08 November 2009

Remembering Peregrine Acland

Peregrine Palmer Acland

As Remembrance Day approaches thoughts turn to Peregrine Acland, whose Great War novel, All Else is Folly, I wrote about back in March. A very fine work, praised by Ford Madox Ford, Bertrand Russell, Frank Harris and our own war-time prime minister Sir Robert Borden, of all the out-of-print books read this past year, this is the one I would bring back. It remains a mystery to me that this novel has been so neglected.

One might make a similar statement regarding the author. Very little has been written about Acland, much of it sketchy and inaccurate. The biographical note that accompanies We Wasn't Pals, the Great War anthology edited by Barry Callaghan and Bruce Meyer, lists no dates of birth or death, and mistakes his only other book, the poem The Reveille of Romance, for a novel.

Once a newspaperman, Acland's own writing has him in Alberta working as a cowboy before the war – an unlikely occupation for a the son of the Deputy Minister of Labor. Greg Gatenby's remarkable Toronto: A Literary Guide, tells us that after the war Acland worked as an ad man in New York and Toronto, and was a member of Mackenzie King's private staff during the Second World War. A Torontonian, he died in the city of his birth, having lived the final years of his life in an apartment at 100 Gloucester Street.

I can't claim to have done any real research on Acland myself, though I did seek out his Attestation Paper – easily done through Library and Archives Canada. I've also come across a a smattering of wartime writing published in the Globe and Pearson's Magazine, along with the above photo, which was used in a McClelland and Stewart advert for All Else is Folly. The scarring almost certainly comes from the severe wounds he received during the Battle of the Somme, and is similar to that suffered by his protagonist Alec Falcon.

Acland was awarded the Military Cross; his "conspicuous bravery at the front" was reported in the dailies. The novel drawn from his experiences was published in three countries, received glowing reviews, and soon went out of print. What recognition has Acland received since? After the adverts for All Else is Folly had run, his name disappeared from the Globe and Mail, the newspaper for which he'd once worked; even his death went unreported. It's all so shameful, really.

Update: Field Punishment No. 1 reveals that the Globe and Mail did indeed report on Peregrine Acland's death, succeeding where this blog failed. Once again, it seems that I've been let down by the Globe and Mail search engine.


  1. I came across your posts while seeking biographical information on Acland. I've been intrigued by All Else is Folly for years and happen to own one of the Canadian first editions from McClelland and Stewart. You may be interested to know that at age 16, Acland published a short story entitled "Larry's Lope" in the Canadian Magazine. It's on p. 599 in the April 1907 issue which is available in full text on the Internet Archive. "Larry's Lope" is of small literary interest on its own, although its tale of rough-and-tumble cowpunchers would seem an origin for the opening chapters of All Else is Folly.

    One other thing: Archives Canada has a small fonds on Acland. Here's a link: http://www.archivescanada.ca/english/search/ItemDisplay.asp?sessionKey=1149011692062_206_191_57_196&l=0&lvl=1&v=0&coll=1&itm=261937&rt=1&bill=1

    Cheers and thanks

  2. My thanks for this. I knew nothing of Peregrine Acland's juvenilia - and am happy to see that this story is so easily accessible! For some time now, I've been meaning to look into Acland's fonds, but Glassco has always get in the way (as you likely know, they place a limit on how much material one can request at any one time). Now that work on Glassco has well and truly been put to rest, I must get to it. Next trip to Ottawa, I expect.

    I wonder whether you'd mind emailing me:


    Again, many thanks.

  3. Project Gutenberg Canada has just posted the Acland novel, All Else is Folly. Just thought you'd like to know. A publisher had planned to release it in 2012, but cancelled, so it's grand to know it's available again.

    1. I had no idea. Thank you.

      I wonder if the publisher you were thinking of is Dundurn. It had planned 2012 edition, with Intro by yours truly, but this was postponed. I'm pleased to report that it is currently in production with a June publication date. The new edition will feature the text of the book, of course, along with the aforementioned Intro dealing with Acland's life and work, both versions of his Great War poem 'The Reveille of Romance', and many previously unpublished photographs. My partner in this project is James Calhoun, the man behind the Field Punishment No. 1 blog. Here's hoping it and Project Gutenberg go some way in bringing Acland to the public's attention.

  4. Yes, it was Dundurn Press. I had pre-ordered a copy and was very disappointed the publication was cancelled. VERY glad to hear it was merely postponed. Bravo on all your work and Mr. Calhoun's on Acland. I hope this publication helps him gain the wide audience he deserves. Nice to see the gravestone photos too.

    1. Many thanks for the kind words. Here's hoping that the new edition goes some way in returning Acland to public light. His is our Great Great War Novel.