Chapter 7
Northern Reflections: Architecture, Poetics, and Modernity in the Post-Confederation Period

by D.M.R. Bentley


[N]ational intellect receives a prevailing tone from the peculiar scenery that abounds [in a country].... In old Greece, the lovely climate had just vicissitudes enough to impress a happy variety of experience and coinage on the mind .... But England, and the kindred regions of Germany, have in their less favoured climates a depth of gloom which is known to characterize the northern spirit, in which external nature is admirably harmonious with the intellectual structure, by its influence thereupon eliciting the noblest efforts.

E.L. Magoon, “Scenery and Mind,” The Home Book of the Picturesque; or American Scenery, Art and Literature (1852) (34)

Before 1900, the electrically-lit city and electrically-powered street transport had arrived all across Canada.... Tall office buildings, pounding factories, complex road, water and sewage systems, many-sided municipal governments, were all hallmarks of abundant urban life. So were the concentrated social ills of blighted housing, over-crowding, crime, and alcohol.

J.M.S. Careless, The Rise of Cities in Canada before 1914 (1978) (25-26)

[I]t is marvelous that we as a people, with so much wide area at the nation’s disposal, should herd in stifling purlieus of half-civilized American cities, where our humanity is stunted and degenerated to the demands of a modern commercial and money-hungered helotism.

William Wilfred Campbell, The Beauty, History, Romance and Mystery of the Canadian Lake Region (1910) (28-29)


The eighteen eighties and ’nineties were a time of intense national feeling in Canada and intense theoretical interest in the relationship between and among Canada’s natural environment, national character, and artistic productions. Would the country’s new nationhood result in the emergence of a national culture or was the existence of a national culture crucial to the emergence of full nationhood? Was national character determined by race, geography, climate or a combination of all three? What were or might be the distinguishing characteristics of a Canadian work of art? Variations of these and related questions were the staple of pronouncements and speculations about the state of the nation and its culture in the decades following Confederation, for above and around them hung what Goldwin Smith called Canada and the Canadian Question (1891): did Canada’s future lie in complete national independence, continued dependence on Britain, or eventual annexation to the United States?1 It was within this political triad that practitioners and observers of Canadian architecture and literature in the last two decades of the nineteenth century formulated their arguments for and against the presence or promise of a distinctively Canadian style or form of building and writing.

     In preparing the way for his argument that commercial union with the United States is Canada’s best option, Smith reminds readers of Canada and the Canadian Question that “Canada is a political expression,” a confederation of geographically and culturally disparate regions, and suggests that “[t]o expect a national literature is therefore unfair” (47). “Let it be remembered also,” he adds, “that it is difficult for the sapling of Colonial literature to grow beneath the mighty shadow of the parent tree” (48). Nevertheless, Smith concedes the existence of a “literature ... fully as large and as high in quality as could be reasonably looked for, and of a character thoroughly healthy” (though not, note, distinctively Canadian) (47).2 On the subject of architecture in Canada, he is much less generous:

To suit the climate a Canadian house ought to be simple in form, so as to be easily warmed, with broad eaves to shed the snow, and a deep verandah as a summer room; and what is suitable is also fair to the eye. But servile imitation produces gables, mansard roofs, and towers, just as fashion clothes Canadian women in Parisian dresses. Canadians are often told by those who wish to flatter them that as a northern race they must have some great destiny before them.3 But stove heat is not less enervating than the heat of the sun. (44)

To Smith’s mind the absence of distinctiveness and originality that is everywhere evident in Canada bespeaks the futility of resisting the “economic, intellectual, and social fusion” with the United States that is “daily becoming more complete” even in Quebec and especially in Ontario (56, and see 23).

     As amply attested by the comments assembled by Kelly Crossman in Architecture in Transition: from Art to Practice, 1885-1906, Canadian architects and writers on architecture in the eighteen eighties and ’nineties shared Smith’s view that the Canadian climate should affect building forms and styles but differed about whether it had or would in any distinctive way. “We certainly have not a Canadian style of architecture,” wrote the Ottawa architect G.F. Stalker (1841-95) in “Climatic Influences on Architecture” (1891)4; “one cannot fail to be struck with the want of consideration that has been shown to ... climate.... [T]he only thing for us to do ... is not to ignore our climate ... but to give it in our architecture that consideration and study which is due and which shall give a certain amount at least, of national character to our building” (105; qtd. in Crossman 115). Four years later, an anonymous writer in the Winnipeg Tribune of December 21, 1895 disagreed, and in doing so may well have been targeting Smith’s argument:

In Canada we have scarcely developed a type as yet, but certain marked lines are already observable. The habitant lives in the same kind of a house that sheltered his forefathers when Quebec was besieged by Wolfe, but in the other provinces once the fierce struggle with nature is over, the settlers have aspired to something ampler. The people could not well borrow designs, because the conditions of temperature here are different from those of every other land. And most resembling Russia in climate, we cannot copy her, because our mode of life, our civilization is different. Out of these conditions then has been evolved or is being evolved, the Canadian house. It is compact approaching the square or the thick oblong. It has solid walls, with protecting air spaces to keep out the cold, and ample verandahs to keep off the blaze of the summer sun. In the matter of heating, Canadian houses are probably the best equipped in the world, and in the United States several of the best systems and furnaces bear the name of Canadian firms.5 (qtd. in Crossman 118)

In 1888, the Hamilton architect James Balfour used the first issue of the inherently nationalistic Canadian Architect and Builder to urge members of his profession to avoid the “servile imitation” that Smith would condemn by “drawing no line that does not express a purpose” and thus producing “a new and perfectly suitable style ... a Canadian nineteenth-century style” (3; qtd. in Crossman 110). In the century’s final year, the Toronto architect George Siddall (1861-1941) used the pages of the same magazine to express doubt that such a style had developed: “much that has been produced here is either positively bad or absolutely uninteresting,” he wrote in “The Advancement of Public Taste in Architecture” (1899): the majority of Canadian “buildings ... are offensively bad ... from sheer ignorance or contempt for the recognized rules of art ... [or] dull and stupid ... from the mere mechanical repetition of stock forms and stale ideas which do duty for thought and save trouble of invention” (28; qtd. in Crossman 109-10). Both University College (1856-59), Toronto and the Parliament Buildings (1859-66) in Ottawa have stylistic characteristics that are consonant with Canadian qualities (see Chapter 15: Literature Architecture Community), but it was not until several years into the twentieth century that the nationalistic impetus of the eighteen eighties and ’nineties resulted in anything like a national style based, as Crossman observes, on four elements: (1) “local materials” (2) “deference to climate,” (3) “Canadian themes” in “the design of ornament,” and (4) a “self-conscious use of traditional Quebec styles and manners of building” (137).6

     Each of the elements thus identified by Crossman as components of the national style of Canadian architecture that took shape between 1885 and 1906 can find ready equivalents in the theories and practices of writers who were attempting to give Canada a national literature in the decades following Confederation. Fully subscribing to the tenets of Romantic nationalism as a result of his youthful involvement with the Young Ireland movement,7 Thomas Darcy McGee (1825-68) regarded poetry, particularly popular poetry on local themes and figures, to be crucial to the development of national sentiment and identity. “Every country, every nationality, every people, must create and foster a National Literature, if it is their wish to preserve a distinct individuality from other nations,” he argued within months after moving from the United States to Montreal in 1857, adding:

There is a glorious field upon which to work for the formation of ... [a Canadian] National Literature. It must assume the gorgeous coloring and the gloomy grandeur of the forest. It must partake of the grave mysticism of the Red Man, and the wild vivacity of the hunter of [the] western prairies. Its lyrics must possess the ringing cadence of the waterfall, and its epics be as solemn and beautiful as our great rivers. We have the materials [and] our position is favorable [for] northern latitudes like ours have ever been famed for the strength, variety and beauty of their literature. ([2])

Less than a year later, in December 1858, McGee published Canadian Ballads, a volume whose contents – poems such as “Jacques Cartier,” “The Arctic Indian’s Faith,” “Our Lady of the Snow” – not only fulfil his own requirements for a Canadian “National Literature,” but also correspond to all but one of the elements identified by Crossman as the components of Canadian architectural style, the exception being the “self-conscious use of traditional Quebec styles and manners of building” (though not “materials” or “themes”). The very titles of most of the sections into which William Douw Lighthall (1857-1954) divided his oft-reprinted Songs of the Great Dominion (1889) – “The Indian,” “The Voyageur and Habitant,” “Settlement Life,” “Sports and Free Life,” “The Spirit of Canadian History,” “Places,” and “Seasons” – provide a further indication of the close parallels that existed between the quests for a national architecture and a national literature in late nineteenth-century Canada. That the first two sections of Songs of the Great Dominion are entitled “The Imperial Spirit” and “The New Nationality” reflects Lighthall’s position on the question of Canada’s relationship with Britain and the United States: a staunch believer in “Canadianism,”8 he regarded a strengthening of the country’s ties with Britain as the best way to nurture its national identity and to prevent its annexation to the United States.

     When Canada’s finest nineteenth-century poet, Archibald Lampman (1861-99), delivered a lecture on the history of English literary style at a meeting of the St. Patrick’s Literary Association of Ottawa on January 20, 1891,9 he made scant reference to Canadian literature and no reference to Canadian architecture, but he did argue for the existence of parallels between and among the arts:

... in every age of the world’s life that peculiarity of thought or feeling which is uppermost in its aggregate of mind lends to the product of all its artists a broadly perceptible general character upon which the work of each individual is only a variation.... In architecture as the art which expresses the mind of each age on the vastest scale, one most easily realizes the great distinctions of style.... When we pass to literature we find the style of ... the Parthenon translated into the verse of the Oedipus Coloneus [sic] and the prose of Plato – the style of the Strasburg Minster and the Moses of [Michelangelo] Buonarotti into the verse of the Song of Roland and the prose of the Vita Nuova.... (Essays and Reviews 75)

The lineage of these remarks stretches back, of course, to the Hegelian notion that every aspect of an age or epoch bears the imprint of its Zeitgeist. Among their more proximate sources, however, are works by Matthew Arnold, Walter Pater,10 and, especially, Hippolyte Adolphus Taine, who argues in his History of English Literature (1863; trans. 1871), Lectures on Art (1867; trans. 1871-75), and elsewhere that the stylistic parallels that he observed in the architecture and literature of a civilization such as that of Ancient Greece arose from racial and environmental as well as epochal influences.11 In fact, it was to environmentally determined racial traits that Lampman would turn a month later when he speculated on the characteristics of a future Canadian literature in the lecture entitled “Two Canadian Poets” that he delivered to the Ottawa Literary and Scientific Society:

We know that climatic and scenic conditions have much to do with the moulding of national character. In the climate of this country we have the pitiless severity of the climate of Sweden with the sunshine and the sky of the north of Italy, a combination not found in the same degree anywhere else in the world. The northern winters of Europe are seasons of terror and gloom; our winters are seasons of glittering splendour and incomparable richness of colour. At the same time we have the utmost diversity of scenery, a country exhibiting every variety of beauty and grandeur. A Canadian race, we imagine, might combine the energy, the seriousness, the perseverence of the Scandinavians with something of the gayety, the elasticity, the quickness of spirit of the south. If these qualities could be united in a literature, the result would indeed be something novel and wonderful.12 (Essays and Reviews 93)

The thrust of Lampman’s remarks is clear: if only in “degree” Canada has a distinctive enough environment to produce a distinctive “race” and, hence, a distinctive literature (and, presumably, architecture), but this has not yet happened, and might never.

     Although the racial assumptions underlying Lampman’s remarks make them difficult to take seriously today, their environmental aspects are worth consideration for their identification of some of the factors that might occasion certain types of psychological and aesthetic responses and, in doing so, encourage and validate certain styles of building as well as writing. In the summer of 1884, Lampman told a friend that he had “been endeavouring to think up some plan for a strictly Canadian poem, local in its incident and spirit, but cosmopolitan in form and manner” (qtd. in Connor 78). The contemplated poem would “accord ... with the quiet toilsome life” of the “Niagara district” and be “sober and realistic ... in the metre of [Longfellow’s] Evangeline but more like [Goethe’s] Hermann and Dorothea, or, nearer still, to the translations from ... [the] Swedish poet [Johan Ludwig] Runeberg, who wrote lovely things about the peasants of Finland.” In other words, he had selected his “local materials ... and ... themes,” and was casting about for the appropriate poetic form in which to express them – that is, the form with the right associations.13 With this in mind, he considers then discards an American long poem on a Canadian subject, moves closer to his goal with a German “idyllic epic” (Norman 33), and finally settles on poetry that is Scandinavian in authorship and subject-matter and, as much to the point, praised by Edmund Gosse in Studies in the Literature of Northern Europe (1879) for its “rich severity of style” as well as for its realism (108, 105). The fact that the poem to which these cogitations gave rise nearly a decade later (The Story of an Affinity) is “a small novel in blank verse” (Lampman, Annotated Correspondence 120) that locates itself firmly in the English Romantic-Victorian tradition is arguably both an index of Lampman’s orientation at the time of its writing and a manifestation of a Canadian “aggregate of mind”: in the early ’eighties, he had been an advocate of full independence from Britain but by the early ’nineties had come to fear that “blatant patriotism” was furthering the cause of annexation by curtailing wise thought and action (Essays and Reviews 91-92).

     To the very extent that Lampman did not execute his “strictly Canadian poem” as planned and could only “imagine” the “novel and wonderful” literature that would result if the “energy, ... seriousness, ... [and] perseverance of the Scandinavians” were “united” with “something of the gayety, the elasticity, the quickness of spirit of the south,” his remarks in 1884 and 1891 can be read as manifestos or blueprints in Rem Koolhaas’s sense of “descr[iptions] [of] an ideal state that can only be approximated,” “compromised,” or “imperfect[ly] realiz[ed]” (11). In Lampman’s published collections of poetry – Among the Millet, and Other Poems (1888), Lyrics of Earth (1895), and Alcyone (1900) – his blueprints are partially realized in several ways: each volume contains several poems that treat of the “severity,” “sunshine,” and “colour” of the seasons, and Lyrics of Earth is organized around the seasonal cycle; Among the Millet, Alcyone, and to a lesser extent Lyrics of Earth adhere to an aesthetic of thematic and formal variety that “accord[s]” with the “diversity,” “variety,” and “elasticity” that he discerned in Canadian scenery and the Italian character;14 and all three volumes display the seriousness and realism that he valued in the Scandinavian character and in the poetry of Goethe and Runeberg – so much so, in fact, that his oeuvre as a whole answers almost perfectly to the definition of Canadian literature that Smith puts into the mouth of “a kind critic”: “it still retains something of the old English sobriety of style, and is comparatively free from the straining for effect which is the bane of the best literature of the United States” (47-48).

     Nor do Lampman’s blueprints lack approximations and accordances in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Canadian architecture. By the eighteen nineties, the “pitiless severity” of winter and the intense “sunshine” of summer had long since given rise to the “broad eaves,” “deep verandah[s],” and “simple,” “easily warmed” forms whose absence Smith laments and the writer in the Winnipeg Tribune celebrates. Two decades earlier, under the leadership of the then governor general, Lord Dufferin, the sublimity and picturesqueness that lie behind Lampman’s comments on the “grandeur” and “variety” of Canadian scenery had inspired the “neo-medieval designs” for Quebec City by William Lynn (1829-1915), including a design for a new Chateau St. Louis that Dufferin likened to a “‘Chateau en Espagne’” rather than a “Chateau en France” (or, as Lampman might have preferred, a “Chateau en Italie”) (Crossman 111-12). By the end of the century “the neo-medieval, picturesque mode” pioneered by Lynn had yielded buildings in the same style by Eugène-Etienne Taché (1836-1912) and the American architect Bruce Price (1845-1903), most notably the latter’s Chateau Frontenac (see also: i) (1892-94), a colossal response to the sublimity, picturesqueness, and historical ambiance of the site that, as Crossman observes, suggests “the special resonance in Quebec” of “medieval and early Renaissance” architectural forms (114). If Lampman’s suggestion that the Canadian climate combines Swedish “severity” with northern Italian “sunshine” were to be read as a “retroactive manifesto” (Koolhaas 9) it would find support in such buildings as Bellevue (circa 1841), the Tuscan-style villa in Kingston whose “picturesque asymmetry” and unconventional ground-floor plan constitute a very “thoughtful” response to its northern environment: in addition to a substantial verandah, the house features a “morning-room ... oriented towards the eastern sun,” “a drawing-room ... [that] faces south,” and a “dining-room, generally used in the evening, [that] has little natural light” (Kalman 2: 608-09).15 If his blueprint were to be read forward to the middle of the twentieth century and beyond, it would find fulfilment in the accordance between Modernism and the scenery and climate of the West Coast and in the resonances between the Modernism of the great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and the afforested regions of Canada.

     Whether read retroactively or proactively, Lampman’s blueprints accept a characteristic of Canadian architecture that Smith condemns as “servile imitation” and that the writer in the Winnipeg Tribune recognizes as a process of importation and adaptation whose components are an informed and sensitive selection of (architectural, literary) models and their modification in response to local conditions and requirements. The “strictly Canadian poem” that Lampman wanted to write in 1884 would “accord ... with the quiet toilsome life” of the “Niagara district” and it would be “cosmopolitan in form and manner.” It would use an appropriate structural and stylistic model as a vehicle for local materials. It would honour its Canadian content and its Canadian readers in a work adapted from the best available. Above all, it would have no truck with the insular nationalism that makes for uncritical regionalism, stagnant provincialism, and, in all but the rarest cases, bad art. The recognition by Lampman and the other members of the Confederation group of poets that it is possible – their mentor, Joseph Edmund Collins (1855-92), argued essential16 – to be both “Canadian” and “cosmopolitan” gave Canada some of its most accomplished and appealing poetry. Much the same combination of careful formal choice and adaptation in accordance with the local natural and cultural environments is evident in the work and utterances of Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935), Arthur Erickson (1924- ), Douglas Cardinal (1934- ), Moshe Safdie (1938- ), and other distinguished Canadian architects. Rattenbury’s design for the Empress Hotel (1904-08) in Victoria was intended to evoke Elizabethan manor houses as well as the Château Frontenac and thus to reflect the city’s Englishness as well as its connection to the rest of Canada. Erickson’s statement that, although “the subtle and sensitive climate of the [northwest] coast tends to make things drab and lifeless, it is also obvious that a too vital contrast of form and colour kills its fragile poetry” (14) bespeaks the desire for harmony between architecture and environment that led to such masterpieces of West Coast Modernism as the Eppich House (1974) and Robson Square (1974-79) in Vancouver. The layered curves of Cardinal’s Canadian Museum of Civilization (1983-89) in Hull, Quebec may have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building (1934-39) in Racine, Washington and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1956-60) in New York, but they were also inspired by Canada’s geological land “forms” and intended to evoke the architectural structures of settler society and – more reconditely – the achievements and “aspirations” of the country’s “diverse peoples” at a time when “we sense a destiny beyond this planet” (Cardinal 17).17 The ramped hall of Safdie’s National Gallery of Canada (1983-88) in Ottawa was inspired by Bernini’s Scala Regia in the Vatican (Cawker and Bernstein 33), but it also provides views of a taiga garden18 that recalls the work of the Group of Seven, and the roof lines of the great glass and granite hall in which it culminates are a sparkling salute to the Library of Parliament (1859-77), which was itself modelled on the “chapter-house of a cathedral” (Trollope 68), perhaps specifically that of “Westminster Abbey, which was then being used as the Records Office for Westminster Palace” (Kalman 2:536). In such appropriate and resonant buildings, architecture becomes Canadian poetry.


By far the largest architectural presence in Lampman’s poetry is Ottawa, the city in which he worked and lived between 1884, when he moved from Toronto to take up a position in the Post Office Department, and his untimely death in 1899. “I have often been tempted to sing the praises of Ottawa,” he wrote in his “At the Mermaid Inn” column in the Toronto Globe on February 4, 1893 – “not as a commercial city or as the seat of government, but as a site, as a most picturesque and wholesome dwelling of men” (255):

I venture to say that Ottawa will become in the course of ages the Florence of Canada, if not America, and the plain of Ottawa its Val d’Arno. Old Vasari said that there was a certain ‘air’ in Florence which possessed a magical potency in exciting intellectual and imaginative energy.... I have noticed the same thing in Ottawa. Perched upon its crown of rock, a certain atmosphere flows about its walls, borne on the breath of the prevailing northwest wind, an intellectual elixir, an oxygenic essence thrown off by immeasurable tracts of pine-clad mountain and crystal lake. In this air the mind becomes conscious of a vital energy and buoyant swiftness of movement rarely experienced in a like degree elsewhere.

Nor is this all. In addition to possessing in abundance the combination of northern European and northern Italian qualities that Lampman sees as characteristic of the Canadian climate and, hence, of a future Canadian race and literature, Ottawa has the “advantage ... of uncommon romantic beauty of situation”:

Viewed at a distance of two or three miles, from any point of the compass, bossed with its central mass of towers, its lower and less presentable quarters buried behind rock or wood, it is one of the loveliest cities in the world. It is so placed that it can never be anything but beautiful, and as the years go on, bringing with them the spread of a finer architecture and a richer culture of the surrounding country, its beauty will be vastly greater than it is even now. It will become an ideal city for the artist. (256)

Almost needless to say, the “central mass of towers” to which Lampman refers is not the Parliament Buildings of today, but the complex of three buildings – two Departmental Blocks and the Parliament Building itself with its adjoining Library – that were designed by the Toronto firm of Thomas Fuller (1823-98) and Chilion Jones (1835-1912) and constructed between 1859 and 1866 (see Kalman 2: 534-41 and Chapter 15: Literature Architecture Community).

     Lampman’s admission that viewer position is crucial to perceiving Ottawa as “one of the loveliest cities in the world” and his expectation that its appeal will be gradually enhanced by “the spread of finer architecture and a richer culture” – that is, agriculture – “of the surrounding country” are concessions to the fact that in 1893 Canada’s capital city was still a lumber town dominated horizontally by expanses of poor housing and unsightly mill yards.19 With the description of these as Ottawa’s “lower and less presentable quarters,” the city’s dual nature is related to the spirit/body dualism that Lampman regarded as characteristic of all human life and identified as a special characteristic of poets, whom he figured as “Children of Pan.... Half brutish, half divine, but all of earth” and “ever striving to be divine” (Poems 114, and Essays and Reviews 59). A believer both in human evolution and in social meliorism, Lampman also held that it was the task of poets – and, by extension, artists, architects, and even agriculturists – to assist “[h]uman nature” in its “divine progress” towards “what is pure and noble and beautiful” and human society in its movement towards “brotherly Communion” and “the death of strife” (Essays and Reviews 124, Poems 209). When “[v]iewed from a distance” and vantage point that obscure its physical and social ugliness, Ottawa is a beautiful embodiment of human aspiration that has the potential to become “an ideal city for the artist” because “the spread of a finer architecture and a richer culture” will be the outward and visible signs of spiritual and social progress. It is a national capital that could become North America’s neo-Gothic equivalent of the ideal city envisaged by the Florentine artist Piero Della Francesca in the so-called Ideal City panel (circa 1470) that is now in the Galleria Nazionale in Urbino.

     Lampman’s statement at the beginning of his “At the Mermaid Inn” column that he “has often been tempted to sing the praises of Ottawa” should not be taken as a sign that he had not already done so. One of the strongest pieces in Among the Millet, and Other Poems, “Winter Hues Recalled,” concludes with a Wordsworthian “spot of time” in which the poet is “Transfixed with wonder [and] overborne with joy” as he observes the snow-covered “hills,” “forests,” and “streams” of the landscape around a city that, though unnamed, is almost certainly Ottawa because the poem was composed well after Lampman moved there:

I saw them in their silence and their beauty,
Swept by the sunset’s rapid hand of fire,
Sudden, mysterious, every moment deepening
To some majesty of rose or flame.
                    .      .      .
                    In the valley far before me,
Low sunk in sapphire shadows, from its hills,
Softer and lovelier than an opening flower,
Uprose a city with its sun-touched towers,
A bunch of amethysts.
(Poems 29-30)

Figured as both organic and jewel-like, the Ottawa of these lines is envisaged as part of an order whose harmonious combination of the natural and the artificial is brilliantly summarized by the phrase “A bunch of amethysts” and subtly reinforced by the resonances between “rose” and “Uprose” and “flower and towers.” In a moment of near-mystical vision inspired in part perhaps by Tennyson’s description of the “fair city” of Camelot in the Idylls of the King as a gleaming “mount” of “spires and turrets” that “rose between the forest and the field” (“Gareth and Lynette” 188-93), 20 Ottawa here becomes a type of the celestial Jerusalem of Revelation 21, the foundations of which are “garnished with all manner of precious stones,” including “sapphire” and “amethyst” (Revelation 21. 19-20). The Ottawa of “At the Mermaid Inn” merely has the potential to become an “ideal city” but the Ottawa of “Winter Hues Recalled” has intimations of the Civitas Dei.

     “Winter Hues Recalled” is by no means the only poem in which Lampman pays extravagant tribute to Ottawa or another Canadian city, town, or village. In the sonnet entitled “The City” (1888), it is again the “glorious towers” of Ottawa that are celebrated for their jewel-like radiance,21 but in “A Niagara Landscape” (1900) it is Thorold and St. Catharines that are envisaged as near-natural features of the “luminous land” and in “A Sunset at Les Eboulements” (1900) it is “the long line of ... villages” on the “Kamouraska shore” of the St. Lawrence that the “sun’s last shaft” makes “golden” (Poems 118, 272, 274). In numerous other poems, however, the urban environment is seen from the perspective of the mind-cure culture that developed in the United States after the Civil War as the source of physical and psychological ills for which a temporary anodyne could be found in an excursion to the surrounding countryside or in a poem enacting such an excursion.22 Most of the so-called “nature poems” for which Lampman is rightly renowned, including the much anthologised “Heat” (1888) and “The Frogs” (1888), participate in this pattern and purpose, as do portions of later poems such as “Winter-Store” (1895) and The Story of an Affinity (1900) in which the speaker or protagonist is more-or-less successful in finding respite in the natural world from a debilitating and dispiriting urban environment that is synecdochically represented in “Among the Timothy” by “echoing city towers, / ... blind gray streets, the jingle of the throng,” and “drifting hours” (that is, time spent doing pointless tasks) (Poems 14).

     Although the cities of Lampman’s mind-cure poems are for the most part nameless and rendered only in very general terms so as to be typical, this is not so of the city whose “sound and strife” the speaker succeeds in escaping in the final stanzas of “At the Ferry” (1895), the lyric that he read under the title “Hull Ferry” at a literary evening in Ottawa in May 1895. Characterized in the Globe (Toronto) at the time as a “word picture of the Ottawa river” (May 25, 1895, 9),23 “At the Ferry” makes passing (and Arnoldian) reference to the “dreaming spire” of a “vast gray church” – presumably the Roman Catholic cathedral, “a large and imposing building, of local blue-gray limestone” (Dixon 170-71) – but focuses primarily on the “lower and less presentable quarters” of the city that Lampman had ignored in his “At the Mermaid Inn” column. In his essay on Ottawa in Picturesque Canada (1882) Lampman’s friend and fellow civil servant Frederick Augustus Dixon (1843-1919) describes the “mills ... still more mills, and [the] immense [Eddy] factory for the production of matches and pails” on one side of the river as “one of the ‘sights’ of the locality” and the “unearthly din” emanating from the “long line of saw-mills” on the other as “absolutely deafening” (174). In Lampman’s poem, the sights and sounds of the mills are joined by other aspects of the lumber industry and adjacent city: the “perfume and wintry chill” emanating “from the yellow lumber-piles”; “The rumble of ... trams, the stir / Of barges at the clacking piers; / The champ of wheels, the crash of steam”; “The cabin’d village round the shore / The landing and the fringe of boats,” and, closer at hand, the “Strong clamour at perpetual drive” of “an open mill” whose “changing chant, now hoarse, now shrill / Keeps dinning like a mighty hive” (Poems 151-53). An audacious comparison between the “desire” represented by the “upward” movement of “films of smoke” and the heavenward thrust of the cathedral’s “dreaming spire” prepares the way for the moment of transcendence that occurs at the end of the poem, after the speaker has cast his “thought” beyond the horizon to en-“vision” “Far peopled hills, and ancient fields, / And cities by the crested sea”:

I see no more the barges pass,
    Nor mark the ripple round the pier,
And all the uproar, mass on mass,
    Falls dead upon a vacant ear.
Beyond the tumult of the mills,
    And all the city’s sound and strife,
Beyond the waste, beyond the hills,
    I look far out and dream of life.
(Poems 153)

In most of Lampman’s mind-cure poems, an excursion into the countryside is required to negate the baneful effects of the city, but here the negation is achieved through and in an elevated state of “vision” or “dream” that renders the sights and sounds of commercial activity and urban existence invisible and inaudible. On the evidence of “At the Ferry,” “Winter Hues Recalled,” the “At the Mermaid Inn,” column of 1893, and, it may be added, Lampman’s numerous “nature poems,” his ability to celebrate and endure Ottawa was heavily reliant on his ability to achieve the distance that lends enchantment.


There can be scarcely any doubt that part of the impetus behind Lampman’s urge to “sing the praises” of Ottawa as “one of the loveliest cities in the world” and a future “Ideal city for artists” in his “At the Mermaid Inn” column of February 4, 1893 came from that year’s most prominent architectural spectacle: the White City at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. “I wish I could have seen that city and that Fair with you,”24 he told a correspondent (Edward William Thomson) on October 16, 1893; “[a]ll that I hear convinces me that no one should have missed the great spectacle” (Annotated Correspondence 95). Apparently his interest in the Columbian Exposition was so great that he had “a presentation photograph of himself taken by an Ottawa photographer with ... [its] symbol embossed on the mat[t]” (Gnarowski 11). He also wrote “To Chicago,” a suitably Whitmanesque paean to the White City and to Chicago itself, that he dated November 10, 1893 and asked his progressivist American friend Hamlin Garland to offer for publication to a “‘Chicago newspaper editor’” (qtd. in Doyle 42). Instead, Garland arranged for it to appear in The Arena (Boston),25 “the most widely circulated American magazine of its day to be concerned with questions of social reform” (Doyle 42-43) and, therefore, an entirely appropriate vehicle for a poem that uses the “gorgeous and vanishing vision” of “The fair White City” as the basis for an expression of socialistic hope addressed to Chicago as the “City of dreams and tumultuous life, city of fortune”:

Be this your beginning of lessons only; a mightier field
Lies beckoning grandly before you, a harvest whose riches shall yield
In the future of justice and right a goodlier festival,
When the fruits of the earth for your children are won, for each and for all.
O men of the brave new land, the West, the impetuous City,
Give rein to the strength of your hearts, the fire of your dreams, and prepare
Another and purer example of what you can plan and can dare,
The visible form of a life purged clean from the sins of the old,
The horror of weakness and want, the triumph of self and gold,
The life of a kindlier law, without strife, without care, without crime,
Of growth and of freedom for all, of brotherhood sweet and sublime.

For Lampman, as for many others at the time, the White City held the promise of what W.H. Auden would call “New Styles of architecture, a change of heart” (7): more efficaciously than any mind-cure therapy, new architectural styles and urban arrangements would repair the psychological, sociological, and spiritual ravages of modernity. Although he did not live to see the Plan for Chicago that its principal architect, Daniel Burnham (1846-1912), published in 1909, the delight that Lampman would have experienced on seeing its near-utopian vision of the city can easily be imagined.

     A month before the appearance of “To Chicago” in the April 1894 number of The Arena, another Boston periodical, The Atlantic Monthly, published Lampman’s best-known and most dystopian poem about the nature and effects of the post-industrial city. Written in the summer of 1892, “The City of the End of Things” and its companion poem in Alcyone, “The Land of Pallas” (1891-96),26 were to have been subtitled respectively, “The Issue of the Things That Are” and “The Country of the Ought to Be.”27 Both are among the most striking and significant of his poetic architexts, and both were inspired in part by contemporaneous socialist works – “The City of the End of Things” by Walter Crane’s “Why Socialism Appeals to Artists” (1892) and “The Land of Pallas” by William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890) (see Bentley, The Gay]Grey Moose 196-99 and “William Morris” 36-39).28

     “The City of the End of Things” may have had its inciting moment in Lampman’s reading of Crane’s analysis of the “Enormous mechanical invention” that he saw at work in “the great commercial centres” of modern industrial society (qtd. in Bentley The Gay]Grey Moose 197), but it also has sources and resonances in numerous other texts including Paradise Lost (the descriptions of hell in Books 1 and 2), Wordsworth’s Excursion (the Wanderer’s account of the growth of a huge factory town in Book 8: 118-68), and, of course, James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night (1874), which, like Ruskin’s The Poetry of Architecture (1840), was issued in a new edition in 1893, partly in response to the Columbian Exposition. No doubt grist for the passages of the poem that describe the “murky streets” of the city, the “furnace doors” of its factories, and “The beat, the thunder, and the hiss” of machines that “Cease not, and change not, night nor day” because of the shift system came also from Lampman’s own experience of Ottawa, Toronto, and other Canadian and American cities. The description of the “sooty walls,” “the reeking depths / Of ringing foundries, and the flaring gleams / Of smoke-veiled forges” that “pil[e] din on din” in the “great city” of The Story of an Affinity (2: 30-33) appear to refer to Toronto and even the waterfront of Ottawa appears closer to the perpetual commotion machines of “The City of the End of Things” in light of Dixon’s comment that “work [in the mills] continues both day and night” and that the sight of “the weird unearthly figures of the busy crowd of workers ... contribute[s] to make a picture of the horrible which would captivate the pencil of Doré and give Dante a new idea for a modern Inferno” (174).

     But whereas Dixon had regarded the night scenes on the Ottawa River as “novel,” “picturesque,” and “Rembrandt-like,” the opening lines of “The City of the End of Things” depict a “dark and gloomy” edifice of the sort that Edmund Burke argued is “calculated to produce an idea of the sublime” – that is, “to excite the ideas of pain, and danger” through “terror” (81, 39):

Beside the pounding cataracts
Of midnight streams unknown to us
’Tis builded in the leafless tracts
And valleys huge of Tartarus.
Lurid and lofty and vast it seems;
It hath no rounded name that rings,
But I have heard it called in dreams
The City of the End of Things.
(Poems 179)

Despite its ostensible location in the deep and sunless abyss that Homer places as far below Hades as the earth is below heaven, Lampman’s phantasmagoric city was quickly identified by at least one of the American readers for whom the poem’s publication in the Atlantic Monthly indicates that it was intended as a large American city. “It is a gloomy vision of the future,” wrote Joseph Edgar Chamberlin in the March 3, 1894 issue of the Boston Evening Transcript. “In Chicago ... [it] will not be popular. In Boston it ought to be. We are not so near to dwelling in this City of the End of Things as we might be: let us hope that we shall not come nearer to it” (qtd. in Lampman, Annotated Correspondence 111). “To Chicago,” it would appear, is as much a companion piece to “The City of the End of Things” as is “The Land of Pallas.”

     As Lampman proceeds to identify the construction material of the immense towers of his Tartarean city as “iron,” to describe its “ceaseless” cacophony as an “iron ring,” and to invest the “figures” that “flit” between its “abysses and vast fires” with “iron lips” and “clanking hands” (Poems 180), it becomes increasingly evident that the poem is concerned as much with the city’s dehumanizing effect as with its physical structure. What seems especially to have interested Lampman was the way in which the industrial city works both physically and psychologically to bring about the destruction of those who are unprepared to encounter it:

... whoso of our mortal race
Should find that city unaware,
Lean Death would smite him face to face,
And blanch him with its venomed air:
Or caught by the terrific spell,
Each thread of memory snapt and cut,
His soul would shrivel and its shell
Go rattling like an empty nut.
(Poems, 180-81)


The modern industrial city can either destroy people outright in a manner akin to withdrawing goodness from a nut, depriving a plant of light, and inducing paleness through illness or fear (“blanch[ing]”) or it can empty their psyches by destroying the faculty – memory – that connects the present with the past and thus provides the basis for personal and historical continuity and identity.29 To borrow and adapt the phrase from Marx that furnished Marshall Berman with his 1982 study of modernity, in the “murky streets” of Lampman’s “City of the End of Things,” all that is solid melts into “venomed air.”

     Still fully in possession of his “memory” and therefore able to imagine the city’s past and future as well as to perceive and assess its present condition, the narrator of “The City of the End of Things” devotes the remainder of the poem to chronicling its entropic movement towards “rust and dust” (Poems 182). Built “in ... pride” by a “multitude of men” whose “Fair voices echoed from it stones” its “power” is now controlled by four remnants of that “prodigious race,” three of whom sit “like carved idols” in an “iron tower” while the fourth, “Gigantic and with dreadful eyes,” sits “at the city gate ... looking toward the lightless north, / Beyond the reach of memories” and possessed of neither “mind [n]or soul – an idiot!” (Poems 181). Inspired perhaps by “[t]he blind Gods of Cash and Comfort” that Crane envisages “enthroned on high and worshipped with ostentation” in a commercial culture that also demands obeisances to “the golden image of which ... [the] kings of profit and interest have set up” (qtd. in Bentley, The Gay]Grey Moose 197), the three figures in the “iron tower” are doomed to “perish” as the city descends towards “A stillness absolute as death” and “The silence of eternal night” (Poems 181-82). The poem’s final vision is not just of an abandoned and disintegrating city, but of an irreversible negation of the life force and natural cycles in the environment once dominated by the city’s “grim grandeur” and still overlooked by the personification of human irrationality. The series of “Nor”s and “No”s in which the vision is cast and then the reversal of the repeated letters in “Alone” and “One” emphasize the magnitude and manifoldness of its nullity:

Nor ever living thing shall grow,
Nor trunk of tree, nor blade of grass;
No drop shall fall, no wind shall blow,
No sound of any foot shall pass:
Alone of its accursèd state,
One thing the hand of Time shall spare,
For the grim Idiot at the gate
Is deathless and eternal there.
(Poems 182)

Berman characterizes the landscape of nineteenth-century modernity in All That Is Solid Melts Into Air as a “landscape of steam engines, automatic factories, railroads, vast new industrial zones; of teeming cities that have grown overnight, often with dreadful human consequences ...” (18-19). It was a landscape that Lampman did not flinch from depicting and condemning as a crime against Nature and against humanity.

     Against the enduring irrationalism represented by the “grim Idiot” of “The City of the End of Things” stands the “all-wise mother” of “The Land of Pallas” (Poems 208): the goddess who presides over Plato’s Timaeus, who protects Odysseus in his wanderings, and who inspired the Parthenon on the Acropolis at Athens, a city of which she was patron goddess. Just before the peripatetic narrator of Lampman’s poem leaves the agrarian utopia in which he has found himself, he sees “amid ... [a] limitless plain ... / A long low mountain” whose colour – “blue as beryl” – evokes the heavenly city of Revelation 21 (see especially 21.20), but whose architecture is probably based on the Parthenon, “the building that prevails over all architectural history in its flawlessness, harmony and perfect proportions” (Hertzberger 56): “its crown / ... [Is] capped by marble roofs that shone like snow for whiteness.” The “halls” of this post-Christian and humanistic utopia are home to a religion that, like other aspects of life in the “happy land,” is non-hierarchical – “a priestless worship of the all-wise mother” (Poems 207-08, 201) – whose roots very likely lie in Theosophy, a movement with an emphasis on individual transformation and universal brotherhood that made it appealing to many late nineteenth-century social reformers (see Ramsay Cook 166-69). “‘There dwell the lords of knowledge and of thought increasing, / And they whom insight and the gleams of song uplift,’” explains a “dreamer” of the “marble halls” of “the hill of Pallas,” “And thence as by a hundred conduits flows unceasing / The spring of power and beauty, the eternal gift” that, as the narrator has already discovered, sustains a society grounded in Morrissian and Fabian principles – “A land where beauty dwel[ls] supreme, and right, the donor / Of peaceful days; a land of equal gifts and deeds, / Of limitless fair fields and plenty had with honour,” where “there [is] no prison, power of arms, nor palace,” “no bonds of contract, deed or marriage,” “no casts of rich or poor, of slave, or master,” “And all the men and women ... [are] fairer / Than even the mightiest of our meaner race can be” (Poems 201-05). “[M]ighty palaces and ... lofty dwelling[s] exist in the “happy land” but they are open to “all men and no master tr[eads] their floors” (Poems 202).

     Like their inhabitants, the “village[s],” “town[s],” and “great ... cities” of “The Land of Pallas” are “fair,” and given to communal activities. Every evening when the men return from the fields to join the women who had brought them their mid-day meal in “Baskets of wicker,” “the sound of festival” arises “in each city square, ... country meadow ..., / Palace, ... paven court, ... rustic hall,” and “Beside smooth streams, where alleys and green gardens meeting / R[u]n downward to the flood with marble steps ...” (203-04). By grace of the “eternal gift” of “power and beauty” that flows from “the hill of Pallas,” even in the “great ... cities” of the land “there ... [is] neither seeking / For power of gold, or greed of lust, nor desperate pain / Of multitudes that starve, or in hoarse anger breaking, / Beat at the doors of princes, break and fall in vain” (Poems 204). As surely as in all socialistic societies and utopias, however, there are those who fail to appreciate that they are living in the best of all possible worlds. To prevent these “disturbed” malcontents from entertaining “The thought of some new order and the lust for change,” they are brought “gently” to the “gateway of a lonely and secluded waste” – an allusion, perhaps, to the “gate” at which the Idiot presides in “The City of the End of Things” – where they are shown a “ruin,” “A phantom of forgotten time and ancient doing, / Eaten by age and violence, crumbled and defaced” that must be counted among the most ingenious architexts in Canadian writing:

On its grim outer walls the ancient world’s sad glories
    Were recorded in fire; upon its inner stone,
Drawn by dead hands ... in tales and tragic stories
    The woe and sickness of an age of fear made known.

And lo, in that gray storehouse, fallen to dust and rotten,
    Lay piled the traps and engines of forgotten greed,
The tomes of codes and canons, long disused, forgotten,
    The robes and sacred books of many a vanished creed.

(Poems 206)

Once the malcontents have “‘read the world’s grim record and the sombre lore / Massed in these pitiless vaults,’” “an old grave man” explains to the narrator, “‘they return thither, / Bear[ing] with them quieter thoughts, and make for change no more’” (207, 206). When taken together, the “marble halls” on “the hill of Pallas” and the “gray storehouse” at the edge of the “secluded waste” suggest that ideal societies require only two types of public buildings: the temple, which would be the source of universal spiritual wisdom, and the ruin, which would serve as a reminder of the follies to which human nature is prone. It is neither to aggrandize “The Land of Pallas” nor to trivialize events that Lampman could not in his worst nightmares have imagined to suggest that the preservation of “a ruin” inscribed with “tales and tragic stories” and housing the “traps,” “engines,” “tomes,” robes,” and “sacred books” as “The symbol of dark days” (Poems 207) eerily anticipates the preservation of Auschwitz and Birkenau as memorials, museums, and reminders of the Holocaust.

     In the conclusion of “The Land of Pallas,” the narrator returns from the “happy land” to “A land of baser men” whose lives are “urged by fear, and hunger, and the curse of greed” (Poems 209). There, inspired by what he has seen, he “preache[s] the rule of Faith and brotherly Communion, / The law of Peace and Beauty and the death of Strife, / And paint[s] in great words the horror of disunion, / The vainness of self-worship, and the waste of life,” but “fruitlessly,” for “the powerful ... / Rebuk[e] [him] as an anarch, envious and bad, / And they that serve ... them ... deem ... [him] mad.” In the published version of the poem, he persists to promulgate his “message” in the belief “that on and upward without cease / The spirit works for ever, and by Faith and Presage / That somehow yet the end of human life is Peace” (Poems 210). In an unpublished draft of the poem, the narrator does not subscribe even this tentatively to a belief in spiritual and social evolution but, instead, seeks for “many a day’ but without success to find his way back into “that land of blessing” (qtd. in Watt 178). Together, the two endings of “The Land of Pallas” confirm what is suggested by his oeuvre as a whole: that his desire to ignore or escape the social ills of Canadian and American society was weaker than his desire to further, and to be seen to further, the cause of “Faith ... brotherly Communion ... Peace ... Beauty and the death of Strife.”

     Of course, it was precisely because of the socialist ideals expressed in “The Land of Pallas” that Lampman was so deeply “disturbed” by capitalism, materialism, and the class structure and therefore, inclined to focus in his poems on the architectural and urban forms that these assumed in the late nineteenth century: mills, factories, and manufacturing centres, the houses of the wealthy and the poor, and the government and administrative buildings that, picturesque though they might be in a certain light and from a certain perspective, nevertheless housed the politicians and bureaucrats who guided and oversaw the system. When the protagonist of The Story of an Affinity moves from the country to the city, he registers the existence of “great stone-built palaces,” finds succour in “the little cottage” of a “workman and his wife,” and later, after witnessing “the rich and proud” sitting like “ever-living gods” in “the velvet stalls” of a “great church,” joins a social worker caring for the sick in “the tenements of the poor” (2:52, 54, 66, 331-42, 374-91). In “The City” (1900), “The curses of gold” issue alike in “factories” that “darken never” and resound “day ... and night” with “hidden mill-wheel strains” and in “guest-hall[s]” and “chambers of gold elysian” that reverberate with the “clash and clang” of “cymbals” and “the dance’s mocking sound” (Poems 216). Lampman had no wish to be appointed to “any of the pompous positions in connection with the Houses of Parliament” for which he might be eligible and he could be scathing about politicians: “[w]hen Parliament assembles I am going to get a large keg of dynamite, and set it under the House of Commons,” he told Thomson on February 16, 1892, and on February 10, 1893: “[n]o sooner has the weather moderated than we have that worse disaster[,]the assembly of the great national dunghill or Dominion cess-pool, everything connected with which gives me sensations of unutterabl[e] loathing and horror” (Annotated Correspondence 35, 37, 58). Two of his most anthologized poems are the bitterly caustic sonnets entitled “To a Millionaire” (1900) and “The Modern Politician” (1900).

     Yet, despite these fulminations (and the reservations of his “Two Canadian Poets” lecture), Lampman, as was seen earlier, remained a staunch patriot who believed that Ottawa could be an “ideal city,” that Canadian literature might one day be “novel and wonderful,” and that Canada had the potential to be the “happy land” that he envisaged in “The Land of Pallas.” “I once wrote and issued one number only of a quasi-weekly which I termed The Horizon,” Lighthall told Duncan Campbell Scott (1862-1947) over forty years after Lampman’s death. “A page of it contained his ‘Land of Pallas’ which I always thought was his ideal of a future Canada.”30 The fact that Lighthall was a political progressive who served from 1900 to 1903 as mayor of Westmount (at which time he instigated the Union of Canadian Municipalities [1901])31 and sat from 1911 to 1913 on the Royal Metropolitan Parks Commission (the body responsible for planning in Greater Montreal) allows for the possibility that Lampman’s “ideal” played at least some small part in helping to shape the country of which he sometimes despaired, but never ceased to love. “Literature is not only the revelation of present mood and character,” asserted the leader of the Confederation group of poets, Charles G.D. Roberts (1860-1943) in “The Beginnings of a Canadian Literature” (1883), “it also has in its hands the moulding of future character. The exponent of the present, it is also the architect of the future” (Selected Poetry and Critical Prose 244). He may not have been entirely wrong either literally or metaphorically.

Duncan Campbell Scott, “The Little Milliner”

The rest of the American World is more or less given up to electric-tramway cars, elevated railways, and other abominations. Factory chimneys belch forth their disfiguring smoke, and saw-mills rend the air with hideous noises, within touch, almost, of the quaint, picturesque Canadian villages which lie nestling to the south of the St. Lawrence.
– Harriet Julia Campbell Jephson, A Canadian Scrapbook, (1897), 7-8


Whoever has from toil and stress
Put into ports of idleness ...
               .      .      .
Might find perchance the wandering fire,
Around St. Joseph’s sparkling spire;
And wearied with the fume and strife,
The complex joys and ills of life,
Might for an hour his worry staunch,
In pleasant Viger by the Blanche

          –Duncan Campbell Scott, Prefatory Poem,                             In the Village of Viger (1896) (np)

Duncan Campbell Scott’s contribution to the February 13, 1892 instalment of the “At the Mermaid Inn” column is an apparently autobiographical vignette or pastel in which the narrator and a companion pause during a night-time walk when they see a “bright light in [a] window ... close to the street” (9). Surmising that “the lamp must just have been lighted [or] else the curtain would have been pulled down,” they “look in at the window” and register its furnishings:

... first [we] saw the lamp, standing upon the plain table; then a coloured print from a Christmas number of The Star pinned to the wall; then a large rocking chair, with a cretonne cover, picked out with red wool. But the plainest object in the room was a bedstead covered with very white clothes. Upon it lay an old woman; she had a white cap on her head, and a silvery shawl around her shoulders. She was leaning back with her eyes closed; a very sweet expression lingered about her mouth, an expression of great serenity and confidence. (9)

In a few moments, “a young girl comes into the room” with a cup of tea that she first “set[s] down on the table” and then, after “fix[ing] the old woman’s cap and shawl,” “puts to her lips” for her to drink. After the girl has left the old woman alone again “with the same serene and confident expression” on her face, the narrator and his companion “turn away and ... [are] for a long time silent. The snow ... [is] falling softly, almost damply; the evening ... [is] mild with a touch of spring in the air” (9-10). The vignette concludes with the two agreeing that they “‘have had a long walk’,” and the narrator’s companion adding “‘and we have read a verse from the great bible of human life’” (10).

     No great familiarity with nineteenth-century literature and art or with Scott’s later poetry is required to recognize in this vignette resemblances to James McNeil Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: The Artist’s Mother (1871) (which depicts an austerely dressed old lady as through a window), Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “My Sister’s Sleep” (1848) (which surrounds the death of a girl at Christmas with intimations of rebirth), and Scott’s own “The Forsaken” (1901) (which portrays a Native woman who faces her end without “pain, or dread, or even a moment of longing” [Poems 30]). Much more significant from the present perspective, however, is the way in which the narrator of the vignette justifies the gaze into private space that generates the in-sights that follow. “It is no sin to look in at a window,” he asserts, for “so long as windows are left unblinded and free to the eye the interior is common property. ’Tis much as when a man lifts the veil unconsciously and lets us see what he has behind, deep in his uncontrollable heart” (9). The relationship among social morality, psychological space, and the public and private domains that these statements evoke has been a focal point of intense interest among observers and theorists of modernity, and it reappears in “The Little Milliner,” the short story that Scott first published in the October 1887 number of Scribner’s Magazine (New York) and then used to open his In the Village of Viger collection of 1896.32

     At the beginning of “The Little Milliner” the French-Canadian village in which all the collection’s stories are set is on the spatial and temporal verge of modernity:

It was too true that the city was growing rapidly. As yet its arms were not long enough to embrace the little village of Viger, but before long they would be, and it was not a time that the inhabitants looked forward to with any pleasure. It was not to be wondered at, for few places were more pleasant to live in. The houses, half-hidden amid the trees, clustered around the slim steeple of St. Joseph’s, which flashed like a naked poniard in the sun.33 They were old, and the village was sleepy, almost dozing, since the mill, beyond the rise of land, on the Blanche [River] had shut down.... The change was coming, however, rapidly enough. Even now, on still nights, above the noise of the frogs in the pools, you could hear the rumble of the street-cars and the faint tinkle of their bells, and when the air was moist the whole southern sky was luminous with the reflection of thousands of gas-lamps. But when the time came for Viger to be mentioned in the city papers as one of the outlying wards, what a change there would be! (3)

That Viger lies to the north of the unnamed city34 is significant for two reasons: (1) this location places it farther from the United States and the sources of modernity that the city embodies; and (2) it places it closer to the northern regions of Canada that Scott, like Lampman and, later, Lawren Harris (1885-1970), associated with mystical experience and pristine beauty.35 Both the semi-rural and pre-industrial tranquility represented by Viger’s houses, “half-hidden amid ... trees” and its silent mill “beyond ... [a] rise of land” and the religious beliefs and communal values represented by the defiant steeple of St Joseph’s and the “cluster[ing]” of houses that surround it will be threatened by the noisy and garish urban modernism that the villagers observe with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Already the glow of gas-lamps sometimes provides a spectacle to rival the tin-clad steeple of the church and the sounds of street-cars drowns out “the noise of ... frogs,” creatures whose trilling Lampman had invested with transcendental properties.36

     More tangible evidence of the changes underway has already appeared in the form of “[n]ew houses” that are “spring[ing] up in all directions” and “a large influx of the laboring population which overflows from large cities” (4). Of special note to the narrator and the villagers is the appearance of “a foundation” on a lot “on the main street of Viger” that has been “vacant ever since it was a lot,” presumably because the population and economy of the village had for many years been either stable or in decline. But an even greater surprise is to come: when the foundation is completed, “men from the city c[o]me and put up the oddest wooden house one could imagine.37 It was perfectly square; there ... [is] a window and a door in front, a window at the side and a window upstairs” (4). “[P]ut up rather than built” by “men from the city” rather than local artisans,38 the geometrically regular house is “odd” (strange, singular, at variance) in both the manner of its construction and its form, which was perhaps intended by Scott to evoke the designs for tradesmen’s cottages in such works as The Architecture of Country Houses (1852) by the hugely influential American architect Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-72) and Villas and Cottages (1857) by Jackson’s “sometime collaborator” Calvert Vaux (1824-95) (who, as it happens, designed the terraces in front of the Parliament Buildings [see Kalman 2: 539-40]). Downing’s design for A Square Suburban Cottage” (Design XII), which is aimed at the “species of cottage of very moderate size, common in the suburbs of all our villages,” is close in spirit and materials if not in all details to Scott’s “perfectly square” house, as to some extent is his design for A [S]mall Cottage for a Working-man” (Design I) (see Downing 128-31 and 73-78). The failure of the new structure to conform to the existing architectural typology of Viger puts it at odds with its surroundings and the villagers, and, indeed, violates the picturesque tenet that, in the words of another influential American pattern book, Village and Farm Cottages (1856) by Henry W. Cleaveland, William Backus, and Samuel D. Backus, new houses in villages that “have grown up gradually, and naturally, round certain central nuclei,” “ought not to be wholly out of character with the old” (17, 19). (Just how incongruous the “odd” house is can be gauged from the description of “one of the oldest houses in Viger” at the beginning of the next piece in the collection: “[i]t was built of massive timbers. The roof curved and projected beyond the eaves, forming the top of a narrow verandah. The whole house was painted a dazzling white except the window-panes, which were green” [15].)

     Because it is aesthetically alien, semiotically mute, and, in the terms of Robert Venturi’s brilliant chapter on “The Inside and the Outside” in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), a “severe envelope” that magnifies the “mystery inherent in ... privacy” (71), the new house both arouses the distaste and frustrates the curiosity of the villagers. “There ... [are] many surmises as to the probable occupant of such a diminutive habitation; and the widow Laroque, who ma[kes] dresses and trim[s] hats, and whose shop ... [is] directly opposite, and next to the Post Office, suffer[s] greatly from unsatisfied curiosity” (4). The laconic response of the “foreman of the laborers … working at the house” to her queries – “‘I have my orders’” – only contributes to the air of secrecy and inscrutability that surrounds the structure and contributes to its identity as a material manifestation of the anonymity and nefariousness associated with the modern city in countless nineteenth-century works such as Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861) William Dean Howells’s Quality of Mercy (1892), and, closer to home, Lampman’s “A Night of Storm” (1888) and “The Railway Station” (1888).39 When “a man ... from the city” nails a “small sign ... above the door” of the house that reads “‘Mademoiselle Viau, Milliner’” part of the mystery is solved, but only to the dismay of Madame Laroque, who, of course, stands to lose part of her livelihood to a competitor. A subsequent discussion among the widow, the village postmaster, Monsieur Cuerrier, and “a retired hairdresser,” Monsieur Villeblanc, indicates that competition as such is to be understood as a facet of urban modernity:

          “You are very cool, Monsieur Cuerrier; but if it was a young man and a postmaster, instead of a young woman and a milliner, you would not relish it.”
          “There can only be one postmaster,” said Cuerrier.
          “In Paris, where I practised my art,” said Monsieur Villeblanc ..., “there were whole rows of tonsorial parlors, and every one had enough to do.” (6)

Linked by name and background to two of the nineteenth century’s most visionary schemes for urban improvement (Burnham’s White City and Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s Paris), Villeblanc is more than an apologist for the confrontational mode of competition that, as Gerald Lynch has observed, enters Viger when Mademoiselle Viau goes into business “directly across the street” from Madame Laroque (43). He is also an instance of the migrancy of people, ideas, and styles that characterizes the modern world, a cosmopolitan who has little patience for those who do not understand the law of supply and demand or appreciate its benefits to the consumer. It is his comment that, if Mademoiselle Viau’s “‘taste’” is as non-existent as Madame Laroque claims, then “‘[t]here will be no choice between [them] ...’” that leads to the narrator’s observation that, on the contrary, “there ... [is] a choice ..., and all the young girls of Viger chose Mademoiselle Viau” (6).40 From the reactions of Cuerrier, Villeblanc, and these “young girls,” it is apparent that when the narrator earlier described the impending “embrace” of the city as something that the “inhabitants” of Viger anticipate without “any pleasure” he was not speaking for the village as a whole but only for like-minded people such as Madame Laroque.

     The overlap between the narrator’s perspective and that of Madame Laroque is again apparent when he describes the arrival of the contents of Mademoiselle Viau’s house (“a small stove, two tables, a bedstead, three chairs, a sort of lounge,41 and two large boxes”) and then makes the house itself the subject of an elaborate simile of a sort that might occur to Madame Laroque:

The man who brought the things put them in the house, and locked the door on them when he went away; then nothing happened for two weeks, but Madame Laroque watched. Such a queer little house it was, as it stood there so new in its coat of gum-colored paint.42 It looked just like a square bandbox43 which some Titan had made for his wife; and there seemed no doubt that if you took hold of the chimney and lifted the roof off, you would see the gigantic bonnet, with its strings and ribbons, which the Titaness would wear to church on Sundays. (5)

In “The City of the End of Things,” Lampman would show that a fearful contemplation of urban modernity can yield a prophetic phantasmagoria of dehumanization and destruction by enormous unseen powers. In “The Little Milliner,” apprehension stemming from partial knowledge feeds on frustration caused by concealment to yield a child-like fantasy about the “gigantic” origins and nature of the “new.” To Madame Laroque and the narrator of Scott’s short story, the invisible contents of the “two large boxes” and the “locked ... door” of the “queer house” – the “things within things ... [and] spaces within spaces” (Venturi 71) – of the as-yet-unseen Mademoiselle Viau generate a fantasy of the identity of the “new” that is whimsical rather than nightmarish, but potentially disturbing enough in its evocation of mythic forces capable of manifesting themselves in a quiet village and dwarfing its inhabitants, to require the reassurance that even such forces are obedient to the prescribed rhythms of traditional religion.

     As Madame Laroque’s almost-continuous and largely frustrating surveillance of Mademoiselle Viau’s house indicates, the ideal villager and house from her perspective would be completely transparent: neither the self nor the architectural structure that it inhabits would possess a “concealed inside ... of another quality from what is external” (Barker 28). In a world of unlocked doors and “unblinded” windows, the interiors of houses and individuals would become “common property,” all “subjects ... [would be] transparent to one another” (Leach 100), and the “Otherness” of others would cease to be threatening (and perhaps even to exist). From this perspective, any opacity of architecture or identity beyond what is essential for human decency is not only the source of frustration, suspicion, and fantasy, but also regarded as a threat to community and evidence of a guilty attempt at concealment. Thus, far from being reassured when Mademoiselle Viau’s presence in her house is made known by the appearance of a decidedly bourgeois “geranium” on a window sill below a “partly raised” “curtain [that] ha[s] been put up” during the night of her arrival and she has revealed herself to be “[a] trim little person, not very young, dressed in gray,” whose first visible act is to “step ... out on the platform [of her house] with an apron full of crumbs and cast them down for the birds” (5), Madame Laroque is all the more convinced that the stranger is not what she seems. “‘It is very tormenting, this, to have these irresponsible girls, that no one knows anything about, setting up shops under our very noses. Why does she live alone?’” she wonders shortly after her first sightings of Mademoiselle Viau, and later: “‘who can tell what her business is, she who comes from no one knows where? But I’ll find out what all this secrecy means, trust me!’” (6,7). The implication that Mademoiselle Viau is a prostitute or a mistress is unmistakable and consistent not only with the Victorian stereotype of milliners and seamstresses, but also with the post-Hogarthian perception of working and lower-middle-class women in urban areas as especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation, disease, and related problems. The fact that Mademoiselle Viau “rejects a Vigerian suitor” does nothing to enhance her reputation and, indeed, “preclud[es] ... the possibility of a harmonious union between the small community and herself” in a “romance ... [that might] have led to marriage and family” (Lynch, The One and the Many 44).

     As the remainder of the short story unfolds over the course of a year, Madame Laroque remains convinced that “‘[t]here is something mysterious’” about the young woman who has come to be known affectionately by the other villagers as “‘the little milliner’” or “‘the little one in gray’” (7). Mademoiselle Viau’s evasive answers to questions feed the suspicions of Madame Laroque, as does the arrival in the village one evening “just about dusk” of “a man of youthful appearance [who comes] quickly up the street, step[s] on Mademoiselle Viau’s platform, open[s] the door without knocking and walk[s] in” (8). Behaving increasingly like that most rational of the creations of urban modernity, the detective (see D.A. Miller, The Novel and the Police [1988]), Madame Laroque is “very much interested in this case”: after watching “like a lynx” as Mademoiselle Viau “work[s] on unconcernedly,” lights her “lamp and pull[s] down the curtain,” she mounts an all-night surveillance on the house but to no avail: “[s]he had seen the man go in; he was rather young and about the medium height, and he had a black mustache; she could remember him distinctly, but she did not see him come out” (8). When Mademoiselle Viau raises her curtain in the morning, Madame Laroque takes “a long look in at the side window [of the house], but there ... [is] nothing to see except the lounge and table” (9). Later in the morning, however, she finds what she craves in a story in Le Monde about a “Daring Jewel Robbery” during the night, the suspected perpetrator of which is man named “Durocher” who is described as “not tall” and having a “heavy mustache, ... gray eyes, and ... an earring in his left ear” (9). Convinced that this melodramatically piratical figure is the man she saw, Madame Laroque demands that the village constable search Mademoiselle Viau’s house. The frustrated desire of the village “eye” for disclosure, transparency, and knowledge has escalated to the point that inscrutability and opacity have become associated on the flimsiest of pretexts with nefarious activity and concealment of the sort that legitimizes an aggressive intrusion on private space and personal property.

     The constable’s search of Mademoiselle’s house is comically frenetic and predictably fruitless, but it is also potentially violent (he carries and, at one point, cocks a pistol), unnecessarily intrusive, and gratifyingly productive of information about the house and its owner: downstairs, he frightens a cat that “[n]o one knew ... Mademoiselle Viau had”44 and upstairs he discovers that there is only one room; finding nothing in the bedroom “closet” or “under the bed,” he demands that Mademoiselle Viau open a “little leather-covered box,” a request to which she accedes, after begging him to respect her privacy, to disclose “a dainty white skirt, embroidered beautifully” (19). Meanwhile, Madame Laroque has “reinspected” the downstairs, “looking under everything.” Nor does her determination to link Mademoiselle Viau to the jewel robbery end there. Later in the day, she asks Monsieur Cuerrier to tell her “‘who ... Mademoiselle Viau writes” and counters his reply that, as a civil servant, he cannot “‘tell state secrets’” with the irate assertion that “‘there are secrets in those letters which the state would like to know’” (11). As her anger mounts, she repeats her earlier characterization of Mademoiselle Viau as “‘a person who comes from no one knows where’” and then proceeds to describe “‘the little milliner’” and her male visitor in locations that render both phantasmal – “‘that person who comes out of her house without ever having gone into it, and who is visited by men who go in and never come out ...” (11). By turns generative and absorptive, the house of this vision is a site that was earlier merely “odd” and “queer” and has now been rendered uncanny by the mysterious and seemingly sinister comings and goings of its suddenly present occupant and her inexplicably absent visitor.

     Some six months pass before the final movement of “The Little Milliner” begins with the arrival of a telegram “from the city” that causes Mademoiselle Viau great distress and occasions her immediate departure (at night) from the village (12). After the elapse of some three more weeks, Madame Laroque, who now regards Cuerrier as Mademoiselle Viau’s “‘[a]ccomplice’” because he was entrusted with the care of her house, finds a story in a copy of Le Monde that he claims has been “‘lost’” that confirms her darkest suspicions: while the police were attempting to arrest a man for the jewel robbery reported earlier he was shot and subsequently “‘died ... in the arms of a female relative, who had been sent for at his request’” (12). When Mademoiselle Viau returns to the village dressed in “black” rather than her habitual “gray,” Madame Laroque has all the proof she needs that her suspicions were correct. To judge by her remark on seeing Mademoiselle Viau go into her house – “‘Now ... we will not see her come out again’” (13) – Madame Laroque also believes that the young woman will either die in the house or again depart as mysteriously as she arrived. In the event, Madame Laroque catches one final glimpse of Mademoiselle Viau when, “peep[ing] in at the side window” of her house, “[s]he s[ees] the little milliner quite distinctly. She [is] on her knees, her face ... [is] hidden in her arms. The fire ... [is] very bright and the lamp ... [is] lighted” (13). When Mademoiselle Viau leaves two days later without being seen even by Cuerrier, Madame Laroque has the final word: “‘It is as I said – no one has seen her go. But wait, she will come back; and no one will see her come’” (13).

     Or at least the final word of dialogue, for the final and most enigmatic paragraph of the short story belongs to the narrator:

     That was three years ago, and she has not come back. All the white curtains are pulled down. Between the one that covers the front window and the sash stands the pot in which grew the geranium. It only had one blossom all the time it was alive, and it is dead now and looks like a dry stick. No one knows what will become of the house. Madame Laroque thinks that Cuerrier knows. She expects, some morning, to look across and see the little milliner cast down crumbs for the birds. In the meantime, in every corner of the house the spiders are weaving webs, and an enterprising caterpillar has blocked up the key-hole with his cocoon. (14)

Lynch is surely correct in seeing in this paragraph “suggestions of entrapment and portentous change” as well as evidences of “the natural/organic world reclaiming the violated space of Viger”45 (The One and the Many 45): Viger may recover, at least temporarily, from the effects of urban modernity or it may be visited again by their diminutive and ineluctably inscrutable vanguard. “In the meantime,” Mademoiselle Viau’s geranium is dead, but the suspicion and disharmony that her presence engendered are very much alive, and the curtained window and “blocked ... key-hole” of her “odd” house ensure that it is less transparent and more opaque than ever. Like the house, the “cocoon” of the short-story’s final sentence is a figure of both concealment and transformation – a case that hides its own interior as well as the interior of the house, a shell in which one mode of life is mysteriously transforming into another, a container for a living thing whose future form can only be dimly imagined, and a symbol, perhaps, for a village, a city, a world in the process of change.46

     Despite the strong strain of anti-modernism or anti-modernity in “The Little Milliner” and In the Village of Viger (see Lynch, The One and the Many 34-45), it would be too easy to conclude that the story and the collection are merely paeans to village life. The narrator is sympathetic to Madame Laroque, Monsieur Cuerrier describes her as an “‘amiable widow’” (11), and she may well be correct in her suspicions and deductions about Mademoiselle Viau and her visitor, but her responses to their “otherness” are marked by insecurity, prejudice, hostility, fantasy, obsessiveness, and an irrationality tinged with superstition. Moreover, she is willing and, as much to the point, able to commandeer and accompany the village policeman on an unwarranted invasion of Mademoiselle Viau’s private and personal property, and would have invaded her privacy further if Cuerrier had acceded to her request for the name(s) of the stranger’s correspondent(s). Among many other things, Duncan Campbell Scott’s “The Little Milliner” and In the Village of Viger contain salutary reminders that Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the modern world as a “global village” should not be regarded uncritically or sentimentally and that the “eyes upon the street” (35) that Jane Jacobs so wisely extols in The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) may not always be as benign and magnanimous as desirable.


  1. See D.M.R. Bentley, Mnemographia Canadensis 1: 291 and The Confederation Group 24-110, for discussions of the origins of these alternatives and the metaphors associated with them. [back]
  2. “The writer in Ontario has no field beyond his own Province and Montreal,” writes Smith: “[b]etween him and the Maritime Provinces is interposed French Quebec. Manitoba is far off and thinly peopled” (47). [back]
  3. Smith is alluding here to the Nordic theories of the Canada First movement, specifically perhaps to R.G. Haliburton’s The Men of the North and Their Place in History (1869). [back]
  4. Since Stalker’s article was published late in 1891, it may be, at least in part, a response to Smith. [back]
  5. Crossman calls attention to the observation of C.H. Wheeler (1838-1917) in “The Evolution of Architecture in Northwest Canada” (1897) “that it was only recently that architects in Winnipeg had begun to design durable buildings suitable to the extremes of climate” (Crossman 110). [back]
  6. See Crossman 124-35 for a discussion of the important part played by the English-born architect Percy Erskine Nobbs (1875-1964) in adapting the ideas of the Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement to “the particular conditions of Canadian architecture” (133). When the Canadian Modernist poet and critic A.J.M. Smith (1902-1980) argued in “Wanted – Canadian Criticism” (1928) that “Canadian poetry ... is altogether too self-conscious of its environment, of its position in space” and contemptuously dismissed poems that contain “french and indian place names” and “allusions to the Canada goose, fir trees, maple leaves, snowshoes, northern lights, etc.” (601), he was reacting to aspects and components of Canadian literature in a manner that parallels the rejection of ornament in architecture by Modernists such as Adolf Loos (1870-1933) and Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). [back]
  7. See Bentley, The Confederation Group, 36-40 for the importance of the ideas of Young Ireland in the development of Canadian literary nationalism in the post-Confederation period. [back]
  8. See The Confederation Group 72-110, for a discussion of this concept and its importance to Charles G.D. Roberts (1860-1943), the leader of the group of poets of which Lampman was a member. [back]
  9. I am grateful to Steven Artelle for drawing my attention to announcements and accounts of Lampman’s lecture in Ottawa newspapers of January 19-22, 1891. See, for example, the January 21 issue of the Citizen 4 and the January 22 issue of the Journal 4. [back]
  10. Lampman’s statement that in “The Aphrodite of Praxiteles” and “the Moses of Michel Angelo” are instantiations of “the secrets of two ages of two civilizations and to most antagonistic manifestations of mind and feeling” (Essays and Reviews 75) draws on Arnold’s notion of the Hellenic and Hebraic strains of Western culture. The presence of Pater in Lampman’s work is discussed in Essays and Reviews 246 and following. [back]
  11. The importance of environmental determinism for Lampman and other members of the Confederation group is argued in The Confederation Group, Chapter 3. [back]
  12. See The Confederation Group 135-37 and 121-22, for a discussion of the debt of this passage to Washington Irving’s essay on “The Catskill Mountains” in The Home Book of the Picturesque (1852) and for “elasticity” as a flexibility and capaciousness of form and mind. [back]
  13. In The Architecture of Humanism (1914), Geoffrey Scott defines the “indirect, associative, element” in architecture as “the associations which [a] work awakens in the mind – our conscious reflections upon it, the significance we attach to it, the fancies it calls up, and which, in consequence, it is sometimes said to express” (59). Almost needless to say, many literary forms also possess an “indirect, associative, element” of the sort defined by Scott, a case in point being the Whitman long line, which quickly became as closely associated with American democracy as, thanks to such buildings as the White House, was neoclassical architecture. In Canada, Whitman was as reviled by Anglophiles as neo-Gothic architecture was revered (see The Gay]Grey Moose 86, 131, and elsewhere). [back]
  14. See The Confederation Group 132-41 for a discussion of the aesthetic variety (varietas) and its importance to Lampman and Roberts. [back]
  15. As Kalman observes, Bellevue (which is now an historic site on account of Sir John A. Macdonald’s brief residency) bears a strong resemblance to Andrew Jackson Downing’s “Villa in the Italian Style,” an illustration and description of which were first published in the influential American designer’s Cottage Residences (1842) and subsequently reprinted in his Architecture of Country Houses (1850) (see 285-91). It also bears a resemblance to a second Downing design for “A Villa in the Italian Style” (Design 27 in The Architecture of Country Houses), which is taken from “the residence of Edward King …, of Newport, Rhode Island, [which] was constructed in 1845, from the designs of Mr. Upjohn, of New York” (317). Of the former (Design 21 in The Architecture of Country Houses), Downing comments that “[i]ts broad roofs, ample verandahs and arcades are especially agreeable in our summers of dazzling sunshine, and though not so truly Northern as other modes that permit a high roof, still it has much to render it a favourite in the Middle and Western sections of our Union” (285). If Bellevue was indeed built in 1841 it precedes both the construction of the King house and the appearance of Downing’s designs. Downing will appear again in the Annex to the present chapter, but in the context of theories of climate and “accord,” it is worth noting that he expresses a Ruskinian abhorrence for “foreign style[s] in Architecture” that are mimicked “from mere love of novelty,” an example being “[a] villa in the style of a Persian palace (of which there is an example lately erected in Connecticut) … [whose] oriental domes and minarets [are] … unmeaning and unsuited to … [the American] life or climate” (27). Pete Melby’s and Tom Cathcart’s observations on “Shelter Design” in Regenerative Design Techniques: Practical Applications in Landscape Design (2002) apply as much if not more to Canada than the United States: “the broad-side of a shelter should almost always be sited to face south toward the low angle and limited solar azimuth of the sun” in order “to passively capture as much winter sun heat as possible, thereby reducing energy use by about 33%” (69-70). Other climatic factors that Melby and Cathcart urge shelter designers to take into consideration are “[c]old winter winds,” “[h]ot summer sunshine,” and the “warming effects of the low angle of the winter sun” (70).[back]
  16. See The Confederation Group 58-69 and elsewhere. [back]
  17. In his proposal for the Museum, Cardinal dwells extensively on Canadian geography and then proceeds to emphasize the animism of Native peoples (“[e]very living thing had a spirit”) and he goes on to assert that “[w]e are evolving from earth creatures to star creatures” with a “future [that] is optimistic” (17). Describing the intervening contact between “old- and new-world cultures” as a “meeting” (rather than, say, a “clash”), he observes that the old-world cultures “shaped rivers into canals, constructed bridges and roads, moulded the landscape, and created structures born of their cultures’ strength and utility. Their Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles … placed sculptural elements within the natural settings of the land. They linked their monuments by rail and joined the country from sea to sea. With the aboriginal peoples they established the concept of this country.” See also George F. MacDonald and Stephen Alford, A Museum for the Global Village and Carolyn Finlayson, “Defining the Country: Memory and Nationhood in the Canadian Museum of Civilization” for two very different perspectives on the conception, construction, and effectiveness of the C.M.C..” [back]
  18. Designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (1924- ), the various components of the landscapes outside the National Gallery are “intended to resonate with works found in the Gallery … : an ‘op art’ path, leading to Trepean Point, a ‘minimalist’ garden on the Gallery’s interior and the Taiga Garden … at its entrance” – the last being a reminiscence of “the coniferous forest of the boreal subarctic, … a landscape … captured in works such as A.Y. Jackson’s Terre Sauvage (Kapelos 33). George Thomas Kapelos correctly describes the taiga garden as “somewhat disappointing” and suggests that this is because, “due to budget restrictions,” it was “not completed as originally planned.” [back]
  19. In a letter of October 18, 1884 James Seton Cockburn, an architectural draughtsman who had recently moved from England to Ottawa, was utterly unimpressed by the Parliament Buildings and their surroundings: “the whole affair, seen from a little distance, looks like a painted scene. It’s just a mass of green [lawns] relieved or embarassed, as the case may be, by the straight up and down yellow houses, which houses also, in my opinion, have precious little architectural beauty to boast of, bar the centre one, perhaps, which is the house of Parl[iament] ..., the others being only departmental ones.... Fifty years ago this must have been one of the prettiest spots in Canada, and now anyone standing there has only the great wooden-looking houses [of Parliament], and a colony of saw mills in front” (57). See also The Parliamentary Precinct Area: Urban Design Guidelines and Demonstration Plan for Long Range Development, a report prepared for the National Capital Commission in 1987, where the Toronto landscape architects and urban planners Robert Allsop, Roger du Toit, and Peter Smith, advocate a planning approach to the Parliament Buildings and their surroundings by which the symbols are visibly celebrated, while other necessary functions that do not contribute to symbolic meaning are discreetly out of sight (ii, and see 86-91). (The proposal also contains a useful survey of plans for the centre of Ottawa from 1858 to 1983 [1-17].) In Interpretations of Nature, the catalogue accompanying a 1994 exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection that focused on architectural responses to Canadian landscapes, Kapelos uses the scene on the last Canadian dollar bill as a means of identifying different Canadian uses of the “natural world”: “[t]he Ottawa River is thick with logs cut upriver, while a logging boat keeps the timber moving. It is an idealized representation of the productive landscape.... The Houses of Parliament, perched on an escarpment overlooking the river, survey the scene: the productive landscape is dominated by the ordered landscape, a dichotomy exemplifying the dialectic between an arcadian vision of the land and an imperialist view” (11). [back]
  20. To E. Catherine Bates, who visited Ottawa from England in the late eighteen eighties, a combination of a fine sunset and the enchantment of distance similar to that in Lampman’s poem contrived to make even the city’s famous lumber yard look ... quite picturesque (18). Some ten years later, Winefred, Lady Howard of Glossop was struck by the colourfulness of the Parliament Buildings and their surroundings: “the exteriorly-fine and imposing Gothic Parliament Houses [are] built of a beautiful cream-coloured sandstone, diversified with deep red – the whole presenting a rich effect of colour, enhanced by the beautiful green lawns in the midst of which it stands” (15). In “The Canadian National Style,” Alan Gowans describes the Parliament Buildings as “an immensely picturesque pile, irregular, visually dramatic, eye-catching in its texture and variegated outline” (214). See also Chapter 15: Literature Architecture Community. [back]
  21. The “glorious towers” of the sonnet are also “bell-tongued,” and they rise “as a dream out of a dream like “a pointed jewel softly set / In clouds of colour, warmer yet, / Crimson and gold and rose and amethyst” (Poems 118). [back]
  22. The idea that the poet is responsible for producing poems that cure the psychological and psychosomatic disease of the modern world appears in the work of Arnold, Wordsworth, and numerous other romantic and Victorian writers, and probably has its original in the fourth, fifth and sixth letters of Schiller’s Briefe über die ästhetische Erzeihung des Menschen (1795). See also Bentley, The Confederation Group, Chapter 5, and “Carman and Mind Cure.” [back]
  23. “Chelsea height” and “the Gatineau” River locate the poem in Ottawa even in the absence of “Hull” in its title (Poems 152). [back]
  24. The editor of the Lampman-Thomson correspondence, Helen Lynn, notes that “‘(Chicago)’ is written above the word ‘city,’ and ‘(World’s)’ is written above ‘fair’” in the sentence (95). [back]
  25. “To Chicago” appears in The Arena 9 (April 1894): 632 and it is quoted in full by Doyle (43). [back]
  26. The dates of composition of Lampman’s poems are drawn from L.R. Early’s “Chronology.” [back]
  27. Lampman Papers, Library and Archives of Canada, MG29 D59 Vol. 3. [back]
  28. Ignatius Donnelly’s dystopian novel Caesar’s Column (1891) may also lie in the background of Lampman’s poem. Although published in Chicago and London, it is set in a fictional version of new York that is controlled by plutocrats and, thanks to electricity, maintains a ceaseless round of frenetic activity. [back]
  29. On March 12, 1894, the Reverend J.O. Miller of Bishop Ridley College in St. Catharines wrote to Lampman to compliment him on the “advance in imaginative power” displayed by “The City of the End of Things,” but expressing reservations about the phrase “face to face” because it “doesn’t make sense” and is used again in the next stanza (Lampman, Papers, Simon Fraser University). Miller’s reservation, coupled with the fact that the figure of the soul’s “shell / ... rattling like an empty nut” in the subsequent lines courts bathos (successfully, perhaps) may suggest that Lampman had difficulty expressing the complexity of the ideas with which he was grappling at this point in the poem. [back]
  30. Duncan Campbell Scott, Papers, MG5473. [back]
  31. See Paul-André Linteau 27 for the inspiration of the Union in the League of American Municipalities. [back]
  32. See Cristin Schmitz, Your Home Is Private, Court Rules for a contemporary manifestation of the legal issues evoked by Scott’s vignette in a case involving a British Columbia man who masturbated in front of his brightly lit window while his neighbours looked on and was found not guilty of committing an indecent act ‘in a public place’. [back]
  33. The word “poniard,” meaning small dagger (from the French “poignard” and the Latin “pugnus” [fist] [OED]) is well-chosen to describe the tin-clad roof of the village church and the aggressive traditionalism that it represents. As Gerald Lynch observes in The One and the Many: English-Canadian Short Story Cycles (2001), St. Joseph “was the protector of the Holy Family, and ... remains the patron saint of families, of fathers,” of “workers,” and of Canada (43). [back]
  34. Since Scott lived in Ottawa he was probably thinking principally of that city, but, of course, Montreal, Trois Rivières, and even Quebec City could also have been in his mind. [back]
  35. In Scott’s “The Height of Land” (1916), the northern wilderness provides the setting for a moment in which the speaker experiences “Something [that] comes by flashes / Deeper than peace, – a spell / Golden and inappellable” and in “Ode for the Keats Centenary” (1921), where it is the “precinct of pure air” to which “Beauty” has fled from the modern world (Poems 47, 156). See also Lampman’s “The Lake in the Forest” (1900) (Poems 313-16), Roald Nasgaard, The Mystic North 167-202 for Harris and Theosophy, and for further discussions of the occult components of Scott’s work my own “Alchemical Transmutation” and “‘The Thing Is Found to Be Symbolic’” 39-45. At the conclusion of the opening paragraph of “The Little Milliner” the boys of Viger feel “their flesh creeping with the idea” that the “green slime” that rises to the surface of a disused mine shaft near the village is “stirr[ed] up” by the dead miner himself (4). [back]
  36. The fact that the village boys “pelt ... the frogs” with stones may simply be a reflection of the cruelty of youth, but it might also suggest that the younger generation is less receptive to nature as a source of psychological and spiritual re-creation. For Lampman’s conception of frogs and its sources, see my The Confederation Group, 150-51. [back]
  37. For a recent and parallel example of the influx of people and a new style of architecture into a Canadian setting, see New Houses (1992) by Guy Vanderhaeghe (1951- ) in his short-story collection Things as They Are?: 1957 was the year the Americans arrived. The men came first ... to organize and oversee the construction of the mine. The wives and children would follow later.... In the time before the Company, an open field had faced the Cutter place, a three-room house sided in imitation brick.... Then the company bought the field ... for a housing site, earth moving equipment ... trac[ed] roads, crescents, bays. Next the water mains were laid. By June the basements were dug.... [The Cutters] would ... gaze at the Americans’ houses, split levels and ranch-style bungalows mostly, the kinds their owners had grown accustomed to in New Mexico and Texas ... (107-08). At the end of the story the Cutters’ son, Sammy, who had rambled in the open field as a child, sets fire to one of the houses and watches it explode. [back]
  38. In The One and the Many, Lynch comments further that the introduction of the “box-like” structure brings with it a “suggestion of, if not violation, at least crowding of Vigerian space” (44). [back]
  39. In “A Night of Storm” the “gray heart” of the “city of storm” conceals “lives that groan and beat / Stern and then un-checked, against time’s heavier sleet, / Rude fates, hard hearts, prisoning poverty” and in “The Railway Station” the “hurrying crowds” cause the poet to wonder at “What threads of life, what hidden histories, / What sweet or passionate dreams and dark distresses, / What unknown thoughts, what various agonies!” they contain (Poets 116). [back]
  40. The mill that is mentioned in the opening paragraph closed when the miller died and no one else was prepared “to grind what little grist came to ... [it], when flour was so cheap” (3). [back]
  41. “[A] kind of sofa or easy chair on which one can lie at length” (OED). [back]
  42. In The Architecture of Country Houses, Downing argues passionately and at length that “white is a color ... that should never be used except upon buildings a good deal surrounded by trees” because it is too glaring and conspicuous” (186-87, 198). “[S]o as to prevent its glare,” he suggests that white should be mixed with various combinations of colours to achieve “fawn or drab,” tones that are “quiet” and “warm” but not “dull” or “sombre” (see 186-89 and 198-206). [back]
  43. “A slight box of card-board or very thin chip covered with paper for collars, caps, hats, and millinery” (OED). [back]
  44. Madame Laroque’s conviction that Mademoiselle Viau is a suspicious character could only have been strengthened by her secret ownership of a cat, a creature traditionally associated with witches. [back]
  45. It is consistent with this observation that Mademoiselle Viau’s geranium, an alien import like herself that remains visible because placed on the front window sill of her house, is “dead now and looks like a dried stick” (14). [back]
  46. Lynch observes that the “caterpillar is undergoing an occluding metamorphosis,” a process “distinguished biologically for rapidity of morphological change” and therefore suggestive of the “problematic influences of accelerating modernity” (The One and the Many 45). [back]


Works Cited