79 Chesterfield Avenue, 
Westmount, Montreal,   
February 23rd, 1927.    

Dear Mr. Knister:

     Your reply to my letter is heartening indeed. I am becoming more and more convinced that a magazine such as both you and I seem to have thought of is a possibility. If we could promise a first number with contributions in the shape of poems, one-act plays and stories by E.J. Pratt, Wilson Macdonald, Merrill Denison, Mazo de la Roche, Morley Callaghan and yourself,1 I am sure that in Toronto alone a sufficient number of subscriptions could be obtained to pay for that issue. I am thinking of a quarterly, 64 pages, cheap paper and fairly small type, to sell at fifty cents a copy. I could get contributions and help here from people such as B.K. Sandwell, Louise Morey Bowman and F.O. Call.2 The scheme, I am sure, would get a good deal of helpful publicity from the critics of the metropolitan papers and such magazines as The Canadian Forum and Saturday Night. I am getting estimates from printers and imagine that a magazine — about six hundred copies — could be produced for about two hundred dollars an issue. From booksellers and publishers we should be able to get about four pages of advertising at twenty-five dollars a page. If it were necessary at the start we could probably find a dozen people willing to put up ten dollars or so for the good of the cause — I know five who would do so.

     This is all very chaotic and formless as yet, and there is a great deal of work to be done, but it seems to me with the support of the men you mention that the thing needs only the expenditure of some energy to be successfully launched and kept floating for at least a year. After that time it will have served a useful purpose and if it does not pay its way can be deserted by its crew with an easy conscience. To begin with, having got the promise of manuscript from the writers you have mentioned and a reasonable estimate from the printer, I would suggest that we write a letter to every important journal in Canada outlining our aims, stating terms and asking for subscriptions. Then you and your friends could scour about Toronto after subscriptions and grants, while I would do the same in Montreal. If we could get somebody actively interested in the idea in Winnipeg and Vancouver that would help too. It would be a good idea I think to advertise in The Canadian Bookman, The Canadian Forum, Willison's and The Manitoba Free Press. I should be glad to hear what you think of these plans. If this spring is too soon to get underway, I think it could be done by the fall.

     The name I had in mind was "REVISION", as it seems to me that before Canada can have a modern and individual literature our critical standards must be thoroughly overhauled and some counter irritant provided to offset the traditional gentility of journals like The Canadian Bookman and The Canadian Magazine which are vitiating public taste and distorting literary values. I think Canada needs a group of writers who will shock her literature out of its present complacency. We need for a time realism and coarseness and a recognition that intelligence is more valuable than a kind heart. We've got to do a lot of destroying before we begin to lay the foundation. I am not praising Wilson Macdonald's The Song of the Rebel: how the great poet who writes probably the most beautiful poem that has ever come out of Canada — In a Wood Clearing — could lack the discrimination to print in the same volume a Kiplingesque He-man jingle is a question that should be looked into by the critic.3

     I received The New Outlook and wish to thank you very much.4 You ask about the other magazines with some of my poems. The March number of Voices is to have a group of them, and I will send you a copy when it appears.5 I had a few poems in The Measure and Voices last spring and summer but that would be too long ago to be of any use to you.6 I am having a poem in The Nation and another in The Dial but these have not appeared yet. 7 I will send you also some numbers of the McGill Fortnightly Review8 and will write in the correct names above the pseudonyms. I think you'll find the work of F.R. Scott, L.T. Hogben (a young Englishman, professor of Biology, now gone to Cape Town) Leo Kennedy and Ellen Hemmeon of interest to you. Hoping you will pardon this long and rambling letter, and trusting to hear from you again soon,

Yours sincerely,          

A.J.M. Smith              

P.S. What about Vincent Massey9 as a possible patron?


III TLS. McMaster Collection.


  1. Wilson Pugsley MacDonald (1880-1967) wrote The Song of the Prairie Land, 1918 and Out of the Wilderness, 1926 for which he was greeted as a genius by his reviewers. His forte was lyrical poetry in traditional forms about nature with some social satire and religious poems. Knister praised him in "A Poet in Arms for Poetry," The Canadian Magazine, 68 (Oct. 1927), 28, 38-9. Reassessment came with L.A. Mackay's "Wilson MacDonald," The Canadian Forum, April, 1933, and, in Leading Canadian Poets. (Toronto: 1948) edited by W.P. Percival.

         Mazo de la Roche (1879-1961) studied art at the University of Toronto and was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1915. She wrote sketches, short stories, novels, animal stories and stories about children. She published many stories in Explorers of the Dawn: Toronto, Macmillan, 1922, a work of juvenile fiction. Before 1930, she published four novels and four plays.[back]

  2. B.K. Sandwell (1876-1954) was an editor and writer. He worked for the Toronto News, the Montreal Herald and the Montreal Financial Times. He taught economics at McGill 1919-23 and was head of the English department of Queen's University until 1925. He was a stimulating lecturer and author of unnumerable articles, among these The Privacity Agent, 1928 a book of essays. He was one of the founders and first secretary of the Canadian Authors' Association. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1925. He published "Where the Colleges Fail," McGill Fortnightly Review, 22 March 1926, p. 71.

         Louise (Morey) Bowman (1882-1944) lived in Toronto until 1925, then in Montreal. She wrote short stories, several of which were three-starred in E.G. O'Brien's Best American Short Stories. Her poems appeared in Poetry [Chicago], Outlook, Dalhousie Review, Queen's Quarterly, among others. She published book-length selections of poetry: Moonlight and Common Day, 1922 and Dream Tapestries, 1924. (The latter won the "Prix David", a Quebec govemment award). She is an early imagist.

         Notable among F.O. Call's publications was Acanthus and Wild Grape (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1920) He practiced and compared traditional verse and free verse. His preface is reprinted in The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada (Toronto: Ryerson, 1970), pp. 21-3.[back]

  3. Smith omitted Wilson MacDonald from The Book of Canadian Poetry. There was much critical consternation. For example, W.A. Deacon in "A.J.M. Smith's Canadian Anthology Is Both Antiquarian and Modernistic (Globe and Mail, 30 Oct. 1943, p. 20) led the attack on the whole modemist movement. [back]

  4. Smith refers to "Canadian Poems of the Month: The Contribution of Our Poets During February." The New Outlook 2 Feb. 1927, p. 6. [back]

  5. "Chanson un Peu Banale." Voices, 6, No. 5 (Feb.-March 1927), 171. Rpt. as "Chanson Un Peu Banale," The New Outlook, 15 June 1927, p. 8.
         Also: "Varia," Voices, 6. No. 8 (July 1927), 12-13.[back]

  6. "The Bird." The Measure, No. 62 (April 1926), p. 7 and "Summer Warning," The Measure, No. 62 (April 1926), p. 8. "Epitaph" ["Stranger, weep not on this stone:. . ."] Voices 5, No. 8 (June 1926), 289. [back]

  7. "Shadows There Are." The Nation, 15 June 1927, p. [671]. Although "The Lonely Land" appeared in The Canadian Forum, July 1927, the poem was revised for The Dial 86, No. 6 (June 1929), [495]-496. [back]

  8. Smith published "Not of The Dust" ["The Sorcerer,"], "What Strange Enchantment," "The Cry of a Wandering Gull," "The Woman in the Samovar" ["They Say"], "Felicity," "Poem" ["Universe into Stone"], "The Lonely Land," "Epitaph," "Ascensions," "Punchinello in a Purple Hat" ["Varia," "Three Phases of Punch"], "Here Lies an Honest Man," "Silver Birch," "Summer Waming," "Chiaroscuro," "Save in Fenzy," " Proud Parable," "Legend" ["The Mermaid"], "Noctume," "Pastorale" ["Chanson un peu Banale"], "The Athletic Levy," "Professor Windbag," "McGill Daily," "Epitaph" ["Here lies the body. . ."], "Theolog at the Symphony," "Leda," "Tailpiece," "The Moment and the Lamp," "Something Apart" ["The Two Birds"], "For Ever and Ever Amen," "Epitaph" ["Stranger, this stone standing here..."], "Flame and Fountain," "Coilege Spirit," "Homage to E.S." ["A Hyacinth for Edith"], "Panic," "Twilight" ["My Lost Youth"], "Poem" ["When I was arrested for drunkeness. . ."] "Sermon," "Testament," "Varia" ["Punchinello in a Purple Hat"], "Field of Long Grass," "To Evening," "The Shepherd's Lament," "Two Epitaphs" ["Under this grassy mound. . ."] and ["Say not of this lady. . ."], "The Shrouding," "Beside One Dead," "Flame and Fountain,". All of these in McGill Fortnightly Review during the two years of its life-span. [back]

  9. Vincent Massey (1887-1967) lectured in modern history at the University of Toronto and was dean of residence at Victoria College 1913-15. He was president of the Massey-Harris Company 1921-25. He served as Minister without portfolio in the Mackenzie King Cabinet in 1925 and attended the Imperial Conference in London 1926. He became first Canadian Minister to the United States 1926-30. Besides becoming the first native-born Governor General of Canada (1952-59) he was chairman of the Royal Commission on National Development in Arts, Letters and Sciences. (This was the same Royal Commission to which John Sutherland submitted a Brief on behalf of Northern Review and First Statement Press, November 1949).[back]