II

574 Jarvis Street,    
Toronto, Ontario     
February 17, 19271 

Dear Mr. Smith:

I am sending you a copy of the New Outlook with my page of Canadian Poems of the Month, in which I have reprinted your TWO SIDES OF A DRUM from The Dial.2 It is immensely heartening to find work like yours being done in Canada, and I hope to see more of it. If you will tell me what issues of The Measure, The Nation, and Voices contain your work, I should like to reprint it from time to time.3

     It is curious that I too had an idea for a Canadian journal, which was to get beyond the talking point, last Autumn. 4 I thought of a sort of anthology, to come out as sufficient material of sufficient merit was forthcoming. No editors, each contributor to be free to put in what he considered worthy of himself.5 The result to be a sort of thick book like This Quarter which, as coming from Canada, would perhaps waken New York and London to us, and do for the country as you say, what the Group of Seven has done in its sphere. I spoke to Wilson MacDonald, E.J. Pratt, Merrill Denison, Morley Callaghan, Mazo de la Roche. They agreed that such a magazine was needed, and some of them would have gone so far as to pay a share towards a small edition. There are also one or two others from whom something might be hoped. The name I gave was TURNING LOAM,6 but there would be disagreement about that, and perhaps it would have been a little too — .[deletion] I was lunching with Pratt and Callaghan today and showed them your letter; and Denison has your address and says he is going to look you up when he is in Montreal next week. They are still interested, but seem unanimous as to the need of some "angel" willing to lose money on such a venture. If only a fraction of someone's winnings from bootlegging could be diverted!7

     Personally, I am inclined, like yourself, to be more optimistic. If we could get a start, the various publics of these writers could be counted on to support it. (If the magazine was to include non-creative work [William Arthur] Deacon, of Saturday Night,8 would be a good member of the group.) And I think that booksellers could be interested. A little judicious advertising such as posters in book-stores should help.... In short I am all for the idea, and am willing to give it all the support possible from one obliged to earn his living by free-lance contributions to less essential magazines. Hoping to hear from you again,


Yours very truly,       

Raymond Knister      


[II] TLS. Thomas Fischer Rare Book Room, Univ. of Toronto.


  1. Knister must have written almost immediately. [back]

  2. He seems to have been already aware of Smith's "The Two Sides of a Drum," in The Dial, 81, No. 6 (Dec. 1927), 482 which he reprinted in The New Outlook, 2 Feb. 1927, p. 27.[back]

  3. "If you will tell me what issues of . ." ["when the little airs of April. . ."] Part I of "Two Songs," The Measure, No.50 (April 1925), p.15; ["O Love, that you and I. . ."], No. 50 (April 1925), p. 15: "Summer Warning," The Measure No. 62 (April 1926), p. 8. Smith was anticipating publication of "Shadows There Are," The Nation, 15 June 1927, p. [671] and "Varia," Voices, 6 No. 8 (July 1927), 12-13 and The Canadian Forum, Sept. 1927, pp. 372-73. "I should like to reprint it. . ."

         Smith published "The Bird" in The Measure, No. 62 (April 1926, p. 7 from McGill Fortnightly Review, 22 March 1926, p. 75 (signed "S"). Knister reprinted "The Bird" in The New Outlook, 21 Sept. 1927, pp. 14, 25. (Also The Canadian Forum June 1927, p. 271) Smith published "Summer Warning" in The Measure, No. 62 (April 1926), p. 8 from McGill Fortnightly Review, 6 Feb.1926, p.52 (signed "Vincent Starr"). "Epitaph" ["Stranger, weep not on this stone:. . ."] Voices, 5, No. 8 (June 1926), 289 from McGill Fortnightly Review, 9 Jan.1926, p. 30. Rpt. The Canadian Forum, 8, No. 95 (Aug.1928),745 and The Bermondsey Book, 6, No. 2 (March-April-May 1929), 5. "Chanson un Peu Banale." Voices, 6. No. 5 (Feb.-March 1927), 171 from "Pastorale" McGill Fortnightly Review, 22 March 1926, p. 73 (signed "Vincent Starr.") Knister reprinted the poem in The New Outlook, 15 June 1927, p. 8. Knister reprinted "Flame and Fountain" in The New Outlook, 18 May 1927, p. 6. from McGill Fortnightly Review, 15 Dec. 1926, p. 29.

         "The Lonely Land." The Canadian Forum, 7, No. 82 (July 1927), 309 from McGill Fortnightly Review, 9 Jan. 1926, p. 30. Knister reprinted the poem in The New Outlook, 5 Oct. 1927, p. 8 (Also in The Dial, 86 No. 6 (June 1929), [495]-496. "Varia." Voices, 6, No. 8 (July 1927), 12-13 and The Canadian Form, Sept. 1927, pp. 372-73. from "Punchinello in a Purple Hat." McGill Fortnightly Review, 23 Jan. 1926. p. 42. (signed Michael Gard) and "Varia" McGill Fortnightly Review, 25 March 1927, p. 62. Also "Varia." The London Aphrodite, No. 5 (April 1929), pp. 382-83. "Testament" was reprinted by Knister in The New Outlook, 20 July 1927, p. 6. from McGill Fortnightly Review, 10 March 1927, p. 56. Also The Canadian Forum, Aug. 1930, p. 402. "Nightfall" ["all day within the winding gardens. . ."] The Canadian Forum, 8. No. 89 (Feb. 1928), 550. Also The Commonweal, 23 July 1930, p. 324.[back]

  4. The "idea" found expression in his essay "Canadian Letter," which he wrote for This Quarter. It remained unpublished until The First Day of Spring. [back]

  5. The proposal of "no editors, each contributor to be free to put in what he considered worthy of himself' suggests the germ of New Provinces: Poems of Several Authors. (Toronto: Macmillan, 1936). Rpt. (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1976). Michael Gnarowski refers to the A.J.M. Smith — F.R. Scott correspondence in his introduction to this reprint of the anthology. These letters from the private papers of F.R. Scott make clear the evolution of the anthology and the shifting roles of the contributors. [back]

  6. "Turning Loam" was also the title of the first draft of his second novel, (also titled "The Happy Family.") Knister submitted the work to various publishers between the spring of 1924 and January 1925, but it was "too essentially Canadian" to be published. He attempted to give a picture of farm family life and to indicate the eternal crisis from one generation to another. The novel remains unpublished. There is a copy of it among the Knister Papers at Victoria University Library, Toronto.[back]

  7. "If only. . ." Knister refers to the period of prohibition in Canada during and after the First World War. Knister wrote a review of The Witches' Brew, by E.J. Pratt entitled "Dry Laws Make Literature." A copy of the review is available in the Raymond Knister Collection of McMaster University.[back]

  8. William Arthur Deacon was literary editor of Saturday Night 1922-28 and a full-time professional book reviewer. He published several volumes of essays and criticism. Pens and Pirates 1923 is a collection of essays and Peter McArthur, 1924 a biography. Knister reviewed Pens and Pirates for The Border Cities Star, 27 Oct. 1923, sec. 4, p. 6 (It was reprinted in The Midland, 10 (Jan. 1924), 63.

         Knister wrote many reviews for William A. Deacon's column, "The Bookshelf' in Saturday Night. See: A Burke, "An Annotated Checklist for Raymond Knister," Essays on Canadian Writing, No. 16 (Fall-Winter 1979-80), pp. 20-61, and Raymond Knister: "An Annotated Bibliography: in The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors, eds. Robert Lecker and Jack David. Vol. III, pp. 281-322.[back]