Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski

Letter 68

Twilight Park

Haines Falls, N.Y.

11. July. 1928



Darling Margaret,


Here is a glorious mountain morning, dry sweet light cool-warm air in my own heavenly Catskills. I have just had my luxurious breakfast lemonade and black coffee (but plenty of coffee, as you say) not to meantion melon and dry toast, all alone at the table. Now what to do with such a paradisal morning? Well, Willie, how would you like to go up to Bloor Street and have your head fussed over by the Exquisite fair Kathryn?1 (Blond Catherines are always spelled that way with a K. and a y.) That would be pretty nice I guess. Only she is in Europe. Too bad. Or how would you like to take the precious Madeleine2 out in a canoe in Muskoka. Wouldn’t that be grand? Yes, it would, but she is in Carolina, and anyhow we never were in Muskoka at the same time, so that isn’t even an accurate memory. But I would love a paddle. Well then, Willie,3 there are adorable creatures in Winnipeg most enchanting prairie-mild and lovable and no doubt consuming as a prairie fire, but that also is too far. And of course Vancouver is out of the question for a simple morning jaunt, with its blessed and faithful family. "But I tell you what we could do," says Willie, "Sit down a[nd] have a nice little letter to Margaret." This from the flighty and wayward Willie is a concession. He does not love writing. He loves only what is near and easy and lazy to do. Miserable sinner[.] (When the Litany was composed, and they put in that dolorous refrain "Have mercy upon us miserable sinners," I know they had Willie in mind,—all the Willies of the world.)

Great Idea, Willie, we will do just that. But I do wish our darling Margaret was here to entice (Entice I said, Willie, not seduce) us to go out for a walk on the trails. We might invite her to "come on down", but when you tell a lady that, you should send a car for her or send her a railway ticket at least. And you realize, Willie, we cannot afford it at this juncture. "Juncture be damned," says Willie, "Hell, we couldn’t ever afford it!"

Well now, Willie, you lie down under the chair and keep still while I write to Margaret.


Sweet Margaret:


Your letter of June 26 & July 9th is most welcome and lovely as ever. Many happy returns of your Day.4 Thanks too for the reviews5 which I am delighted to see. Keep up the good scribbling and all success!

I see Pierce’s picture in the clipping too. Good old L.P.6 But for God Almighty’s sake don’t let him have any of my letters! He is like all biographers and collectors, consumed with an unholy lust of acquisitiveness. Their greed is voracious. Don’t let the wolf in the door. He would gobble us up hide and hair. Lord, it’s too much, this peeking and keyholing and gumshoeing. Damned if I like it. I propose to live my biography first. And nobody aint goin’ to know nothing about that no how, but Margaret and Madeleine, and Kathryn, and Katie, and Kay, and Clare7 and a few more Daughters of Shamballah.8 And they don’t all no [sic] everything, don’t even all know the same thing. ("Thank God," says Willie-under-the-Chair. "Hush, Willie; hush, dear, you musn’t shock Margaret!["])

Let us have letters, says you, lots of letters. Now see what a landslide or letterslide you have let loose!

Go ahead with the essay9 which my fatuous gab in your old studio of blessed memory may have started. And where is the essay about me?10 Not that I am anxious, but only eager to see what you do.

A job or a husband!

For the love of the dear Lord, Margaret, don’t say it! Husbands! But NO! NOT! Husbands are awful things[.] There are men, women and husbands. They are a sub species of homo-sapiens or insapiens. They have no place in our world. Believe me, I know all about husbands. They are a domestic pest and public general nuisance. Dull, thick, ignorant, petty jealous, tyrannic, and pestiverous. Kiss me on the brow in fond farewell, when you commit husbandry. O horrible! All the honeymoons you will, but no wedding march!

You say you interviewed my Cousin11 again with Pierce.12 You mean Charles? He is well acquainted with Willie. And by the way you should have his ideas on Modern Women when you compile your essays on her.13 His knowledge on that engrossing theme is wide and large of immense variety authentic veracious and incredible. The envy of Willie and me, who trot along in his footsteps like a couple of young pointers with tongues hanging out, while Big Chief Charlie bags the Came [sic], and we rush about franticly on cold trails working off our excitement in the under brush. Then think of the misrepute we have!

However, I will write to M.O.,14 "like a bird", and risk injuring your cause, if you wish. And Allah prosper you. Now, Margaret, sweet dear, how is all this for a letter?

Piffle, but you are a dear dear one and a great comfort. I can tell you anything and no fear of being called up on the carpet. It is an immense relief. If I can gabble away like this, I should think I might do my own biography! Ha, ha! Te-he! Not on your life!

Do go in to T.Eaton’s,15 see that nice dear handsome (says Willie) Betty Bailey who got the 2 Sapphos16 for me. If they are still there, please send them by mail, one at a time. And say I was sorry not to see her on my way back from Winnipeg. Many thanks.

All at present from your truly loving and horribly far off




Speaking of ladies who have a secret store of biographical data of your favorite Canadian poet ("poet" understood)17 I might add another K.18 to the list who recently sent on a photograph to be autographed—a polite request—and received in return a series of semi-obscene verses. Approach her gently, she is herself a poet.



  1. Not identified (see Letter 61 n.2). [back]

  2. Madeleine Galbraith (see Letter 56 n.2). [back]

  3. See Letter 8 n.12 and Letter 28 n.3. [back]

  4. Lawrence’s birthday was on July 9. [back]

  5. Probably clippings of reviews published by Lawrence in the "Bookshelf" column in Saturday Night: "Travel and Place" (a review of Hilaire Belloc’s Many Cities and J.E. Wetherell’s Strange Corners of the World), Saturday Night, May 19, 1928, 5; "Life and Mr. Bradford" (a review of Gamaliel Bradford’s Life and I: an Autobiography of Humanity), Saturday Night, May, 26, 1928, 8-9; and "Pilate Looks On" (a review of W.P. Crozier’s edition of the Letters of Pontius Pilate), Saturday Night, July 7, 1928, 9-10. Between July, 1928 and July, 1929, Lawrence published several more articles and reviews in Saturday Night: "Morley Callaghan" (July 14, 1928); "The Court of George III" (July 21, 1928); "Stories of Greece" (August 25, 1928); "On a Japanese Screen" (September 1, 1928); "The World of Mr. [H.G.] Wells" (October 6, 1928); "Marriage and Motherhood" (December 1, 1928); "These Queens" (December 29, 1928); and "Rouge’s Gallery" (June 1, 1929). [back]

  6. Lorne Pierce (see Letter 34 n.6). [back]

  7. Carman may be supplementing references to Lawrence, Galbraith, and Kathryn with randomly chosen names, but he may also have had in mind specific women, not least Katherine (Kate) Eastman (1887-1979), the Toronto teacher with whom he had a romance from 1922 to 1927 (see Letters 286-348). [back]

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

  9. Not identified, but see n.13, below. [back]

  10. See Letter 4 n.1. [back]

  11. Presumably—as Carman presumes—Charles G.D. Roberts (see Letter 41 n.1). Roberts’s "knowledge" of women is documented by Adams in Sir Charles God Damn. [back]

  12. In a letter of June 26-July 9, Lawrence tells Carman that she and Pierce have recently interviewed Charles G.D. Roberts (see Letter 28 n.3) and that Pierce has asked to see Carman’s letters to her. [back]

  13. Perhaps Lawrence was contemplating the essay on "The Tradition of Marriage" that she sent to Carman in November, 1928 (see Letter 75). [back]

  14. Melvin Ormond Hammond (see Letter 62 n.7). In her letter of June 26-July 9, Lawrence wonders whether a letter from Carman to Hammond might prompt him to give her a job. [back]

  15. The Toronto branch of T. Eaton Co. at 178, Yonge Street. [back]

  16. Two copies of Carman’s Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics (1903) (see Letter 75 n.1). Enclosed with the letter is a cheque for four dollars made out to "Margaret Lawrence" and signed Bliss Carman. It is drawn on the First National Bank, New Canaan, Connecticut and dated "11 July 1928." [back]

  17. The context suggests that Carman is referring to Roberts rather than to himself. [back]

  18. Not identified. [back]