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    *  Gaslight note: after reading two articles in The Canadian  *
    *  Magazine (1899-may) which discussed literary greats,       *
    *  Robert Barr was provoked to write the following two-        *
    *  part, complementary article chiding the editor and all      *
    *  Canadians for neglecting to promote home-grown literature.  *
    *  Barr's article was featured prominently and generated at    *
    *  least two other response articles from other writers.  Barr *
    *  participated in articles for The Canadian Magazine at     *
    *  at least once a year after becoming successful abroad.      *

"Canadian literature"

by Robert Barr

Part One

from The Canadian Magazine, XIV, 1 (November 1899), pp. 3-7

In the May number of The Canadian Magazine there appeared an article by the editor entitled 'The Strength and Weakness of Current Books.' The article deals largely of Canada and its literature, and thus it is interesting to all of us who have an affection for Canada, especially as the subject is treated with illuminating restraint by Mr. Cooper.

   As the matter is, strictly speaking, none of my business, I naturally desired to say something about it, but the year has grown several months older before I could snatch time from more pressing work than the delightful task of lecturing Canada, and even now I must treat this important theme with a haste and superficiality it does not deserve.

   Canada, from its position on the map, its hardy climate, its grand natural scenery, its dramatic and stirring historical associations should be the Scotland of America. It should produce the great poets, which I believe it is actually doing, although I doubt if their books are selling in the Dominion. It should produce the great historical novelist; the Sir Walter Scott of the New World. Has the Sir Walter Scott of Canada appeared? And if so, is he unrecognized? If he has not yet come forward, what are the chances for his materialization? If Scott came to Canada, to change W.T. Stead's phrase, how long would it be before he starved to death? It is towards the solution of these questions that the jumbling remarks which follow will be directed, although I do not guarantee to keep to the point, and reserve to myself the privilege of wandering all over the place if I want to. I have felt for some years that it would be desirable for a writing man to take upon himself the odium of telling the truth to Canada, as far as literature is concerned. It is so popular to be eulogistic, that the average man's address or article touching Canada, on literature and that sort of thing, has a tendency to strengthen the delusion, already too wide spread, that Canada is an intellectual country. For an excellent example of this fatal habit, turn to Mr. W.A. Fraser's address before the Press Association published in the May number of The Canadian Magazine. The chief fault which I find in this address is that it embodies an underestimation of Canadian men and women writers, which is so typical of Canada itself.

   Mr. Fraser is addressing a body of Canadian Pressmen, and one of the duties of a Canadian Pressman should be to foster Canadian literature. Does Canada possess a literary man or woman? Not so far as may be learned from Mr. Fraser. Here are the names of the persons mentioned to the Pressmen: Zangwill, Baring Gould, Robert Burns, Talmage, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kossuth, Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and G.W. Steevens. In that oration there is not a single Canadian mentioned, or even hinted at, unless the phrase that 'Canada is the abode of wicked French priests, who are only kept from ruining everybody by the gallantry of the hero,' is a sneer at the charming romance of Charles G.D. Roberts, 'The Forge in the Forest.' The Bible tells us that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country, and this eternal truth is exemplified in Canada to-day, and has been for years past. Mecca cast out Mahomet, and it was only when he was driven from its gates that he founded the religion of which Mecca is to-day the centre.

   Mr. Fraser says, 'So far, literature has done little for Canada.' This remark, which, by the way, is untrue, recalls to my mind the much more striking phrase of the late John Sandfield Macdonald. 'What in hell has Strathroy done for me?' What has Canada done for literature? Little or nothing. Her greatest literary man would live in squalor, if he remained within her boundaries and depended upon her for support. Canada does not buy books to any extent worth mentioning. Apologists for the Dominion have said that life in Canada is strenuous; that there is the inevitable struggle in conquering a new country; that money is scarce and that books are not a necessity. Is this true? Is it the lack of money that makes Canada so poor a book market? Or is it because the Canadians are not a reading people? Is it lack of intellect rather than lack of cash? In writing this article here in England I have to admit I am not well supplied with statistical volumes relating to Canada, and any statement I make in the line of figures is subject to correction. I have at my elbow the statistical 'Year Book of Canada' for 1889, and so whatever I glean from it will be at least ten years old. I find (page 191) that in the year 1885, for instance, Canada drank 1.12 gallons of whiskey per head, as against 1.01 gallons per head in Great Britain and Ireland. That is to say, the Canadian drank eleven hundredths of a gallon more than the Britisher, who has never been held up to the natives of this earth as a strictly temperance individual. I find that in the five years ending in 1889, Canada consumed annually an average of two million eight hundred and ninety thousand five hundred and eight gallons of spirits.

   Now, when I was in Canada last year, five bottles of whiskey went to a gallon, and they charged me a dollar a bottle; so, putting the gallon at the low figure of three dollars, this would mean that Canada's liquor bill was something under nine millions of dollars, more than double of what Ontario paid during those years for education. We used to have a phrase in Canada to this effect, 'Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey.'

   I find that in those years Canada transformed something like a hundred million bushels of good wheat into spirituous liquor, but her production of books during the same time seems to have been so infinitesimal that the statistical Year Book does not even mention the output.

   It will be seen by these statements that it is not the lack of money that makes Canada about the poorest book market in the world outside of Senegambia.

   It may be said that I am putting literature on a low level when I place it on a cash basis; but an author must live if he is to write, and he must eat if he is to live, and he must have money if he is to eat. Cash is the magic wand of modern life; it will conjure up nearly anything you like. Recently a music dealer in Italy offered a substantial prize for an opera, and the offer brought forth 'Cavalleria Rusticana' and 'Pagliacci,' two musical efforts which became instantly successful all over the world. The Youth's Companion once offered a large prize for the best short story, and the taker of it was an unknown writer in Toronto. The Toronto Globe some years ago offered tempting prizes for short stories, and actually hooked in one of mine, and if mine did not take the first prize it was because there was a better story ahead of it.

   The bald truth is that Canada has the money, but would rather spend it on whiskey than on books. It prefers to inflame its stomach, rather than inform its brain. And yet there are people who actually hold that Canada is an intellectual country. The trouble is that it adds stupidity to its lack of intelligence. This sounds somewhat tautological, but a person may lack intelligence and still not be stupid. Commercially, nothing pays a country better than lavishly to subsidize an author. A Sir Walter Scott would bring millions into Canada every year. Scotland could well have afforded to bestow on Sir Walter Scott a hundred million dollars for his incomparable Waverley Novels. His works have made Scotland the dearest district in the world in which a traveller can live, and have transformed it from a poverty-stricken land into a tourist-trodden country, rolling in wealth. The reason I choose Sir Walter Scott as an example is, first, that he was the man whom the six gentlemen mentioned by Mr. Cooper chose to lead their list of desirable authors; second, because no Canadian writer has ever been made wealthy by Canada, and so I can't go to the Dominion for an example; and, third, because I am myself an adoring admirer of Sir Walter Scott's works.

   Now Sir Walter Scott was not writing for laurel wreaths; he wrote entirely and solely for cash. He began his Waverley Novels to support his lavish expenditure on Abbotsford. I doubt if he had any idea how good the books were. I think it was a canny precaution of Scott when he refused to put his name on them, fearing they were bad, and that he might jeopardise his already well-won reputation as a poet; yet whether they were good or bad he resolved to write them if they would bring in money. He continued his output of novels afterwards to pay his debts, incurred in a disastrous commercial speculation, the object of which had been to make money. If Sir Walter had thought he could make more money by planting trees or raising stock he would undoubtedly have turned his attention to those pursuits, and the Waverley Novels would have been unwritten.

   One of the first recorded utterances of Sir Walter Scott's, touching upon books, that I can find, was made to Ballantyne just a hundred years ago, where he says:

   'I think I could, with little trouble, put together sundry selections of them (Border Ballads) as might make a neat little volume that would sell for four or five shillings,'

   You see, he does not say that it would be well to collect these ballads in case they might be lost to the world, or that their publication would give deserved fame to ancient writers, but that the book would sell for four or five shillings. It is the four or five shillings that the average literary man is after and must have, if he is to continue in the business.

   What chance has Canada, then, of raising a Sir Walter Scott? I maintain that she has but very little chance, because she won't pay the money, and money is the root of all literature. The new Sir Walter is probably tramping the streets of Toronto to-day, looking vainly for something to do. But Toronto will recognize him when he comes back from New York or London, and will give him a dinner when he doesn't need it.

   I would like to say before going further, that although Mr. Fraser's address to the journalists filled me with resentment, because of his ignoring Canadian literary men, I am, nevertheless, a great admirer of that gentleman's stories, and, if I am not very much mistaken, he got his start in somewhat the same manner as I did myself. In the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post of June the 24th, are two items side by side which ought to be pondered on by Canada. One paragraph says: 'Mr. W.A. Fraser sent his first sketch to The Detroit Free Press, and it was at once accepted. The cheque for it determined Mr. Fraser to regular writing, and his success has been pronounced.'

   The second item is about Charles G.D. Roberts, and reads: 'Professor Roberts is in future going to live in England. It is understood that he goes abroad by the advice of a well-known publisher, who assures him that he can make much more money in London.'

   Mr. Fraser had to go outside of Canada to secure his first cheque, and that was my own experience, getting the cheque from the same paper.

   The first article of mine that was accepted by The Detroit Free Press had been sent to every paper in Ontario, without exception, and unanimously declined, although it was offered for nothing. The preacher in the story, said 'Thank God' when he got back his hat after passing it round a very stingy congregation, but I was not so fortunate as the reverend gentleman, for many of the papers not only kept the manuscript, but the stamps enclosed for its return as well. I never expected to get pay for anything published in Canada, but was always glad when editors did not send me in a bill for publishing my contributions.

   The Honourable Mr. W.E. Quinby, editor and proprietor of the Detroit Free Press, who gave Mr. Fraser and myself our first cheques, has himself done more for literature than all the editors from Quebec to Vancouver, and his literary judgment is infallible. He does not care from whom the manuscript comes, so long as it is good, and again, he is willing to back his opinion with money, and that, as I have said, is what counts in this world, whether in a horse trade, in literature, or in an election. I know men and women in England, in Canada, cmd in the United States, now in the front rank of literature who owe their start to Mr. Quinby's appreciation of their early efforts. There is little merit in recognizing genius when all the world recognizes it, but to select a winner when no one else knows of him is a feat to be proud of.

   One winter, during a visit to Atlanta, Georgia, I had the pleasure of meeting the late Henry W. Grady, one of the most remarkable journalists that the United States has produced -- a man who would certainly have been Vice-President of the United States had he lived, and probably President. In speaking of the beginning of his successful career, he said his starting point was a cheque from Mr. Quinby, of Detroit, received when he was out of employment, with no hope of gaining any.

   'My assets were, one wife, two children, and three dollars,' he said. 'That was all I had in the world. The encouraging words of Mr. Quinby to me, then an unknown, no-account young man, and the substantial nature of the cheque he sent, raised me from despair to hope, and I have never had an uneasy moment from that time.'

   Kipling, himself an early contributor to the columns of the Free Press, said to me once, 'The reading of the Detroit Free Press was about the only pleasure I had in my newspaper work in India; what a splendidly edited paper it is.'

   As one good turn deserves another, I believe the Free Press was the first paper in America to call attention to Kipling's genius. It is something for a man to have produced a paper like that, and more, that he paid generously for the contributions he accepted whether the sender was famous or unknown.

   My advice then to the Walter Scott tramping the streets of Toronto is:

   'Get over the border as soon as you can; come to London or go to New York; shake the dust of Canada from your feet. Get out of a land that is willing to pay money for whiskey, but wants its literature free in the shape of Ayer's Almanac, in my day the standard work of reference throughout the rural districts, because it cost nothing. Vamoose the ranch. Go back when all the rest of the world is acquainted with you, and you may find that Canada has, perhaps, some knowledge of your existence. Anyhow, when you return you will have a good time, for there are some of the finest people in the world in Canada.'

   This proves a very much larger subject than I thought it was when I took it in hand, so instead of dealing with it in one article I propose to devote two to it. It would be useless to scold over a state of things for which there was no remedy. I believe there is a remedy; I believe that Canada can be claimed from literary dark- ness and rye whiskey; therefore, in a future contribution, I propose to point out what this remedy is.


Part Two

The Canadian Magazine, XIV, 2 (December 1899), pp. 130-6

IN a previous article I devoted some attention to the somewhat benighted condition of the average citizen of the Dominion who, according to his own statistics, loves whiskey better than books. I now turn with equal horror to the contemplation of the educated Canadian.

   Canada has suffered much at the hands of her cultured class. Mr. Cooper, in his article in the May number of this magazine, says the educated Canadian is conservative. This is putting it mildly, but I believe the statement is accurate as far as it goes. The educated Canadian is conservative because he has no opinion of his own. In literature he waits until a definite judgment is pronounced outside of Canada; then your educated Canadian knows it all. He retails this second-hand estimate to admiring listeners with all the confidence of a man exploiting his own discovery. This is a very happy state of things for the educated Canadian, for if you contradict him he waves you off by saying, 'Oh, the London Times agrees with me,' or 'The Athenæum has given expression to my view,' and thus you are floored. But the unfortunate thing for a young Canadian endeavouring to make his way in literature is, that until he leaves his own domicile and has achieved commendation from other people, he has no chance whatever of making any impression on the second-hand opinion of his educated fellow-countrymen. The cultured Canadian glosses his ignorance with a hard polish, which is utterly impervious to thought that is Canadian in origin. He says of Canada as they of old said, 'Can there any good come out of Nazareth,' and it is not until Jerusalem has deified, or crucified the Nazarene, that he becomes of honour in his own land.

   Mr. Cooper tells an interesting story which is not related for the purpose of confirming my argument, but which, nevertheless, goes some distance in that direction.

   Six men of education and culture, he said, were taking dinner in a private room in a Toronto restaurant. Being cultivated persons their talk naturally turned towards literature, and the good old stock question came up. If all the books were to be blotted out with exception of the Bible and Shakespeare and one other volume, what should that one other volume be? Please note the conventionality of the exception. There are many men of culture and education who are not in the habit of reading either the Bible or Shakespeare, yet when this stock question arises, this stock exception is invariably made; sometimes Milton and Homer are lugged in, usually suggested by a posing man of education and culture who has never read a line of one or the other. Here then are the authors preserved to us by the six men of culture and education in Toronto -- Scott, Dickens, Carlyle, Kipling, Macaulay, Parkman, Thackeray, Ruskin, Elliott, Pope, Lecky, Stevenson, Browning, Tennyson, Goldsmith and Arnold, in the order named.

   Imagine, if you can, the depth of decadence into which critical judgment has fallen in Toronto, when there can be found half a dozen men throughout that ill-fated city who actually place Dickens before Thackeray, and who, at this age of the world, seriously consider Macaulay, when right in their own town, doubtless within a street car fare of where they were dining, lives Goldwin Smith, a writer incomparably superior to Macaulay, whether considered as a literary stylist or as an accurate historian. If cultured Canadians would only import their opinions with reasonable celerity, such mistakes could not occur, and there is really no excuse for this tardiness when there are several lines of steamers running from England to Montreal each week. Doubtless the distinguished diners themselves will be shocked to learn that, to use a commercial phrase, Dickens stock began to decline on the day of his death, and has been declining ever since, while in like manner Thackeray stock began to appreciate and has continued to do so.

   But there are six prigs in other places than Canada. The editor of an English magazine told me a while since that six English novelists dined together and the usual question came up with the usual exception. It took this form: 'If you were sentenced to a term of imprisonment and could get only one book to read, which book would you choose. Shakespeare and the Bible excepted?' The answer was unanimous; the six novelists chose George Borrows' book Lavengro.

   I sat silent for a moment or two when this was told me, and then said with deliberation, 'I think I should have chosen Lavengro too.'

   'So should I,' replied the editor.

   Thus there were eight of us, like the little niggers. On leaving my editor friend I went at once to my favourite book-store on the Strand, and said to the man in charge: 'Have you got a copy of a book entitled Lavengro?'

   'Well,' replied the attendant, 'there isn't much call for it, but I think I have a copy. Yes, here it is; two shillings; by George Borrow.'

   I paid the money, took the book home with me, and since then I have read it.

   Now these six English prigs differed from the six Canadian prigs in this; there was at least some originality about their choice. Without knowing who the six were, I surmised that probably an article on George Borrows had appeared in one of the reviews, and each man supposed he alone had read that article, so he thought he would surprise the others by naming a book of which they had never heard. I take some delight in imagining the long faces pulled by the six novelists when the poll was declared. Next year, Mr. Cooper, when your six men are dining again in their private room, I'll bet you a year's subscription to this magazine that they choose Lavengro.

   Rather more than a year ago, when I was in America I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by Mr. James L. Hughes, Inspector of Schools for Toronto. The lecture was the last of a series on the same subject, and the subject was Charles Dickens. I sat entranced, listening to the rounded periods of Mr. Hughes. For the time being the years rolled off my shoulders, and I was once more a boy of seventeen listening to the estimate of the noted novelist whom I had cherished at that period of my existence. It staggered me at first, I confess, to learn that any educated man considered the exaggerations of Charles Dickens worthy of six discourses, but once in the auditorium all that was forgotten, and I bathed in the eloquence of the Inspector as if I had discovered the fountain of youth which Ponce de Leon failed to find in Florida.

   I quote here from an inaccurate memory, and so cannot reproduce the exact words; but this was their substance:

   'Murdstone'! The sonorous voice of Mr. Hughes rolled out the cognomen, dwelling thrillingly on the 'r's.' 'Think of the significance of that name! "Murd," the first syllable of murder, and "stone," typical of the hard heart of this wonderfully drawn character.'

   This was most impressive, but still, if Mr. Hughes had wished to get names with meanings, he had only to go back a little further in literature to the old dramatists, and there he would have found Mr. Lovemore, Mr. Bashful Constant, Mr. Brilliant Fashion, Mr. Lively, Mr. Sombre, Mr. Moody, Mr. Joyful, Sir John Reckless, Lord Graball, a miser; indeed he might have had a more recent example, for an American novelist once wrote: 'Mr. Winterbottom was a cold, stern man.'

   But after the discourse was over and I had removed myself from the magnetism of the lecturer's presence, I began to ponder on the disquieting position of things which this oration displayed. If the chief educational official in the largest and probably the most enlightened city of Ontario, held literary opinions which perhaps it would be too harsh a term to call infantile, what must be the state of mind of the ordinary teachers throughout the Province, and what chance is there of any of their unfortunate pupils becoming a Judge Haliburton or a Gilbert Parker, an Archibald Lampman or a Dr. Drummond? The fact that the country does produce such men is merely an example of the amazing fertility of nature. To expect it to do so as a matter of course, would be as absurd as if a farmer looked for fall wheat to sprout in the spring, when he had neither ploughed the land nor sown the grain the year before.

   During all my school days in Canada, whether in the humble log chalet of the backwoods or the more imposing educational halls of Toronto, I never once heard the name of a literary mall mentioned. Never once was I told that I lived in a country containing the grandest scenery; the world has to show. Never once was the information given to me that the history of the deeds which won an empire from the wilderness was more absorbingly interesting than the most thrilling romance ever penned. And here I come to the chief indictment I have to bring against the conservative educated Canadian. The school books which he compiled for his unhappy victims throughout the Province reflected his own second-hand state of mind. Unfortunately I have not in my possession the school books at present in use in Ontario, but the third, fourth and fifth books of my day were as bad as if I had compiled them myself. Canadian history was represented, when I first went to school in Canada, by a little yellow book, which was as dull as a page of logarithms. Later we had a larger book containing many bad wood-cuts, and this volume was even duller than the other, because it was bigger. The selections for the reading books were mostly chosen from English sources, and if we saw Canada at all, it was through English eyes. There were some turgid poems on Niagara, if I remember aright, but they were all by Englishmen, and I think the prose description was by Charles Dickens himself.

   The other night 1 was invited by the Whitefriar's Club to attend a dinner given to Mark Twain. One of the speakers was Dean Hole, of Rochester, celebrated alike as an orator and a bookmaker. He told a story which he credited to Dr. Conan Doyle, but which, nevertheless, was my story. Discussing the very point I am endeavouring to throw light upon now, I told this story to Dr. Doyle, to emphasize my remarks, and he asked permission to use the anecdote on his lecture tour, which permission I most cheerfully gave, and now Dean Hole has got the story in one of his books, and if my name were only attached, I should have some chance of going down to posterity. Here is the yarn:

   As a boy I worked my way from Detroit on a schooner to the Welland Canal. The schooner was the Olive Branch, and I believe her bones now lie exposed to the winds on the shore near Toronto. My objective point was the Niagara Falls, and as soon as I got off the schooner I tramped from the canal to the cataract, one hot, dusty summer's day. I sat and looked at the Falls, but was bitterly disappointed with them. No reality can ever equal the expectation of a boy's lurid fancy. However, I consoled myself by saying, 'Never mind; some day I shall have money enough to go to England and see the Falls of Ladore.' In the third, or the fourth, or the fifth book, which was than used in all schools throughout Canada, Southey's poem, the Falls of Ladore, was given:

   Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling, And steaming, and beaming, and gleaming, and streaming, And dashing, and flashing, and splashing, and clashing. All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar, And this way the water comes down at Ladore!

   Naturally I thought such a cataract must be the greatest downpour in the world, and sure enough, neither money nor opportunity being lacking, I had a chance of viewing the wonder of nature which inspired Southey's muse. I landed one summer evening at a lakeside town two miles from Ladore. My impatience would not admit of my waiting till daylight, so I started on foot along the beautiful well-made road which skirts the lake, then almost as light as day under a full harvest moon. After I had tramped about two miles I began to fear I had lost my way, for, pausing every now and then, I could hear no sound of water, so I sat down on the rocks by the wayside until some belated passerby should happen along and give me more definite directions. At last a countryman came slowly down the road and I hailed him.

   'Can you tell me where the Falls of Ladore are?' I asked. The man paused in astonishment.

   'Why, sir,' he said finally, 'you're a-sittin' in 'em.'

   The fact was the falls had gone temporarily out of commission because of the dryness of the summer. Now, however picturesque the surroundings of a cataract may be, I maintain that a little water is necessary as well, and yet, thanks to our Canadian school books, I had waved Niagara contemptuously aside for this heap of dusty stones!

   Canada always underestimates her own, and my reason for writing this article is to enlarge, if possible, her bump of self-appreciation; self-conceit, if you like. I have done it before in an instance which I shall relate, and so I do not despair even with so large a handful as the Dominion. Once when spending a winter in the lovely English watering place of Torquay, I took my map and walked towards the village of Babbacombe. Nearing the place I met the local policeman and asked him if there was anything worth seeing in Babbacombe.

   'No,' he said slowly, 'there isn't. You ought to see Torquay, that's a great place.'

   'But, I objected, 'I have just come from Torquay. You don't think it would be worth my while then to go on to Babbacombe?'

   'Oh, no, sir,' he said, 'there's nothing a-goin' on there. I was born and bred in the place, and nothing much has happened ever since.'

   Nevertheless, I continued my journey across the wind-swept down and came to the edge of a precipice, where an astonishing view burst upon me. The cliffs were of red sandstone, resembling in colour the Esterel mountains in Southern France; the water was as deeply blue as the Mediterranean, and down the densely-wooded Devonshire Combe, embowered in foliage, straggled the thatched roofs of the quaint old cottages of Babbacombe, the floor of one house level with the peak of another, and so on to the edge of the glittering sand, and the white line of foam from the rippling tide. On returning I again met the leisurely policeman.

   'Look here,' I said, 'Babbacombe is the loveliest place I ever saw in my life. The next stranger you meet, tell him that whatever else he misses, he mustn't miss Babbacombe. The cliffs are the colour of the mountains of Judea, near Jerusalem; the water is as lovely as the Golden Horn at Constantinople.'

   'Do you mean to tell me so, sir?' he asked, opening his eyes wide in astonishment.

   'I do, and I don't want you to forget it either. A man who was born in such a place should be proud of it.'

   When I looked back from away down the hill the policeman was still standing where I left him, gazing after me.

   Six years passed before I met that policeman again. He did not recognize me, but I recognized him.

   'Well, officer,' I said, 'I'm tramping on to Babbacombe. Is it worth while going there?'

   'Worth while?' he cried, with enthusiasm, 'it's the prettiest village in the whole world; them as travels has told me so. Part o' Babbicom is just like Jerusalem, and another part is like Constantinople. You mustn't miss Babbicum, sir, for I was born and bred there.'

   Now I should like to do for Canada what I did for that policeman. He got his similes rather mixed up, but he was on the right track, and I believe he will remain on it until he is superannuated.

   The thing that seems to me to stand in the way of the Canadian Walter Scott, is Canada's persistent undervaluation of her own men and women. Mr. Cooper in his article commented on the fact that his six prigs dining in a private room had included no modern author except Kipling and Stevenson, but what strikes me as emblematical of their limited minds is, that not one of the half dozen gave any chance to a Canadian. Mr. W.A. Fraser, in his address to the newspaper men, to which I took exception on this same count, said that above all else we must have Truth, and he spelt it with a capital T. I think there must be truth in fiction, otherwise it will not live. It is probably the absence of truth in the writing of Charles Dickens, all his pictures being exaggerations, and his character sketches, caricatures, which accounts for his gradual decline, and which will account for the ultimate extinction of his work. Stevenson is another of the men chosen by the learned six, and in some of his books he has ventured on American topics, which he treats with a lack of truth which must ever distinguish the work of a foreigner writing of a country not his own.

   'A man should write what is in his bones,' said Kipling once, and the phrase has stuck to me ever since I heard it. Kipling himself is the exception which goes to prove his own rule, for he has written truthfully of a life which, so to speak, was not in his bones, as is shown in his story of the fisher folk in 'Captains Courageous.'

   'The Master of Ballantrae' is generally admitted to be one of Stevenson's most notable books, and the character of the Master is drawn by a vigorous and sure hand, while an even more subtle creation is the old servant, MacKellar, who tells the story. But the moment Stevenson brings his people across to America the element of truth escapes from his novel, and it goes to pieces. He has his company wander blundering through the north woods from Albany for something like three weeks, when anyone who knows the Indian and the time is well aware that every member of that company would be decently scalped and dead before they were half an hour in the forest. Stevenson has his Indians do what no Indian ever thought of doing. He has the aborigines stroll listlessly along the valley with the white foreigners gazing down on them from the ridge, when in reality the incident would have been the other way about.

   This is what comes of dining in a private room in a city restaurant instead of camping out in the valley of the Don and learning the ways of Indians. I hope Mr. Cooper will take his six, next time they are hungry, to the city limits on an electric car and treat them to a picnic where they may see the methods of the wilderness. If there had been a single original idea in the brains of the six they would have given a vote for at least one Canadian book, and so against their next meeting in a private room, I'll bestow upon them a hint. I shall not go to any author so well known as Gilbert Parker, whose splendid array of books is now heading the lists both in England and in the United States. I shall take a writer much less famous perhaps, but no less deserving of fame. In a book written by Mrs. Harrison, of Toronto, entitled The Forest of Bourg-Marie, there is a chapter describing an ancient ruined chateau in Canada which has been made a storehouse for furs by the grim old man who is the striking hero of the book. Not only has Robert Louis Stevenson, nor any one mentioned by the six, never written anything so striking as that description of the furs, but, to find its equal in literature, you will have to go back to the time of the Arabian Tales. I know nothing of Mrs. Harrison beyond what may be surmised by a reading of her book, but I stake whatever little reputation I have on the statement that The Forest of Bourg-Marie is a notable work of genius, a book superb in its character drawing, noble in diction, thrilling in incident, and so strongly constructed that it dispenses with conventional love-making, without losing an atom of its interest, a feat which has not been accomplished, to my knowledge, since Robinson Crusoe, and I doubt if there is a novelist living, however famous, who would have the courage to put forth a romance without a heroine in it.

   I must apologize to the immaculate six, for mentioning a work which emanates from mere Toronto.

   Now what is the remedy; what can be done to get Canada out of the literary slough of despond in which it wallows? I think it will help to clear the way if we admit that, with the present generation, all effort is useless. The six cultured and educated men who dined in the private room are hopeless, and perhaps even I am not able to convince them that they are six egregious asses, holding the same literary opinions now to be found only in the colliery districts of England; opinions which have been discarded by men of intelligence everywhere else in the world. Our endeavour at reform must begin with the rising generation and so, if possible, an attempt should be made to civilize the school teachers of Canada. I am taking it for granted that the school books are nearly, if not quite, as bad as they were in my day, and I arrive at this estimate of them because the Inspector of Public Schools in an imperial city like Toronto holds good old matured literary opinions that are of the vintage of 1876. I doubt also if the Normal School has improved, and so it were useless to look to that institution for help in reclaiming the teachers. In my day the Normal School was a sort of educational pork-packing factory. It gathered in to itself the raw material from all parts of the Province, rushed it through the machine, scraped off some of the ignorance, but not much, and there stood the manufactured article, produced in so many minutes by the watch. I was captured from my native lair, soaked, scraped and so flung upon a defenceless Province, certified as being of correct weight and size, all in something less than four months.

   We must get at the teachers direct. My plan is to place The Canadian Magazine into the hands of every teacher in Ontario. To expect the teachers to pay two dollars and a half a year for it is absurd; because Canada, although willing to lavish millions on rail ways or on telegraphs to the other end of the earth, is graspingly penurious where her teachers are concerned. She pays them meagre salaries, so that every woman among them is looking towards the day when she will get married, and every man is anxious for the time when he can step into something that will bring him in more money. My statistical hand-book of Canada shows that in the year 1887 there were something like five thousand schools in Ontario. I suppose that by this time the number has doubled. Placing the figure then at ten thousand, how are we to get the magazine into those ten thousand schools? Of course it would be a small matter and quite unnoticeable in the tax list if each school section in Canada were to appropriate two dollars and a half a year for the magazine, but to look for that is to look for an impossibility, although this would be the natural way out in a civilized community. I propose, therefore, to start a fund. I will place a hundred dollars in the hands of the Editor of The Canadian Magazine if forty-nine other prigs, educated and cultured, will put up a like amount each; that would be five thousand dollars. I should expect the ten thousand teachers to subscribe on their own account fifty cents apiece, and I should expect the proprietors of The Canadian Magazine, on getting an order for ten thousand copies, to let us have them at a dollar a year, each subscription.

   Then if I were the editor of the magazine I would get a number of the bright young people to write articles on the stirring historical events of Canada. The war of 1812 alone is a mine of wealth, and in the United States, not to mention Canada, there is a vast amount of ignorance regarding the outcome of that historical episode. What writer could wish for a more attractive hero than General Brock, or a more romantic character than Tecumseh? Where, even in the history of Scotland, is there an act of more womanly devotion than the night excursion taken by Mrs. Secord through swamp and forest to warn her countrymen of the enemy's approach? Literally, the woods are full of incidents like these.

   The recent success of McClure's Magazine in New York shows what can be done on these lines. Miss Ida M. Tarbell, a girl unheard of before the magazine was founded has been, as it were, the backbone of that publication. She began by writing a life of Abraham Lincoln, and is still at it, having sandwiched Napoleon between the two histories of the Martyred President, and I must confess I read the account of that great plain man's life with as intense an interest as I did some years ago, when the articles first appeared.

   Now, in Canada there are hundreds of girls who are as bright, as clever, and as well educated as Miss Tarbell, but there is no opening for them in the Dominion. The United States' publications are closed to them because readers on the other side of the line are not interested in the historical annals of a foreign country. When I offered my first book, which dealt with the Fenian Raid in Canada, to a New York publisher he refused it, but said if I changed the venue of the incidents over to the States he would publish the book. 'We have no interest in Canada,' he added. Well, as I was unable to transport the Fenian Raid from the Province of Ontario to the State of New York, my book had to be published by another fellow, who took it with some reluctance, having exactly the same objection to it. This shows the disadvantage under which Canadian writers labour when they seek an outlet for their wares across the border.

   Last year, when I visited one of the High Schools of Buffalo, I found on the desk of each teacher files of every New York magazine. Stories and articles from these magazines were read to the classes, explained and commented upon. Such a course not only interested, but brightened the pupils, and made them alert and up-to-date. I propose then that The Canadian Magazine be read in the Canadian schools; that the children should be taught something about the leading writers of the day, especially those who belong to Canada, or who write about Canada; that they should be taught something of the grandeur of their country, of its scenery and its history. They should be told that the important things of life are right around the schoolhouse door, and not over in England, or on any other distant shore. To this end I am ready to contribute a hundred dollars a year for the next five years, if there are forty-nine men in Canada willing to do the same. In such a way I think the chances of Canada producing a Sir Walter Scott or a Jane Austen from among the present boys and girls of Canada will be considerably enhanced, and, perhaps, when the boys now in school grow up, they will be willing to buy more books and less whiskey.