In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

HUMANITIES 485 It's necessary to put these writers who have grossly inflated reputations in Canada into some sort of critical perspective, to compare them with their contemporaries in the rest of the English-speaking world. If this task is not undertaken by responsible critics, the lies will continue to be propagated and we will all sink beneath the burden of absurdity ". If we cannot honestly evaluate the past, we cannot make intelligent judgments about the present. As a working writer, I'm terrified of having what tiny audience there is put to sleep by the charismatic fans of Frederick Philip Grove. No one interested in Canadian writing should fail to read this book. (BARRY CAMERON) Dara Thomas and John Lennox. William Arthur Deacon: A Canadian Literary Life University of Toronto Press. xi, 356, iIlus. $24.95 During his lifetime William Arthur Deacon was known as an energetic and, in view of his championing of Canadian literature, a valiantly Crusading journalist. After his death, thanks to Clara Thomas and John lennox, he is most likely to be remembered as an archive. For most of his career as literary editor of Saturday Night and what is now the Toronto Globe and Mail he had conscientiously assembled a collection of correspondence and other documents as 'old-age insurance'; comprising some 18,000 items, this is now in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto. Since he knew and corresponded with almost everyone of any importance in Canadian literature in his time, this will become an increasingly valuable research source. The main problem confronting the co-authors of this book was to maintain a reasonable balance between the man and his collection. Deacon himself was not an original writer. He had hoped to become an important essayist, but the times were inappropriate. As reviewer and general purveyor of book news, however, he performed an inestimable service in drawing the attention of a not altogether willing nation to its developing literature. The support he gave to such writers as E.J. Pratt, Gabrielle Roy, and Hugh Maclennan was invaluable in providing a ground-base of popular awareness. On the other hand, his enthusiasm was sometimes excessive and he had his blind spots. Thus he preferred Mazo de la Roche to Frederick Philip Grove, Wilson MacDonald to Archibald lampman, and he took up the cause of a number of literary lame ducks like Tom Macinnes, Annie Charlotte Dalton, and Francis Dickie. The best-known of his own books is an amusing account of four real-life male Sarah Binkses, and the selection from his writings included in this biography shows him as a competent, wide-ranging, thoughtful 486 LEITERS IN CANADA 1982 but by no means remarkable writer. Indeed, the best of his writing seems to have gone into his letters, and he had an enviable capacity to draw out important statements from those to whom he wrote. Clara Thomas and John Lennox have produced from all this a highly readable, well-researched book which gives a vivid picture of Canadian literary journalism between 1920 and 1960 but which, perhaps inevitably, remains just slightly out of focus. However, they bring to Deacon much of the enthusiasm and sense of purpose that he displayed so strongly himself. Yet one cannot help being puzzled at times. The series of illustrations of parents and relatives suggests a Victorian 'life and letters' in a way that makes us think twice about the eminence of the subject. At times, the archive seems to take over, and the long letters from people varying from Thomas Raddall to Grey Owl, though faSCinating in themselves , seem to have crept in from another book. Again, we sometimes get correspondence (from the Deacon colledion) arising out of reviews and causeries that are not themselves reproduced, and this results in a somewhat blurred effect. Thomas and Lennox doubtless wished (properly) to interest as wide a range of readership as pOSSible, and so far as the man is concerned they have succeeded. Those (probably a minority) who want to learn more about Deacon himself will discover a rich hoard; those who read the book for reasons of literary history will certainly be illuminated...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 485-486
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.