Nellie L. McClung

Sowing the Seeds in Danny

Sowing Seeds in Danny, 1908, The Ryerson Press

Nellie L. McClung’s first novel, Sowing Seeds in Danny, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1908. This was followed by The Second Chance, 1910, The Black Creek Stopping-House, 1912, Purple Springs, 1921, and Painted Fires, 1925.

Sowing Seeds in Danny is the story of The Watson family, Irish immigrants newly transplanted from Ontario and settled in Manitoba. Pearlie Watson is an imaginative, clever little girl, twelve years old, who is the mainstay of the family. Her story continues in The Second Chance and concludes in Purple Springs.

 

 

 

 

The Black Creek Stopping House

The Black Creek Stopping-House, 1912, The Ryerson Press

“To the Pioneer Women of the West, who made life tolerable, and even comfortable, for the others of us; who fed the hungry, advised the erring, nursed the sick, cheered the dying, comforted the sorrowing, and performed the last rites for the dead;

 The beloved Pioneer Women, old before their time with hard work, privations, and doing without things, yet in whose hearts there was always burning the hope of better things to come;

 The godly Pioneer Women, who kept alive the conscience of the neighbourhood and preserved for us the best traditions of the race;

 To these noble Pioneer Women of the early days, some of whom see no more, for they have entered into their inheritance, this book is respectfully dedicated by their humble admirer.”

 This is the dedication to the 1912 edition of The Black Creek Stopping-House and Their Stories by Nellie McClung.

The Black Creek Stopping House was a refuge for new immigrants, weary farmers and travellers on the Prairies. In this book, McClung pays tribute to hard work and the hard life of making a homestead in the West.

The Second Chance, 1910, is a “further account of Pearlie Watson. And she is the same comical, honest, motherly, warm-hearted, unexpected, effective, and altogether delightful little Irish girl that made one’s heart grow warm and brought smiles to one’s face every few minutes. Her experiences as she grows into womanhood, and the way in which she makes the numerous Watsons transform that run-down farm, “The Second Chance”, are worth your while – and we know if you read this book you’ll want to pass it on.”

Purple Springs, 1921, is the third and concluding book in the story of Pearl Watson, the young Irish immigrant whose life out West in the early 1900s is delightfully told by McClung and in many respects mirrors her own life story on the Prairies.

In Painted Fires, 1925, Nellie McClung “carries the reader into wider areas of human experience, introduces more and more characters, strikes a higher note than Mrs. McClung had hitherto reached as a fiction writer. Painted Fires is a moving tale of the Canadian West, with its polyglot population, its opportunities for the incomer from other lands, its amazing development and quick transformations.

 Mrs. McClung knows her West and she knows human nature. This strong captivating tale of hers will make its appeal to a multitude of delighted readers.”

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 Nellie McClung, 1873-1951, was a novelist, women’s rights activist, teacher, social worker, politician and member of the politically active Famous 5. She was a member of the Dominion War Council in 1918 and the only woman representative at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1938. Nellie McClung was the first woman on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Board of Governors and was also active in the Canadian Authors Association founded in 1921 and responsible for initiating the Governor General’s Awards in 1938. Nellie McClung was elected to the Alberta legislature as a Liberal MLA for Edmonton and served one term from 1921-1926.

As a member of the Famous 5 or the Valiant 5, Nellie McClung, along with Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby and Louise Crummy McKinney, petitioned the government in 1928 to answer the question of whether the word “Persons” in the BNA Act of 1867 included women. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it did not, and therefore, women could not be appointed to the Senate of Canada. The British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council overturned that ruling in October, 1929. While none of the Famous 5 were ever appointed Senators, the Canadian Senate, in October 2009, voted to make the Famous 5 “Honourary Senators”, 80 years later, almost to the day. Statues acknowledging the efforts of the Famous 5 are displayed in both Calgary and Ottawa.

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Model of the The Famous 5 representing Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby, Louise Crummy McKinney and Emily Murphy. Sculpted by Barbara Paterson, photo by Marc Mennie, Famous 5 Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Black Beauty, published by The Ryerson Press, 1921

The Canadian edition of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was published in 1921 by The Ryerson Press. It is the iconic story of a horse and the inhumane way some animals are treated by their owners. Written between 1871 and 1877, the book was first published by Jarrolds Publishers in 1877.

The Ryerson Press Fall catalogue entry for 1923 reads, “Black Beauty is one of the greatest stories for children that has ever been written. It is a book that will be loved by every boy and girl who knows and understands animals. They will read with genuine emotion the history of Black Beauty, the coal-black horse with the white star on his forehead. There is an intense human quality about the account of Black Beauty’s trials with cruel masters and his joy when he is able to serve a good master. And the story is told with a beautiful simplicity of style which makes it easy for the child to understand. This best-loved of children’s books is delightfully illustrated by Katharine Pyle, well-known illustrator.

Anna Sewell (1820-1878) was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England and lived the remaining years of her life in the village of Old Catton just outside Norwich. An accident at an early age left her unable to walk any distance without crutches and she was used to being transported by horse and buggy. As a result, she developed a love of animals and horses in particular and the manner in which they were treated by their owners.

As Anna Sewell travelled through Europe she came into contact with many of the writers, artists and philosophers of the day through her mother’s work as an established writer of children’s religious books. The dedication to Black Beauty reads, “To my dear and honoured Mother whose life no less than her pen has been devoted to the welfare of others, this little book is affectionately dedicated.” Over the years, it is safe to say that Anna Sewell herself has inspired many young readers to dedicate themselves to the welfare, affection and humane treatment of animals and horses in particular.

Anna Sewell’s health declined in later years and she was confined to her bed in Old Catton, a village outside Norwich. She wrote Black Beauty between 1871 and 1877 dictating the last few chapters to her mother who transcribed her words for her. The book was published 6 months before her death in 1878. Although Black Beauty is now considered a children’s classic, she originally wrote it for those who worked with horses. She said “a special aim [was] to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses” (Wikipedia)

Anna Sewell died April 25, 1878 at the age of 58. She is buried in a small Quaker burial ground in Lammas, Norfolk where a plaque commemorates her final resting place.

 

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Robert W. Service

Robert Service

Robert W.Service, 1909

I have no doubt at all the Devil grins

   As seas of ink I splatter;

Ye Gods, forgive my “literary sins” —

   The other kind don’t matter.

 

From Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, Robert. W. Service, 1912

 

 

 

 

Robert W. Service, 1876-1958, was a British-born poet and writer who came to Canada at the age of 21. Service is said to have written his first verse at the age of six while still living in Scotland. By the time he came to Canada, he had several poems to his name. A number of these were published in 1900 in the Victoria Daily Colonist while Service was working as a store clerk in Cowichan Bay, B.C. Service also worked briefly for a bank in Victoria, B.C. before being transferred first to Kamloops, B.C. then to Whitehorse, Yukon in 1904, and finally to the Dawson, Yukon branch of The Canadian Bank of Commerce. By the time Service arrived in Dawson the Klondike Gold Rush was over. Still, he met many of the old-timers (sourdoughs) and heard many of their stories that inspired his verse.

Bank clerk by day, raconteur by night, Service would recite many of the popular poems of the day (Casey at the Bat, Gunga Din) at local establishments and church venues. Prompted by one town official to create his own tales, Service was said to have overheard some bar-room chatter and the phrase “A bunch of the boys were whooping it,” came into his head. The Shooting of Dan McGrew was the result.

Later, after overhearing the tale of a prospector having cremated his claim partner who had died out on the trail, Service wrote The Cremation of Sam McGee to the delight of the locals.

In the spring of 1907, Service sent a bundle of his verse to his father who was now living in Toronto along with a cheque to cover expenses and asked his father to find a printer to publish the works.

William Briggs, Book Steward of the Methodist Book Room (as The Ryerson Press was then known) agreed to publish the work and Songs of a Sourdough and Ballads of a Cheechako by Robert W. Service were published by The Ryerson Press in 1907 and 1909 respectively. These works have been reprinted dozens of times over the years.

The following letter written in December, 1908 depicts a shrewd yet keen Robert Service outlining his plans to his publisher.

 

Service letter 7th Dec 1908

Dawson, Y.T.

7Th December, 1908

To William Briggs, Publisher

Toronto

Dear Sir:

            I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letters enclosing 1 royalty cheques up to 30th Septr. I was gratified at the returns, and must thank you for the splendid way in which my book has been handled.

I have Mr. Walker’s letter offering me a 15% royalty on my next book, to be published at your expense. I agree to let you have the publication of it, on the condition that the copyright is in my name, and the retail price of the ordinary edition shall be one dollar. Also I retain the right to terminate the arrangement by giving the customary notice.

I have decided to call the book “THE BALLADS OF A CHEECHAKO.” A cheechako is the very reverse of a sourdough, and means a new-comer. It is taken from the chinook jargon, and is a widely known term out here. My reason for choosing this title is that the book will really be a sister one to my first one, and the two will sell concurrently, and the sale of the one will help the other. The only weakness is in their order. The cheechako one should come first, but I will get over that in a small preface. I think that those who possess the one will want to have the other too, and thus from a business point of view I will be fortunate in my choice of a title. But apart from that I think I would have used it, as it is odd and characteristic, and to the Western mind means a great deal. Some day I hope to publish both books in one volume, but that will not be till they have ceased to find a ready sale in their individual form.

I would like it if you could have a characteristic cover design for the new book, something typical of the North and bold and striking. I would also like to suggest that these ballads be printed in a smallish, clear type, with generous margins. I want to see them printed as “Vividly” as possible.

If I hold the entire manuscript till it is completed it will be the end of February before it leaves here. But I think I will send you the bulk of it by the end of January, and I can send you the few remaining poems that complete it when I return the proof sheets. There will be a lot of time lost in transit of the proofs, so that I think it would be a good idea if I sent you all I had done up to the end of January, and during the interval between the dispatch of the manuscript and the arrival of the proofs I would have time to finish up the remaining poems which I could leave to your proof-reader to correct. This will be a gain of a month, and I would like if the book could be on the market by the end of May.

I am going to write Messrs Stern & Co. by this mail to find out if they desire to handle it in the States. I expect there will be a big demand for it as a souvenir book at the Alaska-Yukon Exhibition, next summer. You might be able to sell a large number of the Canadian issue there, if you have any agents in Seattle. It is worth while keeping in view.

Yours very truly

Robert W. Service

Please let me hear from you as soon as convenient

 

Robert Service continued to write verse and with the royalties was able to quit his banking job and relied solely on his royalties for the rest of his life.

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William Briggs published Service’s first novel, The Trail of ’98, 1911 and The Ryerson Press continued publishing Robert W. Service into the 1930s. The volumes of verse include Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, 1912, The Pretender, 1914, Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, 1918, The Roughneck, 1923, and The Collected Poems of Robert W. Service, 1932.

Robert W. Service moved to Paris, France and married Germaine Bourgoin. They had one daughter, Iris. Robert Service died in Lancieux, Cotes d’Armor, France in 1958.

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Dance of the Happy Shades

Dance of the Happy Shades

Dance of the Happy Shades, The Ryerson Press, 1968

Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro was published by The Ryerson Press in 1968. This was Alice Munro’s first book of stories and “a publishing event that will bring her national (and international) recognition. Her complete honesty, unpretentious and deceptively simple style mark her work as that of a true artist. Alice Munro writes about the everyday happenings in life — occurrences in small towns, on a farm, or the next street over. Her people explore the miracle of self-discovery or the despair that comes from their failure to know themselves.” Dance of The Happy Shades won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1968.

Hugh Garner, in the Foreword to Alice Munro’s first book, says of her work, “Not only do real people, institutions and places become the paint and clay of the artist, they come to life in the hearts and minds of the readers. Among such living people created by Alice Munro are young Patricia and the pitiable retarded Benny in The Time of Death, the little girl who accompanies her father on a casual visit to his old sweetheart in Walker Brothers Cowboy, Mrs. Fullerton and her smug suburban neighbours in The Shining Houses and the despairing cry of young Lois to her evening’s lover in Thanks for the Ride. The writer who has mastered the classic short story is an artist and his work carries with it the mark of literary craftsmanship. Alice Munro is a literary artist. She belongs among the real ones — Morley Callaghan, W.O. Mitchell, Brian Moore, Margaret Laurence, Mordecai Richler, Earnest Buckler….You’ll find at least one member of your family in these stories. But most of all, you’ll notice some of the profound though probably unpalatable truths about yourself.”

Alice Munro went on to publish many more books including Lives of Girls and Women; Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You; Who Do You Think You Are?; The Moons of Jupiter; The Progress of Love; Friends of My Youth; Open Secrets; The Love of a Good Woman; Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage;  Runaway; The View from Castle Rock; Too Much Happiness; Dear Life.

Alice Munro is the winner of many literary awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award for English language fiction, 1968, 1978, 1986; The Canadian Booksellers Award, 1971; The Giller Prize, 1998, 2004; The Man Booker International Prize, 2009; and The Nobel Prize for Literature, 2013. Alice Munro lives in Clinton, Ontario.

 

 

 

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The Canadian Cook Book

ccc1939

Canadian Cook Book, 1923 (11th edition 1939)

The Canadian Cook Book was first published by The Ryerson Press in 1923.

The 1923 list of publications of The Ryerson Press contains an entry under the category of “On Various Themes” for A Canadian Cookery Book by N.L. Pattinson. “We are offering here the only complete book of cookery produced in Canada. It is primarily prepared for use in Technical and Domestic Science School, but is most admirably suited for home use. There will be two editions of this work, a school edition, which will sell for $1.50, and a presentation volume, in white vellum, for gifts to brides and others, which will sell for $2.50.”

In the Preface to the 1923 edition, Ms. Pattinson states that, “This book has been compiled, primarily, to satisfy a demand for a book of recipes conveniently arranged for use of teachers and students in technical schools. It is hoped that it may prove valuable also to all others who are interested in the preparation of food. For this reason, a number of distinctive features characterize the book, as a resume on Foods, in which is given a brief explanation of terms such as are met in many of the popular articles of newspapers and magazines, and following this, practical suggestions as to principles underlying the planning of diets and menus.”

The book was revised and enlarged after the Second World War and in 1947, Ms. Pattinson remarked that, “In the war years we have come to realize the immense importance of food and nutrition in relation to national economy. Naturally, the production of food comes first to public attention, but, with greater knowledge of food values, conservation of nutrients for the health and well-being of each individual is receiving more consideration.

Scientists are at work improving the content and quality of our foods. Their efforts can be defeated, in the home, unless sound principles are applied to their preparation.”

In its 19th edition, The Toronto Star Weekly called it, “A splendid book for both beginners and for experienced cooks.”

CCC 1969 front

Canadian Cook Book, 1969. Cover photograph courtesy of Dominion Stores

Upon the death of Ms. Pattinson a revised edition was commissioned and two graduates of Home Economics of the University of Toronto, Helen P. Wattie and Elinor B. Donaldson took up the charge. Their 1953 edition Preface reads, “Since the Canadian Cook Book was first published thirty years ago, it has had two groups of loyal friends: those who were learning the art of cooking in schools and those who practised this art in their homes. The new authors are proud to be able to carry on the work of the late Miss Pattinson. Its accuracy and dependability have provided a sound foundation on which to build. …To the principal and staff and to the students in Home Economics and Photography at the Ryerson Institute of Technology we express our thanks for their interest, assistance and encouragement.”

The 1969 edition was enlarged by almost 200 pages and completely redesigned with numerous additional recipes, including “a quantity of basic recipes designed to give greater emphasis to fundamental procedures, a fuller selection of supper dishes, a greater assortment of speedy-meal recipes and an enlarged section on menu planning and entertaining.” This edition also featured a dust jacket cover image supplied by Dominion Stores and a lavish basket of fresh vegetables photographed by Peter Croydon. The dust jacket was also “bound in pyroxylin coating which may be wiped clean with a damp cloth.” This edition could be purchased for $5.95.

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Canadian Cook Book, 1977. Cover photograph courtesy Ontario Department of Agriculture and Food

The Ryerson Press was sold to The McGraw-Hill Book Company of Canada in 1970 and the Canadian Cook Book continued to be a best seller. The last edition was published in 1977. The authors state that, “Nutrition and economy determined the selection of recipes in this edition. Practical alternatives are given for foods likely to contribute to such problems as obesity; basic nutritional needs may be met, for instance, by using powdered skim milk instead of fresh whole milk wherever feasible as a way to cut down on cost while maintaining optimal food value. Subjects such as home canning and freezing are extensively covered, as is the preparation of mixes for making bread using whole grains for added nutrition. Salt quantities have been reduced in many recipes as personal taste and diets vary. While the book contains recipes for cakes, candies and cookies, as well as for certain foods that may be expensive, there are many more recipes for economical dishes that contribute to a balanced and nutritional diet.”

Nellie Lyle Pattinson (1873-1953) was educated in Bowmanville, Ontario, and became Director of Domestic Science at Central Technical School in Toronto, Ontario.

Helen Wattie (1911-2009) was a graduate of the University of Toronto and a former school principal in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. She joined CUSO and taught for two years at a teachers’ college in Ghana and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in the 1950s. She travelled extensively, gleaning new recipes and exciting ideas about food.

Elinor Donaldson-Whyte graduated from the University of Toronto. She was a nutritionist and worked in the field of community health. She was also a member of the Canadian Dietetic Association and the Canadian Home Economics Association. She taught high school and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.

 

 

 

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The Swamp of Telda

The Canada Book of Prose and Verse 1

The Canada Book of Prose and Verse, Book One, 1928

The short story The Swamp of Telda was written by Lorne Pierce* for inclusion in the The Canada Book of Prose and Verse, Book II, 1928, which he edited along with Dora Whitefield. This series was co-published with The Macmillan Company of Canada as a reading series and was reprinted five times between October, 1928 and July, 1932.

Lorne Pierce was hired by The Ryerson Press in 1920 as a literary critic and literary advisor. He soon became Book Editor and spent the next 40 years shaping the publishing output of The Ryerson Press, turning it into the most prestigious publishing house in Canada.

An elementary reading series was highly regarded by Lorne Pierce, Macmillan’s Hugh Eayrs and  W.J.Gage’s John Saul as a tremendous market for educational publications. The ultimate collaboration of Pierce and Eayrs was seen as a major triumph for both The Ryerson Press and Macmillan in the 1920s and 1930s. Although fraught with contractual issues, the resulting readers were highly successful in their day.

The Swamp of Telda is included in Book II of the series. Telda is a play on words with Pierce’s birthplace of Delta, Ontario, a hamlet just north of Brockville in the county of Leeds and Grenville. Pierce was born in Delta on August 3, 1890 in the family home on Mathew Street. He enjoyed returning to the family home and vacationing in the family cottage on Whiskey Island in Lower Beverley Lake.

The reference to the swamp is possibly Pierce’s own reminiscences of his childhood adventures in and around the town of Delta.

The story opens with a description of the town of “Telda” with “its little shops and homes clustered snugly along Main Street, a most indolent and meandering thoroughfare that crept through Sleepy Hollow.”

But beyond the town there was a swamp that was “certainly haunted’’ where an “ugly-looking old hermit lived in a dilapidated hut at the edge of the swamp. He had an iron hook for a hand and children ran indoors when he came to town.”

One day, some brave boys saw a rainbow and decided to find the foot of the rainbow closest to them – the giant evergreen tree in the middle of the swamp. They claimed “there must be a pot of gold somewhere around”.

“When the boys at last arrived at the great evergreen tree, they found to their surprise, a clearing. It was full of warm sunlight, of green and yellow-fringed orchids, the plaintive note of the wood thrush, the merry call of the Canada bird, the splendid orioles and modest brown thrashers. It seemed like a bowl holding green light and the fragrance of every beautiful thing.”

The story goes on to recount the musings of the three lads as to the nature of rainbows, each boy having a turn at describing the origins of the elusive apparition. One said “the sun just drew the vapour out of the muddy, slimy waters of the swamp, and carried it to the sky. The mist always looked like coloured ribbons when the sun shone through it.”  Another claimed it was about “beautiful Iris, who once was messenger of the Queen of Heaven and also Goddess of the Rainbow. She had wings of many colours, and her robes flashed as many hues to the sun as the proud feathers of the lordly bird. Her Grandfather, Ocean, kept the clouds filled with water.” A third announced that “the rainbow took its colours from the wings of birds and from the flowers where its feet rested.”

The accompanying study notes are meant to encourage the reader to use imagination. “Scientists and poets are more nearly alike than most people suspect. Both possess that rare gift, imagination. Old Gradgrind** had none of it. The scientists saw everything through the imagination. Their explanations of nature were pure poetry, nothing but love dreams and beautiful fancies.

When the scientist exhausts all the known facts his mind takes a daring leap, that is, he makes a bold guess, imagines, if you will. So it was that men discovered America, electricity, radium, insulin.

The poet does the same. His fancy plays upon facts, like golden sunshine upon a stagnant pond, and you have rainbow thoughts, flashing figures of speech. The pond is no longer a pond, but,

                  “And every pool a sapphire is

                  Ribboned around with irises”

*The impact that Lorne Pierce had on The Ryerson Press and on Canadian publishing as a whole is immeasurable. During his 40-year career at the helm of The House, Pierce sought to bring Canadian literature, art and culture to the Canadian public. He dedicated his entire life’s work to this end and succeeded in every aspect. His “Can Lit” influence can be found in the hundreds of titles published by The Ryerson Press between 1920 and 1960 — a legacy that endures within The Ryerson Press Archives.

**Gradgrind is the Dickens character Mr. Thomas Gradgrind,the School Board Superintendent in the novel Hard Times. His name is sometimes used generically to refer to someone who is hard and only concerned with cold facts and numbers.
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William Arthur Deacon

The 4 Jameses cover

The Four Jameses by William Arthur Deacon, 1953, The Ryerson Press

4 James

The four Jameses

This edition of The Four Jameses by William Arthur Deacon was published by The Ryerson Press in 1953. These wise and witty portraits are a satirical look at four poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries – James Gay, James McIntyre, James MacRae and James Gillis— often referred to as the “cheese poets”, they may be among the worst poets ever to be published.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Gay: Self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Canada, and Master of All Poets,

What is a man, poor sinful man, or any of his race,

Without a greater power to keep him in his place?

We are nothing of ourselves, here we cannot stay;

Then read the noble writing of the Poet James Gay

 

James McIntyre: The Cheese Poet

From Ode to the Mammoth Cheese

We have seen thee, queen of cheese,

Lying quietly at your ease,

Gently fanned by evening breeze,

The fair form no flies dare seize.

 

All gaily dressed soon you’ll go

To the great Provincial show,

To be admired by many a beau

In the city of Toronto.

Note: A plaque commemorating “The big cheese 1866” has been erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historical Sites Board at the intersection of Hwys 19 and 401, just outside Ingersoll, Ontario.

 

James D. Gillis: A Man of Parts

Bonny Birdie

A maid who dwells on yonder hill

Is certain cure for all my ills

And sure, I never loved until

I met my charming Birdie

 

Her toilet’s in the height of taste

Despite domestic cares and haste;

And O to span the artless waist—

The tempting waist of Birdie.

 

 

James MacRae: The Man from Glengarry

On women’s clothing in 1877…

How oft does lay the secret way

In which the game is played:–

A shapeless mass, by name a lass,

Is artfully arrayed,

Is neatly bound with metal round

And trimmings wisely made,

And padded o’er with worthless store

To cover unbetrayed

The sad defects, which one detects

When nature is displayed.

 

Pens and Pirates 1923

William Arthur Deacon’s Pens and Pirates, 1923, The Ryerson Press

Perhaps a far more interesting work by Deacon is his 1923 publication, Pens and Pirates. This is a compilation of articles, treatments and musings on a variety of subjects and personalities. Deacon goes to great lengths to explain his humour. This 1923 edition is clothbound with goldleaf stamping. It is a publisher’s edition as many pages are untrimmed. The elaborate endpapers feature an illustration by F.H. Varley. Deacon writes his own review of Pens and Pirates, entitled: He Took His Pen In Hand, A Review of Pens and Pirates by The Author: 

“Having read little, and thought less, Mr. Deacon’s sole equipment for writing seems to have been the possession of a pen and a limited quantity of paper. That he had only a small number of sheets at his command may be inferred from the obvious fact that there has been no revision of the first drafts of his manuscripts. It is unthinkable that any sane man, given the opportunity to correct misstatements and to delete absurdities, would not have done so.”

He goes on to say, “Frankly, I do not know who to pity more, the publisher or the public. The book-buyer has no opportunity of examining his purchase until he has paid his money and taken it home, while the publisher doubtless employs a reader and should have known better than to enter upon such a venture….What I would advise each reader of this review to do is to buy a copy of the book, take it home and put it in the furnace, unread. In this way the first edition will be exhausted and I have ascertained that the publisher may be relied upon never to publish another. In no other way can you so effectively show your contempt for Mr. Deacon and his book, and in ridding the book-stores of the volume you will be performing a public-service of national importance.

Pens and Pirates End Papers 1923

Pens and Pirates endpaper illustration by F.H. Varley (the initials F.H.V. are visible below the skull and cross-bones on the chest)

Here a few extracts from Pens and Pirates:

The Dog ( Canus manhattanensis)

If I were going to be a dog in New York I would choose to be, not a high caste animal dressed up in coat and pants and muzzle, fettered by six feet of chain and the usages of good society, but rather an unknown mongrel, ill-mannered and unkempt, but free withal to explore every street and ash can in the city under the blessed guidance of a whimsical but perennial curiosity.

Local Color (A review of a W.J. Phillips Art Exhibition)

Here is part of his review: “I had to be dragged to see Mr. Phillip’s pictures. For I was subject to the great Canadian illusion that first-class painting started with Raphael and ended with G.F. Watts, or maybe Sir Joshua Reynolds; that this art was native to Italy, Holland and, in lesser degree, to France and England; that worth-while pictures could no more be painted on this side of the Atlantic than strawberries could be raised on the Arctic ice-packs. Do not our young men go to learn painting at Paris, while they learn medicine and surveying at Home? The sombre browns of the Dutch school, the protuberant stomachs of the Botticelli women, the winged cherubs flying about in the clouds – all these were foreign relics, musty and meaningless. There was something repelling, also, in the building itself. That huge, gaudy, bottom layer of a wedding cake, might fittingly house some things, but not Beauty – never that.

Then I stood before the pictures, and the prejudices vanished. I was standing on the shore of a Canadian lake, at my feet sand and pebbles, and then the water started, and stretched away, mile after mile, to the far shore. It was very still and quite hot. There was not a bird nor a cloud to be seen; the tall, rank grass beside me was motionless. It was about noon. I suppose I had unconsciously checked the time by the shadows, though I was not interested in anything but the blessed sight of that far shore. Often had I come out on lakes like that and found bodily rest in a long, steady look across quiet water. Smoothwater and Lake Sydney have the same unbroken shoreline opposite. Neither has any outlet to the west. My eye travelled north along the purple line – the old woodsman’s habit – looking for a portage. I saw a piece of yellow wood. It was the frame of the picture and I was back in the Industrial Bureau looking at Mr. Phillips’ Art Exhibition. There was a hum of talk, and I glanced back. There was no canoe, no packs, no partner pulling on his disreputable pipe – only some city people chattering about pictures. But, when I looked back at the wall, prepared to find a vanished lake, lo! there it was, stretching mile after mile, with a slight haze over it. And I could smell the water.”

Arthur Deacon back cover

William Arthur Deacon

William Arthur Deacon (1890-1977) was a Canadian literary critic and editor. Deacon was born in Pembroke, Ontario. He studied law in Winnipeg but eventually became a book review editor. He worked for the Manitoba Free Press, Saturday Night, the Toronto Mail and Empire, later the Globe and Mail. His original publication of The Four Jameses was published in 1927 by Graphic. The Four Jameses was revised in 1953 and published by The Ryerson Press.

Note: Walter Joseph Phillips (1884 – 1963) was an English-born Canadian painter and printmaker. He is credited with popularizing the colour woodcut in Canada.

 

 

 

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