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is embarrassing when a book purporting to be about our theatre history fails to recognize and identify a veritable parade of Canadian entertainers. The frontier theatre in Edmonton was sustained by such Canadian companies as those of Harold Nelson, George Summers, and Tom Marks, which the author fails to differentiate from their American counterparts. Other names glide by without proper recognition for their Canadian contribution: the director-teacher Sterndale Bennett; the expatriate Canadian star McKee Rankin; and the dramatic critic Augustus Bridle, for example. And the earliest 'itinerant profeSSional,' Simcoe Lee (pp 4- 5), was a former juvenile with John Nickinson's Royal Lyceum troupe in Toronto and a writer of indigenous farces (Fiddle, Faddle and Foozle in 1853). Even more damning, we miss the fact that Simcoe Lee inaugurated the 'Pink Eye Club' at Fort Edmonton in June 1884, an early manifestation of Prairie theatres. We applaud John Orrell's Preface statement that we need a cooperative network of regional stage histories to make possible the comparative study of Western circuits (and presumably the movement of theatre personnel across the country). But we have a right now to expect our pioneering theatre historians to do more homework and take greater care in writing their accounts than this. (DAVID GARDNER) Oaude Bissell. The Young Vincent Massey University of Toronto Press 1981. xxxiv, 270. $22.50 Claude Bissell has written a very interesting and informative biographical study of Vincent Massey's life and career from birth to 1935 - the point at which Massey left Canada for London as High Commissioner. Wellresearched and marked by an easy feliCity of expression, the book presents the reader with a sympathetic portrait of a Canadian patrician of abundant energy and unremitting ambition. In so doing, it also makes a significant contribution to English-Canadian cultural history between the wars. Massey emerges from Bissell's pages as a psychologically complex figure with significant, if not brilliant, intellectual gifts. From his earliest years he struggled with the power and the burden of his family's past - especially its Methodist connections and its substantial wealth - in order to clarify what direction his own life should take. The young Vincent Massey was never quite comfortable with the legacies of either nineteenth-century Protestant doctrine or entrepreneurial management. In this respect he was both unlike and like his father, Chester Massey: unlike him because Vincent found the orthodox Methodist pieties intellectually and emotionally restrictive, but like him because he shared with his father a lack of intrinsic interest in dedicating himself to fur- 480 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 thering the family fortune. Both participated in business affairs, but the aspirations of each lay elsewhere. Above the fireplace in the entrance hall of Vincent Massey's country home, Batterwood, in the 1930s, were the following words from a poem by James Elroy Flecker: 'Give all thy day to dreaming and all thy night to sleep: / Let not ambition's tyger devour contentment's sleep.' Yet there was, as Bissel points out, a profoundly ironic ring to them. Like most of the Masseys who had preceded him, Vincent was an embodiment of 'ambition's tyger: and the roar of its frustration was scarcely concealed beneath his cultivated ascetic countenance and genteel manners. At whatever project to which he turned his attention, Massey exhibited a single-minded determination to succeed and to achieve the public recognition he thought his due. The objects of this ambition took three basic forms: private philanthropy and patronage of the arts, politics, and diplomacy. Massey's achievement was most marked in his role as patron. The creation of Hart House, intended as the social and cultural centre of the University of Toronto, was his dream, and it quickly met the level of his expectations. In the 1920S he acted behind the scenes by means of the Massey Foundation to create, encourage, and support the Hart House String Quartet, and in front of them on the boards of the Hart House Theatre, where he exercised a 'benevolent dictatorship' over all aspects of theatre life. Although these interests were genuine and deeply held, it is difficult not to conclude that Massey viewed them as a means of establishing a public...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 479-481
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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