13 May 2022

$2 Connors

I will pay no more than two dollars on a book by Ralph Connor. This policy has stood me well. To date, my Connor collection consists of eighteen volumes – nearly all first editions – purchased at a total cost of thirty dollars and fifty cents.

This 1901 Westminster copy of The Man from Glengarry is the oldest. One bookseller believed it to be a first edition, and hoped that it would bring twenty dollars. Perhaps it did. I rescued it from a pile of books considered too damaged to be sold in a Friends of St Marys Public Library book sale.

The very first Connor I ever bought is this Triangle edition of The Runner, his 1929 novel of the War of 1812. The only one to have a dust jacket, I was won over by the publisher's description. 

I found this 1917 McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart edition of The Major at an outdoor bookstall in London, Ontario. It's in pretty rough shape, but at one dollar I couldn't resist. Besides, it was about to rain.

Imagine my surprise in discovering this inscription after returning home:

I bought this copy of The Prospector for two dollars from a bookseller who knew it was signed. He'd given up on his dreams of making $9.95... or even $5.00. 

Beautiful penmanship, don't you think?

You too can own a signed Connor! They can be purchased online for as little as US$12.00.

Too dear for me.

I began this piece forgetting that I'd mentioned my $2 Connor policy in a 2016 review of The Man from Glengarry. At the time, my collection consisted of sixteen titles. In the six years that have followed that number has grown by only two.

Has inflation taken its toll? Is two dollars now too low? Should be I raising my cut-off to three dollars? Four?

What think you?

02 May 2022

Ralph Connor's Canada Dry

Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police:
   A Tale of the MacLeod Trail

Ralph Connor [Charles W. Gordon]
Toronto: Westminster, 1912
454 pages

We begin on an Inverleith rugby pitch. Scotland is up against Wales in the International. It's a close contest, in part because Allan Cameron, fierce-fighting half-back of the Scottish line, hasn't been playing up to snuff. In the dying minutes, the Scots get a lucky break when the ball comes tumbling Cameron's way. He hesitates, and the promise of victory turns to defeat.

"Oh-h-h-h, Cam-er-on!" is the novel's first sentence. What has happened to Scotland's star player?

The answer is drink.

This is not to suggest that Cameron was under the influence during the game, rather that "he was out of condition; he had let himself run down last week, since the last match, indeed, got out of hand a bit."

The loss isn't the worst of it. Days later, Cameron faces arrest for passing a forged cheque. He doesn't remember doing so, but is unable to deny the charge because... well, you know, drink. 

The half-back is saved from arrest by Miss Brody, rugby-loving niece of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Scotland, and Cameron's conscience is later cleared when a dishonourable drinking buddy owns up to the crime. However, the damage has been done; Cameron has decided to give up drink, give up his studies, and make a new life for himself in Canada, envisioning himself "a wealthy rancher, ranging over square miles of his estate upon a 'bucking broncho,' garbed in the picturesque cowboy dress."

Instead, he ends up a low-level clerk at a Montreal shipping company.

The job doesn't last long – something to do with losing his temper and throwing his superior against a wall – and so, newly unemployed, Cameron does what we've all done in the same situation by taking in a travelling circus. There he chances upon farmer Tom Haley and his son Timmy who've come to the city to take in the show and purchase provisions for the family farm. Sadly, young freckle-faced Timmy winds up outside one of the drinking tents dotting the circus grounds as inside his father – rather sloshed – begins dipping into the money meant for baking flour and such. Cameron comes to the rescue by dragging Tom out, beating back "circus toughs" in the process.

Grateful and somewhat sobered by the violence, Tom offers our hero a position on his farm, twelve miles outside of town. Cameron accepts. Before long, he's proven himself an expert milker of cows, hoer of beets, player of bagpipes, and temperate role model to young Timmy. Over the course of the growing season, unrefined Mandy, the farmer's daughter, falls for the new hired hand, which scares Cameron into setting out for the West.

Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police is divided fairly evenly into three books, each with very different settings: Inverleith, Montreal and surrounding countryside, and the Canadian West. As a reader I found the first the most entertaining. As a Montrealer, the second held some interest, but only because it depicted a unilingual city that never existed. The last third, in which our hero finds an enemy in a whiskey trader, held the most action, but there's only so much fisticuffs and gunplay I can take. Its depiction of "our Indians" and mythologizing of the NWMP was particularly hard to stomach:

To the whole country the advent of the police proved an incalculable blessing. But to the Indian tribes especially was this the case. The natives soon learned to regard the police officers as their friends. In them they found protection from the unscrupulous traders who had hitherto cheated them without mercy or conscience, as well as from the whiskey runners through whose devilish activities their people had suffered irreparable loss.
     The administration of the law by the officers of the police with firm and patient justice put an end also to the frequent and bloody wars that had prevailed previously between the various tribes, till, by these wild and savage people the red coat came to be regarded with mingled awe and confidence, a terror to evil-doers and a protection to those that did well.
In the introduction to his anthology Best Mounted Police Stories (Edmonton: U of Alberta Press, 1978), Dick Harrison writes that Connor "did more to create the literary image of the Mountie than any other writer." He doesn't say whether this is a good thing, but I'll suggest it is not.

At the end of it all, I was left wondering whether early readers of Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police were a touch disappointed. As Connor's title suggests, Cameron does indeed join the force, but this doesn't happen until the twenty-second of the novel's twenty-five chapters. By this point, I'd long since lost interest; the late introductions of Big Bear, Crowfoot, Louis Riel, and other historic figures to Cameron's story only irritated.  

Ultimately, Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police turned out to be another of those novels that gets off to a fairly good start, but quickly loses momentum, grows tired and begins to wander, much like Cameron on the pitch at Inverleith.

I've nothing more to add. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get a drink.

Bloomer: "When a fellow gets on the bum and gets into a hole he knows well that there'll be a lot of people tumbling over each other to get him out, hence he deliberately and cheerfully slides in."

 The novel was adapted to the silent screen in 1921 as Cameron of the Royal Mounted; an interesting title change given that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had replaced the North-West Mounted Police (note the hyphen) just the previous year.

Filmed in Banff, directed by son of Toronto Henry MacRae, unlike the vast majority of silent-era films Cameron of the Royal Mounted is not lost!

Well, not entirely.

The first three of its nine reels are preserved at Library and Archives Canada.

Object and Access: An embossed hardcover, typical of its time, mine is a first Canadian edition. The book was purchased eight years ago in London, Ontario. At most, it set me back two dollars.

Used copies are plentiful and cheap. Of those listed for sale online, Doran's first American edition in uncommon dust jacket is the one to buy. Price: US$40.00.

The Internet Archive offers several editions online, including the Westminster, which can be be read through this link. Sadly, there was no photoplay edition.

Related posts:

01 May 2022

Is This the Dominion's Only Goose Girl Poem?

Now that National Poetry Month is over, a poem for May by Virna Sheard, pride of Cobourg, Ontario, from Candle Flame (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1926).

It follows verse in which she rightly praises postmen.


I saw a lovely lady walk along a leafy lane,
When primroses were blowing and the cuckoo sang again;
She wore a ruffled gown of pink, a hat of rosy hues,
And twinkling silver buckles on her little high-heeled shoes;
     Most daintily she carried a tall tasselled cane,
     While a small beribboned poodle came following in her train.

Then said I to the morning sun: "O do not let her pass!
A more bewitching, beauteous maid ne'er owned a looking-glass!
And if she turns in any gate, and goes I know not where,
It's probable I'll never see another maid as fair!
     Without the faintest knowledge of her charming name, alas!
     I sallied forth to meet her across the young green grass.

My hand upon my fluttering heart, I bowed extremely low,
And said: "A thousand pardons, but my way I do not know,
For since I chanced to see you from yon blossoming orchard tree,
The West is East, the South is North,—and all the same to me!
     And I have not any notion which way the four winds blow,
     Or on what highroad, up or down, t'would be the best to go!

"Of your kindness pray direct me to the left—or to the right;—
(You really should—because 'tis you have put my wits to flight,)
And I'd be quite madly joyful, and grateful this sweet day
If it should hap, by any luck, that your way was my way.
     There surely never was a morn more gay and golden-bright,
     And I have not a thing to do, but walk about till night."

Alack! That shining lady in that green primrosy lane,
Turned first to whitest marble—and then turned back again!
Her cheeks flamed red with fury—and her eyes flamed black with rage,
And she looked at me as might a queen at a good-for-nothing page!
     She tossed her head, and firmly, set down the tasselled cane,
     "I do not know you Sir!" she said,—and walked on with disdain.

"Beauty altogether perfect, cannot possibly be rude,"
Said I, and went the other way—but in a chastened mood;
Nor did I start a-whistling—as on such a day one should—
Till I reached the village common where a little goose-girl stood,
     Egad! The prettiest goose-girl that I have ever viewed!
     (Her flock was one grey gosling, by a frantic dog pursued.)

But tears were falling from her eyes, her eyes of blue-bell blue;
So I said: "Come! Come! Now what's amiss? Why all of this ado?"
And she cried: "O Sir! My darling geese! Of them I am bereft!
Of all the lovely twenty-five, there's only this one left!
     What shall I do! What shall I do! Whatever shall I do!
     The huntsmen came a-riding by—and all my geese just flew!"

I could not bear to see a little maiden so forlorn,
(I noticed that her curls were just the color of ripe corn;)
"Why go along with me!" said I, "tame geese will not fly far, 
And you and I together will discover where they are!"
     So hand in hand we hunted geese that mellow May-day morn,
     And I found that little goose-girl was a rose without a thorn.

Related posts:

28 April 2022

Ten Poems for National Poetry Month, Number 10: 'April' by Mary Morgan

For the month, the last of ten poems
find interesting, amusing, and/or infuriating.

A final poem for National Poetry Month, 'April' comes from the pen of Mary Morgan, daughter of James and Catherine Morgan, niece of Montreal merchant king Henry Morgan of the Henry Morgan Company. The brief biography included in Types of Canadian Women by Henry James Morgan (no relation, I believe) suggests a life of both privilege and constraint.

cliquez pour agrandir

'April' is found in Poems and Translations (Montreal: J Theo Robinson, 1887), her first volume of verse.


                         Thou balmy April evening,
                              I love thy beauty rare;
                         The clouds obscure the heavens,
                              A star shines here and there.

                         The breath of love is filling
                              The zephyrs as they blow;
                         The fragrance of the violet
                              Is wafted from below.

                         O for a strain of music
                              To suit the pensive hour
                         Some cadence low and tender
                              To lell its soothing power!
The poet identifies 'April' as a translation "from the German of Geibel." I'm unfamiliar with the language, but believe the original to be 'Im April' by Emanuel von Geibel:
                        Du feuchter Fruehlingsabend,
                        Wie hab' ich dich so gern!
                        Der Himmel wolkenverhangen,
                        Nur hie und da ein Stern.

                        Wie leiser Liebesodem
                        Hauchet so lau die Luft,
                        Es steiget aus allen
                        Talen Ein warmer Veilchenduft.

                        Ich moecht' ein Lied ersinnen,
                        Das diesem Abend gleich,
                        Und kann den Klang nicht finden,
                        So dunkel, mild und weich.
Am I right?

My conclusion is based on a translation provided by Google:
                         You damp spring evening,
                         How I like you so much!
                         the sky overcast,
                         Just a star here and there.

                         Like a gentle breath of love
                         breathe so lukewarm the air,
                         It rises from all valleys
                         A warm violet scent.

                         I want to think up a song
                         The same this evening
                         And can't find the sound
                         So dark, mild and soft.
Assuming I am correct, I much prefer Mary Morgan's.

How 'bout you?

25 April 2022

Ten Poems for National Poetry Month, Number 9: 'My Own Canadian Girl' by W.M. MacKeracher

For the month, the ninth of ten poems
find interesting, amusing, and/or infuriating.

What could be considered romantic verse from W.M. (William MacKay) MacKeracher's Canada, My Land and Other Compositions in Verse (Toronto: William Briggs, 1908).

                    The demoiselles of sunny France
                         Have gaiety and grace;
                    Britannia's maids a tender glance,
                         A sweet and gentle face;
                    Columbia's virgins bring to knee
                         Full many a duke and earl;
                    But there is none can equal thee,
                         My own Canadian girl.

                    Thy hair is finer than the floss
                         That tufts the ears of corn;
                    Its tresses have a silken gloss,
                         A glory like the morn;
                    I prize the rich, luxuriant mass,
                         And each endearing curl
                    A special grace and beauty has,
                         My own Canadian girl.

                   Thy brow is like the silver moon
                        That sails in summer skies.
                   The mirror of a mind immune
                        From care, serene and wise.
                   Thy nose is sculptured ivory;
                        Thine ears are lobes of pearl;
                   Thy lips are corals from the sea,
                        My own Canadian girl.

                   Thine eyes are limpid pools of light,
                        The windows of thy soul;
                   The stars are not so clear and bright
                        That shine around the pole.
                   The crimson banners of thy cheeks
                        To sun and wind unfurl;
                   Thy tongue makes music when it speaks,
                        My own Canadian girl.

                   God keep thee fair and bright and good
                        As in thy morning hour,
                   And make thy gracious womanhood
                        A still unfolding fiow'r.
                   And stay thy thoughts from trifles vain,
                        Thy feet from folly's whirl,
                   And guard thy life from every stain,
                        My own Canadian girl!


22 April 2022

Ten Poems for National Poetry Month, Number 8: 'Mended' by Edith Lelean Groves

For the month, the eighth of ten poems
find interesting, amusing, and/or infuriating.

Verse from Edith Lelean Groves' Everyday Children (Toronto: The Committee in Charge of the Edith L. Groves Memorial Fund for Underprivileged Children, 1932)


          "You've mended my dolly, now please mend me."
               And the sapphire eyes they were dim
          As she showed me her poor bent twisted foot,
               And her queer little mis-shaped limb.

          "My dolly was hurled worse than me,
               For her stuffing came out, and then
          Her foot it came off, Oh, she was a sight!
               But they've made her over again.

          "I think I'm most as important as she,
               Dad calls me his own precious pearl,
          And mummy she cries, for I'm all that they've got,
               That one little onliest girl.

          "I'm awfully tired of braces and things,
               And crutches that weight most a ton,
          I want to run round on my own two feet,
               Like the others and have some fun."

          So early one day they carried her off,
               With never a sigh or a frown,
          To a wonderful children's hospital,
               In the heart of her own home town.

          "Why I think," she said, "this is fairyland!"
               And then she was sure it was Heaven,
          The nurses were kind and the doctors good,
               To this dear little girl just seven.

          And they straightened her mis-shaped twisted foot,
               Though the time it seemed very long,
          She never grumbled but cheered the rest up
               Right bravely with chatter and song.

          And this all has a fairy tale ending,
               For gladness and joy and laughter
          Came into the life of the little girl,
               Happy she lived ever after.
Related posts:

19 April 2022

Ten Poems for National Poetry Month, Number 7: 'Dat's Laurier' by William Wilber MacCuaig

For the month, the seventh of ten poems
find interesting, amusing, and/or infuriating.

The second of two poems praising Wilfrid Laurier in William Wilber MacCuaig's Songs of a Shanty-Man and other "Dialect Poems" of French-Canadian Life (Toronto: Musson, 1913). The poet's only book, it's also dedicated to the great statesman.

                    Who's dat raise h'all de row 'e can,
                    When 'e's small boy, h'also beeg man,
                    An' gets dere firs' mos' h'every tam?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat, when 'e's young lad at school,
                    Was at de top 'es class, no fool.
                    Can fight lak' mischief an' keep cool ?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat when partee Liberal
                    Was all bus' up on N.P. wall
                    'E save dat ship safe trou' it all?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    When partee Conservateur was run,
                    An' on 'es side got all de fun,
                    Who's dat was firin' off 'es gun?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat, when Boer in h'Africa,
                    Raise beeg hurrah about some law,
                    'E feex 'im wid sodger from Canada?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat, when our good Queen she die,
                    Advise dem people fer to try,
                    Dat young fella—de Prince, so shy?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat, when in politique dey fight.
                    An' knock h'each oder out of sight,
                    Was settle h'everything all right ?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat, when 'e's gone far away,
                    De people's lonesome every day,
                    De crop 's bad, and dere's no hay?
                          Dat's Laurier.

                    Who's dat dey blame for h'everyting.
                    When dere's damp wedder and cole spring,
                    But 'e jus' smiles an' says, "By jing!"—
                          Dat's Laurier.

Related posts:

16 April 2022

Ten Poems for National Poetry Month, Number 6: 'Easter, 1942' by H.C. Mason

For the month, the sixth of ten poems
find interesting, amusing, and/or infuriating.

Unconventional Easter verse, eight decades old this year, by son of Staffordville, Ontario Harold Campbell Mason (1895-1976). The poet served as gunner in the First World War, surviving a leg wound that took him out of the fighting two months before the Armistice. After his return to Canada, he studied at the Ontario Agriculture College, turned to dairy farming, served as farming editor for the London Advertiser, and worked on adverts for Purina.

Mason wrote two books, the first, Bits o' Brass (Toronto: Thomas Allen, c.1921), being a collection of short stories and verse inspired largely by the war in which he'd fought. His second and last book, Three Things Only... (Toronto: Thomas Nelson, 1953) collects verse from the first, adding others, some of which were inspired by the Second World War.

This is one.

Mason's enlistment papers record his religion as Methodist.  

EASTER, 1942
Ring out, O happy Easter bells
For Christ is risen, is risen indeed!
Proclaim to priest and people from every chiming steeple
That Christ is risen, is risen indeed!
Let your clamor, let your clanger, let your chime
     Beating time
     Praise the Lord!
Praise the risen Victor-Victim by all the saints adored.
     Praise the Lord!
For Christ is risen, is risen, is risen
For Christ is risen, is risen indeed
For Christ the Lord is risen, is risen indeed!

        Young Jimmy Geantley, fresh-faced fighter pilot,
        Just ten months out of college
        Still grilled by his commission,
        His uniform and badges,
        His cunning and his courage,
        The thunder of his engine and the power of his guns,
        Sees the tracers smoking past him,
             Dives her,
             Spins her,
        Sees the blue and orange flame-spout
        Spurt across the dizzy cockpit,
        Tries to beat the horror down with bare hands,
        Burned and helpless hopeless hands,
        While he plummets flaring, flaming
             To the earth.

        There's a girl in far Toronto who will never know her mate
        But such is human nature, such is fate.
        Every Sunday, through the years,
        Through a haze of prideful tears
             She will see his name enshrined
        "To the glory of our God and in loving memory"
        While the boy fades out of mind
        And legend grows instead,
             Warrior-hero, warrior-dead,
             Happy hero, happy dead,
        Smiling hero, dead to save us
             In the war.

Ring out, O happy Easter bells
For Christ is risen, is risen indeed!
He is risen, He is risen, He escapes this earthly prison,
He prepares us many mansions
     For believers
     In the skies!

        "Ah lovely and blue is the sky above Naples
             And lovely and blue is the sea,
        And lovely and blue are the eyes of Giana
        The bright one, the fair one, from fair Lombardy!"
        So humming to comfort him, heartsick and lonely
             To bolster his courage, alone in the night,
             Antonio Rillio hears not the rustle, the only
        Faint warning of peril, of heart-clutching fright-
        Of the rush, of the yell, of the knives, and the Night.

Ring out, O happy Easter bells
For Christ is risen, is risen indeed!
Proclaim to every nation glad tidings of salvation
For Christ the Lord is risen, is risen, is risen, is risen,
For Christ the Lord is risen, is risen indeed!

        Soldier Ivan Volushenko hangs groaning on the wire.
             Hangs tangled in the wire,
        Holding hard his belly where the Fascist bullet got him
        As if almost he hoped to stop that steady bleeding, that inward fatal bleeding,
             But he knows— 
        He knows the thing will kill him
        Here so far from far Kazan.
        Little Ivan, and Katushka, and the others,
        They will never know their father,
        They will think of him as a hero, not as a man,
        They will tell the tale with pride,
        How he fought and how he died,
        How he died to save his comrades
             In the war.

Ring out, O happy Easter bells— 
Intone, O priest, and chant, O choir!
     Let your voices, soaring higher,
Join a tale of jubilation, tell the story of salvation,
Spread the story far and wide
How the Victor-Victim died,
How he died and how he rose
With a mighty, mighty triumph o'er his foes,
     O'er his foes— 
Alleluia, praise the Lord,
For Christ the Lord is risen, is risen indeed!

        Little Gretchen Kinderkin lies dying in the rubble,
        Lies dying in the rubbish where the British bomb exploded,
        Twisted, torn, and flung to die
        Pinned beneath the bone brickwork.
             She is lucky, she is dying
        Free from pain and freeform terror
        After that first shrieking instant,
        That brief shrieking instant,
        Not again too hear the bombers, not again to bear the bombings,
        Not again to shrink and shiver
        And hear the children cry.
             She is dying,
        Luckier far than brother Hansel whom she sheltered as they fell
        In the centre of the howling and the thunder-blast of hell—
        He must live out his life with his arm torn off.
        They will tell him, when he's older,
        How his sister sought to save him,
        How his sister died to save him
             In the war.

Ring out, O Easter bells, ring out,
For Christ is risen, is risen indeed,
And Mrs. John Jones has a new spring hat.
Let your calmer, let your clanger, let your chime
     Beating time
     Praise the Lord!
Doesn't Mrs. Smith look ghastly in that ghastly green creation,
I wonder what it is he sees in her?
Do you think the tartan tie is really regulation,
And the collar of that tunic—do you think it's really fur?
Proclaim to every nation glad tidings of salvation,
     Tell a tale of jubilation
To the booming and clanging of the bells—
     Praise the Lord,
For Christ is risen, is risen indeed!

        For Christ is risen, is risen indeed?
        Ah no. He hangs upon his cross
        Bewildered by defeat and loss— 
        Worshipped. A god. A thing apart.
        The nails still tearing at his tortured hands,
        The doubt still tearing at his tortured heart.

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