Thursday, February 16, 2012

Canadian Authors Society

Canadian Authors Society, 2 April 1921, Utica NY Morning Telegram.


Lady of Snows Has Contributed Many Men and Women of Literary Genius


Most Talented Northerners Bring Gifts to American Market, Some to England

TORONTO -- April 1. --

A milestone in the growth of Canadian national spirit is marked by the formation, following a conference at Montreal, of a society of Canadian authors. Although the event is described as the “official birth of Canadian letters,” it would be a mistake to infer that there has been in the past no Canadian contribution to literature, says the New York World.

Heretofore Canada’s literary handicap has been that she has been unable to keep her authors at home. Compared with the English-reading public that beckoned from across the line to the south or from the motherland overseas, the home population could offer but slight encouragement to budding genius. Canadian loss has been American and British gain. In more than one American city there is a Canadian literary colony, and Canadian names dot the tables of contents of American periodicals and the lists of American book publishers.

HarveyO’Higgins, George Pattullo, Arthur Stringer, Robert Service, and scores of other current popular American authors are Canadian born and bred. Perhaps no fact bears more eloquent testimony to the closeness of relations and the similarity of outlook between Canada and the United states than the ease with which men and women whose entire upbringing to maturity was exclusively Canadian have been able with their ideas and inspirations to appeal successfully to the American public.

England has not attracted as many Canadian writers. Distance and some differences in taste are partially responsible. But Canada’s loss to England has also been substantial. Gilbert Parker is and outstanding example of the migration of Canadian writers overseas.

Will Stop Drain

The formation of a Society of Canadian Authors will not stop the drain on Canada’s literary resources for it will be many a long year before this country will offer rising genius and opportunity comparable with what he can find in New York or Boston or London. But it is a sign of the time nevertheless. It at least marks an awakening consciousness of existence on the part of Canadian literature.

Besides, some of the exiles are returning, finding, as one of them says, that contact with his native soil is the truest source of inspiration. Bliss Carman, the poet, after several decades in New York, has been revisiting the home of his youth, reading his poems to capacity audiences, and he may remain permanently.

Many think he is Canada’s most distinguished poet. His work, of which for many years he published a volume a year, has remained distinctly Canadian, with Canadian atmosphere and outlook, despite his foreign residence. There is an agitation to create a new post of Canadian poet laureate and to make Carman the first incumbent of it.

ArthurStringer has returned to a country place near Chatham, Ontario. Peter McArthur, after many years abroad, is running a farm at Ektrid, Ontario but still finds time to write prolific articles and an occasional book. Ralph Connor (Rev. C. W. Gordon) is filling a Presbyterian pulpit at Winnipeg. He was never long from Canada, and his novels are perhaps the most widely read of any un-expatriated Canadian.

 Stephen Leacock at McGill. 

StephenLeacock, the humorist, a professor of economics at McGill, Prof. Peniham Edgar, the essayist, Marjorie Pickthall of Victoria, and Isabel Ecclestone of Vancouver, are some of the Canadian authors who have achieved international fame and rewards without leaving their native land. These and a hundred others assisted at the birth of the Canadian society. 

To them in their task was brought a message from one of the exiles, Basil King, another Canadian, whose name is familiar to hundreds of thousands of American readers. The spirit of his message was that there must be eternal peace between the three great remaining powers of the world, the United States his home for many years, England and France. His message for Canadian authors was that Canada was in a unique position to interpret these three peoples to one another, because of her neighborship to the United States and her derivation fro the two stocks overseas. Canadians, he said, resented some things, both in England and the United States.

 Job Pointed Out. 

“But,” he said, “resentment is not my job. Resentment never got me anywhere. I must realize that people are up against tremendous difficulties, and they do things that may irritate me. But my job now is to make America and England see America. I must try to make the old world understand the new world viewpoint. Above all, we must be Canadians. We must be ourselves.” 

A similar message was given to Canadians by Sir Phillip Gibbs, the war correspondent. Judging by the responses of Canadian authors it will not be their fault if this triple entente cordiale does not flourish.

Prof. McMeecham of Halifax, whose recent article “Canada a Vassal State” (to the United States) has caused much comment, eagerly abetted the formation of the Author’s Society. He declared the outstanding characteristics of the Canadians as a race was diffidence. There has been skepticism as to the existence of a French literature here, yet had not a French-Canadian poet been crowned by the French Academy? Again, had not Sam Slick founded the American school of humor and had not a Canadian woman (Sara Jeanette Duncan Cotes) written a real novel of affairs in the “Imperialist”?

The chief criticism of Professor McMeecham’s “Vassal State” article has come from French-Canadians, who point out that 3,000,000 French in Canada are entirely unaffected by American tastes and customs and form a great bulwark, as in the past, against American influence and aggression in Canada. 

Two Canadian universities have now established chairs in Canadian literature. Poetry has hitherto been Canada’s most distinctive achievement. Fiction is developing and now first attempts are being made in dramatic literature. A one act tragedy by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay is said to be a masterpiece. It is shortly to be produced at Hart House Theater, Toronto, one of the most exquisite “little theaters” that can be found anywhere in the world.

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