Bliss Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley

Assisted by Margaret Maciejewski

Letter 7

Twilight Park

Haines Falls, N.Y.

10. September. 1927



Good morning, dear person, and thousand thanks for your last letter just here. If you had ever had the very common experience of an attempt to get a half-way prompt letter out of this pen, you would be astonished at the volume and precipitacy (if there is such a word) of all my recent chatter to you on paper. Why is it? Infatuation, of course! A new friendship must have a touch of ecstasyóO good Lord, more than a touch. It isnít worth anything if it hasnít rapture and fondnessówhich in its original meaning is foolishness. It is just like falling in love, which is all foolishness, as we so well know!

I am ever so grateful for all the self-revealing, and in no wise egotistic, things you say which explain the very you, which you give me to know. And the more I hear the more delightful and akin you seem. That very modern and truly sceptical mind which cannot be easily fooled is just like my own exactly.

For instance I wholly agree with your point of view of nice Krishna.1 I am sure he must be embarrassed at having to be mothered and exploited so interminably. And yet he cannot quite break away. Also I think it must be said that all the messiah talk is, now at least, mere newspaper twaddle. And a terrible pity. I view him just as you do. And take him as a radiant youth. What wisdom he may develop as he goes along remains to be seen. I agree with Count Kaiserling,2 I think, that the age of Messianic revelation is probably over. I suppose every-man-his-own-messiah is what we are working towards. It doesnít seem very near does it?!

Next day Sunday 11th


A sonorous day of sun and cloud after a heavy rain last night. As I sit here in a corner of the verandah all the clean heaven seems full of rushing sound. It is the streams roaring down the side of the mountain in their stony beds, making such a singing as you would love to hear. The Santa Cruz stream dashing down its falls on one side, and the Kaaterskill in its caŮon on the other side, a steadier louder noise than the throbbing sea. The mountains themselves are heavily timbered from base to peak, and as I look down the Clove I see all the tree tops wind-blown far below and billowing and tossing like a driven tide. It is a glorious scene.

Now about your letter. What must I reply to? O yes, transportation to Quebec. You should see Mr. John Murray Gibbon (C.P.R. Offices, Montreal) or write to him.3 He is head of their publicity department and as you know was the first President of the Canadian Authors Association. If you can see him some time when on one of his frequent visits to Toronto, that would be best. Tell him all about your explorers and pioneers, and he will see the need of visiting many points in Canada for your work. The C.P.R. has an excellent library in its Montreal offices full of books old and new on Canada, and I am sure your scheme would interest him very much personally. All he would need to know further would be something of your work. If you could get an order for one or two sketches from some periodical, on the strength of your outline, that would be sufficient to warrant him in asking for transportation. Anyhow you will find him most approachable, gentle, and kindly. Say I advised you to ask him for an interview. Put your artistís modesty in your pocket.

"Perhaps the woman feels the need of love more than the man" you say. Perhaps. I cannot say. I never needed much else. And about the mating business, I donít know the true philosophy of that either. On the physical evolutionary side it seems to be rather casual and transient. But on the spiritual side it is anything but casual, and the one thing the spirit longs for is permanency in its friendship. The soul is terribly lonely, and cannot understand itself, and so I suppose that is why it so longs for an understanding companionship. I believe there are those who find in their human lives just such suitable companions as to make them perfectly happy. But this is rare. Blessed are they who find it. It is this mixture of the permanent and the impermanent in every soul that makes such desperate unhappiness for most mortals.

Yes, Iím sure you have had much love offered you, Margaret dear. And youíll have more no doubt. Stick to your ideal of spaciousness and the heroic line in a man. Also beauty, gallantry, cleverness and wisdom! You deserve them all. Would that I had any one of them to offer!

When Richard Mansfield4 was once travelling with his Company he had a telegram from an actor saying, "I desire to join your company". Mansfield wired back, "You are alone in your desire."

Remember the phrase. It may serve you some time when you have to turn down an ambitious squire or Don! So much for piffle!

Seriously. I am very happy too. You grow dearer with every day. Time is short only if one consults "Whoís Who in America."

No, dear, Iím not through. But the flaming spirit loves the trail through the wild and rejoices in the miles, forgetting that the willing shape (heroic line or no heroic line) cannot take all the grades in high. Sometimes I run myself down and then have a break, fatigue and nerve-exhaustion and even a touch of despondency and apprehension. Donít ever let yourself overdo to that point. It is worse than anything. I am all right now.

No, dear, a year is not long. I have often waited many times as long as that before seeing a wonderful poem (!) in print. And Twilight will be here. I donít leave for New Canaan until the end of the week. And shall be there until early November.

But here is very prompt action by way of encouragement. "Nature Lore"5 was only written last month and has been accepted by the Delineator with enthusiasm. Bravo! and "shouts without".6


You are a very dear.




This is an awful infliction. I am horrified

  1. In a letter of September 8, Lawrence expresses approval of Krishnamurtiís At the Feet of the Master (see Letter 2 n.1) and her reservations about the followers of a Messiah. See also Letter 5 n.8 for Besantís "mother[ing] of Krishnamurti and the "newspaper twaddle" surrounding her proclamation of him as World Teacher. [back]

  2. Count Hermann Keyserling (1880-1946) was a Russian-born traveller, lecturer, and mystical philosopher who founded a "School of Wisdom" at Darmstadt in Germany. His Travel Diary of a Philosopher was published in 1919 and the book to which Carman appears to be alludingóCreative Understandingó in 1922. In a letter of September 17, 1927, Lawrence expresses her approval of the former, which Albert Durrant Watson had given to her as a gift, and her disapproval of the latter. [back]

  3. Between 1913 and 1945, the Ceylon-born and British-educated John Murray Gibbon (1875-1952) was the general publicity agent for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. A prolific poet, novelist, essayist, and translator, he was the co-founder and first president of the Canadian Authors Association (1921), the founder of Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies (1924), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1922). His early writings include Scots in Canada (1911), Hearts and Faces (1916), A Canadian Calendar (1919), Pagan Love (1922), and Eyes of a Gypsy (1926). In 1927-28 he published four volumes of Canadian folksongs and between 1927 and 1930 he organized fourteen folk festivals at C.P.R. hotels across Canada, including three with the help of Marius Barbeau (see Letter 46 n.4) at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City (see Letter 62 n.3). See Terrence Craig, "John Murray Gibbon," Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 92 Canadian Writers, 1890-1920, ed. W.H. New (Detroit: Gale Research, 1990), 117-20. [back]

  4. Richard Mansfield (1854-1907) was a German-born actor who achieved fame and aroused controversy in Prince Carl (1886), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1887), Richard III (1889), and Cyrano de Bergerac (1898). See G. Bordman, Oxford Companion to American Theatre, 2nd. ed. (New York: Oxford UP, 1992). [back]

  5. Carmanís poem was published in the Delineator (date unknown) and subsequently appeared in his Poems (1931). [back]

  6. "Shouts without": a common stage direction in drama since the Renaissance. [back]