Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski

Letter 18


New Canaan, Connecticut

7. October. 1927



Oh, Margaret. I do love you. Sometimes I am only a little child almost afraid of life, and not assertive at all, only gentle and often wistful, just as I used to be, with no heart for facing the contest of the world. And sometimes I am very old and wise and understanding and tolerant, not asking anything for self, just as I am going to be some day. In either case, adorable Margaret, it can do you no harm to be loved by such a creature.

First of all though, you most dear, I must tell you how deeply I appreciate all you told me of your own most private life, and of your happy years with our great wise friend.1 I only knew in the most casual way that you had been friends, and when I heard I was glad for him, before I knew you, that he should have had such a one. And as soon as I began to hear from you I was glad you had had him in your life. And it never occurred to me to wonder whether the relation was thus and so, or this and that. I only knew it was all right, whatever way. And when you say how he cared for your youth,—that would be like him, dear man. To have you hurt on such a point by a body blow from a low cad was horrible to me. I want to forget, and I wished you could have come to me to cry in your pain.

Also, my dear, the later wisdom was right too. The spirit is of no age, and the greatest love is inclusive of all things. I understand so well. When there is disparity of years, it is all so confusing, but really no more confusing than all this incarnation of spirit is. The Soul must condescend, to live. And the governance of the creature impulses is the dilemma of humanity. Whether you outrage them or give way to them, you are lost. In either case the Son of Man is crucified afresh—almost it seems so. Yet we have our day to day life; that is all we are asked to face at a time; and the door opens as we near the entrance. Never to be wholly pestiferous is some thing.


Spirit lead!
   That is the first thing.
Rational or mental guidance!
   that is the second.
Physical fulfillment.
   that is the third requisite.
All three equal and all three absolutely necessary.
But harmonized. That is the secret of all, that is the secret of success in making personality

Spirit, mind, body.
Love, wisdom, action.
Goodness, truth, beauty.

        The Universe[.]2

Yes, my dear dear, I know. I dare say we were sent together, and for some transcendent end. It is all so veracious and beyond the ordinary, I don’t dare think otherwise, although as I told you I have never had any obvious patent deliberate revelation come to me. But this—I feel obedient and serious. If you have any definite intimations about it you must tell me. I hardly feel equal to managing it alone, and neither do I want to shirk all the responsibility.

Your letters are all safe. Let me keep them a while longer.3 I like to go over them. They are of Shamballah,4 I am sure.

Poor Fairy Prince5 in his desperation. I don’t pity him, fortunate and fine lad. Rather do I greatly esteem. Only I vaguely recall the agonies of my own youth, with its love and temerities and agitations,—which maybe have to go to the making of a true artist. Compared with this era and decade, that far youthful time was a harmless comedy—though it felt so tragic then. So is life, maybe.

So, my dear, I must embrace you and all your loves and dreams—for a moment at least—in these gigantic arms, and in this (fleeting) mood of celestial generosity!

I love you dearly, and all I have to say is—whatever you do, don’t love any man out of pity for his helplessness. Oh, my Lord! So many do that. The mother instinct. Just because women are so unselfish, and must sacrifice themselves! That is who [sic] so many fine, wise, adorable women are mated [to] little shrimps, insufferable boors, and incompetent boobs. T[o] have such lamentable results. Lives, ruined, and neither God nor nature served.

Oh, darling, your gift came this morning. So frail and significant. Thousand loving thanks. Strange you should have thought of it for me. For several days I have thought of sending you an Indian Medicine charm from the southwest—where I felt so strangely at home. You must know more of the Indians and their lore and life. We must visit New Mexico as well as the Kootenay and Blackfeet country of our own West. It is ravishing—the desert.

This time is stolen for your sake. Now I must run to work.

The blessing of Allah and the Great Ones be with you, loving and beloved.





  1. Albert Durrant Watson. [back]

  2. This schema is a succinct version of the Delsartean or unitrinian theory of mind-body-spirit harmonization that became central to Carman’s thought and work in the mid-nineties. As Odell Shepard (see Letter 51 n.6) explains, "Carman first came into contact with [François] Delsarte’s ideas during the summer of 1893, when Richard Hovey and his wife [Henrietta Russell] were with him in Nova Scotia. Mrs. Hovey had been a pupil of Delsarte in France and spent many years of her life teaching his methods in America. In order to make his fundamental meaning clear she once drew a triangle on a bit of paper, and wrote along the three sides the words ‘Body, Mind, Soul,’ and then threw the paper on the ground so as to show that the isosceles triangle had no bottom, that there is no gradation of rank or dignity in the three phases of man’s nature. . . . Richard Hovey . . . systematized and extended the idea and greatly increased its ramifications. Gradually it was interwoven with all of . . . Carman’s thought and writing" (Bliss Carman [Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1923] 127). See also Letter 6 n.5, John Sorfleet, "Transcendentalist, Mystic, Evolutionary Idealist: Bliss Carman, 1886-1894" in Colony and Confederation: Early Canadian Poets and Their Background, ed. George Woodcock (Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 1974), 189-210 and Bentley "Carman and Mind Cure: Theory and Technique" in Bliss Carman: a Reappraisal, 85-110. [back]

  3. In her first letter of October 3, Lawrence makes the suggestion that Carman might destroy her more personal letters to him. [back]

  4. See Letter 5 n.4 and Letter 8 n.13. [back]

  5. Possibly Caesar George Finn (see Letter 4 n.6). [back]