Letter 16


P.O. Dept, Ottawa,       
20 May '92                    

My dear Lighthall,

     As to your "onslaught" in the Week, we read it here with much interest, and the literary strugglers thank you for your championship.1   In regard to the universities it is no doubt true, as one of your critics said, that the number of positions available for the literary folk are very few in number — only the chairs of English Literature in fact and there are only four or five of these in the country.  It is satisfactory to know that two of the English Literature chairs are already occupied by our countrymen — Roberts and Alexander.2  I fancy when the others fall vacant they will be filled by Canadians also.

     The Civil Service has some advantages for the literary man, situated as he is in this country with no supporting public; but he needs a great reserve of intellectual vitality to enable him to outlive the routine & monotony of the life.  Moreover the political atmosphere which pervades everything in Ottawa is becoming so foul, so utterly sickening, that it is a moral misery and I think a moral damage to any man of high & fine sensibilities to keep himself in contact with it. For my part I intend to get out of it at the very first fairly promising opportunity3.  Life in Ottawa is heavy strain on a man's patriotism; if I live here much longer I fear I shall become an annexationist.

     I am not, I am sorry to say, a German scholar, and the lectureship4 at McGill would be quite out of my line.  I am obliged to you however for mentioning it.

     My best regards to Mrs. Lighthall & the little one and also to your father & mother when you see them.

Yours most sincerely,    
A. Lampman                  


  1. In an article in The Week of 20 May 1892, Lighthall expressed concern at Canada's treatment of her writers.  The debate in the public press, which had begun as early as March of 1890, was carried in several newspapers and magazines of the time. See "Appendix" (Lynn, Lampman Correspondence, 213-223).[back]

  2. "Charles G.D. Roberts (1860.1943), held the chair of English Literature at King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia from 1885-1895; Alexander, probably William John Alexander (1855-1944), was professor of English Language and Literature at Dalhousie University from 1889-1926.[back]

  3. Various individuals had attempted to secure a more congenial position for Lampman during his years in the Civil Service.  In the summer of 1891, while visiting E.W. Thomson in Boston, Lampman was introduced to Moses Coit Tyler, Professor of History at Cornell University. It was hoped that Tyler would be instrumental in arranging for an academic appointment for Lampman at Cornell. On the 2 January 1892, Tyler had written to Lampman to say: "As to the matter on which I spoke to you, I can only say that if a suitable vacancy should occur here, as it may do at any time, I shall have good hope of our University making an effort to tempt you over the border.  Meantime, I am keeping the subject well in hand, — not so much for your sake, I must confess, as for ours" (Sommers, "Lampman Letters at SFU", 193-194).[back]

  4. "This is more evidence of Lampman's "network" trying to find him a congenial position.  See Note 3.[back]