- At the Mermaid Inn: Wilfred Campbell, Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott in ‘The Globe,’ 1892–3 ed. by Barrie Davies, and: Harsh and Lovely Land: The Major Canadian Poets & the Making of a Canadian Tradition by Tom Marshall, and: Moral Vision in the Canadian Novel by D.J. Dooley (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 49, Number 4, Summer 1980
- pp. 447-452
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- Additional Information
nUMI\.Nlll b~ 441 The third part of the book abandons almost entirely the limits suggested by the title and indulges in a detailed study of the Hemingway psyche. The headings of its two chapters - 'Ia hantise de la mort' and 'the quest for power' (in English in the text) - reveal the major themes of this psychological study. Although this section is well researched and for many readers will undoubtedly furnish the most interesting part of the book in so far as it identifies and provides a rationale for many of the underlying currents of Hemingway's mode of thought and work, I must confess to a certain reservation about psychological categorization that has recourse to prescriptive distinctions of normal and abnormal. Yet perhaps it is precisely the role of the biographer to make these judgments in order to give some intelligibility to a 'life.' If this is so, then TavernierCourbin 's book will have added another interesting dimension to Hemingway studies. (o.J. MILLER) At the Mermaid Inn: Wilfred Campbell, Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott in 'The Globe,' 1892-3 Introduction by Barrie Davies University of Toronto Press. xxiii, 353· $25.00 cloth, $7.50 paper Tom Marshall. Harsh and Lovely Land: The Major Canadian Poets & the Making ofa Canadian Tradition University of British Columbia Press. xiv, 184. $18.50 D.}. Dooley. Moral Vision in the Canadian Novel Clarke, Irwin. xiii, 184. $9.95 'Wanted: Canadian Criticism.' A.J.M. Smith's call in the Canadian Forum in 1928 was by no means the first of its kind, and similar pleas reverberate to this day. Since '979 saw the publication of not only a hitherto elusive collection ofVictorian critical commentary but two wide-ranging modern assessments of Canadian literature (one of poetry, one of fiction), the temptation to cast up accounts cannot be resisted. Has the situation improved? Everyone interested in nineteenth-century Canadian writing knows 'At the Mermaid Inn' as a frustratingly inaccessible critical miscellany by Wilfred Campbell, Archibald Lampman, and Duncan Campbell Scott, published week by week in the Toronto Globe for about eighteen months in 1892-3. Now that Barrie Davies has collected the scattered items and published them in one volume, we can at last consider the material as a whole and decide whether it was as brilliant a critical flowering as some writers have suggested. 44~ LEITERS IN CANADA 1979 Despite Davies's enthusiastic introduction the answer must, I think, be no. Scattered through the contributions are frequent assertions of the need for high critical standards: 'There could be no sounder stimulus to the young talent of Canada than the knowledge that its work would be seriously examined and honestly ranked by competent authority, instead of meeting either with the inert neglect or the spasmodic and senseless eulogy which are its lot today' (Lampman, p 38); 'There is nothing that we require more at the present stage of our literary development than frankness of opinion and proper, unbiassed judgment' (Campbell, p 207). Yet this was something that At the Mermaid Inn only occaSionally provided. A week after Lampman published his statement he praised George Martin, author of 'To My Canary Bird: for having 'learned his art from Keats' in the course of a 'senseless eulogy' one would like to (but cannot) consider a parody (p 42). And Campbell (who went on, we remember, to compile a very odd Oxford Book of Canadian Verse) could write: 'Mr [James Whitcomb] Riley has a true philosophy of life running like a brook all through his verses, a philosophy of the best and most durable kind, not found so much in books as in the morning sun and the summer fields' ( p 82). His later critique of Wordsworth ('He is childish in his sympathies, almost senile in his descriptions: p 121) is as revealing as it is embarrassing. I am, of course, quoting the most conspicuous lapses, but the fact remains that the general level of commentary is disappointingly low. At the Mermaid Inn is not, however, confined to literary criticism. It contains poetry, familiar essays a la Elia, occasional nature-writing, items that read like rather desperate fillers, and comment on topics of the day (the last including...