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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The Anne Series


The Anne Series

Anne of the Island, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Chronicles of Avonlea, The Story Girl, First Canadian Editions, 1942-43

The First Canadian Editions of the Anne series were published in 1942, the year Lucy Maud Montgomery died in Toronto, just as they were coming off the presses of The Ryerson Press.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, 1942, The Ryerson Press

Mark Twain described Anne of Green Gables as “The sweetest creation of child life yet written”. That was in 1908. By the time the First Canadian Edition was published, Anne of Green Gables had sold over 760 000 copies. It has gone on to sell millions and has been made available in over 38 countries around the globe. The Anne series has been the subject of television adaptations, radio plays, stage plays as well as film and television movies.

She wrote of her Grandparent’s farm in Cavendish, P.E.I. that it was “twelve miles from a railway station, 24 miles from the nearest town, and half a mile from the sea.” It is here that she is buried, not far from where her stories take place.

Chronicles of Avonlea

Chronicles of Avonlea, 1943, The Ryerson Press

The Chronicles of Avonlea, 1943, The Ryerson Press, “consists of stories of Avonlea and the surrounding district – Grafton, Spencerville, Carmody, White Sands, and the beautiful countryside, with which readers of the Anne books are already familiar. This is as delightful as the other books, being packed with heart-warming incidents and amusing situations which arise out of the characters of the different people. The author’s sound psychology and understanding of human nature enable her to portray them convincingly. Over 101 000 copies have been sold to date.” The house where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived with her Grandmother in Cavendish P.E.I. is now a National Park and is visited by tourists from around the world.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, born in 1874, lived and taught school in Cavendish, P.E.I. She met and married Reverend Ewan MacDonald in 1911 and the couple moved to Leaskdale, Ontario and later Norval and then to Toronto, in 1935. She died in April, 1942. She is buried in Cavendish, P.E.I.







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Gordie Howe Number 9

Gordie Howe Number 9

Gordie Howe Number 9, 1968, The Ryerson Press

Gordie Howe Number 9, by renowned Globe and Mail Sportswriter Jim Vipond, was published in 1968 by The Ryerson Press. It remains a fitting tribute to a great hockey player and ambassador of the game Howe loved so much.

Written almost fifty years ago in his twenty-second year as  a professional hockey player, Howe, at the age of 40, had already racked up many awards and had accomplished what most professionals only dream of achieving in an entire career – six-time winner of the Hart Trophy for most valuable player, six-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy for leading scorer, named to the All-Star team nineteen times. Howe won the Stanley Cup with Detroit Red Wings four times.


Howe went on to play a total of 26 seasons with the Red Wings before retiring in 1971. Two years later Howe joined the Houston Aeros of World Hockey Association (WHA) and played a further 6 seasons alongside his sons Marty and Mark. He played one season with the Hartford Whalers before retiring from hockey in 1980 at the age of 52. His record of most games and most seasons played still stands.

Howe as All Star 1967

Howe was named to the NHL All Star team twenty-three times in his career

The Epilogue to Gordie Howe Number 9 reads: “Now we come to the end of a story that has not ended. Our man has not retired, has no thought of retiring. He has said he will retire when the game is no longer fun to play. It is more realistic to suggest he will retire when he finds he can no longer skate with the younger men and can no longer prevent them from climbing all over him.

 That will be a sad day and Howe will be the first to recognize it. It could happen in the middle of a game. He will leave no chance for lingering doubt. His fans will remember him only as a great player. Never will they have the opportunity to become accustomed to saying. ’He’s over the hill. Why doesn’t he quit?’

His fans never did.

In 2008, Gordie Howe, known to many as Mr. Hockey, went on to win the inaugural NHL Lifetime Achievement Award for his long-time contributions to the game of hockey.

Gordie Howe died on June 10, 2016. He was 88.

Jim Vipond, 1916-1989, was a sports columnist for the Globe and Mail from 1938 to 1979 when he retired to become Ontario Athletics Commissioner. Jim Vipond was a member of the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Jim Vipond died in 1989.



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A Scar Is Born


A Scar is Born.jpg

A Scar is Born, 1968

A Scar is Born is Eric Nicol’s hilarious tale of his (mis)adventures in New York from August to October 1967.  The following is taken from the flap copy of A Scar is Born, published by The Ryerson Press in 1968:

“In 1966, a new comedy by Eric Nicol opened to sell-out houses and cheering audiences in Vancouver. Like Father, Like Fun then travelled to Toronto where, despite the slings and arrows of an outraged critic, it played to delighted thousands. Then on to Montreal.

Encouraged by its Canadian success, an optimistic entrepreneur decided to subject Nicol’s farce – complete with a new cast, new director and new title – to the bright lights of Broadway.

On the evening of Friday, October 6th, 1967, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, A Minor Adjustment had its official opening.

On the evening of Saturday, October 7, 1967, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, A Minor Adjustment had its official closing. After three performances. “For the first time in my life, I envied the longevity of 48-hour ‘flu’, writes the author.

They are all here: the play doctors, whose diagnosis revealed that ‘the play could use a new ending, a new beginning – and possibly a new middle…the other parts are firm’; the director, who invited the author to stay away during rehearsals; the patrons of the Algonquin Hotel, who take bows coming out of the elevator; and the inevitable New York publicist named ‘Marty’.

Nicole views them all with the infectious good humour which has won him thousands of faithful fans across Canada, A Scar Is Born will win him thousands more.

Eric Nicol Eric Nicol was born in Kingston, Ontario in 1919. He received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia in 1941. After serving with the Air Force for three years, he returned to university to complete his M.A. He spent one year studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, then moved to London to write for radio and television. In 1951 he returned to Vancouver where he became a columnist for Vancouver’s The Province. Nicol published over 40 books, won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour three times and was appointed Member of the Order of Canada in 2000. Nicol died in 2011 at the age of 91.

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Pearls and Pebbles


Pearls and Pebbles

Pearls and Pebbles, Catherine Parr Traill, 1894, William Briggs

Pearls and Pebbles; Or Notes from an Old Naturalist by Catherine Parr Traill (1802-1899) was published by William Briggs in 1894. The publisher’s edition in The Ryerson Press collection is unique in that the production values remain in remarkable condition, considering the book is nearly 125 years old. The cover has a linen base with silver embossed type and an image depicting “the flowers rather than the thorns that had strewn her path”.

The cover image may have been created by Mary Agnes Chamberlain, an artist and niece of Catherine Parr Traill, and daughter of Susanna Moodie. She also illustrated Catherine Parr Traill’s Studies in Plant Life, 1885.

Pearls and Pebbles is a collection of diary excerpts, poems and depictions of flora and fauna in and around the towns and villages of Peterborough, Belleville, and Lakefield, Ontario during the 1800s. Small vignettes of life show a remarkable sensitivity to nature during a lifetime that must have been an arduous and difficult way of life in rural Ontario in the 1800s. There are numerous depictions from her diaries of simple events such as this story of nesting birds:

“Some two years ago a great event happened to a pair of my yellow birds, which ended in a serious disappointment. One warm May morning, as my daughter and I sat sewing on the veranda, a little passing puff of wind blew away some snips of the white material that we had been busy with and carried them among the grass just below the syringa bush, where the foundation of a nest had just been laid by the female bird. Her bright eyes quickly caught sight of the scraps of muslin, and down she came from her perch in the bush and carried off the prize to her nest, coming back and diligently picking up all the bits she could see. Noticing that she was so well pleased with this new building material, we added some more scraps and some tufts of cotton wool to the supply. Charmed with her good fortune, and grown bolder, the pretty creature ventured nearer to us and took all the scraps we chose to scatter for her on the grass.”

The work of building went on so rapidly that in the course of two hours she had constructed a most delicate and dainty looking snow-white nest, and the pair took possession of this novel-looking house with festal song. But ah me! their joy was destined to be of but short duration.

“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft a-gley,”

and in the present case so it proved with our pair of little architects.

Catherine Parr Traill, 1886

Catherine Parr Traill, circa 1886

A heavy thunder-shower came on at noon of the next day. I leave my readers to imagine the result. The fairy-like palace, like all castles in the air, had collapsed, and, “like the baseless fabric of a vision, left but a wreck behind.” However, our brave little birdie cried, “Never say die!” and set to work once more, made wiser by experience, building a more substantial nest in a lilac bush close by; but with a feminine weakness for finery she paid many visits to the frail ruin, selecting such of the more substantial materials among the rags as she found likely to prove useful in binding the walls of the new nest together, but not sufficient to weaken the more suitable articles which she wisely adopted for her work.

The new nest was an excellent specimen of skill, and the bits so judiciously woven in this time proved highly ornamental. I fancied the little builder felt proud of her work when it was finished, and we gave it unqualified praise.

The ruined tenement excited the admiration of a cat-bird. She also had a taste for pretty soft bits of muslin and gay scraps of colored prints; so her ladyship set to work very diligently to repair the now dilapidated nest with the addition of dried fibrous roots, and grass, moss and all sorts of trash, which, with the rags, were, soon wrought up into a substantial nest which formed the receptacle for five bluish-green eggs. But misfortune seemed to cling to the coveted nest, for an accident, which might have ended fatally to the cat-bird, befel her one day. When about to leave the nest her legs became entangled in some loose strings which she had woven among the other materials, and, unable to free herself, she fell down head foremost into the midst of a rosebush, very stout and spiny, out of which she could not extricate herself, but lay fluttering and uttering the most doleful cries, more like the yells of an enraged cat than a bird.

The unusual outcry brought me to the rescue, and at my near approach she ceased her cries, and I truly believe the poor captive looked to me for help. I quickly perceived the cause of her disquiet, and with my scissors soon set her free. With a joyful cry she flew away, and, what seemed to me a remarkable proof of sagacity in the bird, she forsook the nest, never again venturing back to it, though it contained the five blue eggs. She evidently felt it better to forsake them unhatched than run any risk of danger to herself or her little brood. This, at any rate, was my own conclusion on the subject, though it may not have been that of the cat-bird.

While sitting on the eggs, and while the young ones are yet unfledged and helpless, the mother-bird becomes bold and excitable. If anyone approaches too near to her nursery, she flies round the nest with outspread wings uttering strange angry cries, as if resenting the impertinent attempt to pry into her family affairs, and should the intruder venture closer she would no doubt punish him with strokes of her bill and wings.

The cat-bird belongs to the same family as the southern mocking-bird, and by many persons has been known by the name of “False Mocking-bird.”

It is a common idea that the note of the cat-bird is most discordant, like the mewing of an angry cat; but this is, I think, a mistake. The true song of the cat-bird is rich, full and melodious, more like that of the English thrush. In point of fact, this bird is the best songster among the summer visitants in Canada.

I have fully satisfied myself that the harsh, wild squalling cry attributed to the parent birds is that of the young birds when the mother has forsaken them, leaving them to shift for themselves, and, like weaned children, the call is for food and companionship. This is my own observation from watching the birds.

The following is a list of the many publications of Catherine Parr Traill.

  • The Tell Tale – 1818
  • Disobedience – 1819
  • Reformation – 1819
  • Nursery Fables – 1821
  • Little Downy – 1822
  • The Flower-Basket – 1825
  • Prejudice Reproved – 1826
  • The Young Emigrants – 1826
  • The Juvenile Forget-Me-Not – 1827
  • The Keepsake Guineas – 1828
  • Amendment – 1828
  • Sketches from Nature – 1830
  • Sketch Book of a Young Naturalist – 1831
  • Narratives of Nature – 1831
  • The Backwoods of Canada – 1836
  • Canadian Crusoes – 1852
  • The Female Emigrant’s Guide – 1854
  • Lady Mary and Her Nurse – 1856
  • Canadian Wild Flowers – 1868
  • Studies of Plant Life in Canada, or, Gleanings from Forest, Lake and Plain – 1885
  • Pearls and Pebbles – 1894
  • Cot and Cradle Stories – 1895

Westove, 1862


westover 2017

Westove, 2017

After the death of her husband, Thomas, in 1859 Catherine Parr Traill purchased a cottage in 1862 with funds from her publications and named it Westove, after her husband’s old home in the Orkneys and after their first home in the bush on the shores of the Otonabee River, near Peterborough, Ontario. The house still stands on Smith Street in Lakefield, Ontario. An historical plaque marks the location.



Polly Cow’s Island

Another entry tells the story of how Catherine Parr Traill received a patent for Polly Cow’s Island in the Otonabee River:

In 1893, hearing of the likelihood of the sale of the little island in Stony Lake where a poor Indian girl was buried, Mrs. Traill wrote to the Department at Ottawa to ask that it should be granted to her. It was not but a tiny island, and her anxiety to preserve the Indian girl’s grave from desecration induced her to take this step. Mr. Sandford Fleming kindly interested himself in her behalf, and the request was granted.

The downtown campus of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario is named after Catherine Parr Traill. Catharine Parr Traill College is the University’s main college for graduate studies. This remarkable author and naturalist, died in 1899 at Lakefield, Ontario.

Westover, today, is a private residence. A plaque commemorating the life and legacy of Catherine Parr Traill sits on the property.

CPT Plaque



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Artist At War


Charles Comfort

Artist At War, The Ryerson Press, 1956

Charles Comfort (1900-1994) was one of Canada’s outstanding artists. He was Vice President of the Royal Canadian Academy and a former President of The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. Comfort was also a member of The Ontario Society of Artists, the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto and he was a founding member of the Federation of the Canadian Artists. In 1936, Charles Comfort obtained a studio next to A.Y.Jackson in the Studio Building, a location made famous by Tom Thompson and members of the Group of Seven. In 1937, Comfort was commissioned to design the exterior frieze of the Toronto Stock Exchange building and several of Comfort’s murals hang in what is now The Design Exchange building. Comfort was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Toronto to teach historical painting techniques and he remained there for 25 years. Comfort served as an official war artist in World War II. Artist At War reflects his response to what he witnessed overseas during the Italian Campaign of 1943-1944.

Comfort is represented in the National Gallery of Canada and in most of the principal art galleries in Canada. In the 1950s, Comfort was commissioned to paint a mural for the interior of the new Banff National Park railway car, one of 18 artists selected by Canadian Pacific Railway to create murals for their new Canadian Transcontinental Railway Service.

In the introduction of Artist At War, Comfort writes: “This is an account of my personal experiences during an episode of the Second World War. I have undertaken to write these rambling, discontinuous impressions because I was profoundly stirred by all that I saw and felt…

“I was not a combat soldier, although I had been trained as such, but a war artist, assigned the task of producing some visual record of the part played by officers and men of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division during the Italian campaign of 1943-1944, an appointment which offered me opportunities for observation, not only of many of the actions, but of many interesting phases of life in Italy at the time.”

With these words, Charles Comfort set out the tone of his tour of duty as War Artist during World War II. The illustrations in Artist At War depict Comfort’s response to war. Included in the list of illustrations of this publication are the following paintings and drawings by Charles Comfort.

The Hitler Line

Canadian Troops aboard Transport Volendam, S.S. California on left Philippeville, North Africa. Cape de Fer and Stora Bay , in background

American L.C.I. Transporting Canadian Troops from Philippeville, Algeria, to Taranto, Italy. Mount Etna, Sicily, in background

“Stand Easy” Following Crash Action

Canadian Field Guns near Orton

Piazza Plebiscito, Ortona

Piazza San Francisco di Assisi. Wrecked Church of Santa Maria Della Grazie, Ortona

Battle Scene –(Fantasy)—Villa Grande Road

Rocca San Giovanni, looking north

Aquino, Italy, Route 6 at Cassino

Destroyed Panzertrum on the Adolf Hitler Line

Artist At War, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1956. “I am proud to have served with so gallant and unforgettable a company, to have been eyewitness to their fine achievement, their suffering and their brave sacrifice in the cause of liberty,” he writes. “With respect and gratitude, I pay my small tribute to those who did not return, as well as to those who survived.”


His painting, The Hitler Line, hangs in the Canadian War Museum. Charles Comfort was director of the National Gallery of Canada from 1960-1965 and was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972.





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