private judgment, free speech and free thought. In the lead editorial of the first edition, in December, 1938, Leslie wrote: “Our Protestantism then protests the immeasurable creative richness of life and protests against whatever power would hold back or head off that creativity from men.”57 In short, he considered genuine protestantism virtually synonymous with genuine democracy. The time was obviously ripe for what Leslie had in mind, for by the summer of 1939 his publication had attracted such wide spread attention and support that the move to New York became imperative.

     The early success of the Protestant Digest was due in part to the energy and imagination of three talented men of Nova Scotia background. They were experienced journalists who also knew how to raise money, sell magazines and organize mass meetings. Ralph (Kelly) Morton became the Associate Editor of the magazine. He had formerly been a correspondent for the Canadian Press in Boston and was the founder and editor of the Canadian News, a small newspaper intended for displaced Canadians living in New England. Later he became a far-East correspondent for Associated Press, and then the founding editor of the Dartmouth Free Press. Sandord Archibald, who had been a circulation manager for the Halifax Herald and the St. John Citizen, not only helped build the circulation of the Protestant Digest to about 50,000 but did a great deal of the organizational planning for the extra-literary activities which became an integral part of the magazine’s raison d’être. Gerald Richardson, a native of Missouri who had studied and worked under Moses Coady in the Antigonish Movement in Nova Scotia, brought considerable talent and imagination to the organization, and, among other responsibilities, served as editor of the anti-fascist comic book The Challenger.

     But the main reason for the success of the Protestant Digest or (as it was in the spring of 1941 renamed) The Protestant was Leslie himself. He had a clear and prophetic insight into the direction of world events and a sure understanding of the complex trends in American public opinion which enabled him to speak to the very heart of the most important issues of the day and attract the support of like-minded influential thinkers and activists. He cultivated the friendship of theologians on two continents, corresponding with Jacques Maritain, Archbishop Hewlett Johnson of Canterbury, Martin Buber, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Paul Tillich. Later, when Tillich emigrated to the United States, he and Leslie and their wives became close friends. Tillich, Niebuhr and Hewlett Johnson became editorial advisors and contributors to the Protestant Digest, as did such highly respected American ministers and theologians as Dr. John Mackay, President of Princeton Theological Seminary, James Luther Adams of the Meadville Theological Seminary in Chicago, and Louie D. Newton of Atlanta, Associate Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. Leslie also continued a long-standing association with Harlem activist Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and, indeed, in 1943 became perhaps the first white member of the congregation of Powell’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.58 Leslie’s facility for declaring himself on important current issues in trenchant, highly quotable prose attracted widespread attention for him in both religious and secular publications throughout the United States. A feature article in a prominent Jewish newspaper in 1939 described Leslie as a “far-seeing and courageous Baptist layman with a deep love and respect for the Jewish faith,” and mentioned that an address which Leslie had recently delivered in Washington before the Emergency Committee on Anti-Alien Legislation had been “widely quoted in foreign language papers throughout the country.”59

     Throughout his years as a crusading journalist, Leslie was in constant demand as a speaker at important functions. A cursory examination of his available correspondence reveals that between March 1939 and February 1943, for instance, he had about sixty major speaking engagements.60 He was frequently joined on the podium by other leading spokesmen for the anti-fascist movement which he had initiated, including author Pierre van Paassen, broadcaster Johannes Steel and journalist Jay Allen, as well as Powell, Tillich and Niebuhr. Occasionally, Leslie would share the platform with notables like playwright Arthur Miller or entertainer Gene Gelly, who became associated with Leslie’s enterprise in the mid 1940’s.61 By this time membership in the Protestant Associates had swelled to 6,00062 and the furious pace of Leslie’s activities was still accelerating. He seemed to be constantly inspiring new initiatives and confronting every manifestation of fascist thinking.

     One of the most important offshoots of the Protestant Associates was the Textbook Commission, with Leslie as the “national” chairman and with regional action groups in several eastern American cities. The Commission gave itself the mandate of searching out and eliminating anti-semitic statements in American textbooks, manuals for religious instruction and bibles. To this end, Leslie announced a one million dollar “Smash Anti-Semitism” advertising campaign. Though the total expenditure on advertising probably never exceeded $50,000,63 the advertisements were expressed with arresting logic and appeared, with escalating numbers of signatories, at regular intervals in leading American newspapers. One of the first such advertisements appeared in the Gary Post-Tribune on September 22, 1943 and bore the names of 1,951 protestant ministers. Subsequent advertisements appeared throughout the following year in newspapers in dozens of cities from Muskegan to New York, with the number of signatories rising to over 5,000.64   In mid-December 1943 Leslie released what one New York newspaper called “a startling piece of research” — an illustrated list of 33 story-books which carried “race-hating propaganda.”65 The fact that a large number of these publications were in use in Roman Catholic parochial schools contributed to Leslie’s undeserved (but growing) reputation as a virulent anti-Catholic.

     The most active of the Regional Action Groups of the Textbook Commission was the Chicago section under Rev. Paul J. Filino, whose church was burned down at about this time because of his civil rights activities on behalf of Jews. Among the nine major achievements claimed by the Chicago group in 1944, some of which went vigorously beyond the original aims of the Textbook Commission, were the defeat of an anti-semitic candidate for Congress and the legal prohibition of the Gentile Cooperative Association, which had been organizing a city-wide boycott of Jewish businesses.66

     Another brainchild of Leslie’s was The Challenger, an anti-fascist comic book which appeared sporadically in 1944 and once in 1945, this last time in a 64 page “deluxe” edition which had a press run of 400,000 and sold at 10 cents. The cover of the 1945 edition shows youths of the white, yellow and black races battling green demons of fear, hate and greed. Gerald Richardson, the editor, made use of nationally known cartoonists in this attempt to counter the mass production of fascist propaganda aimed at the young.67

     The Protestant was always in financial difficulty, but Leslie tried to combine fund raising with propagating the cause. Throughout the period from 1939 to 1947 he and his energetic personal assistant Sanford Archibald organized dozens of benefit dinners, Te Deums, theatrical productions and other extravaganzas. One such event was a tribute dinner accorded well-known New York restaurateur Arnold Reuben at the Waldorf-Astoria on October 26, 1942 “in recognition of his high comradeship, his fine humanity, his deep devotion to the principles of democracy.”68 Reuben had given moral support and free meals to theatre people during the actors’ strike. Consequently, patrons of the dinner included such well-known entertainers as Hildegarde, Paul Muni, Lillian Helman, Olsen and Johnson, and Edward G. Robinson, as well as influential politicians and moneyed businessmen, including Fiorello La Guardia, Governor Lehman, Senator Wagner, Emmanual Sacks and William Solomon. Sharing the dais with Reuben and Leslie were George Jessel, Ed Sullivan, Jimmie Walker and Lewis Valentine. The Protestan’s annual fund raising dinners usually featured nationally-known speakers, such as Secretary of the Interior Harold Iches or the ubiquitous Pierre van Paessen, and attracted audiences of up to 2,500. In 1945 alone The Protestant sponsored preview performances of three Broadway plays which presented liberal or leftist themes, and in February 1945 at Carnegie Hall it presented the premiere of “The Warsaw Ghetto,” a symphonic poem.69 (It is interesting that just two weeks previous to this prestigious event, Leslie was to be found distributing leaflets outside Madison Square Gardens to Catholics who filled the arena for what was ostensibly a religious event but in actuality more of a right-wing political rally. Leslie’s leaflet boldly described what he considered to be the Vatican’s role in fostering international fascism.)70 However, the finances of The Protestant were always shaky, mainly because Leslie was always conceiving of new and ambitious initiatives on which to spend money. Then suddenly, toward the end of 1946, Leslie’s ability to attract financial support, and, indeed, his personal prestige, became severely diminished.

     Several factors combined quite effectively to bring to a tragic end Leslie’s public career as a reformer and an activist in the United States and virtually to destory his nation-wide influence as a crusading journalist. First of all, he had for some time been having an affair with his private secretary, Cathy, a Polish-American girl some thirty years younger than himself. Marjorie endured the situation for several months, then filed for divorce. From a purely financial point of view, this meant that Leslie, who had never really taken a proper salary from The Protestant, had lost his means of personal support.71 Secondly, Leslie had acquired a reputation as a violent Catholic-hater for his incessant attacks on the Christian Fronters, the Vatican, and Archbishop Spellman of New York. (Leslie had once referred to Spellman’s diplomatic travels to the Axis states as “the devious flittings of the dainty servant of Vatican intrigue,”72 a remark, incidentaly, which cost him the invaluable endorsement of Eleanor Roosevelt.73) Few of Leslie’s critics took notice of the fact that there were well-respected and apparently orthodox Roman Catholics in his organization. A third factor was, ironically, that Leslie’s open and unremitting war on anti-semitism won him the hostility of certain national Jewish organizations which disagreed with his tactics and favoured a less militant approach to the problem. However, the crucial blow was the resignation in November 1946 of six key members of the executive staff of The Protestant, allegedly because of Leslie’s dictatorial, one-man control of the publication. According to the spokesman for the group, Associate Editor Joseph Brainin, the resignation left Leslie “all alone, with the exception of his private secretary [Cathy] and his personal assistant [Sanford Archibald], on the ruins of a  movement which he himself destroyed because he placed his personal control higher than the cause which he presumably represents.”74

     According to Sanford Archibald, Leslie had simply been trying to keep editorial policy out of the hands of certain supporters of the Communist Party on the executive staff, notably Brainin, Associate Editor Ben Richardson, and Managing Editor James M. Freeman. When they were unable to have their way with Leslie, they spread disaffection to other members of the executive and the editorial advisory board, including Pierre van Paassen, and set out to destroy the magazine and Leslie’s reputation as an editor.75

     Financial support withered, yet Leslie unreasonably attempted to maintain the expensive suite of offices he had been renting on Fifth Avenue. Archibald hung on until the fall of 1948 when he reluctantly sought other employment. Shortly thereafter, Leslie and Cathy moved the headquarters of the publication to a house on the upper east side of Manhattan near Columbia University. Leslie still received occasional speaking invitations, but the heady days of power and influence were gone.

     The smear campaign against Leslie, which had been gradually escalating throughout the 1940’s in both secular and ecclesiastical newspapers, continued unabated to the end of the decade. He was accused of being a Communist as well as a Catholic-hater, and frequently his detractors referred to him as a former dance-band leader and buttermilk restaurant operator in order to discredit him as an editor and suggest that The Protestant was some sort of slick and disreputable fly-by-night operation.76 One widely-distributed Roman Catholic newspaper in 1947 described The Protestant as the “Red Hope” and accused Leslie of serving faithfully “the Moscow purpose towipe out the Catholic Church, as the chief moral obstacle in the path to Soviet World domination.”77 About this time Harold Iches informed Leslie in confidence that he was under F.B.I. surveillance for possible “un-American” activities and that should he leave the country he would probably not be allowed to return.78 In 1949, Life included Leslie in its picture gallery of fifty eminent “fellow travellers” and “innocent dupes,” along with Arthur Miller, Albert Einstein, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Norman Mailer, Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Mann, Langston Hughes and other notables who, as Life put it, “accomplish quite as much for the Kremlin in their glamorous way as a card holder does in his drab way.”79 But whatever the notoriety he received from other detractors, Leslie always maintained that it was the Communist-baiting media personality Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who drove him out of the United States.80 Finally, The Protestant came under Senator McCarthy’s “fiercest blows”81 and it seems likely that Leslie’s right to work, if not to reside, in the United States was revoked in 1949. With Cathy, who had now become his third wife, he returned to Nova Scotia for good, where he continued to publish a considerably diminished version of The Protestant.

     Unlike Leslie’s first two wives, Cathy, whose parents were peasantclass Polish immigrants, had no independent source of income. Leslie had to find a job. He drove a taxi for a while in Halifax, and found employment from time to time as a substitute teacher. But the marriage lasted only a short time. Cathy was not happy in Nova Scotia — and she had fallen in love with one of Leslie’s nephews, a man close to her own age. Tearfully, and still with great fondness for her husband, she left him to join the nephew.82

     Now in his sixties, Leslie lived quietly in rural Nova Scotia and continued to find work as a lay preacher and substitute teacher. But because of his alleged communist past and a long-desired trip he made to the Soviet Union in 1958 he was still held in some suspicion wherever he lived or worked. He had to endure R.C.M.P. surveillance,83 parental anxieties about Communists in the classroom, and even the innocent cruelty of children, like the Hallowe’en pranksters in the village of Elmsdale who placed a sign on his lawn which read: “I was a Canadian for the U.S.S.R.”84

     Through the ’fifties, ’sixties, and early ’seventies Leslie continued to write poetry and published a series of modest periodicals, in a direct and apparently uninterrupted line of descent from the Protestant Digest: One, New Christian, Man, and New Man. Some of his best poems of these years are highly political: “Moscow’s Measure,” “Remember Lumumba!” and “Praise the Viet Cong.”85 They are as stirring and passionately rhetorical as anything he ever wrote.

     In 1960 Leslie told friends that he had suffered a stroke which had temporarily paralyzed him on the left side; he felt he should give up driving a car. But a few weeks later, upon learning of the death of his old friend Judge Totten, he drove alone to California to console — and to marry — the judge’s widow, Nora Steenerson Totten. That Nora was wealthy probably had nothing specific to do with Leslie’s attraction to her. He had always moved easily among people of wealth and had never had any qualms about marrying women who were financially much better off than himself. The years with Nora were among the happiest and most stable of his life. The couple were devoted to each other and collaborated on the publication of New Man until 1972, when ill-health forced them both to enter a Halifax nursing home. Leslie died there in relative obscurity on October 6, 1974. Only about a dozen friends and relatives attended the funeral.86 Nora died the following spring.


     Most of Leslie’s published poetry can be found in two collections which appeared before his death. In 1971, Sean Haldane published The Collected Poems of Kenneth Leslie in Ladysmith, Quebec. But Haldane omitted from his edition “The Shanachie Man” and a number of the political poems, which so infuriated Leslie that he published his own collected edition in 1972, O’Malley to the Reds and Other Poems.87

     A comparative examination of Leslie’s poetry and his life, particularly with respect to his intensive political activities of the 1940’s, reveals a remarkable consistency between word and deed. Time and again in his poetry Leslie stresses the need for commitment, for passionate and wholehearted involvement in the world, and for actively trusting our intuitions and feelings. Christ’s public life was, for him, the epitome of such commitment. In “Summons”88 a strange dream which had burned and smouldered incessantly impells the Carpenter of Nazareth to put down his tools and take to the open road: “Cattle yoke forgotten, / shavings in his hair, / queer dream choking him, / dream that he must dare.” In “My Body Broken”89 Leslie admires Christ for having gambled everything on “the watery will of Peter”; and in Peace Is Passion”90 he identifies Christ with “passion unrestrained.”

     Leslie had no fear of the world, the flesh or the devil; his Protestantism was not infected by any Jansenist distrust of the body. If anything he distrusted reason and logic when divorced from feeling. In “The Clock”91 he questions Master Reason’s ability to construct a meaningful explanation of existence; and in “My Body Broken”92 he indicates that meaning derives from passionate exper ience rather than from rational thought: “The soul is flaming when the hallowed page / reels incoherent in the prophet’s rage.” All these themes are expressed very concisely in “Ski Runner”.93 The skier contemplates two options: “Two ways for home: one undulating and slow, the other sheer and swift.” The skier’s mind “sets firmly, choosing the safer path,” but his “sullen blood” desires the steeper, more dangerous route. The resolution of the conflict is clear: “What is the news I wait for, treading the snow? / It is for the mind to learn what the veins know.” Leslie had a particular dislike for compromise solutions to fundamental problems, particularly in religion and politics, and condemned those who, through apathy or fear, avoided making genuine commitments:

            . . . there are but two things that are clean,
            the sword’s point and the hilt’s cross;
            dusty and profitless the roads between;
            nor Caesar nor Christ walked them knowing their                   loss.94

However, for Leslie the choice between sword and cross is not always an either-or proposition; he never presents Christ as a pacifist. In one of his most ambitious political poems, “O’Malley to the Reds,”95 published in 1939, he dramatizes a meeting-hall confrontation between advocates of Christian Socialism and Communism as the means of resolving social and economic inequalities in the world. The main character in the poem, Father Mike O’Malley, is modelled upon Moses Coady of the Antigonish Movement, a personal friend of Leslie’s and a man whom he greatly admired. O’Malley is attempting to dissuade a group of angry miners from using violence to solve their economic problems. The miners are card-carrying Communists. O’Malley condemns their Marxist thinking for its cold and ineffectual rationalism and its narrow and limiting materialism. He charges that Marxist thought has “haltered them with hate, / and herded their wild fancies / to reason’s tame estate.” He accuses the miners of having fenced themselves in, “with dialectic for a wall,” and of seeking revolution without a clear vision of what kind of society should follow it. He reprimands them for turning from Christ and the social gospel without having an alternative. Although his words are, at first, too soft to take root in their “hard Marxist ground,” O’Malley perseveres, and predicts that men will someday learn that “force and violence / are alien to the human sense” and that love is the ultimate motivator of human actions; even God must woo men “gently from within” he contends. However, O’Malley himself is ambivalent toward Communism and suggests at the end of the debate that their disagreement should be laid to rest beneath the folds of the “bloody red” flag which has been displayed for the meeting and that they find in “loving deeds their testament, / the self-same deeds that made it red.” O’Malley seems to identify “loving deeds” with unconditional self-sacrifice and, indeed, with the crucifixion, yet never with a passive or pacifist approach toward injustice or oppression. Beyond that the poem is vague in its definition of “loving deeds,” and seems rather ambiguous concerning the moral value of the use of force in dealing with political oppression.

     A key to the resolution of this ambiguity, as well as to a better understanding of Leslie’s moral philosophy, may be found in a few lines from “Cobweb College,”96 which first appeared in By Stubliorn Stars about a year earlier. These lines are spoken in the poem by an ageless poet (modelled after Robert Frost) who has come to Cobweb College to advise the freshmen class about life:

                           It is incumbent upon me
            to be the thing I was dreamed to be:
            the word I say and live will not divide;
            it must be born complete.

The first two of the above lines suggest the peculiar fatalism which in Leslie’s thinking characterizes the heroic, Christ-like commitment required of the genuine poet, preacher or political activist. Persons of such commitment are “song-drawn,”97 summoned from within and without; they have no real choice: they must “compete in works of love.”98 The second two of the above lines relate closely to Leslie’s reference in “O’Malley to the Reds” to the shame of “loveless things done in love’s name.”99 This, then, is O’Malley’s (and Leslie’s) basic criticism of the “Reds”: they have created a dichotomy between word and deed, reason and passion, ends and means. Christ, on the other hand, bridges the gap between word and deed, reason and passion, and makes them one; he is himself the “Acted Word that sets men free”;100 and love, as Leslie never tires of pointing out, is both the end and the means of this process.

     Leslie’s profound belief in love as the impelling evolutionary force in the universe enabIed him to accept the Marxian concept of historical necessity and interpret it in Christian terms. In “Moscow’s Measure,” which was written shortly after his 1958 visit to the Soviet Union, Leslie describes the Soviet people as well-intentioned but naive instruments of a divine plan to open a new age “of life and light”; they are a vanguard of the new order, expressing the “overmastering will / of upwards of a billion human souls.” He contends that in the brotherhood of the Soviet people Christ has risen again, a “new builder . . . hard to handle” whose “rising now adds might to right.”101

     However, there yet remains a seeming dichotomy in Leslie’s thinking about the function and necessity of violent revolution in human history. On the one hand, we see his Christian commitment to a non-violent, though not passive, political radicalism. On the other hand, we may observe his tendency to take a long view of human affairs and to regard the warfare and revolution which have marked the “bloodlit ages” as part of “the terrible story / Of man’s dark glory.”102 Whatever interpretation we place upon “O’Malley to the Reds,” Leslie was no pacifist. In “Praise the Viet Cong” he extolls “the new man, the true man, the brave Viet Cong” for fighting on behalf of “our will to be free”103 and in “Moscow’s Measure” he praises the Red Army and the “hero cities” of the Soviet Union which, Christ-like, withstood the Nazi advance: “History yields one man to measure them by . . . The carpenter of Nazareth, . . . Who fought and died for the creed / That history kept faith with / in 1917.”104

     Thus the ambiguity of Leslie’s political message persists and seems to allow for no final synthesis. He is indeed throughout his poetry remarkably consistent in this one inconsistency. Ultimately, he leaves us with the paradoxical image of Christ as an “Incendiary of love / Whose love lit trains of fire / To burn all empires down.”105 This unique and paradoxical interpretation of the role of Christ in human history runs through the whole body of Leslie’s poetry. It is a perspective which Leslie seems to have maintained throughout almost fifty years of writing poetry. It adds, rather than puzzlement, a depth and richness of meaning to his work and is perhaps the central and most profound issue raised by his poetry.

     The tolerance, maturity and far-sightedness which characterized Leslie’s political and religious thinking distinguished his personal life as well. His friends unanimously report that he never expressed bitterness about the vicissitudes of his literary and journalistic careers and that, indeed, he seldom dwelt on the past. He had always lived in the present and, prophetlike, in the future. Though he did not believe in an after-life,106 he was a thorough-going optimist in his religious convictions and in his belief in the value of poetry. He believed in the God-inspired evolution of the universe. But “God cannot make his kingdom on Earth without man’s cooperation,” he wrote. “Mere waiting is not enough. Someone must be up and doing. God’s will only permeates history through men, through what the Communists call the masses and the Christians call the body of man which God claimed and claims as His Body.”107 Leslie accepted the divine imperative in his own life to be “up and doing,” but pursued his political objectives with a profound mystical (though far from naive) belief in love as the ultimate determinative force in the universe. He never feared Communism, as so many of his contemporaries did, because he was always able to interpret the Russian Revolution as a religious event and as a striving, however fledgling, after brotherhood and democracy. As an activist, he had always sought immediate redress for injustices in society. As a philosopher and a theologian, he took a long view of human history in the firm belief that the will of God would not be thwarted.

     Leslie had considerable confidence as well in the enduring value of his own poetry, but here too he was able to take a long view. In “Street Cry”108 he wrote:

            . . . . . . beating in my rhyme
            persists a prophecy, a confidence
            that four souls in some uncut page of time
            may find my book and say, “Here is the sense of our                    necessity. . . .”

Although Leslie’s poetry has indeed undergone the considerable period of public neglect which he seems to have predicted more than forty years ago in the above poem, there are recent signs, particularly but by no means exclusively in Nova Scotia, of a significant renewal of interest in his work.109 It is hoped that this brief biography will contribute to that interest.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

     I would like to thank the following for their invaluable contribution to what has been written here: Kenneth Leslie’s daughter Rosaleen Dickson, Shawville, Quebec; his sisters, Marjorie and Emily (Mrs. Stuart Eaton), Kentville, Nova Scotia; and his good and loyal Nova Scotia friends Charles and Kay Murray, Dane Parker, Evelyn Campbell, Constance MacFarland, Ralph (Kelly) Morton, and especially Sanford Archibald.


  1. “Cape Breton Lullaby.” However, the best known recording of this song, that by Catherine MacKinnon, uses Leslie’s words but not his music.[back]

  2. Alan R. Shucard, “Leslie, Kenneth,” Contemporary Poets, ed. James Vinson (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1975), p. 898[back]

  3. “Poetry And Propaganda,” O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems (Halifax: By the author,1972), p. 18.[back]

  4. “”Moscow’s Measure,” Ibid., p. 13.[back]

  5. “My Body Broken,” Ibid., p. 100.[back]

  6. Halifax Morning Chronicle, December 5, 1905, p.1; and December 6, 1905, p. 1. [back]

  7. Pictou Advocate, December 12,1905, p.1.[back]

  8. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 44 and p. 45 respectively.[back]

  9. “The Song of Songs,” Ibid., p. 38.[back]

  10. “Irrelevance,” Ibid., p. 142.[back]

  11. Kenneth Leslie, “About the Author,” Ibid., p. iii.[back]

  12. Interview with Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  13. Interview with Marjorie Leslie.[back]

  14. Interviews with Marjorie Leslie and Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  15. The Canadian Who’s Who, XII: 1970-72 (Toronto, 1972), p. 643. [back]

  16. Raddall’s handwritten note in his copy of Leslie’s Lowlands Low, pp. 46-47, Raddall Papers, Dalhousie University Archives.[back]

  17. Interviews with Dane Parker and Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  18. Brenda Large. “Medal Winner Still Writing Poetry at 76,” Halifax Mail-Star, April 1, 1969, p. 16.[back]

  19. Leslie, “About the Author,” O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. iii.[back]

  20. Interview with Marjorie Leslie.[back]

  21. Royce, Spirit of Modern Philosophy (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1892), p.[back]

  22. Windward Rock: Poems. (New York: Macmillan, 1934), p. 43. Leslie deleted the last two stanzas of this poem in the version published in O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p.116.[back]

  23. Royce, The Philosophy of Loyalty (New York: Macmillan, 1920).[back]

  24. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 117. [back]

  25. Ibid., pp. 27-31.[back]

  26. Interview with Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  27. “The Candy Maker,” O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 57.[back]

  28. Interviews with Ralph Morton, Dane Parker, and Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  29. Interviews with Dane Parker and Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  30. Interview with Rosaleen Dickson.[back]

  31. Ibid.[back]

  32. In My Time: A Memoir (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart,1976), p.226.[back]

  33. Merkel, [A biographical article on Robert Norwood], Scrapbook on Nova Scotia Mis., p. 140, in Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Halifax, N.S.[back]

  34. First published in Windward Rock, pp. 1-6. Renamed “On the Road to Maccan” in O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, pp. 7-10.[back]

  35. Merkel, Op. Cit., p. 140.[back]

  36. “Moscow’s Measure,” O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, pp. 10-14. See especially part 5 of the poem, p.13.[back]

  37. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  38. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 117.[back]

  39. Interview with Marjorie Leslie.[back]

  40. Frederick Woltman, “A Case against Intolerance,” New York World-Telegram, February 9,1944, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  41. Interviews with Marjorie Leslie and Sanford Archibald.[back]

  42. Large, Op. Cit., p. 16.[back]

  43. “April Coinage,” Literary Digest, LXXXIX, No. 1 (April 3, 1926), 32; “Written in Notre Dame, Montreal,” Scribner’s Magazine, LXXXIV, No. 6 (December 1928), 687.[back]

  44. June 28,1934, p. 463.[back]

  45. Raddall’s handwritten note on pages 57 and 58 of his copy of Leslie’s Windward Rock, Raddall Papers, Dalhousie University Archives.[back]

  46. Interview with Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  47. Interviews with Rosaleen Dickson and Charles and Kay Murray. Some of Leslie’s letters from his grandchildren are in the Leslie Papers, Dalhousie University Archives.[back]

  48. “No Jaunt for Airing,” Windward Rock, pp. 60-61. See also dedication of poem in O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 75.[back]

  49. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  50. Robert’s letter to Leslie, March 22, 1939. Found in a letter-book entitled “K. Leslie: Poet Editor,” p.13, Leslie Papers, Rosaleen Dickson’s residence, Shawville, Quebec.[back]

  51. Pratt’s letter to Leslie, June 10, 1939. Ibid., p. 10.[back]

  52. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  53. Sheldon Marcus, Father Coughlin: The Tumultuous Life of the Priest of the Little Flower (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company,1973), pp. 156-157.[back]

  54. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  55. Ibid.[back]

  56. Leslie’s address to the Protestant Associates at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York November 9,1942. Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p., Leslie Papers, Dalhousie University Archives.[back]

  57. “Affirmative Protestanism,” Protestant Digest, December 1938, p. 1.[back]

  58. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., “Soapbox,” The People’s Voice (New York), October 30, 1943, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  59. “Protestant Publication Takes up Cudgels against Intolerance,” The Jewish Advocate, August 11,1939, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  60. Leslie Papers, Rosaleen Dickson’s residence, Shawville, Quebec.[back]

  61. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  62. Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  63. My estimate based on a financial statement of The Protestant for 1943 and other evidence found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books.[back]

  64. Some of these full-page ads may be found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books.[back]

  65. The People’s Voice (New York), December 18, 1943, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books.[back]

  66. Pamphlet: “Smashing Anti-Semitism And Fascism in Chicago: The Record for One Year,” compiled by the Chicago Regional Action Committee of The Protestant, February 10,1945. Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books.[back]

  67. Sanford Archibald’s clipping books.[back]

  68. Ibid.[back]

  69. Programs for these performances may be found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books.[back]

  70. Daily Worker (New York), January 26, 1946, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  71. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  72. “What about Spellman?” The Protestant, February-March 1943,   pp. 1-2.[back]

  73. Mrs. Roosevelt’s letter to Leslie, May 31, 1943. Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  74. New York Gaelic-American, November 16,1946, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  75. Interview with Sanford Archibald.[back]

  76. Many of the specific charges against Leslie seem to go back to Frederick Woltman’s three-part article, “A Case aginst Intolerance,” New York World-Telegram, February 7, 8, and 9, 1944. Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p. This article was reprinted by a number of American newspapers. It contains what seems to be the first reference in print to Leslie as a former dance orchestra leader and buttermilk restaurant operator.[back]

  77. Louis Francis Budenz, “The Communist Conspiracy. III. The Red Hope: ‘The Protestant Magazine,’” Our Sunday Visitor, May 4, 1947, p. ? Found in Sanford Archibald’s clipping books, n.p.[back]

  78. Interview with Sanford Archibald.  Iches told Archibald that this policy applied to him as well.[back]

  79. “Red Visitors Cause Rumpus,” Life, April 4,1949,  pp. 39-43.[back]

  80. Interviews with Evelyn Campbell and Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  81. Leslie, “The Author,” Christ, Church and Communism (Gravenhurst, Ontario: Northern Book House, 1962), p.1.[back]

  82. Interview with Charles and Kay Murray.[back]

  83. According to Evelyn Campbell and Dane Parker, Leslie claimed to have been placed under R.C.M.P. surveillance after his return to Nova Scotia. Parker states that Leslie told him of an occasion when R.C.M.P. of ficers questioned the editor of the Pictou Advocate regarding certain letters of Leslie’s which were published either in or by the Advocate. This story is corroborated by a former linotype operator at the Advocate, Archie MacNeil, who recalled at least one occasion when R.C.M.P. officers visited the of fices of the newspaper in the early 1960’s to inquire about Leslie and a periodical entitled New Man which he was having printed by the Advocate. The R.C.M.P. investigators were particularly interested in a series of letters by Hugh B. Hester, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (retired) which Leslie was going to publish in New Man. Hester’s letters were severely critical of American policy in South East Asia and, in general, of American foreign policy since World War II. The most serious allegation concerning R.C.M.P. surveillance of Leslie, however, comes from a Nova Scotia school teacher who claims that her father, who was postmaster during the 1960’s in a small Nova Scotia community where Leslie resided, was required to put Leslie’s mail aside each day so that it could be examined by R.C.M.P. of ficers. (I have been requested to withhold the name of the postmaster and the community.)[back]

  84. My wife was one of these pranksters. She remembers the apprehension among parents regarding Leslie’s influence in the classroom.[back]

  85. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, pp. 10-14, p. 24 and p. 25 respectively.[back]

  86. Susan Perly, “We Bury Our Poets,” Canadian Forum, LV, No.651 (June 1975),31-33.[back]

  87. Interview with Rosaleen Dickson.[back]

  88. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 118.[back]

  89. Ibid., p. 100.[back]

  90. Ibid., p. 77.[back]

  91. Ibid., p. 107.[back]

  92. Ibid., p. 100.[back]

  93. Ibid., p. 78.[back]

  94. “Compromise,” Ibid, p. 98.[back]

  95. First published in Protestant Digest, August 1939, pp. 24-28; also in O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, pp. 1-7.[back]

  96. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, pp. 27-31. See p.28 for the particular reference.[back]

  97. “Song-Drawn,” Ibid., p. 33.[back]

  98. “Moscow’sMeasure,” Ibid., p. 12.[back]

  99. Ibid., p. 6.[back]

  100. Ibid., p. 3.[back]

  101. Ibid., pp. 12-13.[back]

  102. “On the Road to Maccan,” Ibid., p. 8.[back]

  103. Ibid., p. 25.[back]

  104. Ibid., p. 13.[back]

  105. Ibid.[back]

  106. After years of effort, Dane Parker finally cornered Leslie on the question of the afterlife. Parker says that Leslie looked straight at him and said, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” See also “Requiescam” and “The End of Folly and of Care,” in O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 80 and p. 81. respectively.[back]

  107. “Christianity And World Community,” Protestant Digest, October 1939, p. 2.[back]

  108. O’Malley to the Reds And Other Poems, p. 66.[back]