Louis Riel

Louis Riel

Louis Riel, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1985

This edition of Louis Riel by George F.G. Stanley was published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson in 1985. It was originally published in 1963 by The Ryerson Press and in a paperback edition in 1972. The book details the life and political struggles of Riel and the Métis during the opening of Canada’s North West from 1870 to 1885.

The 1968 Fall Catalogue blurb from the Ryerson Press reads as follows: Louis Riel by George F.G. Stanley is the first fully documented life of Louis Riel, the Métis leader and founder of Manitoba. Professor Stanley’s biography of Riel, and the movement Riel represented, is certain to be the single indispensable source of Riel information for decades to come. Includes 17 photographs and five maps. Illustrated. $8.50

Louis Riel was born in 1844 and was educated in a seminary in Montreal where he studied Latin, Biology and Philosophy among other subjects. While Riel did reasonably well in his studies his quick temper and an inclination towards broodiness caused his teachers some concern. They thought he lacked the humility necessary to become a priest. In March 1865, only months before the end of his studies, Riel quit the College of Montreal abruptly before graduating. Riel returned to the Red River Settlement in July 1868, aged 24 – educated and unemployed but with a strong sense of pride in himself and his Métis brothers and sisters.

In 1869, two years after Confederation, the Hudson’s Bay Company which had control over Rupert’s Land, the vast continent–sized tract of land north west of Lake Superior, realized that they could no longer administer the land as they had done since 1670. They wanted to sell. The price was $40 million. Canada did not have that kind of money; however, the United States did. But the British Crown refused to sell to the Americans and since Britain wanted the land to be in the hands of Canada, a negotiated price of L300 000 or $1.5 million was agreed. The transaction did not sit well with the existing inhabitants of the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg), many of whom were fur traders. They feared the changes that would inevitably come from opening the land. They looked to Louis Riel to fight for their rights.

In 1870, Riel was elected President of the provisional government and led a group of Métis to occupy Fort Garry. He formed the Provisional Government of Assiniboia and sent a delegation along with a petition of rights for land ownership of the Red River Settlement to Ottawa with the intention of joining the newly formed federation of Canada. Among the requests was amnesty for those involved in the uprising that had occurred. While verbal assurances were made by Sir George Cartier that amnesty would be forthcoming, the federal government claimed the decision was not Canada’s to make. The request was forwarded to the British Crown. The death of Thomas Scott, a belligerent Ontario transplant, who had disregarded the Laws of the Prairie under the Provisional Government was tried for insubordination and shot. This simply added to Riel’s woes. But on May 4, the Manitoba Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and received Royal Assent on May 12, 1870. The Province of Manitoba had been established.

Meanwhile, United States President U.S. Grant had received solicitations of annexation by ambitious Americans who felt that the time was right for the United States to take control of Rupert’s Land. Grant would have none of it. But that did not prevent a brief futile raid by a group of Fenians in October 1871 which was quickly put down.

Sentiments ran high in Ontario after the death of Thomas Scott. Agitators in Ontario like George Denison and John Schultz were incensed that Sir John A. MacDonald’s government had allowed an unruly and “murderous” group to form a province. It was their contention that the North West was to be populated by people from “Canada” and not by rebels. They demanded that troops be sent to Red River to maintain order. Consequently, Colonel Wolseley and his Ontario based riflemen were soon dispatched. They were to “go forth on an errand of peace and will serve as an assurance to the inhabitants of the Red River Settlement and the numerous Indian tribes that occupy the North-West that they have a place in the regard and counsels of England.”

However, Riel, with no amnesty forthcoming and a price of $5000 on his head, went into hiding, first in the U.S. city of St. Paul, Minnesota. But he was determined to run for Parliament and obtained the nomination for Provencher which he won by acclamation. Still concerned for his own personal safety he took refuge with friends in Plattsburg, New York, close enough to Montreal to keep an eye on the politics of the day. As the date for the opening of Parliament drew near, Riel ultimately decided not to take his seat. Instead, in 1874, he was expelled from the House of Commons, branded an outlaw and sought refuge in the United States.

Louis Riel settled in Montana. Married now with a wife and family, he was resigned to a quiet life. He became a U.S. citizen and set his sights on owning and operating a small farm.

But the situation in Canada’s North West had not changed for the better as far as the Indian and Métis were concerned. The land they had turned to cultivating after the decline of the buffalo on the Prairies was now their only source of sustenance. That was now being taken away from them and sold off by the government. Treaties were being broken and both the native aboriginals and the Métis were desperate for someone to fight for their rights. They again turned to Louis Riel.

In 1884, Riel’s friend, Gabriel Dumont, led a delegation and traveled to Montana to convince Riel to once again take up the charge. Convinced that he had been given a divine right to lead the Métis, Riel returned to Canada and was immediately praised as the one person who could resolve the land and treaty situation with Ottawa.

Upon his return to the North West, Riel had formed his own religion which did not sit well with the religious leaders of the day. They branded him a heretic and refused to allow him to use the church as a meeting place. He also alienated the English and many of the French settlers.

With only a few hundred Métis Riel led a rebellion that, despite a few early skirmishes that went in their favour, they found themselves outnumbered at Batoche.

The recent completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad through to Saskatchewan meant that Ottawa could transport troops to the North West much faster than they had in the rebellion of 1870. As a result, Riel and his followers, outnumbered and out-gunned, met their final defeat at Batoche in March 1885. Riel was ultimately put on trial for treason. Despite numerous calls for amnesty, and several appeals, Louis Riel was found guilty and hanged in Regina on October 22, 1885.

Louis Riel led a tumultuous life. His struggles to resolve the land claims and treaty rights of the Métis of Manitoba in 1869-70 and Saskatchewan in 1884-85 were hard fought and were met with constant resistance by Canadian government officials. Many of those battles continue to this day.

George Stanley

George F.G. Stanley (photo by Jonathan Sark, Canadian Encyclopedia)

Professor George F.G. Stanley was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1907. He studied at the University of Alberta and at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. His design of the Canadian Flag was accepted by Parliament in 1965. In 1976 he was awarded the Order of Canada and was made Companion in 1995. George Stanley was Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick from 1982-1987. George Stanley died in 2002.



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West by East

west by East

West by East and other poems by J.E.H. MacDonald was published by the Ryerson Press in 1933

West by East and other poems by J.E.H. MacDonald was published by The Ryerson Press in 1933. Five hundred copies of this chap-book were printed; 250 of which were presented for sale. The quote opposite the title page by Henry David Thoreau, one of J.E.H. MacDonald’s favourite authors, reads: The Universal Soul has an interest in the stacking and the foddering of cattle. This quote may reflect some of J.E.H. MacDonald’s own philosophy of living a simple life, happily capturing and reflecting on the natural beauty of the landscape he painted so eloquently during his lifetime.



West by EastWest by East 1

A swaying car,

Grinding on roughened rails,

And one who reads the tales

Of Buddha far

Dreaming of earth and star

In a still Orient avatar


Restless and rude our land,

And tossed by Winter’s hand

With pools and many a ragged snowy band

And grey,

The folded sky, and wet rutted way.

And drear the wind tumult of the day.


The dark barn broods, lofty and wide

Over the crops within, and by its side

The banded silo leans and cattle shove

To feed beneath the straw-stack’s hollowed cove.


Shaggy as bears the fur-clad farmers lurchWest by East 2

Along the car stopping beside a church,

A father carries a white bundled child;

The gravestones lean like trees before the wild

Wind nipping the church smoke at the chimney edge

And flinging it by wall and window ledge.


But Buddha sits afar

Dreaming of sun and star

Making a flying thought of heavy earth

And labour, death and birth

And the hour has a light sublime

And the wind is a broad wind of time

Blowing us all like thistle-down away

To seed in uplands by the springs of day.



J.E.H. MacDonald, courtesy Wikipedia

J.E.H. MacDonald was born in Durham, England in 1873 and emigrated to Canada in 1887 at the age of 14. He completed his studies in Hamilton and Toronto and worked for Grip Limited, a leading commercial printer in Toronto.

Later, as Art Director, he encouraged other designers to pursue their sketching and painting. In 1911, he joined the Arts and Letters club where he met fellow artist, Lawren Harris. Together, in 1921, they formed the Group of Seven and made numerous trips north and west with fellow artists, Arthur Lismer, Frank Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, A.J. Casson and Frank Johnson to capture the grandeur of the Canadian landscape. After the death of his good friend and fellow artist Tom Thomson in 1917, MacDonald took time off his painting to write poetry. These poems are presented in West by East and are accompanied by illustrations by MacDonald’s son, Thoreau MacDonald.

J.E.H. MacDonald died at Toronto in 1933 at the age of 59.



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Pierre-Esprit Radisson

Pierre-Esprit Radisson

Pierre-Esprit Radisson published by The Ryerson Press, 1930

Pierre-Esprit Radisson, published by The Ryerson Press in 1930, was written by Katherine Hale for the Canadian History Readers Series. Radisson and his brother-in-law Medard des Groseillers, were adventurers, couriers du bois, and explorers and are credited with laying the groundwork for the formation of the Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay or what would later become The Hudson’s Bay Company.

Pierre-Esprit Radisson was born in Paris, France in 1636 and came to New France with his family at the age of 16. They settled in Trois-Rivieres, a major fur-trading centre. By the time Radisson was twenty, he had spent several years living with and among the native peoples of North America. He learned their languages, their customs and their superstitions. He also learned from them of the vast tracts of land untraveled by white men.

From 1660-1666, Radisson and Groseillers explored the territories north and west of Quebec where they encountered native peoples and were intrigued by their descriptions of large rivers and open bodies of water.

Returning to Montreal Radisson found himself out of favour with the local authorities and was fined and censured for trading without consent. Out of the large fortune of furs he had returned with he was left with little to show for his expeditions.

Radisson by C.W.Jeffreys

Radisson by C.W. Jeffreys

By 1666 Radisson was in London at the height of the Great Plague but, fortunately, in the company of Prince Rupert, first cousin of Charles II. Prince Rupert was an adventurer himself and by 1668, lured by the promise of a fortune in furs, Radisson had obtained the funds to mount an expedition to Hudson Bay. With Radisson in the Eagle and Groseillers in the Nonsuch, they left for North America. The Eagle was forced to turn back due to terrible weather in the North Atlantic. Back in London, Radisson turned to writing about his adventures.

When Groseillers returned the following spring laden with rich furs, it was not difficult to garner enthusiasm for a trading company. In May 1670, The Company of Gentlemen Adventurers trading into Hudson Bay was formed, with Prince Rupert its first President.


Pierre-Esprit Radisson, Wikipedia.org

The record of Radisson’s adventures is captured in part due to Samuel Pepys, renowned British diarist. Radisson’s notes from his many adventures came into the hands of Pepys whose executors sold the writings as waste paper. Fortunately, a great English collector, Rawlinson, managed to recover what he could and the papers were given to the Bodleian Library at Oxford. And in a strange twist of Canadian history the documents were rediscovered in 1885 and were first published by the Prince Society of Boston. Pierre-Esprit Radisson died in London, 1710.

The CBC produced a 39-episode series, Radisson, which first aired February 1957. Shot in and around Montreal, the St. Lawrence River and Ile Perrot, and produced in both English and French, the series portrayed the many adventures of Radisson and Groseillers. It was among the first significant television dramas produced in Canada at a cost of $26 000 per episode.


Amelia Beers Warnock, SFU Digitized Collections

Katherine Hale was a Canadian journalist, writer and poet. She was born Amelia Beers Warnock in Galt, Ontario in 1878. She became a journalist and was literary editor of the Toronto Mail and Empire until her marriage in 1912 to John W. Garvin, an editor in his own right. Using the pseudonym Katherine Hale, she published several volumes of poetry published by the Ryerson Press including Grey Knitting and other Poems, 1914, Morning in the West; a book of verse, 1923, Isabella Valancy Crawford, poems, 1923, two books in the Canadian History Readers series Jeanne Mance, 1930, and Pierre-Esprit Radisson, 1930, as well as This is Ontario, 1937, This is Ontario (revised following WWII), 1946, The Flute and other poems, 1950, and Historic Houses of Canada, 1952. Katherine Hale died in 1955.

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Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac 1657-1730 published by The Ryerson Press in 1930

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac 1657-1730 by Agnes Laut was published by The Ryerson Press in 1930 and belongs to the Ryerson Canadian History Readers series.

The intent of the Canadian History Readers series was to portray many of the colourful personalities and events that shaped the early history of New France and eventually North America. These included the lives of indigenous men and women, European explorers and adventurers as well as depictions of many of the institutions that were created during the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the wars that were waged and battles that were fought, won and lost.

The series is written in a narrative style with contributions from many of the prominent Canadian writers of the 1920s and ‘30s, many with illustrations by C.W. Jeffries.

De La Mothe Landing at Detroit

De La Mothe leads a landing party at the straits (detroit) of the St.Clair River. He would go on to found the city of Detroit, MI.

Lorne Pierce, editor of the Ryerson Press from 1922 to 1960, was determined to provide young readers with readable, historical references of the many characters and events that dot the pages of Canadian history. These paperback editions were usually no more than 32 pages in length and sold for ten cents. An interesting note on many covers indicate that these books were “Endorsed by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and The Provincial Departments of Education.”

The Toronto Globe in an early review of the Series reads in part: “A large number of these popular little books have made their appearance…They make absorbing reading for any one wishing to get a brief insight into the romantic life surrounding the important personalities in Canadian history.”

UnknownAntoine de la Mothe Cadillac was one such adventurer. He was born in 1658 in Saint Nicholas de la Grave, France, in the province of Gascony near the Pyrenees. He was educated in law and biology at a Jesuit institution. After a short military stint, la Mothe left for New France in 1683. Historians have found no record of his name on any passenger list leaving from France. La Mothe took this opportunity to create a new identity for himself.

He landed at Port Royal, Acadia, and spent the next several years exploring the eastern seaboard as far south as the Carolinas working as a trader. In 1687 he married Marie-Therese Guyon and together they had 13 children.

In 1688, La Mothe was introduced to the governor of New France, Louis de Frontenac, who sent him on a mission to explore the coast of New England but he was forced to return to France due to bad weather. While in Paris, la Mothe was made officer of marine troops by Louis Pontchartrain. When la Mothe returned to Port Royal, he discovered that the fort had been seized by the British and his wife and family held prisoner. But by 1691, la Mothe had again returned to Quebec and continued his chart-making and in 1692 he had become a Lieutenant Commander.

In this role la Mothe held several positions including commander of Fort du Buade (now St. Ignace, MI). In 1701 he founded Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit (now the city of Detroit) and a few years later he was appointed Governor of Louisiana from 1710-1716.

UnknownThe founders of the Cadillac Motor Company adopted his name and coat of arms in 1902.

There are many towns and locations named after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. However, later historians citing his dubious past and years of trading in alcohol and furs branded him a “soldier of fortune” and not “one of the great early heroes.” In fact, some would go so far as to brand him “one of the worst scoundrels to set foot in New France.”*

La Mothe returned to France and after a brief stint in the Bastille, eventually cleared his name and was appointed governor and mayor of Castlesarrasin, a town in the south of France near his birthplace. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac died October 16, 1730 at the age of 72.

Agnes Christina Laut was born in Stanley Township, Huron County, Ontario February 11, 1871. She was the daughter of John and Eliza Laut. The family moved to Manitoba when she was five. Laut was educated at University of Manitoba and began a journalistic career with the Manitoba Free Press. She travelled extensively across the continent and moved to the United States in 1900 where she resided for most of her life. Laut continued to write about Canada and many of her titles were published by The Ryerson Press including, Lords of the North, 1900, The Story of the Trapper, 1902, Pathfinders of the West, 1904, Canada The Empire of the North, 1909, Heralds of Empire, 1913, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac 1930, John Tanner, 1930, Marquette, 1930. Agnes Laut died in Wassaic, New York in 1936.

*Yves F. Zoltvany, (University of Western Ontario), Wikipedia


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Duncan Campbell Scott

Duncan Campbell Scott

The Selected Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott, 1951, The Ryerson Press

The Selected Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott was published by the Ryerson Press in 1951. This edition contains a memoir of Scott by Professor E.K. Brown.*

Scott was born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1862. His father, William Scott, was an ordained Methodist minister and in the 1840s, had as his charge, ministering to the First Nations along the eastern shore of Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island.  William Scott had a lifelong interest in First Nations peoples which he strived to pass on to his son Duncan.

Duncan Campbell Scott was educated in public schools in Ottawa and attended Stanstead College. At 17 he joined the Canadian Civil Service. His father knew Sir John A. MacDonald and requested an interview for his son. Scott started in the Department of Indian Affairs and spent the next 52 years there, rising to the position of Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

Scott was a friend of Archibald Lampman who inspired Scott to become a poet. Scott is regarded as one of Canada’s major poets but he never achieved the recognition of Lampman, Sir Charles G.D. Roberts or Bliss Carman. Still, he is regarded as one of Canada’s “Confederation poets.”

His works include The magic house and other poems, 1893, Labour and the angel, 1898, New world lyrics and ballads, 1905, Via borealis, 1906, Lines in memory of Edmund Morris (unpublished), 1915, Lundy’s Lane and other poems,1916, Beauty and life, 1921, Poems, 1926 and The green cloister: Later poems, 1935. Two volumes of short stories include In The village of Viger, 1896, and The witching of Elspie, 1923.


Duncan Campbell Scott

As Superintendent in the Department of Indian Affairs, Scott travelled extensively across Canada and captured the varied landscape of the country in his work. He also reflected on his interactions with the First Nations peoples across the country. His influence in the Department of Indian Affairs resulted in the formation of the Residential School System which had as its goal “to get rid of the Indian problem.” Duncan Campbell Scott died in Ottawa in 1947. He is buried in Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery near his life-long friend and fellow-poet, Archibald Lampman.

A plaque, erected in 2011, served to commemorate Scott’s literary work as one of Canada’s “Confederation poets”. A new plaque, however, was erected in 2015 and, because of the work of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, acknowledged Scott’s role as being instrumental in establishing the Residential School System.

* Edward Killoran Brown was a professor and critic. He was educated at University of Toronto and University of Paris, and he taught at University of Toronto, University of Manitoba, Cornell and University of Chicago. His most important contributions to Canadian criticism were his well-known study On Canadian Poetry (1943, rev ed 1944); his annual surveys of Canadian poetry in the University of Toronto Quarterly (1936-50); and his edition of Duncan Campbell Scott’s poems (1951).


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Archibald Lampman

Lampman: At the Long Sault

At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampoon, The Ryerson Press, 1943

At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1943.

If you travel the MacDonald/Cartier freeway east through the province of Quebec, you will inevitably pass through the city of Dollard des Ormeaux/Roxboro on the outskirts of Montreal. This community is named after the martyr Adam Dollard des Ormeaux who was killed at Long Sault in 1660. At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman, one of Canada’s pre-eminent poets, commemorates this epic battle.

At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman was edited by Professor E.K. Brown with a Foreword by Duncan Campbell Scott. It contains 26 of Lampman’s poems and sonnets. It is considered a publisher’s edition as many pages have not been trimmed. The cover illustration is by Thoreau MacDonald.

Archibald Lampman was born in the village of Morpeth, near Chatham in south-western Ontario in November 1861. He was educated at Trinity University, Toronto and obtained a post in the civil service in Ottawa upon graduation in 1883. He held this post until his death in 1899. Lampman published three volumes of poetry including Among the Millet, 1888, Lyric of Earth, 1888, and Alcyone, 1899. A collection edition was published after his death with a memoir by Duncan Campbell Scott in 1900.

At The Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman is described as “The Literary Discovery of the Year” by the publisher due to the many notations and reference material consulted by Brown from Lampman’s own notebooks which were generously loaned to Brown during the editorial process. In Duncan Campbell Scott’s Foreword to the collection, he quotes himself saying, “In the Preface to the first edition of Archibald Lampman’s poems and in the Introduction to the selection Lyric of Earth, I said all that I had to say on the life and work of the poet and I thought my function as custodian and editor was accomplished; but as the poems contained in this volume will prove it was not to be….if it had not been for Professor E.K. Brown’s admiration of Lampman and his interest in his method of work many of these poems might have been lost.”

It was Brown’s scrutiny of Lampman’s notebooks which had been meticulously preserved and cared for by Lampman’s daughter who “generously and unreservedly lent them to him,” says Scott, “It is Professor Brown we must thank for discovering and deciphering many of these poems which add to the sum of the poet’s work and in several instances definitely enrich our possessions.” Lampman is considered by some as Canada’s Keats.

Archibald Lampman worked as a civil servant in the post office in Ottawa. There he met Duncan Campbell Scott. The two would often spend time camping in and around the Gatineau hills close to the city. This accounts for Lampman’s affinity with nature and became known in later life as one of Canada’s most pictorial poets. Scott credits Lampman for inspiring him to write poetry himself. This ultimately led to Scott becoming even more well-known than Lampman in the end.

The major Lampman poem featured in At the Long Sault relates the battle at Long Sault in the Ottawa river in 1660 during the Beaver Wars. Des Ormeaux, commander of the Ville Marie settlement of New France, took a band of some 16 militia men along with a group of Algonquin allies up the Ottawa River to ambush a war party of some 200 members of the Iroquois Confederacy who were preparing to attack the French settlements along the St. Lawrence. Des Ormeaux’s group was joined by a band of 40 Huron at a make-shift fort near the rapids. The battle lasted five days until another band of Iroquois, some 500 strong, who were travelling down the St. Lawrence were diverted to Long Sault to aid in the attack. By the end of the fifth day, des Ormeaux and all his men had been slain. As a result of the battle at Long Sault, the Iroquois abandoned their assault on the newly formed settlements of Ville Marie (Montreal), Quebec, and Trois Rivières and des Ormeaux was credited with having saved New France.

The poem begins,

Under the day-long sun there is life and mirth

In the working earth,

And the wonderful moon shines bright

Through the soft spring night,

The innocent flowers in the limitless woods are springing

Far and away

With the sound and the perfume of May,

The waters glitter and leap and play

While the grey hawk soars.


But far in an open glade of the forest set

Where the rapid plunges and roars,

In a ruined fort with a name that men forget, —

A shelterless pen

With its broken palisade,

Behind it, musket in hand

In this savage heart of the wild,

More youngsters, grown in a moment to men,

Grim and alert and arrayed,

The comrades of Daulac* stand.

Ever before them, night and day,

The rush and skulk and cry

Of foes, not men but devils, panting for prey;

Behind them the sleepless dream

Of the little frail-walled town, far away by the plunging stream,

Of maiden and matron and child,

With ruin and murder impending, and none but they

To beat back the gathering horror

Deal death while they may,

And then die.


And later,


So Daulac turned him anew

With a ringing cry to his men

In the little raging forest glen,

And his terrible sword in the twilight whistled and slew.

And all his comrades stood

With their backs to the pales, and fought

Till their strength was done;

The thews that were only mortal flagged and broke

Each struck his last wild stroke,

And they fell one by one,

And the world that seemed so good

Passed like a dream and was naught.


*Adam Dollard des Ormeaux

ArchibaldLampman23 copy

Archibald Lampman

Archibald Lampman died at the age of 37. A commemorative plaque at Morpeth reads as follows: Archibald Lampman 1861-1899 Born in Morpeth, Upper Canada, Lampman spent most of his short adult life unhappily working as a clerk in the Post Office Department in Ottawa, for poetry was his true vocation. One of the “sixties group” which wrote Canada’s first noteworthy English verse, his work shows the influence of English writers, particularly Keats and Arnold, and of American nineteenth-century literature. Author of many poems describing Ottawa’s rural environs, he complemented his interest in Nature by commenting poetically on the dehumanizing effects of a mechanized capitalist society. He died at Ottawa.

Long Sault is now the municipality of Saint-André-d’Argenteuil. This portion of the Ottawa River was flooded in 1959 to raise the water levels, thereby covering the rapids, and is now a National Historic Site of Canada.






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Selected Poems of Dorothy Livesay (1926-1957)

Dorothy Livesay

Selected Poems (1926-1956) published by the Ryerson Press, 1957

Selected Poems of Dorothy Livesay (1926-1956) was published by the Ryerson Press in 1957. It features an introduction by literary critic Desmond Pacey and was published as part of the Ryerson Library of Canadian Poets series.

Dorothy Livesay (1909-1971) was born in Winnipeg to Florence and John Frederick Bligh Livesay. Her mother, Florence Livesay (1874-1953) was a journalist and author first in Ottawa and then in Winnipeg. She was the author of a volume of verse, Shepherd’s Purse, published in 1923 and a work of fiction titled Savour of Salt (1927). Her father, J.F.B. Livesay (1875-1944), was born on the Isle of Wight and came to Canada in 1895 to become a journalist. He served as a war correspondent for the Canadian Press in 1918 and was General Manager of the Canadian Press from 1920-1940. He was the author of Canada’s Hundred Days and Peggy’s Cove: an integral portrait of Peggy’s Cove, it’s people and their significance. Following his death in 1944, his autobiography was edited by Florence Livesay and published under the title The Making of a Canadian: Builder and Architect of the Canadian Press in 1947. *

Peggys Cove

Peggy’s Cove, Ryerson Press, 1944

Making of a Canadian

The Making of a Canadian, Ryerson Press, 1947

Newspaperman and poet Charles Bruce (1906-1971) wrote of J.F.B. Livesay, “Few Canadians of his generation have rendered more notable and enduring service to their country… He was the organizing hand that charted the plan on which the Canadian Press was fashioned. His skill and tact guided it through the earliest and most difficult years. His amazing knowledge of the relative values of the various news agencies in Europe and America, his familiarity with every important channel of internal communication, and his balanced sense of the regional interests of every section of Canada, enabled him to obtain and correlate with The Canadian Press a network of world embracing news agencies which, in the aggregate, are today giving people of Canada a news service unsurpassed in any of the other countries in the world. Such is the heritage he left his fellow Canadians. How many of his contemporaries did more for their country?”

Desmond Pacey, in his introduction to Selected Poems (1926-1956) says of Livesay, “Dorothy Livesay is one of the most important poets of her Canadian generation – of that generation which came to maturity between the two World Wars.” Encouraged by her parents, she was fortunate to have a well-stocked library from which to choose the works of some of the best English, American as well French and Russian writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1920, the Livesays moved to Ontario and spent summers on the Benares estate near Clarkson, rumoured to be the inspiration of Whiteoaks of Jalna by Mazo de la Roche. Livesay attended high school in Toronto and in 1927 entered Trinity College as an honours student in Modern Languages majoring in French and Italian. The University of Toronto was an inspiring environment for an aspiring young writer—E.J. Pratt, Robert Finch, L.A. Mackay were lecturers along with faculty members Pelham Edgar, Herbert Davis, Felix Walter, J.S. Will and E.K. Brown.

After winning the Jardine Memorial Prize for Poetry in her first year at Trinity College, Hugh Ayres of The Macmillan Company published a sixteen-page chapbook entitled Green Pitcher in 1928. Livesay was only 19.

From the Selected Poems of Dorothy Livesay (1926-1956)


ENCASED in the hard, bright shell of my dreams

How sudden now to wake

And find the night still passing overhead,

The wind still crying in the naked trees,

Myself alone, within a narrow bed.



SOME silence that is with beauty swept

With beauty swept all clean:

Some silence that is by summer kept,

By summer kept all green…


Give me such silence in a little wood

Where grass and quiet sun

Shall make no sound where I have run

Nor where my feet have stood.



I CANNOT shut out the night –

Nor its sharp clarity.

The many blinds we draw.

You and I,

The many fires we light

Can never quite obliterate

The irony of stars,

The deliberate moon,

The last, unsolved finality

Of night


Livesay travelled to France in the early 1930s where she studied at the Sorbonne. She was impressed by the bohemian life style of the Left Bank and the sentiments and demonstrations against unemployment, war and the social revolutionary movements. She returned to Toronto and became involved in radical political groups. She worked for a time in the Family Welfare Agency in Montreal where she saw firsthand the impact of mass unemployment. Two poems for which she is well-known are The Outrider and Day and Night. The latter was selected by E.J Pratt in the Canadian Poetry Magazine in 1938 and caused a sensation as it was considered revolutionary poetry. When it was published in book form, it won the Governor-General’s Award in 1944. Livesay won the Lorne Pierce Medal by the Royal Society of Canada in 1947. In 1950 Livesay published Call My People Home, a documentary Poem for Radio which was broadcast over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network in August 1949.

Desmond Pacey, describes Dorothy Livesay’s poetry as a “fascinating combination of innocence and experience, of hope and fear, of faith and doubt….In a world which often seems in imminent danger of disintegration she lyrically proclaims the values of love, joy and art which are at once the justification and the salvation of the world.”

Dorothy Livesay died in 1971.


*Canada’s Who’s Who

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