Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski

Letter 19


New Canaan, Connecticut

9. October. 1927



Margaret dear, here is another so welcome letter from you. I am thankful you stand up so nicely under my fault-findings with your work. I was a little afraid to write. But you are so richly worth candor—even if it be rather ignorant criticism. I know so little of historic writing or methods, old or new. I only know that you can write, that you have the gift, and also the divine illumination. That is why I was so frank.

Remember, you will hardly ever find any criticism of your work that will be worth a tinker’s dam to you. Also never forget that I cannot possibly think of you with kindly superior amused toleration as a "young person". You are not. And I am not old in the sense of being sour and opinionated. I am as romantic as you—more confirmed on the idealism of the universe than modern youth is generally supposed to be—perhaps. But I don’t believe that modern youth is fundamentally cynical. It is only disgusted with the tom-fool twaddle of the churches and the lying greed of politics, and jeering it all. Quite properly. I agree wholly with the point of view.

There is only one thing worse than the falsehood and humbug of diplomacy of old men. And that is the sorry truth that most men like to fight. Now I believe that eventually we will have a real League of Nations.1 But—when you think of the innumerable blessed souls in Canada who think it is all wrong to love the Americans—what can you say? Like Mr. Briand2 I want brotherhood—not the silly violence and hatred of the Internationale.3

Oh, my! I did have to smile at your George4 losing the letter before he posted it. It was so like me. Only yesterday I got an important business letter in my mail box at the post-office, started home with my mail, and have never seen the thing since!

But NOT one of yours. NEVERRRRR!

I am awfully sorry it happened. I would have managed some how to get down there—even to walking—if I had been sure he was there. But not hearing, I thought it might have been Woodstock, Vermont, or even New Brunswick, though I did not know at that time your very liberal views as to geography!

"It is only the giants I care about" says she on one page. And on the next "Write me a love letter."

Merciful Allah, woman, what would you? Margaret Queen of Afar, with a Fairy Prince in her court, wants a love letter from a poor minstrel! Margaret darling, pray exercise that cool post-war (or post-bellum sounds better) temperament, and do not fan this subtle tinder-tender heart to flame. "Have a heart!" Remember the incurable romantic youths of the Victorian and Edwardian age, and deal gently with the almost-only one in captivity, the last lemon on the tree!

When I am summoned to your service O most gracious Majesty, I only proffer one humble request,—that I be not asked to speed to your presence by air. To telegraph or telephone I am ever ready at need, but to travel on the witches broom-stick—I cannot. I would rather walk.

Sweet thing, do I not love you good and plenty already? Almost plenty enough? Can I take Leviathan in a net,5 or put my rope over the neck of Orion?6 And who shall turn a woman from her course, or persuade her into a way whither she will not? Alas for Merlin in the toils of Vivien!7



X          X          X          X          X


Never mind the jest, dear person. It is only your incorrigible, but incorrigibly your




  1. The League of Nations was established by a covenant in 1919 and superseded by the United Nations in 1945. [back]

  2. Aristide Briand (1862-1932), a French statesman who was eleven times premier of France, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1926 for his role in negotiating the Locarno agreements of 1925, whereby Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, and Great Britain mutually guaranteed the peace of western Europe and Germany undertook to arbitrate disputes with Belgium, France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The antiwar treaty that was signed in Paris on August 27, 1928 is known as the Kellogg or Kellogg-Briand pact. [back]

  3. Internationale: the international communist anthem, composed in France in 1871. [back]

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

  5. Leviathan is the huge sea-monster of Job 41. Carman may have been thinking specifically of Job 41.1: "Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?" [back]

  6. In Greek mythology, Orion is a giant and a hunter. [back]

  7. In Tennyson’s Merlin and Vivien (1859), the aged enchanter Merlin is induced by the wily and malignant Vivien to tell her the secret of her power, which she then uses against him. Toils: nets, snares. [back]