Preface: a Clutch of Pertinent Snippets
From time to time, everyone encounters in their reading, correspondence and conversations snippets of information and insight that cry out loudly to be passed along but lack an obvious occasion or forum for repetition. Perhaps journal editors, being the turgid whirlpools through which much passes on its way to oblivion or eternity, are especially likely to accumulate such snippets. In any event, here are a few from the last little while: a clutch of curious and possibly useful facts and observations, some provided by colleagues and others simply encountered while minding ones own business. Only a couple are by Canadians but all are directly or indirectly relevant, I think, to Canadian literature and culture.
From Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 30 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 16-17.
From Ford Madox Ford, Return to Yesterday (1932; rpt. New York: Liveright, 1972), pp. 18-19 courtesy of Brian Diemert of the University of Western Ontario.
In On Canadian Poetry, 2nd. ed. (1944; rpt. Ottawa: Tecumseh, 1973), pp. 13-25, E.K. Brown offers the colonial spirit, the spirit of the frontier, or its afterglow, our strong Puritanism and Regionalism as the main psychological factors . . . against which the growth of a Canadian literature must struggle. In his Letters on the Eastern States, 2nd. ed. (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1821), pp. 152-156 William Tudor gives as the principal discouragements to which [American] literature is exposed the constant supply of very superior articles, to use the language of trade, from England, the want of wealth and leisure and the scattered position of [the] population, and the want of large towns. Urbanity or atticism, Tudor argues, is the enemy of provincialism; what is needed is the dialect of ideas.
In his Letter on Scenery and Climate, Tudor observes that in New England The plains of Siberia and the Compagna di Roma are . . . combined;we have the snow of the one, and the sun of the other, in the same period (p. 309), and he remarks that North America is especially hospitable to the lover of picturesque beauty (p. 314). In his Lecture on Two Canadian Poets, published with a Prefatory Note by E.K. Brown in the University of Toronto Quarterly, 13 (July, 1944), 408, Archibald Lampman, after noting that only the existence of a leisured class in Canada will lead to the production of a uniquely Canadian literature, writes:
Where Tudor speaks of the dazzling brilliancy of sun on snow, Lampman refers to the glittering splendour of the Canadian winters.
From Herbert Spencer, First Principles, 6th. ed. (1937; rpt. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1937), pp. 488-489:
From T.J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (New York: Pantheon, 1981), p. xviii: in a society dedicated to economic development and personal growth at the expense of all larger loyalties, conservative values are too important to be left to pseudo-conservative apologists for capitalism. In our time, the most profound radicalism is often the most profound conservatism.
And, finally, from E.W. Pitcher of the University of Alberta, a Description of an Island in Terra Cognita which, according to its author, George Parker (Humorous Sketches [London, (1782), pp. 95-96], was written at St. Johns in Newfoundland in the year 1777.
Parkers pungent appraisal of Newfoundland stands in marked contrast to George Cartwrights views of Labrador as discussed by Ronald Rompkey in the present issue of Canadian Poetry.
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A special issue of Canadian Poetry is planned in memory of Charles R. Steele, a long-standing member of the journals Editorial Advisory Board, who died suddenly on July 25, 1987. Potential contributors might wish to remember that Chuck, though a wide-ranging scholar and critic of Canadian literature, had a special interest in the poetry of the Colonial period.