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Labour and the angel, 1898, New world lyrics and ballads, 1905, Via borealis, 1906, Lines in memory of Edmund Morris (unpublished), 1915, Lundy’s Lane and other poems,1916, Beauty and life, 1921, Poems, 1926 and The green cloister: Later poems, 1935.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.
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).