Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski

Letter 47


New Canaan, Connecticut

16. January. 1928



Dear Darling Shiela Mairi:1


This is a tardy missive. Truth is I have been rather low for some days, not in mind, but in physique. However it is better now, and I return to the normal of loving impudence.

It is a day of utter stilness [sic], for some reason. Very overcast and dark, and looks as if it were preparing to snow. "Fixing to snow," in the New England vernacular. Well, we cannot complain. We have had no snow yet, and I count it a merciful relief, which will make the winter so much shorter. As January grows I see my hopes of California glimmering down the air, and must be resigned to Connecticut. I am spoiled, no doubt, for I have had so much of the desert sun and the mild South West.

It is true as has been said that when you first see the desert—go out on it—you seem neve[r] to have been really out of doors before. Our "nature" is so small and shut in, by comparison. And so days like this with low dingy sky and all life in suspense or hibernation give one a touch of homesickness. Just one day of Tucson! Or gay Hollywood! Sun and blue and space!

I have been pottering over old poems, a score or so, not yet collected in book form, trying to make them look fat enough to make a volume for next fall.2 Rather futile. Not much chance of new ones. The fires are low. I cannot write without sun. However, we won’t mourn, will us?

I shall be glad to see your friend Lescarbot.3 And "gladder than anything" to see a scratch of your epistolatory pen also! I met Barbeau4 once and liked him, but have never heard him. What does he do, tell about Indians? What news! Katharine Hale5 invading California! I hear A.M. Stephen6 of Vancouver is also venturing out on the lecture or reading platform. Quite a galaxy! I just slipped down to the South West in time, didn’t I.

Convention?7 Together? Then through the mountains? Know you not that I never cease to long for the Rockies? But since four years ago8 I have been unable to repeat that joyous experience, as I am away so much in winter I cannot go gadding all summer too. But where is the convention to be? Calgary? And when?

I have read Jalna9a fine Canadian picture, writ with much charm and good breeding, for which one’s thankful in these days of squalid Main streets.

And you did go to a homeopathist!10 You amazing darling! I never dreamed of anyone taking my advice, and [   ] delighted. For when I give emphatic advice it is because I know. But it is unusual to find anyone who takes advice. Stick to him. It is the only rational scientific principle of therapeutics.

Do write soon, like a dear!


With love ever


  1. See Letters 34, 38, 45, and 46. [back]

  2. Probably Wild Garden (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1929). It is likely that Carman included with this letter the revised transcript of "A Sea Rover" that is reproduced as Appendix A in the present edition. [back]

  3. Carman is referring to an essay on Marc Lescarbot (c. 1570-1642) that Lawrence promised to send him when it was finished (letter of December 30, 1927) and did, in fact, send him in January (see Letter 51). Lawrence’s "Lescarbot and his Order of Good Cheer: Memory of the First Canadian Writers to Be Honored at Quebec" was published in Saturday Night, May 19, 1928, 5. Lescarbot, a French lawyer, spent approximately a year in Acadia in 1706-07. His Théâtre de Neptune was presented at Port-Royal in 1606 and his Histoire de la Nouvelle-France published in France in 1609. [back]

  4. Charles Marius Barbeau (1883-1969) was a Quebec-born ethnologist, folklorist, and ethnomusicologist who worked at the National Museum in Ottawa from 1911 to his retirement. He concentrated particularly on French Canadian and West Coast Native material. His Folk Songs of French Canada, co-authored by Edward Sapir, was published in 1925 and his The Downfall of Temlaham in 1928. Carman’s comments suggest that Lawrence has recently heard Barbeau lecture. See Edith Fowke, "Marius Barbeau," Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 92 Canadian Writers, 1890-1920, ed. W.H. New (Detroit: Gale Research, 1990), 13-16. [back]

  5. Katherine Hale is the pseudonym of Amelia Beers Warnock Garvin (1878-1928) a Toronto poet, journalist, editor, and feminist. She wrote a Foreword to Albert Durrant Watson’s Love and the Universe (1913) and published two prose works in the early nineteen twenties, Canadian Cities of Romance (1922) and Isabella Valancy Crawford (1923). By 1928 she had also published four volumes of poetry: Grey Knitting, and Other Poems (1914), The White Comrade, and Other Poems (1916), The New Joan, and Other Poems (1917), and Morning in the West (1923). In 1928, she went on a reading tour that took her to several cities in western Canada and then to San Francisco and Los Angeles. In a letter of January 19, 1928, Lawrence states that this tour was sponsored by the C.P.R. for publicity purposes and indicates that she is writing a promotion article for Hale to be published in the Canadian Bookman and elsewhere. See The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 4th. ed. (1978). [back]

  6. Alexander Maitland Stephen (1882-1942) was a Vancouver poet, novelist, critic, theosophist, and political activist whom Carman probably met through the Fewsters (see Letter 8 n.13 and Letters 328-29). His first volume of poetry, The Rosary of Pan, appeared in 1923 and his second, The Land of the Singing Waters, in 1927, the same year as his first novel, The Kingdom of the Sun. Another novel, The Gleaming Archway, followed in 1929 and two more collections of poetry, Brown Earth and Bunch Grass and Verendrye appeared in 1932 and 1935. Under the auspices of the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Authors Association, he undertook a reading tour of the Prairie provinces and eastern Canada in January, 1928. See Alan Twigg, Vancouver and Its Writers (1986). [back]

  7. Carman is referring to the annual meeting of the Canadian Authors Association, which was held in Calgary in July, 1928. In her letter of January 19, Lawrence suggests that she and Carman might meet there. [back]

  8. On February 14, 1924 Carman wrote from Sicamous, BC to a correspondent in Twilight Park: "Today has been most wondrous. All day long, ten hours from Banff to here, through the enormous Rockies, and through the mighty Selkirks all in a snow-storm. Mile after snowy mile, not a house to be seen, nothing but the wilderness of terrific rocky peaks and snow-laden spruces and pines. Quite entrancing to me, who grew up in snow country" (Letters 319). At the time he was on a reading tour of central and western Canada organized by Peter McArthur (see Letter 24 n.1). [back]

  9. See Letter 34 n.10. [back]

  10. See Letter 36 n.2. [back]