In Memoriam


(1912 — 1979)

To whom modern scholarship

and teaching of

Canadian Literature

remains greatly indebted


     Reg. Watters was born in Toronto on April 15th, 1912. He attended local schools and received further education at the University of Toronto (B.A., 1935; M.A., 1937). Like many other students of his generation who would later contribute to the systematic study of Canadian Literature, he worked for his doctorate outside of Canada. In 1937-1938 he was in California, and in 1941 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. His specialty was Comparative Literature (including American). At that time, this programme provided an uncommon, but potentially invaluable, background for a fresh look at Canadian and Commonwealth Literature.

     After three years as an Instructor at the University of Washington (Seattle) and two years at the University of Indiana, he returned to Canada in 1946 with his wife Beth. At the University of British Columbia he was an Associate Professor from 1946 until he became a Professor in 1954, upon publication of The Creative Reader, a notable American anthology co-edited with R.W. Stallman. He held that rank at U.B.C. until 1961, although he was on leave part of the time.

     In 1949 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto while he began (with support from the Humanities Research Council of Canada) the arduous and very necessary task of compiling a projected “first” bibliography “of the separately published works [books] that constitute[d] the literature of English-speaking Canada.” Ten years later, in 1959, he completed this project, which was published with the title Check List of Canadian Literature and Background Materials 1628-1950. For this work alone, he merited, although he did not always receive, recognition as a leader in Canadian literary scholarship.

     His contribution did not end with one large volume, for he maintained records over the years, revised and enlarged the Check List, and published a massive new edition in 1972. Also, from the beginning of his programme, he had generously released his findings for the use of others. In 1955 he had published an authoritative selective bibliography appended to the influential Canadian Anthology, of which he was also an experienced and critical co-editor. This unique list, a valuable aid for college students, was brought up-to-date in successive editions until near his death. Another product of his research was a list of books, articles, and theses about English-Canadian literature, compiled with Inglis Freeman Bell, entitled On Canadian Literature 1806-1960 (published in 1965).

Reluctantly, because of other commitments, he was obliged to refuse an invitation to write for the Literary History of Canada, a project in preparation between 1958 and 1965. During 1958 and 1959 he was in Australia on an exchange plan sponsored in Canada by the Humanities Research Council. In 1961 he was an official representative of the HRCC at the third Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association at The Hague. In that same year he accepted the position of Professor and Head of the Department of English at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He also gave active support to the founding of a Commonwealth Literature section (including Canadian) within the Modern Language Association of America.

     His contribution to the Literary History of Canada was, in fact, being made continuously by his Check List of 1959, which was available to LHC contributors during their last five years of preparation. Their historical surveys would have required many more years, or perhaps might not have been accomplished at all, without the groundwork laid by Watters. He was a pioneer who sacrificed a promising career in criticism to the uncovering of facts, so that the creativity and criticism of others might eventually prosper. He died of cancer on December 19th, 1979, a few years after his retirement from R.M.C. His life has left us a new faith in our literary heritage and also an inspiring example of personal modesty, courage and devotion.

Carl F. Klinck