Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Canadian Literature in English


[This text was written in 1948. For the full citation, see the end of the text]


A great literature presupposes an advanced and well-integrated society, a mature body and a self-conscious soul. The stirring records of explorers and pioneers, the cumulative chronicle provided in the journals of discoverers, in the memoirs of master-builders and in the pages of political and constitutional history, show clearly enough how the physical outline of Canada gradually took shape. By discovery and exploration, confederation agreements and purchase, the frontiers were ultimately set. The chronicle, if it were complete, should also tell of the parallel romance of industry, of commerce, of democratic government, of the Church, of education, art, and literature, for the great body, sprawling between two remote seas, and meandering northward into the Arctic sea, slowly became articulate. We speak of it as the voice of Canada , whether it be expressed in social custom, industrial enterprise, or individually in any other manner. Nationalism is a form of emotion which seeks adequate expression, and its most common and natural outlet is literature. A national literature, therefore, is one of the proudest and most potent symbols of separate national existence and ambition.




 The dim beginnings of literature in many a nation are concerned with wanderings, quests, and pilgrimages of every sort. The literature of Canadian travel and exploration is rich in romance, but it rarely achieves literary excellence; being chiefly the work of adventurers from the British Isles , and elsewhere, it cannot always be described as Canadian. The total effect of these journals has not, however, been without literary significance. The old days were rich in character if not in literary finish, and these robust personalities have leavened in a strange manner the history and romance, the poetry and art of our day. Five years after Champlain   founded Quebec , Captain Button   spent the winter at the mouth of the Nelson river , in Hudson bay . The names of hardy mariners, Hudson, Frobisher, Davis, Button, Fox, James, Baffin and many more, are bestowed upon bays, straits, islands and rivers in the north and west. Radisson and Groseilliers (1668) made a journey which resulted in the founding of the Hudson Bay Company (1670). The remarkable series of journals begins with that of Henry Kelsey, the boy adventurer, who set out, in 1690, from Fort Nelson . His narrative was printed in the Hudson's Bay Report of 1749. Then followed Alexander Mackenzie, who apologized for the lack of style in his work, but who reached both the Arctic and the Pacific, in 1789 and 1793. The journal of Alexander Henry the elder, published in New York , was a work of shrewd observation, combining interest and charm. Samuel Hearne   kept a journal which had much of his own vigour and dash. Its style was autobiographical, a method adopted by his successors, and it had the added zest of a virile defence of the Hudson 's Bay Company. This, together with his valuable data, and the thrill of many exploits, made the work a kind of best seller, passing through many English and foreign editions. Alexander Henry the younger, David Thompson, George Heriot, Cook, Vancouver, Franklin , these and many others have left their journals, some important and some of no value. Special mention must be made of Daniel W. Harmon, whose record of nearly two decades among the trading-posts on the prairies is a valuable document in social history. Paul Kane's Wanderings of an artist among the Indians of North America (1859) and George Catlin's The North American Indians (2 vols., 1832-9) are chronological records of first-rate importance. Alexander Ross   began a new era in frontier history. He wrote entertainingly, mingling plain fact and adventure in a curious jumble, yet in a style convincing and effective. From these we pass to a much later period and to another manner. J. W. Tyrrell, Henry Youle Hind, Sir W. F. Butler, Stefansson, these and others recorded their travels and discoveries with increasing skill. On the other hand, a new group of writers explored pioneer social life. In eastern Canada the Diary of Mrs. Simcoe left a memorable record of frontier days in Ontario . John Howison visited Canada in 1819-20, and was followed by Anna Jameson, who spent the year 1837-8 in Upper Canada . Sir R. H. Bonnycastle   lived in Upper Canada for some years and was an officer in the Rebellion. His two books are still useful. The list might be continued at a great length; but two books deserve perhaps special mention, Ocean to ocean by George Munro Grant, and The search for the western sea by Lawrence J. Burpee. Grant drew a vivid picture of Canada 's great inheritance, and Burpee traced be multiplying quests for the Pacific by land and sea.







1. The Puritan and Loyalist Tradition.


Following the conquest, New England settlers, chiefly Puritan, emigrated in increasing numbers to Nova Scotia . Their social customs and political views were both native to their vigorous Congregationalism. School and church kept the faith vigorous; it coloured the institutions of the province, and inspired such literature as there was long after the great Loyalist influx. When John Howe emigrated from Boston, in 1776, taking with him the News Letter (re-established in Halifax under the name the Halifax Gazette, he founded the oldest newspaper in America , and also paved the way for a native literature. It was the Novascotian, founded in 1824, in which his son really established a native literary tradition, aiding it still further by the founding of the Acadian Magazine, in which his "Melville Island" shared honours with Oliver Goldsmith's The rising village. It was in such periodicals as these, and the Quebec Magazine (1791-4), the Literary Garland (1838-51) and others, that the first tentative literary efforts of Canada found their audience. The. Maritimes were constantly stirred by sectarian and political controversy. The pamphleteers among the Puritan clergy, and the robust lyrical patriotism and satirical outpourings of the Loyalists, were characteristic of all similar propaganda, and their work can scarcely be called literature. Many of the Congregational clergy were trained in Harvard and elsewhere, and among the laity there were members of distinguished New England families, their social and intellectual training likewise impeccable. The Loyalist influx was rich in intellectual endowment, and the times encouraged clear-cut views on most issues. The issues at stake apparently called for forceful argument, at times bordering on invective, rather than the urbane, leisurely composition which one usually associates with art. On the whole the literature of the period was derivative, imitative, and inconsequential. Had the individualism of the Rev. Henry Alline   found an echo in the imaginative writers, a national literature would have been born a century sooner that it actually was. Had Jacob Bailey   found a cure for his nostalgia for the Old Colonies, or had Jonathan Odell   loved Tory England not less but Canada more, both autobiography and poetry would have benefited. As it was, sectarianism founded three colleges, while patriotism worked out a constitution, established a militia, built towns, tilled the soil, launched ships, set up shop, and held its head high. Such literature as was required existed in the English classics; if one wished to try one's hand, there was Pope and Dryden, Goldsmith and Byron, Addison and Steele worthy of emulation, both as to thought and style.


2. First Hints of a Native Literature.


The early Puritans, and later the Loyalists, however, came to establish homes and mend their fortunes. Largely from the New England states, English political, religious, social, and artistic customs and traditions, modified and individualized, came with them. The Revolution turned their gaze temporarily toward Great Britain , but they has been born in America , and their roots were in the soil of the New World . Judges, statesmen, preachers, teachers, farmers, and artisans were compelled to leave literature and art, those golden fruits of leisure, to another generation. With few exceptions in all the Canadas , books were written by transients. It is the fashion to speak of Anna Jameson's Winter studies and summer rambles, Mrs. Frances Brooke's The history of Emily Montague, and similar works, as Canadian "classics". They are interesting as frontier chronicles, travel diaries, or settlement sketches, but certainly they are not Canadian: Oliver Goldsmith's The rising village (1825, 1836) has the distinction of being the first book of verse of a Canadian by birth to be published in Canada, and he shares honours with Thomas Chandler Haliburton   in being the first to have a book published both in Great Britain and Canada. Goldsmith left no follower, although at the time he was popular. His influence on Canadian literature has been nil. The same can be said for Charles Heavysege, sometimes spoken of as the first Canadian dramatist. The author of Saul (1859), a drama, Jeptha's daughter (1865), and other works in prose and verse, went to the Bible for his ideas, and to Shakespeare and Milton for his style. Even the praise of Hawthorne and Longfellow have not preserved him from oblivion, which, Jeptha's daughter excluded, he no doubt merits. What is true of Heavysege is also true of a long line of émigré poets, both Irish and Scots-Evan McColl, Alexander McLachlan, the "Canadian Burns", Nicholas Flood Davin, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, and many more. Only a lyric here and there survives in anthologies, of all those scores of books. The fact remains that national boundaries had been set, and that common dangers had decided the matter of separate national existence. Native sons were shortly to appear, heirs of great sacrifices and hardship, and of noble traditions as well, possessed of a passionate love for their country, and with leisure to paint and write of what they saw and felt. If James McCarrol   survives in only two poems, they are "Canadian". If McGee is forgotten save for "Jaques Cartier", that will be remembered. Hints were not few that a national self-conscious literature was in the making. The form was borrowed from the masters, but the soul was increasingly Canadian.




The Poets .


W. F . Hawley   published Quebec , The Harp, and other poems in 1829. "The Harp" won the medal of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Sciences, Quebec . Defying "everlasting Grumblers," he set down his poems for his own amusement, and the sources of his enjoyment were the beauties of the Canadian scene. The following year, also from the office of the Montreal Gazette, appeared The Huron chief, by Adam Kidd. The author writes from his own experiences among the Indians, and confesses his debt to Byron and Moore. Having tried the poem on the aborigines, he now flaunts the critics, as did Hawley, and records his observations for his own amusement, using Hawley's phrase. The first volume of verse published in Upper Canada , Hamilton and other poems (1840) was by William A. Stevens, collector. of customs at Owen Sound . His epic in four books invoking Homer, begins with the "mountain," goes back to Ararat and the Deluge, picks up Fulton and his steam-boat, returns to the "mountain" now Parnassus, and ultimately brings up at the jail, with a parting glance at the scenery. William Kirby   likewise imitates Byron in a long loyalist epic poem, The U.E. (1859), in XII cantos, in which the heroism of Loyalist men and the pulchritude of Loyalist women are rehearsed in solemn dullness. These three books have only an antiquarian interest, perhaps, but they show how, for a quarter of a century, poets were essaying longer and more ambitious flights. They found publishers and readers, and in time successors more equal to the demands of art and the theme.


The first Canadian poet to strike nearest the national heart was Charles Sangster. Confederation was still far off, but the idea of political union had been tried out, and a wider scheme was in the offing assured by the growth of economic cohesion, and a spiritual cross-fertilization. While writing for the Kingston Whig, Sangster gathered together his fugitive pieces and published the St. Lawrence and the Saguenay , and other poems (1856). He was immediately hailed as "the National Poet of Canada". In spite of the obvious influence of Wordsworth, Byron, and Tennyson, he discovered the Canadian scene and made it nobly lyrical. Twelve years later, Charles Mair   published Dreamland and other poems, augmenting Sangster's lone national voice. Furthermore, it was Mair's Tecumseh (1886) that definitely announced a national drama. Building James M. Le Moine's historical essays into his knowledge of the West, just as William Kirby _and Gilbert Parker plundered Le Moine's Maple leaves, to enrich their (Quebec romances, Mair proved that Canadian character and incident were suitable material for a native drama. He and Sangster had shown to such critics as Oliver Wendell Holmes, and to many in Canada , that the beauty of the Canadian landscape and seascape were worthy of exalted song.


Sangster and Mair were Canadians, but the noblest voice, the one with the widest range, that augmented the Confederation period, was an Irishwoman, Isabella Valancy Crawford. When she was eight years old, her family settled at Lakefield , Ontario , a district made famous by the Strickland sisters, and she became Canadian in every sense of the term. After publishing a great many poems in the Toronto papers over a long period of years, her first collection, Old Spookses' Pass and Malcolm's Katie (1884), won the approval of Lord Dufferin. Her Collected poems (1905) reveal a rich mind, swift understanding of character, unusual powers of description, and a lyrical skill of high order, which place her among the real makers of Canadian literature. In strange contrast to Miss Crawford is George Frederick Cameron. whose chief distinction lies in his passionate championship of freedom. Lyrics on freedom, love and death (1887) contains too much violent protest, but his best poems are poignant and lyrical. Cameron searched out the downtrodden at the ends of the earth, and took leave, artistically, of his native land.


2. The Novelists.


The Canadian school was ushered in with the Group of the Sixties. Within two or three years of each other there were born those who firmly established Canadian literature and rose to eminence in its various branches. Each, however, worked in a field prepared for him by his predecessors. Roughing it in the bush by Mrs. Moodie, by a strange freak of fortune elevated to a "classic", is a forerunner of our present-day frontier novels and plays. The historical romances of Kirby and Parker are indebted to Mrs. Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon, one of the able contributors, along with Charles Heavysege, the Strickland sisters and others, to the Literary Garland . Her last and best novel Antoinette de Mirecourt: or Secret marrying and secret sorrowing; a Canadian tale (1864), a sequel to The manor house of de Villerai, successfully explored the romance, manners, and customs of the old régime. Hollowing this success, and perhaps influenced by it, appeared William Kirby, whose novel The golden dog (1877) immediately took first place as a Canadian novel, a place which has not been seriously challenged up to the present. Kirby found his first impulse in the historic sites of Quebec itself, and the two stories woven into his romance are derived from the Maple leaves of Sir James M. Le Moine. It is a sympathetic story, rich in characterization, and of literary worth. Anachronisms and historical blunders do not seriously impair the excellence of this book. Kirby and his most competent successors have worked in the field of historical romance.


Frances Brooke, wife of the garrison chaplain at Quebec , friend of Dr. Johnson,. Garrick, and other notables, has left, in The history of Emily Montague (3 vols., 1769), the best series of vignettes of social life in Quebec just subsequent to the conquest which we possess. This novel is modelled on Samuel Richardson's Pamela, and is therefore true to the early imitation by all Canadian writers of Old Country models. It was the first novel written in Canada ,. but cannot be called a Canadian work. Passing over St. Ursula's convent, or the nun of Canada (1824), by Julia Catherine Beckwith, the first novel by a.birthright Canadian, and of no literary value, we come to Major John Richardson. It is interesting to note that the year of his birth coincides with that of Haliburton and Mrs. Beckwith. As the author of The War of 1812, he became the first scientific historian of Canada , and his novel of the Pontiac conspiracy, Wacousta, or the Prophecy (1832), entitles him to the distinction of being the father of Canadian fiction. It is reminiscent of Cooper's Leatherstocking tales. Much of it is incoherent, melodramatic, and improbable, but it may still be read with enjoyment. The materials which he built into his novels, histories, and memoirs were gathered at first hand.


As we have seen, during the Confederation period a new life was taking shape, and a new, self-conscious art was in the process of making. It was not until 1880, however, that a singer appeared whose voice gave complete and satisfying utterance to the spirit of the new nation. In other fields the tendencies which had emerged now became fresh and substantial achievements. It was the' first time Canadians could say that they had a literature expressive of their character and ideals, faithfully reflecting the national spirit as well as the national milieu.






The Group of the Sixties.


Canada was now apparently ripe for a new development in letters if ever she was to reveal any artistic significance. The Victorian age had deposited its greatest work. The romantic movement in literature, modified by new classical influences, reflecting free and intensive inquiry in religion and science, and aided by the general diffusion of education, offered a democratic appeal in anticipation of the gradual rise of democracy. Longfellow, Whittier, Whitman, and Holmes lingered on in the United States , memorials to a vanishing tradition. Flaubert, Maupassant, Zola, Daudet, Renan, and Taine survived in France ; Strauss in Germany , Mazzini in Italy , Turgeniev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in Russia . The giants were not all dead. But it was to England, the England of the living giants, Tennyson, Browning, Rossetti, Swinburne, Thompson, Reade, Trollope, De Morgan, and George Eliot, that Canada was chiefly indebted, as it turned the year 1870. Scott and Dumas still ruled Canada 's novelists from their tombs, but this lingering coterie of poets echoed again and again in the descriptive poetry of the period just dawning, the sensuousness of the phrasing, and the self-conscious artistry. Challenged by the new freedom in form and thought as well as by the witchery of the music, Canadian poets built upon the Victorian tradition. Retaining the general artistic and moral ideals of Great Britain , they betrothed these to distinctly national emotions and aspirations, with what result we shall see. Canada having attained the political structure of a Dominion, a rising tide of nationalism was inevitable. Material progress contributed to a profound sense of self-sufficiency, affecting the new nation in many ways. The poet and novelist, followed by the artist, became the legitimate interpreters of the awakened national consciousness. For the first time, therefore, was it possible to speak of a Canadian school of letters, which by an interesting coincidence, began in both English and French at practically the same moment.


Sir Charles G. D. Roberts (1860-) was a kinsman of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was natural that his earlier work should be reminiscent of Milton, Keats, Shelley, Arnold, Tennyson, and Wordsworth. Canadian history was hardly taught in Canadian schools, and, of course, it is presumed that there was no such thing as Canadian literature. But George R. Parkin   made the classics throb with vitality, and when he chanced upon a new voice, say Swinburne, his delight knew no bounds. He literally raced to his students, among them the group of cousins, Carman, Roberts, and the Strattons, that he 'might share the new-found treasure. Roberts had his poems published in the Atlantic Monthly before he was out of his 'teens, and his first book Orion and other poems (1880) was published when he was scarcely twenty. This book is the corner-stone of the new literature of the Dominion. While it is reminiscent of his poetic masters, no borrowed grace of Arnold or sonorous phrase of Swinburne could disguise his originality. In Avel (1892) he reached his supreme moment, yet In divers tones (1886), The book of the native (1896), and, perhaps most of all, in Songs of the common day (1893), he consolidated and established his right to the title of "Father of Canadian poetry." Other books of verse followed, novels, nature stories, histories, translations, and so on, placing Roberts, for his very fecundity and versatility, as well as for his authentic artistry, upon the topmost round.


William Wilfred Campbell, though born in Ontario , published his first book Lake lyrics and other poems (1889) from his rectory in St. Stephen, N.B., thus augmenting the Maritime contribution. This book was reminiscent of the landscape round his old home near Georgian bay . The dread voyage (1893), Beyond the hills of dream (1899), and Sagas of vaster Britain (1914) established his position in the Group of the Sixties. He was a singer of real beauty when fully inspired. Over-conscious of his moral mission, and never forgetful of his British citizenship, his work tends toward the average in the Victorian tradition, but in a number of lyrics, such as "Indian Summer", "The Earth Spirit", "Bereavement of the Fields", and others, he achieved real distinction. It was as a dramatist, in Mordred and Hildebrand (1903) and Poetical tragedies (1908), that he made his greatest claim as a poet of power. Two novels and two historical works qualify him to approach the varied attainment of Roberts.


Bliss Carman   inherited the same training and backgrounds as did Roberts, but he also inherited Roberts, derived encouragement from his success, and stimulation from his companionship. Orion kindled Archibald Lampman, then a student in Toronto , and Lampman fired the latent genius of Duncan Campbell Scott, and so on the impulse went. Carman came into his own with Low tide on Grand Pry (1893), and stepped at once, though comparatively late, into the front rank of American singers. His collaboration with Richard Hovey, in Songs from Vagabondia (1894), made the names of both famous as the nucleus of a group in American poetry demanding less conformity to old themes and patterns. This phase had its echoes in succeeding Vagabondia volumes, but Carman had really outgrown it when he issued Behind the arras: A book of the unseen (1895). From then on he reveals his pre-occupation with things of the spirit, and his life as well as his art became a long and not unsuccessful Vestigia. His collected Poems (1904), in two magnificent volumes, signalled his definite arrival. These contain the five books of The pipes of Pan (1902-4) and other groups of poems. Anyone desiring to understand his work will require the definitive edition of The pipes of Pan, Sappho, One hundred lyrics (1904), Later poems (1921), and Ballads and lyrics (1923). These last two are made up of several collections of verse appearing previously. Carman was a lyric poet of supreme felicity. If he sang too much he rarely sang ill. His insistent quest was the moated grange of the spirit, and whether it was a ballad of the sea, a song of Shamballah, an impressionist poem on April weather, or a.hymn to the pageantry of autumn, he "listened in", as he called it, for the voices of the Over Lord. The proof that his quest was not a failure may be had in many poems, and in the beauty and charm of his own personality.


Archibald Lampman   has sometimes been called " Canada 's nature poet" and "the poet's poet"; he is also the people's poet. W. D. Howells welcomed his first book, Among the millet (1888), noting his "intimate friendship with nature" and "the right word upon his lips". Lyrics of earth (1893) and Alcyone (1899, 12 copies only) continued the theme, but with a persuasiveness and freshness quite new in Canadian literature. Within the circumscribed limits of his short life, confining employment in the civil service, and lack of any wide range of experience, he nevertheless found a world of endless enchantment and appeal. Master of colour and cadence, he stopped short of the sensuous phrasing of Keats and the pre-Raphaelite impressionism then in vogue. Maintaining a high artistry, consistent with his austere tastes, he ever looked beneath the phenomena of nature for hidden meanings. He was left unmoved by a rhetorical rhyme as much as by loud patriotism. Possessing urbanity and good taste, an immaculate ear for cadence, and a disciplined robust imagination, Lampman gave superb expression to his ideas of beauty and humanity. Duncan Campbell Scott edited a definitive edition of his poems in 1900.


Frederick George Scott (1861-), from the appearance of his first book The soul's quest and other poems (1888), and even Collected poems (1910), has multiplied his vigorous and sonorous lines without cessation. A churchman, and a Great War padre (C.M.G., D.S.O.), universally beloved, his verse abounds in moral and spiritual ideas, in warm humanity and fervent patriotism. Archdeacon Scott will be longest remembered for such lyrics as "The Unnamed Lake", in which are blended the inspiration of his beloved Laurentian country and a passionate quest for spiritual certainty.


Duncan Campbell Scott (1862-) won this encomium from Marjorie Pickthall: "He seems to me to have done some of the best Canadian poetry purely and naturally so-that has ever been done. Such things as his 'Half-Breed Girl' and `Night Burial in the Forest ' will one day stand very high I am sure." Time has proven the truth of that prophecy. Amid the onerous duties of the deputy superintendent-general of Indian affairs, he found time to write poems, plays, and short stories, which adorn Canada 's literature. The magic house (1893), Labour and the angel (1898), New world lyrics and ballads (1905), and other collections and plays culminated with his Complete poems in 1926. The green cloister appeared in 1935. No Canadian has surpassed his short stories, In the village of Viger (1896), and no single poem has surpassed "The Piper of Aril", which won the unstinted praise of John Masefield. Scott is a supreme technician. His work is rich in ideas, in swift spiritual insight, in colouring and cadence, and often in ecstasy and sheer magic.


Pauline Johnson, "Tekahionwake", Canada 's first native-born woman poet, was, rightfully enough, a daughter of the head chief of the Six Nations. Her mother was a kinswoman of W. D. Howells. Nurtured on Byron and Scott, she moulded her verse on traditional lines. While on a visit to England her readings commanded great interest, and Gilbert Parker   was able to secure a publisher for her first book, White wampum (1894). Following up the success of London , she toured Canada and the United States, publishing her next book, Canadian born, in 1903. A happy meeting with Chief Joe Capilano in London, and a further acquaintance in Vancouver, led to her Legends of Vancouver (1911), a book which has had a phenomenal sale. She collected her poems in Flint , and Feather (1912), and in the second edition Theodore Watts-Dunton added an introduction. Two books for boys on Indian themes, The moccasin maker (1913) and Shagannappi (1913), have had slight success. Pauline Johnson was a natural singer. Her themes run the gamut from poignant poems on her wronged people to swinging patriotic lines, from songs with Imperialism for their refrain to a mellow world embracing humanity. However, she is at her best when, in colourful and passionate phrase, blending pathos and humour, she sings of her race. In her the inarticulate ages of her forbears become vocal, and in so certain a manner that a half-dozen of her poems have found a lasting place in the golden book of Canadian song.


Haliburton had challenged the world with his Sam Slick series, and found publishers in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain. Richardson, in a smaller way, achieved the same distinction. It was not until Kirby's Golden Dog that any Canadian writer duplicated this success, and then only in the United States. Roberts's world success came in time,. but it was Sir Gilbert Parker   who repeated the success of Haliburton and Richardson. Parker began as a poet, his greatest popular successes being songs which literally were sung round the world. With Pierre and his people (1892), he began his well-known books on the Canadian scene, working over the half-breed territory. When Valmond came to Pontiac (1895), a striking association of the Napoleonic legend with Canadian history, signalled his arrival, but it was The seats of the mighty (1895), following Kirby only in the period, which added a continual best-seller to his Canadian répertoire. Kirby was interested in character, Parker in the story simply. Using the data gathered upon his world trips, many of them associated with his duties as member for eighteen years in the Mother of Parliaments, he wrote, among other books, The battle of the strong (1898), The weavers (1907), and The judgment house (1913), which carry the reader round the Empire, and have no doubt contributed to imperial solidarity. The power and the glory (1926) took the romantic story of La Salle as its theme. Parker's novels possess strong ethical and religious elements. They are distinctly romantic, and reveal no hint of psychoanalysis or other modern tendencies in fiction. He tells a story for itself, and tells it well.





1. Senior Writers.


We come next to the writers of the new century, who carried on the traditions of the Canadian school founded by the Group of the Sixties. Agnes Maule Machar   created a name as "Fidelis", though it was but temporary. William Douw Lighthall (1857-) is known best by his novels, chief of which is The master of life. He has a collection of poems to his credit, Old Measures (1922). Both of these reflect his interest in Indian lore and the French régime. His brochures and pamphlets on philosophical and related themes are numerous. Charles W. Gordon, "Ralph Connor" (1860-) would seem to belong to the group of the sixties, but his best work, commencing with Black Rock (1898), appeared almost at the close of the century. He has continued until the present, including The man from Glengarry, The prospector, The foreigner, The major, and many more, each epitomizing his experiences as a youth in Glengarry, his days as a missionary on the frontier, chaplain days in the Great War, and so on. He is interested in the story per se, and the moral which it illustrates. S. Francis Harrison, "Seranus", was a capable liaison writer. Pine, rose,and fleur-de-lis (1889), a book of poems, and The forest of Bourg-Marie (1900), a novel, strengthened the bonne entente with considerable artistry. Marshall Saunders is known to the world as the author of the children's classic Beautiful Joe. My pets, a sequel, Bonnie Prince Fetlar, Jimmie Gold Coast, and Golden dickey complete her chronicle of birds and furry friends. Her novels include Esther de Warren. Thomas Guthrie Marquis   was one of the most fecund and useful writers. His editorial work on Canada and its provinces, The chronicles of Canada, The makers of Canada, and other series was monumental. The number of his critical and historical articles and brochures number scores. His novel Marguerite de Roberval (1899) goes back to the days of Cartier, a fine piece of work, which should be reprinted. The best story for boys and girls written by a Canadian is The king's wish (1924), which shares honours with Miss Saunders's Beautiful Joe of being one of two books by Canadians printed in Braille for the blind. Marquis wrote verse, which possesses substance and lyrical skill. William Henry Drummond, born in Ireland, came to Canada when a boy and resided in Quebec. The habitant and other poems (1897) established his reputation as the poet of Quebec peasant life and character. He repeated this success in Johnny Courteau (1901), The voyageur (1908), and other works, his poems being collected in 1912. While Fréchette welcomed him as "the pathfinder of a new land of song", later French critics have not shared the same enthusiasm. His patois is declared untrue, giving an erroneous idea of people who speak the traditional tongue of France. The kindly, human, and warm affection of Drummond's poems, however, have made the habitant widely known and loved. Theodore Harding Rand   wrote little, but At Minas basin (1897) contains his best work. E. W. Thomson   is remembered for his Old man Savarin selection of short stories, chiefly French-Canadian in theme; his poems are published in The many-mansioned house. The next important name is that of Ethelwyn Wetherald, for many years an editor of the Ladies' Home Journal. She collaborated with G. Mercer Adam   in a novel entitled An Algonquin maiden, but it is as a poet that she will be remembered. The house of the trees (1895), Tangled in stars (1902), The radiant road (1904), The last robin (1907), Tree top morning (1921), and Lyrics and sonnets (1931), these are her principal collections, and they reveal a radiant spirit. Her lyrics are finely wrought, and are distinguished by delicate cadence and imaginative grace.


2. New Voices: The Poets


  The later writers of the New Century have been numerous. We shall consider the poets first. Albert Durrant Watson   began his literary career late, and with two volumes of essays on moral and spiritual themes. His first book of verse, Wing of the wild bird (1908), was a tentative effort, while his second, Love and the universe (1913), represents his best work. This was followed by several other volumes, and his collected poems in 1923. His poem "O Canada" is printed in many anthologies and church hymneries. Watson was a true cosmopolitan, and possessed a mind that Carman spoke of as ripe. Intensely inquisitive of all forms of belief, he was essentially a mystic. Such truth as he discerned spiritually he expressed in his song, and he has left a few poems worthy of remembrance, "Beauty Everywhere", "The Crow", "Goethe", and others. Helena Coleman's Songs and Sonnets (1906) and Marching Men (1917) reveal an ear for quiet cadences, such as in "Indian Summer" and "More Lovely Grows the Earth". Arthur W. H. Eaton (1849-) has been a prolific writer on history, legend, and genealogy. Of his three books of verse the chief is Acadian ballads (1905); "The Phantom Light of the

Baie des Chaleurs", and "I Watch the Ships", are popular poems. A. S. Smythe (1861-) is an eclectic philosopher with a sound poetical equipment. His best collection is The garden of the sun (1923). Annie Charlotte Dalton, though born in England, is perhaps Canada's greatest living woman poet. Her books are The marriage of music (1910), Flame and adventure (1924), Christmas carols (1925), The ear trumpet (1926), The silent zone (1926, The amber riders (1929), and Lilies and leopards (1935). Mrs Dalton possesses an unusually fertile mind. Her poems are packed with thought, amazingly varied, and variously beautiful. She commands the conservative measure with skill and achieves excellent effects in the free forms. Tom MacInnes (1867-) began with Lonesome Bar (1909) and In amber lands (1910); these were followed by The rhymes of a rounder (1913), each reflecting his vagabondage on the West coast, in the Yukon, and in the Orient. His Complete poems (1923) ensure his permanent place in Canadian literature. He is a poet of great originality and daring, singing with the lusty abandon of a Villon. Chinook days is a prose work, containing memories of the west coast days, and The old boy is a presentation of Oriental teaching. The collected Poems of Jean Blewett   (1922), and the Complete poems (1930) of Isabel Ecclestone Mackay   are especially rich in their humour and humanity. J. D. Logan   is remembered for his literary criticism and many privately printed booklets of verse, beginning with Christian pantheism and ending with devout Catholicism expressed in sonorous and often beautiful fashion. Robert W. Service (1876-), the poet of the Yukon, drew a circle round that area, its physical characteristics and varied humanity, and made his microcosmos real in a swinging, somewhat vulgarized Kiplingesque style. Ballads of a cheechako (1907) and Songs of a sourdough are his best books. A collected edition of his five books appeared in 1930. He has written several romantic novels of the south seas and elsewhere. Florence Randal Livesay in Songs of Ukrainia (1915), translations, and Shepherd's purse (1923) has done work of rare beauty. John McCrea   is best known for "In Flanders Fields", the title poem of the book by that name (1918). This was the best poem of the Great War, and is approached in quality by others less well known in his collection. Frank Oliver Call (1878-) has published three books of verse, the best being Blue homespun (1925), in which he sings the beauties of habitant life. The spell of French Canada (1926) and The spell of Acadia (1928) are beautiful guide books to Quebec and Nova Scotia. Mrs. John W. Garvin, "Katherine Hale", published two chapbooks before her chief work appeared, Morning in the west (1923). This book reveals a poet of colour and cadence, with ability to handle new forms in a capable manner. Her most mature work is to be found in The island and other poems (1934). She is best known, perhaps through Legends of the St. Lawrence (1925), Canadian cities of romance (1922), and Canadian houses of romance (1926). Arthur Stringer (1874-) is a poet first and a novelist second. Watchers of the twilight (1894) was followed by four collections which consolidated his-position. His latest work, Out of Erin (1930), and Dark sail (1933), stimulates the hope that he will yet turn exclusively to poetry, his first love. Of his novels, the prairie trilogy, Prairie wife (1916), Prairie mother (1919), and Prairie child, (1921) seems to us his best work.


Wilson MacDonald (1880-) has published seven books of verse, The song of the prairie land (1918), The miracle song of Jesus (1921; 1923), Out of the wilderness (1926), Ode on the diamond jubilee of Confederation (1927), Caw-Caw ballads (1930), a book of satirical poems, Paul Marchand (1933), and The song of the undertow (1935). MacDonald sings of love and humanity, of social and religious protest, at times with whimsicality, at others with trenchant satire, now in lyrical cadences, and again in robust phrase. There are many strings to his lyre. Some of his shorter lyrics approach perfection. E. J. Pratt (1883-) became known as an outstanding poet when his first book, Newfoundland verse (1923), appeared. It contains some of the best sea songs written by a Canadian. The witches' brew (1925) and The titans (1926) are long narrative poems in the objective manner, the former a hilarious extravaganza. The iron door (1927) deals with the problem of immortality and is Pratt's greatest poem. Verses of the sea (1930) is a selection of his sea poems. The Roosevelt and the Antinoe (1930) records superbly the epic of a celebrated rescue at sea; The Titanic (1935) is a significant poem on the sea tragedy. Many moods (1932) is Pratt's most satisfying collection. Pratt is one of the most vigorous and original poets of the modern group.


Marjorie Pickthall, born in England, came to Canada when six years old. When but sixteen, she won a poetry prize with "Song of the Nixies", and her progress from then on was rapid and certain. Her first book, Drift of pinions (1914), already revealed a poet of golden maturity, unsurpassed by any first offering in Canada. Little hearts (1916), a novel, appeared while she was in England during the War, and was followed by The lamp of poor souls (1917), a new collection of verse in which all the poems of her first book were reprinted. Upon her return to Canada, The bridge (1921), a novel, was published, and The woodcarver's wife, a collection of poems, chiefest of which was the one-act play, the title piece, of unsurpassed excellence. Little songs (1925) appeared posthumously, and a first collection of short stories, Angel shoes (1923). Complete poems (1927) give Marjorie Pickthall a supreme place among Canadian poets. The light celestial quality of her drifting rhythm, the unblemished beauty of her jeweled vocabulary, the colourful magic of her descriptions, the haunting loveliness of her ideas, so often associated with the symbolism of the Church, these she lovingly shepherded into the fold of her undying song.


The following have to their credit one or more books and are representative of this period: Louise Morey Bowman, Moonlight and common day (1922) and Dream tapestries (1924); George Herbert Clarke, The hasting day (1930) and Halt and parley and other poems (1934); Archibald MacMechan, Late harvest (1934); James B. Dollard, Col lected poems (1920); Alfred Gordon, Poems (1916) and Vimy Ridge (1918); Dorothy Livesay, Signpost (1932); Norah Holland, When half gods go (1924); Lilian Leveridge, Over the hills of home (1918) and A breath of the woods (1926); Laura I;. McCully, Mary Magdalene (1914); Leo Kennedy, The shrouding (1934); Gertrude MacGregor Moffat, A book of verse (1924); Alan Creighton, Earth call (1936); Marian Osborne, Poems (1914), The song of Israfel (1913), and Sappho and Phaon (1926); Beatrice Redpath, Drawn shutters (1914) and White lilac (1919); Sara E. Carsley, Alchemy (1935). Arthur Bourinot gathered the best of his six books into Selected poems (1935). Lloyd Roberts has published England over seas (1914) and Along the Ottawa (1927), also The book of Roberts (1923), a delightful book of vignettes on his father, Carman, and the old King's College days. J. E. H. Macdonald's West by East (1933) appeared posthumously, and was illustrated with rare charm by his son Thoreau. A. M. Stephen published The rosary of Pan (1923), Land of singing waters (1927), Brown earth and bunch grass (1931), and Vérendrye (1935), an epic poem, together with two novels and two anthologies. Virna Sheard, besides The miracle (1913) and The ballad of the quest (1922), has written fiction. Watson Kirkconnell has published many translations and studies of European poets; his chief work is to be found in The eternal quest (1934), a poem in twelve parts, and supremely in A Canadian headmaster (1936),,a life of his father. Norman Gregor Guthrie, "John Crichton", began with A vista (1921), and this was succeeded by Flower and flame (1924), Pillar of smoke (1925), and Flake and petal (1928). These revealed a poet of the flowers and a fine artist. Passion predominates, sensuousness, perhaps, but refined. His study of Archibald Lampman (1927) proved that the poet was also an able critic. Francis Sherman   published in 1896 his only book of poems, Matins, which was followed by little pamphlets of verse privately printed for his friends-In memorabilia mortis (1896), A prelude (1897), The deserted city (1899), and A Canadian calendar: XII lyrics (1900). Louise Imogen Guiney called him "a shy shepherd from Canada", whose Matins were "very misty and fawn-coloured and Rosettian." Pre-Raphaelite he was and mystical, but his poetry is strong and beautiful and all compact of thought. Like Phillips Stewart (Poems, 1887), Sherman deserves better recognition. Theodore Goodridge Roberts, a prolific writer of novels and short stories, published a collected edition of his poems, The leather bottle, in 1934. His work is rich in romance, in humanity, and in full-throated music. Cecil Francis Lloyd first became known as an essayist of rare insight and charm. Several volumes of verse, privately printed, were sifted for his collected poems, Landfall (1935). Pelham Edgar, who first sponsored Marjorie Pickthall, also discovered Audrey Alexander Brown. A dryad in Nanaimo (1931) marked the advent of a new poet, limited in range yet exquisitely beautiful in such poems as "Laodamia". The new provinces (1936) is a collection by six poets of the new tradition; read together with Nathaniel A. Benson's anthology, Modern Canadian poetry (1930), and Our Canadian literature (1935), an anthology by Bliss Carman and Lorne Pierce, they give some idea respecting the progress of poetry in Canada.


3. New Voices: The Novelists.


Some of the best fiction produced in Canada has been in the short story form, and in this Duncan Campbell Scott and Marjorie Pickthall are outstanding. Canadian short stories, selected by Raymond Knister, provides a good anthology of our most representative work, while the introduction and bibliography enable the reader to find his way through the forest of productions in recent years. In the novel our chief work has been done along historical and regional lines. This seems natural in a large country, rich in material, requiring spokesmen for its widely separated and distinct types and areas of national interest It was a far cry from The trail of '98 by Robert W. Service, one of the popular first successes in Canadian regionalist fiction, to Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, by L. M. Montgomery, or Duncan Polite, by Marian Keith. Since then the work in this genre has been growing in importance. Mrs. Nellie McClung's stories of western life and character, Sowing seeds in Danny (1908), etc., and Janey Canuck in the west (1910) by Mrs. Emily Murphy, were surpassed by Mrs. Laura Goodman Salverson's The viking heart and Lord of the silver dragon, revealing the pioneer spirit of the Viking breed. Mrs. Isabel Mackay's The window gazer is a somewhat melodramatic idyll linking east and west. Norman Duncan   has made memorable the life of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen in Battle royal, Down north, Billy Topsail, and Doctor Luke of the Labrador. Robert Stead has written several novels with prairie backgrounds; Neighbours (1922), The smoking flax (1924) and Grain (1927), especially, are well constructed and true to life. Frederick Philip Grove followed up his ventures in the essay form with his best prairie novel, Settlers of the marsh (1926), and a fine autobiographical novel, A search for America (1927). Our daily bread (1929) is almost morbidly dark and depressing. Yoke of life (1930) stands second among his novels. Robert Watson's My brave and gallant gentleman, Gordon of the lost lagoon, and other melodramatic stories of the west and far north, have had some success here and abroad. Theodore Goodridge Roberts has been voluminous in the short story and fiction. The wasp and The red feathers (1906) are his best works. James Le Rossignol has done good work in re-interpreting French life and lore in jean Baptiste, a novel, and The flying canoe, a book of legends. Mabel Dunham's The trail of Conestoga, a story of Mennonite settlement; The men of Kildonan, by J. H. McCulloch, a stirring romance of the Selkirk settlers; the Jalna novels, by Mazo de la Roche, with her earlier romances, Explorers of the dawn (1922), Delight (1926), and especially Possession (1923), have witnessed the growing quality of Canadian fiction. Canadian novelists - are slowly acquiring skill in their craft, their chief need being a more profound character analysis, in which Grove, Callaghan, and Mazo de la Roche offer excellent promise. Pierre Coalfleet's Solo (1924) and Hare and tortoise (1925) combine maturity of thought and originality of style. Morley Callaghan's stark realism and trenchant style are prophetic of a new development of the novel in Canada. His early work leaned too heavily upon hiss models, especially Hemingway, but with growing independence, ripeness, and artistry, his latest novels, Such is my beloved (1934) and They shall inherit the earth (1935), prove that he has arrived. So far, however, the few novels which are apt to live are traditional in style, and associated with historical and regional themes. It seems certain that immediate progress will be still in these fields, keeping pace with a lively exploration of Canadian archives by the new generation of historians.





Mention has already been made of the dramatical works of Charles Heavysege and Charles Mair. Mair initiated the Canadian tradition. Parker's first and greatest success was an adaptation of Faust. Campbell also turned from the Canadian scene in Mordred and Hildebrand. Daulac is his only Canadian theme. Duncan Campbell Scott's Pierre is an idyll of Quebec, full of humour and tender sympathy. Robert Norwood   has given us The witch of Endor (1916) and The man of Kerioth (1919), a tragedy of Judas Iscariot. The best Canadian dramatic work has been in the one-act play. Marjorie Pickthall's poetic tragedy The woodcarver's wife was successfully produced in Montreal and Toronto, and is the best of its kind, Out of the Montreal Little Theatre movement grew the collection of nineteen plays in One act plays published by the Canadian Authors Association, Montreal Branch. Vincent Massey edited two significant collections of Canadian plays from Hart House, which contain much good work by Denison, Scott, Osborne, Mackay, Aikins, and others. The unheroic north (1923) by Merrill Denison and One third of a bill (1925) by Fred Jacobs   did as much for native drama as Tom Thomson's paintings did for Canadian art. Six Canadian plays, edited by H. A. Voaden (1930) are deliberately Canadian. They are in various keys, the sardonic and grim prevailing. This is due to the fact that settings are chosen quite remote from pastoral areas. The hostile wilderness seems to attract Canada's young playwrights as it has the Group of Seven in art. However, Canada has many facets, and can accommodate a wide variety of artists. It is likely that no one novel or poem shall ever become the Canadian epic, any more than one canvas or marble may be crowned the Canadian masterpiece. The Dominion Drama Festival may correct two faults which have hitherto prevented outstanding drama in Canada ,-an incompetent knowledge of the theatre, and a shallow understanding of human character.






The essay in Canada began with a formal imitation of Addison and Steele. It was a vehicle for many practical motives. Howe's "essays" were speeches on all manner of themes. In the Maritimes the early essay exhorts and denounces, fathers religious and political controversy, and only in "The Club", instituted by Howe, did it become whimsical and partially detached. Goldwin Smith   was a pamphleteer and a polemicist, who wrote blithely on everything with insufficient information, but plenty of force. His work cannot be called Canadian. John Reade   and George Stewart, both journalists, wrote literary reviews, somewhat uncritical, and passionately loyal to made-in Canada products. James Cappon of Queen's may be said to have laid the foundation of literary criticism in Canada with his studies of Roberts and Carman, two books which will remain standards for a long time. Thomas O'Hagan, although a prolific poet, excels in the essay, marked by urbanity, cosmopolitan sympathy, whimsy, and the graces of style. His best work is With staf and scrip (1925). Bliss Carman wrote several series of essays, reviews, and comment for United States papers, before he published The kinship of nature (1904), The friendship of art (1904), The poetry of life (1905), and his favourite and best work, The making of personality (1908). Each collection is built around a thesis, but for all that the whimsical and discursive good talk entitles them to a place. Brown waters and other sketches (1915) and In a fishing country (1923), by W. H. Blake, are two books of rare beauty and charm. Archibald MacMechan, poet, critic, and historian, has surpassed all others in the traditional essay form, The poster of Bagdad and other fantasies (1901), The life of a little college (1914), The orchards of Ultima Thule (1922), and his historical sketches of Maritime history, Old province tales (1924), Sagas of the sea, There go the ships (1929) and others, made him the unrivalled chronicler of his adopted East. Sir Andrew Macphail, besides history, criticism, and fiction, has done his best work in essay form. Essays in Puritanism (1905), The book of sorrow (1909), and Essays in fallacy (1910) reveal a vigorous mind. The total effect is one of delight and and happy surprise, merging the criticism of life and letters in informal and persuasive style. Sir William Osler   was, like Macphail, also a medical knight, gifted with a rare mind and a style of classic beauty. Of his several volumes of essays, Counsels and ideals (1905) and A way of life (1914) are chief. Cecil Francis Lloyd is the best known and most competent of the recent essayists. Malvern essays (1930) is a collection from leading Canadian periodicals. Ray Palmer Baker has written A history of English-Canadian literature to the Confederation, the best work on that period. J. D. Logan   and MacMechan have also produced histories of Canadian literature, supplementary in many respects. V. R. Rhodenizer's Handbook of Canadian literature and An outline of Canadian literature by borne Pierce may also be mentioned. William Arthur Deacon, in Pens and pirates (1923), Poteen (1926), etc., and in his weekly reviews has established his name as a vigorous, constructive, and piquant essayist and critic. Pelham Edgar has confined himself chiefly to the novel in his critical books, The art of the novel (1930) and a study of Henry James. His prefaces and reviews are of a high order, and have had a marked influence upon Canadian letters.






Canada has pre-empted a unique place in the history of literature with the short story dealing with wild animal life. The dim beginning of this genre was in the animal sketches by Mrs. Traill, but it was Sir Charles G. D. Roberts who, became the undisputed laureate of the animal kingdom. His first book, Earth's enigmas (1896), placed him at once at the front as originator and master, and he has never surpassed the stories in this collection. A list of his books in this field would fill much space, but The kindred of the wild (1902), Kings in exile (1910), and Wisdom of the wilderness (1922) may be taken as representatives of his best work. Ernest Thompson Seton (1860­) is more concerned with scientific observation. Roberts simply aims to show that beasts and birds have an existence which is in many respects kindred to our own, and that we should sympathetically understand them. This he does with verbal artistry. Seton began as an artist and a scientist, and these elements are mixed in his work-Wild animals I have known (1898), The tail of the sandhill stag (1899), The biography of a grizzly (1900), and others. Seton is a closely observing scientist, Roberts writes from recollection; the former is an artist among animals, the latter a poet in the forest spaces. Seton's work belongs to science, Roberts's to imaginative literature. Marshall Saunders in Beautiful Joe (1894), My golden Dickie (1916), Bonnie Prince Fetter (1919), My pets (1935), and succeeding books on bird and animal pets is a crusading humanitarian in the circle of domesticated animal life. W. A. Fraser   in Mooswa and others of the boundaries (1900), The outcasts (1910), and Thoroughbreds (1902) shows a predilection for the race horse. Archie McKishnie (1878-) entered this field with Love of the wild (1910), and later wrote Mates of the tangle (1925), both vigorous and swiftly moving romances, less artistic than Roberts, and less informative than Seton.


A special group of nature writers may be called local colourists. Most of Canadian verse, and the best of Canadian essays perhaps, would come under such a head. However, the following will illustrate our meaning. Arthur Heming (1870-) was first an artist, but was forced to write his first book, The drama of the forests (1921), when the author failed to produce the manuscript after he had provided the illustrations. He has followed this success with Spirit lake (1907) and The living forest (1925), books rich in forest lore by one who knows northern forests in all their aspects. Mrs. Traill's Studies in plant life of Canada (1885) and Pearls and pebbles (1894) belong to a different category, as does also her Rambles in a Canadian forest (1859). In the same class may be mentioned Mrs. Anna Jameson's Winter studies and summer rambles (1836), a favourite still. There are also S. T. Wood's Rambles of a Canadian naturalist (1915), and Peter McArthur's farmstead essays In pastures green (1915), Around home (1925), and Friendly acres (1927). The farm chat by McArthur, the "Sage of Ekfrid", has not been equalled in Canada for quaintness, ripeness and charm. Several of MacMechan's essays, two books by Grove, The turn of the year. (1923) and Over prairie trails (1922), Mrs. Murphy's Seeds of pine (1914), and other similar works might, with equal justice, be included here.






Canada has made a unique contribution also to the literature of humour, which has challenged the attention of the world. Roberts's nature stories have sold in larger quantities in Scandinavia, Germany, or Czecho-Slovakia than in Canada. Haliburton had a larger market in the United States or Great Britain, France or Germany, than at home. His Sam Slick (1836) therefore became an


important. event in the history of Canadian literature. He followed this success with many other books, but they never achieved the same hearty laughter. His politics, criticisms of United States republicanism, propaganda for British imperialism, satirical tirades against Durham and the Canadian Reformers, all this has ceased to be either funny or informing and is long since forgotten. Yet Sam Slick lives on, not the high priest of Toryism, but the lord of laughter, gibing at the Yankee and the Maritimers, playfully and without rancour. James DeMille   produced two score books, many of them for boys, which owe their impulse to Haliburton. The Dodge Club (1869) was a forerunner of Mark Twain's Innocents abroad. Twain includes him in his Library of American humour. George Thomas Lanigan   wrote a book of National ballads (1865), in which appeared his well-known "The Ahkoond of Swat". He was an Irishman with an eye for absurdities, as may be seen in this book of verse and in his Fables of G. Washington Esop (18'78). William Henry Drummond   has been considered as a poet. He has created several humorous characters, Leetle Bateese, Johnnie Courteau, and other "Canayen" types which continue in popularity. Stephen Leacock (1869-) has carried on the Haliburton tradition in his humour of exaggeration. The best of his work is contained in Literary lapses (1910), Sunshine sketches of.a little town (1912), and supremely in My discovery of England (1922). His work has been uneven, due perhaps to the pressure of insistent editors and publishers, and we, are fortunate in having a selection of his best pieces, Laugh with Leacock (1930). He is a kindly critic of the foibles and absurdities of humanity. He has created no outstanding character, being content to show up, with his ridiculous verbiage and boisterous fooling, the nonsense of common people about him. Sara Jeanette Duncan   was a humorist of great ability. She gathered her observations upon many travels, and set them in such books as A social departure (1890), Those delightful Americans (1902), and His royal happiness (1914). With the crispness of Jane Austen, a distinguished prose style, and an allpervading whimsicality, she has established her right to live in Canadian literature. Of Peter McArthur   we have already spoken. The red cow and her friends (1919) and The affable stranger (1920) added little to his happy annals of the old farm. His book on Leacock is an excellent interpretation. There is a growing literature of caricature, but time only will tell how important it is. Canadian literature is, on the whole, too solemn. There is not nearly enough hearty laughter. More blythe and jocund, it will be closer to Canadian life. John W. Garvin, who did much for Canadian literature in his anthologies, did not live to see his last, Cap and bells (1936), through the press. This anthology of humorous verse may have a salutary influence.






Endless biographies have been written in Canada, but few of them have risen above the level. The Makers of Canada produces but two or three good lives, such as Haldimand by Jean Mclllwraith, and Simcoe by Duncan Campbell Scott. Biographers have been too partisan, either laudatory or hypercritical. This accounts for the inferiority of lives of George Brown, Macdonald, Laurier, and others. Mrs. O. D. Skelton's Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1925) is a notable exception. Such men as D. B. Read   did good service in collections of portraits of eminent men, but they were uncritical, and the resources of archives not available. There is much encouragement in several recent books, notably Thomas Chandler Haliburton, by V. L. O. Chittick (1924), Chester Martin's Lord Selkirk's work in Canada (1916), Lord Durham by Chester- New, (1929), which won the Empire gold medal, and James Wolfe, Man and Soldier, by W. T. Waugh. Both George M. Wrong and J. L. Morison have written on The Earl of Elgin. Harvey Cushing's Life of Sir William Osler (1925), like Morison's, is the work of a scholar abroad. Biographies of Canadian writers are increasing   in number and in value. Carl Y. Connor's Archibald Lampman (1929) is a work of combined biography and criticism. Lorne Pierce has written Marjorie Pickthall: A book of remembrance. (1924), and William Kirby: The portrait of a Tory loyalist (1929). The Makers of Canadian Literature contain at present twelve short biographies and critical estimates. Autobiography has not fared so well. Sir Richard Cartwright and Sir Charles Tupper both wrote their reminiscences, but they are largely apologies for their political activities. Fifty years in Western Canada: The abridged memoirs of Father Morice (1930) is a valuable work supplementing the writing of Father Lacombe, the Rev. George McDougall, and others. The high romance (1918), by Michael Williams, is an intimate chronicle of his spiritual development, and in the same class as A search for America , by Frederick Philip Grove. Both look upon the world without as courageously and with as much discernment as they gaze upon the mind and heart within. Canadians are not given to calm self-analysis, and these two books, the first of any significance since Henry Alline's Life and Journals (1806), prompt the wish that there may be many more equally good. The general interest in biography and autobiography leads one to believe that Canadian literature will shortly overcome the handicap of weak character portrayal.






Even to catalogue Canadian historical literature of importance would require many pages. Bibliographies, selected and classified, are easily accessible. The early work of Kingsford, Christie, and others may be dismissed as both unscientific and unreadable. Such historians as Smith and Dent were prejudiced. Haliburton remains as a curiosity; Bourinot is remembered chiefly for his Parliamentary procedure. Roberts, still the most readable of the short histories, is not up-to-date, and so on one might go. Few Canadians approach Parkman. Richardson's War of 1812 has all the vigour of a first-hand account, and is not without the amenities of style. Agnes C. Laut, with the sense of news value and the literary facility of a journalist, has popularized the journals of explorers and pioneers. Her best work is The conquest of the great northwest (2 vols., 1908). George M. Wrong, the pioneer of the modern school of Canadian historians, combines well-balanced judgment and a persuasive style. He is a prolific historian, and has few equals as a stylist, as The Earl of Elgin (1908), A Canadian manor and its seigneurs (1908; 2nd ed. 1926), The rise and fall of New France, (2 vols., 1929), and Canada and the American revolution (1934) will prove. Archibald MacMechan has been considered under another head. While his books are composed of separate papers, he has gone to the original sources and writes with rare grace. H. A. Innis's The fur-trade in Canada (1927), Alfred L. Burt's The old province of Quebec (1933), and Chester Martin's Lord Selkirk's work in Canada (1910), are examples of the work of the new school. Few historians have equalled the imaginative quality and the fluent and vivid style of William Wood's The fight for Canada (1904), In the heart of old Canada (1913), and similar works. The French régime in Prince Edward Island (1925) by D. C. Harvey is the most authoritative and readable of Maritime histories. J. S. McLennan's Louisbourg and J. C. Webster's The forts of Chignecto (1930) are excellent of their kind. The war trail of Big Bear, by W.-B. Cameron, is a first-hand and readable narrative. F. W. Howay has multiplied his publications on the history of the North West coast , on which he is a leading authority. Sir Arthur Doughty combines precise knowledge of the sources and an attractive style in The fortress of Quebec (1904), Quebec under two flags (1903), The siege of Quebec (6 vols., 1901), and other books. The publications of the Champlain Society, the Canadian Historical Studies, and The Canadian Historical Review contain some of the most modern historical research. The chronicles of Canada and Canada and its provinces have been useful and deservedly popular. W. S. Wallace contributed two volumes to the Chronicles, edited the Canadian Historical Review for a time, edited some volumes in the Champlain Society publications, etc., and has many historical texts to his credit widely adopted in schools, besides The dictionary of Canadian biography (1925), and several popular works of a biographical nature. With the appearance of better writers, and abler as well as better equipped historians, the standard is constantly being raised. The supremacy of fiction is being challenged abroad by great works in biography and history as sources of enjoyment. No real advance can be made in Canada until the hidden wealth of the archives is explored to add substance, fresh colour, and new life to the nation's story, and the story of its master-builders.


Source: Lorne PIERCE, "English Canadian Literature", in W. Stewart WALLACE, The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. 4, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 400p., pp. 89-106.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College