IX

[Anchor-Donaldson Line]                                     Quebec,        
[T.S.S."Letia"]                                                      Aug. 24, 1928.


Dear Knister,

     Thanks for your letter. For my part, I should like very much the adventure of collecting an anthology with you. The temperamental difference you speak of would, I think, turn out on the whole to be an advantage. The fact that I must be in Scotland until about a year from now will certainly make our collaboration more difficult, but the difficulty is by no means as great as one might imagine. Macmillans,1 I presume, would send each of us copies of all their books of poetry, and possibly could get most other books of Canadian verse. The works of Carman, Lampman, Roberts, etc. I can get myself.2

     As for arrangement, I like the subject sequence arrangement as in Palgrave3 but I think for our purpose — that of introducing a new literature — we had better group the poems under authors and authors according to age. What do you think?

     It seems to me that we should have all the well-known names — avoiding if possible anthology pieces — but in quantities commensurate with their worth not their reputation. Let us not have Carman's "Joys of the Road" — most of his best stuff is in the Pipes of Pan — no sentimentality, no piety.4 Our best people are Pratt and Sapir.5 Some of F.O. Call's " Blue Home Spun", one or two things by Wilson Macdonald6 — "The Wood Clearing" particularly — by Mrs. Livesay and Mrs. Bowman,7 two or three sonnets by Leo Cox8 — These are just things that suggest themselves to me at once. Let us try and get some work by Young and unknown writers. Can we exclude Service? Let us keep out "In Flanders Field.". 9

     All these are random and perhaps rather hasty suggestions. They will give you an idea of my attitude.

     Your monthly survey in The New Outlook will be a great help. Could you send me a file of those?10

     Suppose we decide roughly the number of poems — 200? — and then independantly make a list of poems that we should like to include. Exchange our lists and criticize them. You, of course, will be in a position to find a good deal more material than I am and can consult the files of the various canadian magazines.

     If you will write to me at 94 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, as soon as you can get anything settled we might start work at once. Let us, however, decide upon some definite and practical method of procedure.

     I will think very seriously of your kind offer to take a book of my poems into Macmillans. I only have, however, about 30 short poems that I consider fit for publication. Would Macmillans give you any say in the choice of type, paper, binding etc? I suppose not, but I must confess that most of their poetry is got up rather unattractively. They would, at least, I hope let you censor their blurbs.

     I have read most of your Canadian Short Stories. You should certainly be proud of your work. I think "Chase of the Tide"11 and "The Root House"12 are the best things in it. Callaghan's story13 I liked less than "Amuck in the Bush" or " A Wedding Dress".14 It is very good. Marjorie Pickhall's is a perfectly made magazine story, but she writes of a Canada where men are men rather than human beings.15 It is as a reaction to that sort of thing that you16 and Callaghan17 and Dennison18 [sic] and Mazo de la Roche19 are so important.

     Let me hear from you as soon as you can.

Yours                   

A.J.M. SMITH    

[IX] ALS-McMaster Collection 8 pp.


  1. He is indebted to Macmillan for selections from Dream Tapestries, by Louise Morey Bowman; A Dryad in Nanaimo, by Audrey Alexandra Brown, Halt and Parley, by George Herbert Clarke, Titans and The Fable of the Goats and Other Poems, and Dunkirk, by E.J. Pratt.[back]

  2. "When I was engaged on The Book of Canadian Poetry in the 1940's I bought up all the literature I could find... I found an awful lot of early Canadian literature and non-literary literature." A.J.M. Smith about his Canadiana Collection now at Trent University, in "The Voice to go with the Room," Friends of the Bata Library, No. 2 (April 1979-Feb. 1980), n.p. [7].

         In "Confessions of a Compulsive Anthologist," Smith refers to his research trip across Canada. He focuses in the bibliography to The Book of Canadian Poetry on the following special collections of Canadian literature: at Queen's University the Wilfred Campbell manuscripts, The Charles Mair Collection, and the Lorne Pierce Collection (rich in Carman items); at Victoria University Library the C.C. James Canadian Poetry Collection.

         Smith praises "Heat," "Winter Evening," "Midnight," and "The City of the End of Things," but he fails to understand the New England "transcendentalism" of Lampman's nature poems. (Note these excellent studies: "The Frogs: An Exercise in Reading Lampman," by Carl F. Klinck in The Lampman Symposium Ottawa: Univ. of Ottawa Press, 1976) pp. 29-37 and "The Forms Of Nature: Some of the Philosophical And Aesthetic Bases of Lampman's Nature Poetry," by Barrie Davies (from his thesis) pp. 75-97.

         Smith labels the transcendental pieces of Roberts "irresponsible." He and Carman display "an obvious and swaggering lyricism" unlike the "quieter" talent of Duncan Campbell Scott.[back]

  3. "I saw nothing ridiculous in Palgrave's astonishing attempt, as he confessed it in the introduction to The Golden Treasury, 'to include. . . all the best original Lyrical pieces and Songs in our language . . . by writers not living — and none beside the best.' " A.J.M. Smith, "The Confessions of a Compulsive Anthologist 1976," On Poetry and Poets, p. 106. Smith enjoyed poems especially from the Elizabethan Age, the Seventeenth Century, Keats, and Shelley. He refers to The Golden Treasury Of The Best Songs And Lyrical Poems In The English Language. Sel. by Francis Turner Palgrave, first published 1861. "The World's Classics" No. 133, 1918, 526 pp.[back]

  4. Smith did reprint three poems by Carman from Pipes of Pan. Smith took Carman to task in his introduction as "in essence a fin de siècle aesthete turned out of the overstuffed boudoir into the almost equally overstuffed outdoors." He rejects the praiseworthy "Low Tide on Grande Pré" as "vague and imperfectly realized emotionalism". Some of his views on emotion seem to be based in the 'twenties rather than a 'forties stance a bias which helps to account for Smith's rejection of the First Statement poets despite his avowed familiarity with their work. Smith's poetic struggle with romanticized emotion is clear. Compare Pipes of Pan with "Pagan," and The Faithful Heart," for example, or in contrast to "One Sort of Poet." The echoes are evident in "Poor Innocent" from "Songs of Sea Children,": "I am a child . . . when I who love thee without words/Sink as a foam-bell in the sea"; in "Field of Long Grass," with "Songs of The Sea Children." "Out of the dust that bore thee,/What wonder walking came, — ", further "What beauty like blown grasses, what ardour like still flame!" Smith's verses from The Measure "Songs" I and II which were not reprinted in book-form bear study. Also compare "The Faithful Heart" with "The Dead Faun." "Hellenca," and "To Anthea," with "Daphne" and "The Lost Dryad." "I Shall Remember" is unabashedly sentimental.[back]

  5. Edward Sapir is omitted. Of Pratt's work Smith selected "The Cachalot, I and II, "Silences," "The Old Eagle," "Come Away Death," and an excerpt from Dunkirk. Smith found no link between the earlier poets and "the greatest of contemporary Canadian poets," E.J. Pratt. Smith praised his bold and large scale of creation (so different from Smith's own fine chiselled Iyrics). Unlike Smith's''difficult lonely music" Pratt's work is "popular, never obscure, or even difficult." Smith could not find any direct influence of Pratt on the work of his younger contemporaries. Sandra Djwa has suggested the influence of Pratt was on Birney, Purdy, Atwood, Newlove and, to some extent, Davey in "The 1920's: E.J. Pratt, Transitional Modern," The Pratt Symposium, (Ottawa: Univ. of Ottawa Press, 1977.) p. 66.[back]

  6. Smith excluded F.O. Call and Wilson Macdonald. If memory serves me there is a letter among the Smith Papers at the University of Toronto which reveals a payment for copyright problem may have been responsible for the omission of Macdonald, as well as Smith's growing distaste for this type of poetry.[back]

  7. Mrs. Livesay (Mrs. Florence Randall Livesay) was omitted. He chose "Sea Lavender," by Louise Morey Bowman.[back]

  8. Smith published "Labrador Night" and "Birch-Wood," by Leo Cox.[back]

  9. He relented and published "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," by Robert W. Service, although he classed much of his verse as "trash." Further, he included "In Flanders Fields," by John McCrae.[back]

  10. Perhaps Knister supplied Smith with these files and Smith was influenced by Knister's keen sense of the poetic tradition but Smith nowhere acknowledges this in The Book of Canadian Poetry. In fact he does not list Knister's essays in the bibliography despite a note on him as "one of the first critics to welcome the new poetry movement in Canada."[back]

  11. "The Chase of the Tide," by Norman Duncan in Canadian Short Stories, pp. 39-58, from The Way of the Sea (New York: McClure, Phillips, 1903).[back]

  12. "The Root House," by Leslie McFarlane in Canadian Short Stories, pp. 119-43, from MacLean's Magazine, 1 Nov. 1927.[back]

  13. "Last Spring They Came Over." by Morley Callaghan in Canadian Short Stories, pp. 3 — from Transition, June 1927.[back]

  14. Smith refers to "Amuck in the Bush," American Caravan, 1927 and "A Wedding Dress," This Quarter, Spring 1927 both stories which Knister recommended in his appendix as "stories of unusual interest or merit."[back]

  15. "The Men Who Climbed," by Marjorie L.C. Pickthall in Canadian Short Stories, pp. 195-211 from Angels' Shoes (Musson, 1923).[back]

  16. There were no stories by Knister published in Canadian Short Stories, but he did list "Elaine," This Quarter, Spring 1925, "Harvest Home Chicken Supper at Corncob Corners," Star Weekly, Nov. 1925; "[The] Loading," The Midland, Jan. 1924: "Mist Green Oats," in Stories from the Midland; "The One Thing," The Midland, Jan. 1922; and "[The] Strawstack," The Canadian Forum, Oct. 1923.[back]

  17. Besides those already mentioned elsewhere, Knister listed "American Made." Scribuer, 1928.[back]

  18. "The Weather Breeder," in Canadian Short Stories, pp. 15-37 from Harper's Magazine Aug. 1924. Knister lists Boobs in the Woods. (Ottawa: Graphic, 1927.)[back]

  19. "The Cure," by Mazo de la Roche in Canadian Short Stories, pp. 233-54 from Explorers of the Dawn. (Toronto: Macmillan, 1922.) Knister lists as of equal value: "Buried Treasure," "Cobbler and the Cobbler's Wife," "Explorers of the Dawn," "Jilt," and "One Day in a Life."[back]