Literature in Manitoba 1870-1930
At the formation of Manitoba, there were some 12,000 people inhabiting the area along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, and of this number 1,500 only were white people, the remainder being mostly French and English half-breeds. Yet some considerable advance had already been made in education.
Rev. John West was sent out by the Hudson Bay Company in the year 1820. He lost no time upon arrival in founding a school. In fact, he brought a school master with him from the Old Country. On June 2nd, 1823, West mentioned that the Indian children had made most encouraging progress in reading and a few of them in writing.
From the time of West, various English Church Missionaries from the Old Country did what they could to build a parochial school in each parish. In 1869, according to the statement of Bishop Machray, there were 16 of such schools for the education of boys and girls.
Then in 1833, a boarding school was opened for the benefit of the families of the officers of the Hudson Bay Company and of the children of the settlers. About the year 1849, there were 50 paying pupils at this school.
Bishop Anderson, the first Anglican bishop in the Red River Colony, established, in 1855, a school for higher education known as "St. John's College." He also procured an admirable library. James Ross, a son of Alexander Ross, the author of the Red River Settlement, was a student at this college. He later entered the University of Toronto where he took two scholarships, one for classics and the other for modern languages and history. From 1860 to 1864, James Ross was a joint editor of the Nor'Wester, the only newspaper published in British territory between Lake Superior and the Pacific. Later he became an associate editor for the Toronto Globe. I mention this to show the quality of the educational training in the earliest days.
Beginnings had also been made in literature. The journal of the Rev. John West makes interesting reading. Bishop Anderson wrote an account of the flood of 1852, and soon afterwards wrote the Net in the Bay. This is a journal of the Bishop of a visit to Moose and Albany on James Bay. About the same time Alexander Ross wrote three books, two on his adventures and experiences as a fur trader in what is now British Columbia, Oregon and Washington, and a third on the Red River Settlement. The first two books give a striking picture of life in the West and on the Pacific Coast, and the other on the early history of the Red River Colony.
In 1862, Lord Milton and Dr. W. B. Cheadle came to Fort Garry for the purpose of hunting buffalo and to make an expedition through the Hudson Bay territory and through one of the northern passes in the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast. Their book, The North West Passage by Land, forms a part of the permanent bibliography of the West and has passed through many editions. It is noted for its vivid portrayal of the life of the country, its humor and its charming style.
Dr. Cheadle revisited this country, in 1884, with the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and travelled by the Canadian Pacific Railroad to the height of land in the Rocky Mountains. He delivered an address in Winnipeg, a report of which was written by R. L. Richardson, former editor of the Winnipeg Tribune.
The slightest acquaintance with this literature before Confederation reveals the fact that the prairie, wild and unsettled as it was, could inspire literature. Some of the books written in this period are still going through further editions, and practically all of the books written before Confederation could, in my opinion, find a ready sale if they were republished.
The union of Manitoba with Canada occurred in 1870, and immediately white people began to come in from all corners of the globe. The character of the literature naturally changes. No longer are books and journals taken up so exclusively with the Indians and early inhabitants. The interest now changes to the character and customs of the immigrants themselves. There is further to be noticed that most of these books are written for a purpose, that is, to tell the outside world just what kind of a country this is so that settlers may be induced to come. From a literary standpoint the practical object sometimes detracts from the quality of the work produced. Many of the books begin in a narrative style and end up with a catalogue of the resources of the country.
The proposed entrance of Manitoba into Confederation culminated in the Riel Rebellion. This rebellion and the subsequent rebellion of Riel, in 1885, have caused more books to be written than any other events that have occurred in this province. Most of the books on Riel are, however, in French.
The first book to appear shortly after the formation of Manitoba was Hargrave's Red River. J. J. Hargrave was an employee of the Hudson Bay Company. Hargrave's purpose was to give an impartial account of the history of the province from the earliest days, and he conveys the tone of impartiality to the reader. A very clear and concise account of the history of the Red River Settlement from the time of Selkirk to the author's arrival in Red River in 1861 is given. From 1861 to 1869 Hargrave gives a very vivid account of the life in the colony and of the principal events in that period.
Alexander Begg, in conjunction with W. R. Nursey, covered the period from 1870 to 1879. This book, without any apparent attempt at literary style, conveys a very vivid picture of life in Winnipeg. It is brimming with facts, and gives both interesting and amusing references to many of our prominent citizens. Alexander Begg also wrote what I believe was the first novel written in Manitoba. It is called Dot It Down. This book begins with the traditional journey by way of St. Paul, and the scenes are laid in Winnipeg and the West. In the back of the book is a publication entitled "An Immigrant's Guide to Manitoba." This appears to the writer to be more interesting than the novel. Dr. C. N. Bell, the Honorary President of our Society, informed the writer that he was the one who "dotted it down" he was an employee of Begg at the time, and Mr. Begg dictated much of his book to Dr. Bell who took the material down on scraps of paper.
Begg's greatest work was his History of the North-West in three volumes. This carries the history of Manitoba from the earliest times to the year 1894. It is the most elaborate history yet published.
Begg also wrote a book entitled The Creation of Manitoba. This book deals with the Riel Rebellion and is now very rare.
Rev. Dr. George Bryce, a prolific writer on the West, came to this country shortly after the formation of the province and at once became a prominent figure in the Presbyterian Church and in all matters pertaining to education. His great work was the founding of Manitoba College. Dr. Bryce was a prominent member of our Society and contributed to it no less than twenty papers. His first book of note, published in 1881, was entitled Manitoba, Its Infancy, Growth and Present Condition. This book was described at the time as the fullest and most purely literary of the many works to which the opening of the new Province had given rise. A striking tribute was paid to Lord Selkirk. The ancestors and traditions of the Selkirk family are set out in the opening chapter. Dr. Bryce subsequently published a short history of the Canadian people, a history of the Hudson Bay Company and many other works. In the "Makers of Canada" series he published a short biography of McKenzie, Selkirk and Simpson. These biographies are considered to be the finest of his works. Dr. Bryce was not only interested in history, but also in science, and he was a constant writer on these subjects. He presented to our Society a bound volume comprising some forty-one of his pamphlets.
The members of our Society will recollect the historic occasion on June 13th, 1929, when we gathered at the Lower Fort to unveil a tablet in commemoration of the first Indian Treaty. At the unveiling were four Indians who were present at the original ceremony, and one of these Indians made a short address in which he gave convincing indication of the wit and eloquence of the native Indian.
Alexander Morris, a former Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, published a book dealing with the various Indian treaties which were made between the Indians in different parts of the country. This book is extremely interesting on account of the running conversation that passed each time between the negotiator of the treaty and the Indian Chiefs. The native shrewdness of the Indian is seen very clearly in the negotiation of the treaties. In the Qu'Appelle Treaty of September, 1874, Lieutenant-Governor Morris had a difficult time in convincing an Indian called "The Gambler" that the Hudson Bay Company did not steal Rupertsland from the Indians. At first, the Indians demanded the £300,000 that the Hudson Bay Company received on relinquishing control of the country. The Indians finally agreed, after six days' haranguing, to sign the treaty. The second chief called on said he would sign when he got the money promised for doing so, and he returned to his seat without signing. The Lieutenant-Governor called him forward and, holding out his hand to him, said "Take my hand. It holds the money. If you can trust us forever, you can do so for half an hour. Sign the treaty." The Chief took the Governor's hand and touched the pen, and the others followed. Every student of the early history of the West should read this book.
Donald Gunn's History of the Red River to 1835 is one of the important contributions to knowledge of life on the Red River. G. R. Tuttle collaborated with Donald Gunn and continued the History of Manitoba from 1835 to 1880.
Hill's History of Manitoba centres around Portage la Prairie rather than the Red River. It forms, therefore, a contrast to some of the other histories. Particular attention is directed to the building up of early settlements in other parts of the Province. Hill was, I believe, a carriage-maker by trade, and was greatly assisted in his work by the late Canon McMorine, of Portage la Prairie. The extended references to the Anglican Church are, no doubt, the work of his pen.
The latest history of Manitoba is that written by the Vice-President of our Society, Mrs. R. F. McWilliams. The book is entitled Manitoba Milestones. It is a very interesting and readable book, and has the advantage of containing the history of Manitoba to the year 1928.
Here appears, for the first time in a history, an account of the journals of Henry Kelsey. Kelsey is now seen in his true light for he speaks through his journals.
C. J. Reeve, the Principal of St. John's Technical High School, wrote an interesting history of Canada in the year 1925. In looking over this history a marked change is noticed from the school texts of thirty and forty years ago. Canada is treated as a whole, and a better balance is preserved between the history of the different sections. In the old days undue importance was attached to the struggles with the Indians and the series of wars between France and England.
F. H. Schofield, the late Principal of the Winnipeg Collegiate, also wrote a history of Manitoba and added to it two volumes of biography of residents of Manitoba. D. M. Duncan, Superintendent of Public Schools, has also written a history of Canada and a very fine introduction to the history of Manitoba in the work entitled "Canada and Its Provinces."
Now turn to the books connected more or less with the Riel Rebellions. The earliest is that of Butler's Great Lone Land, written in the year 1871. This book has passed through many editions and it can be purchased at a reasonable price. Butler was an advance scout of the Wolseley Expedition. He narrowly escaped capture when he landed from a passenger boat at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, but managed to get down to the Lower Fort. He later actually interviewed Riel in Upper Fort Garry before Col. Wolseley arrived, having been promised immunity from capture. Captain W. F. Butler, who rose later to the rank of Lieutenant-General and who rendered distinguished service to the Empire throughout his long life, was not only a great soldier, but also a great writer. His "Great Lone Land" is noted for its graphic style.
Major C. A. Boulton played an important part in both the Riel uprisings. He was imprisoned by Riel in the first rebellion and narrowly escaped the fate of Scott. He wrote a book, in 1886, entitled Reminiscences of the North-West Rebellions. Riel himself paid a high compliment to the character of Boulton. On account of the personal part that he played on the loyal side and because of his simple and graphic style this book will always be consulted by readers of this period who wish to go to original sources.
Another book which appeared about the same time as the preceding book is that of G. M. Adam; the title of which is The Canadian North West, its History, and its Troubles. This book gives an account of the troubles between the North-West Company and the Hudson Bay Company and deals with the events of 1870 and 1885. It was described at the time it appeared as being on the whole the fairest account of the events which have made the North-West what it is today. Very noticeable in this book are the references to poetical literature, and both standard and contemporary authors are quoted.
The Riel Rebellion of 1870 forms an important part of Rev. George Young's Manitoba Memories published in 1897. Young was the founder of the Methodist missions in the Red River settlement, and personally attended on Scott in his last days.
Rev. R. G. McBeth, who was once Pastor of Augustine Church, Winnipeg, has written a number of books, the first being an account of the Selkirk settlers in real life. His simple tale of the difficulties which the Selkirk Settlers endured for a number of years after coming to this country reminds one of the plagues of Egypt. No wonder the father of McBeth, who went through these plagues, when recounting the tale, would always stop short and say: "It's no use talking, gentlemen. I can't tell you half of it, but I will say one thing; and that is, that no people in the world but the Scotch would have done it."
McBeth followed up his success in his first work in 1898 with a book devoted to the troubles of 1870 and 1885 entitled The Making of the Canadian West. This book is interesting because it takes up the 1870 Rebellion from another point of view, namely, from that of one of the original settlers. Dr. Schultz took refuge in the house of McBeth's father after he escaped from Fort Garry.
McBeth followed with other books, namely, Policing the Plains, which is a tribute to the North-West Mounted Police, and the Romance of the C.P.R.
The foregoing indicate some of the outstanding books written in English because of the Riel rebellion. The numbers written in French were much more numerous. I have before me a catalogue of Laurin of Ottawa, exhibiting books for sale. In this one catalogue is a list of no less than thirty-seven books about Riel, and two of the number are dramas.
In the Free Press there appeared on October 12th, 1929, an article on the sixtieth anniversary of "The Trouble". This anniversary finds Louis Riel's memory green. His influence on the literature of the country has already been great, and there is no doubt that it will increase as time goes on. The reason, in my opinion, is due, from the French standpoint, to the fact that they regard him as a martyr, and to those who do not regard him as such there remains to solve the riddle of his character and the precise relations of those who were behind him in his first venture at supreme power.
Now return to the prairie itself and the experiences of some of the early immigrants and others who came to this country. The Reverend George M. Grant, who was afterwards Principal of Queens University, formed a part of Sandford Fleming's expedition through Canada in 1872. He soon caught the prevailing spirit of the time. He was entranced with the appearance and the apparent prospects of the new country. After travelling over the Dawson Road the prairie appeared, to use Whittier's phrase, "Fair as the garden of the Lord." He published a book on the expedition, entitled Ocean to Ocean, and in this book he states that, on July 31st, 1872, they were awakened at eight A.M., at a point about thirty miles east of Winnipeg, by the botanist of the expedition exclaiming: "Thirty-two new species already. It's a perfect floral garden." They looked out and saw the botanist with his arms filled with the treasures of the prairie.
A Summer in Prairieland, written by Rev. A. Sutherland, in 1881, is interesting, particularly because he chose to enter this country by way of the Missouri River rather than by the Red River route. The route he chose lay through the territories of Dakota and Montana, and then into what is known as Alberta. Very interesting is the account of shooting buffalo from the deck of a steamer on the Missouri. They even lassoed a buffalo calf from the deck.
A book called A Trip to Manitoba or Roughing It on the Line, written by Mary Fitzgibbon, is interesting because of some vivid pictures of life in Winnipeg and on the Lake of the Woods.
On the 25th of April, 1877, they were at an assembly in the Town Hall, which was built on the side of a gully at William Avenue. About ten o'clock the ice in the gully broke, and the water carried everything before it. They had to leave very suddenly for their home, as the water was already level with the bridge. The Union Bank of Canada Building, now known as the Royal Bank Building, stands right where this gully was.
The ice in the Red River moved out the next day, and on the 27th a steamboat whistle was heard.
The botanist in the Fleming Expedition was the celebrated Professor John Macoun. He came back to the West in succeeding years, and during the summers of 1879-80-81, he traversed practically all parts of the country, and investigated the fauna, flora and physical phenomena of the country.
In 1882, he published a book entitled Manitoba and the Great North-West. This book is a veritable encyclopedia of information. The physical character of the country occupies the first eight chapters, then follow two chapters on the climate, then one on the natural products of the soil; then follow chapters on raising wheat, root crops and grasses, then chapters on stock raising; then the water, fuel, and timber supply was considered, then the mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and finally the minerals of the North-West.
G. M. Grant contributed a chapter on the churches and schools, Alexander Begg on the Western Indians and the North-West Mounted Police, and J. C. McLagan on the rise and progress of Winnipeg.
A beautiful description of the Red River Valley at sunrise, noon and sunset, is contained on page forty-five of the book. This description is a quotation from the pen of Professor H. Y. Hind, Geologist and Explorer, who was a member of an expedition to the Red River in 1857.
Macoun later issued a catalogue of Canadian plants, which is the foundation of all our botanies.
In 1885, C. R. Tuttle published a book called Our Northland. Tuttle was a member of the Government expedition to the Hudson's Bay in 1884, and was an enthusiastic advocate of the Hudson's Bay Road, not only for grain, but for passenger travelling. A rather amusing polar bear hunt is described in the book.
There is also an interesting account of an English Church service at Churchill. The author was struck by the appropriate references in one of the canticles to the peculiar characteristics of the Hudson's Bay and Strait:
"O, ye dew and frosts, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever."
"O, ye frost and cold, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever."
"O, ye ice and snow, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever."
Another thing that attracted my attention in the book was a record left by a Hudson's Bay Official, concerning the character of the Indians who lived and traded at his Post. This record was for the guidance of future officials. Each Indian was numbered, and a notation made beside each number as follows: No. 24 - An A1 liar and rascal; No. 27 - Not worth his salt; No. 33 - Good pay in the long run; No. 38 - Trust him not - A thief; No. 39 - No hunter, but honest; No. 48 - Can pray well, but pay bad; No. 57 - Can't work since he got married; No. 71 - Cunning - Good hunter, but look out for him; No. 72 - Worse than his father - No. 71; No. 113 - Honest as the day is long.
Dr. J. P. Pennefather's Thirteen Years on the Prairie, from 1880 to 1892, is refreshing because of the optimism of the writer, and of his sane faith in the progress of farming, notwithstanding repeated personal discouragements.
J. W. Tyrell's Across the Sub-Arctic of Canada is a book which I have always admired. This book of the Tyrell brothers, who are noted scientists, through the barren lands to the Hudson Bay and then down to civilization by way of Churchill and Nelson, is one which holds the interest to the end. It was a journey of exploration right through a trackless country, attempted without a map or guide, and very rashly without adequate provisions. This book is another one of the many which will be one of the original sources.
In 1913, Isaac Cowie published a book entitled The Company of Adventurers. In this book are related many stirring incidents of his experience as a fur trader at Fort Qu'Appelle from about 1867 to 1874. It is, therefore, a source of original information of a very trying period.
Mention should also be made of the interesting account of the Men of the Hudson's Bay Company by N. M. W. J. McKenzie. This book is an intimate and vivid account of the Company written from the standpoint of one of the employees who rose from the lowest ranks to the position of second to the Fur Trade Commissioner.
Agnes C. Laut, who was brought up in Manitoba and received her education here, gained fame by her stirring accounts of the early pioneers. In 1900, she brought out Lords of the North, and this was followed in 1902, by Heroes of Empire. Then came The Pathfinders of the West and The Vikings of the Pacific. While the struggle between the French and English in Eastern America had been treated by Sir Gilbert Parker and others, it remained to Miss Laut to develop the romantic history of the West.
Dr. C. N. Bell's Northern Waters, a report regarding the Hudson Bay and straits, is an extremely rare and valuable publication. In 1930, Bell was our Honorary President, and was truthfully known as a living encyclopedia of the North West. He was the author of many pamphlets and, throughout the history of our Society, has contributed to its literature.
Dr. Bell's publication, in 1888, on Alexander Henry's journal of his experiences in the fur trade on the Red River from 1799 to 1801, which Bell found in the archives at Ottawa, inspired Dr. E. Coues to go to Ottawa to look over this journal and then to arrange for the editing and publishing of that valuable manuscript.
The novel did not develop until near the end of the first three decades of the history of Manitoba as a Province.
The first author of note was the Rev. Charles W. Gordon, better known as Ralph Connor. He is a native born Canadian, and has resided in the West since his college days. In 1897, he wrote a serial story for "The Westminster" entitled Black Rock. This story, when published in book form, instantly found favour in Canada and the United States. Following his first success, Gordon contributed to Canadian literature a great number of books.
Black Rock and his second book The Sky Pilot were tales of life in the Alberta foothills. Then came The Man from Glengarry and Glengarry School Days depicting life in the lumber regions of Eastern Canada at the end of the last century. The Prospector is a story beginning in Toronto and introduces a thrilling account of a football match between Varsity and McGill. Then the scene changes to the frontier of the far West.
In The Doctor, Gordon introduces the Rev. James Robertson. Later on he wrote a biography of the celebrated Missionary Superintendent.
The Foreigner deals with the problem of European immigration.
Professor Logan remarks in his Highways of Canadian Literature the circulation of Ralph Connors' novels has been phenomenal, and has reached a figure between two and a half million and three million copies. Of what other author in Canada can the same be said? His books are all characterized by a highly ethical and religious spirit, and their wide circulation proves that the ethical tone need not be lowered to sell books to the modern reader.
Douglas Durkin has written The Lobstick Trail and The Heart of Cherry McBean.
Robert Stead has written a number of books on the West, namely, The Bail Jumper, The Homesteader, The Cow Puncher, Dennison Grant and The Neighbors. He has succeeded as Professor Logan states, in reproducing the atmosphere of the prairie, the details of farm and ranch life and characteristic bits of scenery. His stories are stronger in incident and action than they are in characterization.
Robert Watson, a native of Scotland, has for a number of years resided in Winnipeg. He has produced a number of works and, as he states in his humorous way, he is like the woman who knew all about bringing up children because she buried six of them. He has, he states, buried six novels and created quite a few which are still alive. Following are some of his productions: My Brave and Gallant Gentleman. This is a fine romance, the style of which has been traced to Borrow and Stevenson. The Girl of O.K. Valley, Stronger than His Sea, The Spoilers of the Valley, Gordon of the Lost Lagoon, Me and Peter and High Hazard - all of these novels have found favour with the publishers and the public.
There was another distinguished writer who, while not born here, made Manitoba his home for a number of years. I refer to F. P. Grove. He wrote two volumes of charming essays and a novel entitled Settlers of the Marsh, also A Search for America. Grove is of Swedish and Scottish ancestry, and is capable of writing in French, German, Swedish and English. He has had a wide experience in all sorts and conditions of life. The style of his essays is characterized by critics as "classic".
Another Manitoba writer is W. E. Ingersoll, a member of our Society. Ingersoll achieved distinction by his skilful handling of the short story. E. J. O'Brien's list of the best short stories of 1919 included a story of Ingersoll's - "The Centenarian". In a late collection of Canadian short stories, brought out by Macmillan's of Canada, is a story of Ingersoll's entitled "The Man Who Slept Till Noon." Ingersoll has written two books called The Road Which Led Home and Daisy. These works have been highly praised.
Another Manitoba author who, like Byron, awoke one day and found herself famous is Martha Ostenso. Fame and money came to her because of her book Wild Geese. This book won a prize of $13,500.00 in a competition of 1,389 authors. It has been extravagantly praised because of the character delineation, its psychological insight and dramatic power. Her later novels have not been held by critics to be the equal of this one.
W. J. Healey's Women of Red River holds the attention, and is written in his inimitable style. This familiar re-creator of Pepys Diary, as applied to the political history of Manitoba under the Roblin regime, has in this work created what is really a running diary of the early women of the Red River. Healey was Provincial Librarian.
Manitoba can be justly proud of the connection of Ernest Thompson Seton of Manitoba. This artist and scientist has written animal stories, which are world famous. The inspiration for some of his best stories arose from his residence in the Carberry district in the middle eighties.
Mrs. Nellie McClung, for years a resident of Manitoba and now residing in Alberta, made a success, in the year 1908, with the reading public with her novel entitled Sowing Seeds in Danny, the scene of which was, I believe, laid in the vicinity of Treesbank, Manitoba. Since then she has been the author of a number of novels.
R. L. Richardson, former editor of the Winnipeg Tribune, published two books, one Colin of the Ninth Concession and another called The Camerons of Bruce.
Now consider poetry written in, or inspired by, the West. We must at once admit that there has not been the development in poetry as in other forms of literature.
A book entitled A Treasury of Canadian Verse is an anthology, published in 1900, selected and edited by Theodore H. Rand. This is a volume of nearly four hundred pages containing Canadian poetry by one hundred and thirty-six authors.
Only two of these authors resided for any length of time in Manitoba. The first was the well-known poet, Charles Mair, who, while born in Ontario and educated at Queen's University, Kingston, came to Fort Garry about the beginning of 1869. His first volume of poetry entitled Dreamland and Other Poems was, however, published in 1868, before he came here. Tecumseh, his great drama, was published in 1886 - some two years after he had returned to Ontario. He later took part in the 1885 Riel Rebellion and was afterwards identified with Western Canada. Some of his poems, no doubt, originated in Western Canada - certainly, "The Last Bison". He also wrote a prose work, namely, Through the Mackenzie Basin, published in 1908. This book described the region taken over by Canada after the Treaty Expedition of 1899.
The other poetical author who resided for some time in Winnipeg was E. Pauline Johnson. She was, however, brought up in Brant County, Ontario, and it is difficult to say whether her poetry was inspired by Eastern or Western scenes. However, we can at least claim credit for part of her inspiration. Her very first contribution presented the Redman's view of the North-West Rebellion. Her best known poem was "The Song My Paddle Sings". She wrote many charming lyrics.
Robert Stead published, in 1917, a volume called Kitchener and other Poems. Stead is a native Manitoban, and is also the author of several novels of the West. Professor W. T. Allison called him the first purely Western Poet.
Douglas Durkin published a war poem called the "Fighting Men of Canada," which has been praised as a true war poem in that it gives "song pictures of campaigns and of the soldier's life."
E. W. Thomson, here for several years in the early eighties, wrote a poem entitled "Thunderchild's Lament" and another called the "Mandan Priest". Both of these poems tell of the struggle between the pagan spirit of the Indian and the spirit of Christianity. Realism and mystery are strangely blended.
Another writer, Florence Randal Livesay, has earned fame through her Songs of Ukraine and another volume of verse entitled Shepherd's Purse. Mrs. Livesay spent a number of years in Winnipeg, and her Ukrainian poems are undoubtedly written here. These verses, as well as other verses, have been highly praised, and the Bookman in the Free Press attributes to her a real genius for the Ukrainian Folksong."
Mrs. Lyon Sharman, the author of the "Sea-Wall", has published a number of charming pieces of poetry, all of which have been written either in Winnipeg or Toronto.
Professor William T. Allison, of Winnipeg, published a volume of poetry in 1909, entitled the Amber Army. He is, however, best known as a discerning and kindly critic.
Now I should like to mention the rhymed introduction to Kelsey's Journal, A.D. 1690, which is the first example we have of poetry in Western Canada. It has been called doggerel, but I do not regard it as such. Doggerel is defined as verse that is trivial or foolish in sentiment, and feeble in construction. It is true that the construction is feeble at times, in that the metre is faulty, but the graphic story of Kelsey's journey alone in the wilderness with a band of savages and his interesting description of the country, its rivers, lakes, trees and animals, elevate the verse above the banal. I venture to say that his lines will be read a great deal oftener than much better poetry.
One may call attention to two Winnipeggers deserving of mention in the poetical field, E. J. Thomas and C. F. Lloyd. In the Book Review in the Manitoba Free Press of the first Monday in January, 1930, reference is made to Lloyd's latest book of verse entitled Vesper Bells. The Free Press described the work as "distinguished new poetry". Lloyd also published a few pages of poetry called the "Leaves of the Sybil" and another one called "Rosemary and Rue". These are well worth reading, and in my opinion some of the poems will be included in future anthologies of Canada.
E. J. Thomas has written a poetical tribute in "Memory of Sir Hugh John McDonald" and two striking poems inspired by the war: one on Foch, in which he invents the phrase "curfew cadence", the other on Armistice, entitled "Sleep Noble Dead." It is an inspiring expression of the thoughts and feelings which arise on Armistice Day.
Professor Watson Kirkconnell, formerly of Wesley College, has written an amazing work entitled European Elegies, consisting of translations from far more languages than there are countries in Europe. These elegies reveal not only convincing scholarship, but rare poetical power as well.
These last writers appeal to other emotions than those resulting from a contemplation of purely Western scenes. While our poetry will always be colored by the life of the West and its early traditions, as well as by the physical features of the country, I welcome the advent of poetry produced in the West, which is not provincial in its character.
Canada is now one of the leading countries of the world, and the borders of Manitoba stretch to the sea. The wonderful advance in the means of travel has, to a great extent, obliterated political boundaries. Canadians are now found on the seven seas and in all parts of the world, whether near or remote. There is no reason, therefore, why our writers should not be inspired by themes which are universal to mankind.
The advent of a world poet from the West has been predicted by Swinburne and other great writers. May these predictions be fulfilled and the poet arrive in the fullness of time.
Page revised: 22 May 2010Back to top of page