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HUMANITIES 473 were originally honorary addresses, and owe their wisdom and charity in part to the fulfilment of forty years of teaching the same central questions and of witnessing the emergence of culture in Canada. The thirteen pieces have been lightly edited by James Polk of Anansi, who has furnished an index and a modest preface. (SEAN KANE) H. Pearson Gundy, editor. Letters of Bliss Carman McGill-Queen's University Press 1981. xx, ;88. $45.00 'For God almighty's sake: Bliss Carman wrote to a friend in 1928, 'don't let [Lome Pierce] have any of my letters! He is like all biographers and collectors, consumed with an unholy lust of acquisitiveness. Their greed is voracious. Don't let the wolf in the door. He would gobble us up hide and hair. Lord, it's too much this peeking and keyholing and gumshoeing . Damned if I like it. I propose to live my biography first ... ' The friend was Margaret Lawrence (1896-1973), one of the several amities amoureuses of Carman's later life, and the letters Pierce was eager to pounce on were among those edited here by H. Pearson Gundy of Queen's University, where many of them eventually found a home - in the Lome Pierce collection. Carman was a prolific correspondent, always excusing his dilatory replies, yet always in the long run replying. There are 630 letters (not all complete) in Gundy'S text, about one third of the total reposing at libraries across the continent as solid evidence of the affection with which the Vagabond Poet was regarded by his lifelong network of friends, and of the delight which his letters had given them. This is a fine and very fully annotated edition; while Gundy has had to select ruthlessly from the mass of material, he at the same time gives us a scrupulous survey of what that mass consists of, and tells those who need to read beyond what is assembled here how to go about doing so. The result is satisfyingly complete; it chronicles the external facts of Carman's literary life, records the poet's fenCing with inquisitive literary critics, and, most interestingly of all, lets him accidentally reveal the emotional entanglements which dominated his personal life, but which he found it so hard to discuss with others. The paradoxical result is that a man who admitted he was 'born to be silent' has left us a remarkably full record of how that silence was built and maintained. To Margaret Lawrence Carman admitted: 'when I can't go through an obstacle, a silly convention, or a virulent prejudice, I go around it. The gentle art of side-stepping.' But he also confessed awe at the 'honesty of modern youth in such post-war angels' as she seemed to him. Carman struggled to write of human passion but had to 'side-step' into Theosophy in order to rationalize drives which could be made acceptable only through mysticism. When Mitchell Kennerly sent him D.H. Law- 474 LEITERS IN CANADA 1982 rence's 'Sex Locked Out,' he responded with innocent amazement: 'most interesting, sane, and suggestive. How extraordinary that the subjectthe whole gist of life - should be so terribly taboo! I have always thought just as he writes.' Yet one of the most persistent features of Carman's inner life as these letters represent it was his artful compartmentalization of emotional relationships so that 'the gist of life' did not get out of hand. This compartmentalization took place under the stern rule of the 'one lode-star,' Mary Perry King, the married woman within whose orbit Carman spent much of his life. Their letters are not here, having been destroyed by the star, who Gundy is willing to suggest may have destroyed the poet too. This seems arguable to me. About one enquirer into his life Carman wrote with relief: 'you can bet that I didn't tell him anything of the veritable inwardness of things, and kept the blinds down good and snug.' What his letters suggest is that Carman may have had nothing to say to others on the 'veritable inwardness of things' because there was nothing he could say to himself. Not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 473-475
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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