30 April 2010

'Poetry to us is given'

James McIntyre's obituary in the the Globe of 2 April 1906, two days after his death. Not a word about his verse.

Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, ON: Chronicle, 1889)

29 April 2010

James McIntyre's Fair Thames

The end of National Poetry Month approaches, and with it the stragglers in the parade of things McIntyre. I suppose he'll always be remembered as "The Cheese Poet"... a bit unfair, but as noted at the start of the month, the poet brought this on himself. Certainly, the couplet feaured on the title page of his 1889 Poems of James McIntyre didn't help:
"Fair Canada is our Theme,
Land of rich cheese, milk and cream."
The dairy does distract, but McIntyre is honest in writing that his theme is Canada. "Canada Before Confederation", "Canada's Future" and "Birth of Canada as a Nation" kick things off, leading to poems about maple sugar, the railway, the North-West Rebellion and a tribute to politicians, living and dead.

The centrepiece of this self-published collection is not McIntyre's seventeen "Dairy and Cheese Odes", but "Sketches on the Banks of the Canadian Thames". Twelve poems in all, they deal with the river that McIntyre calls the "Happiest spot". It's the same body of water that in April 1891, two years after publication, overflowed its banks and quite literally carried away his livelihood.

He never published another book.

The vale of the Thames, St Marys, Ontario

27 April 2010

Here's to Robert Gourlay!

Three or so years ago, I happened upon a newly installed bust of Robert Gourlay in Toronto's St. James Park. It was a pleasant surprise; we have so few of these sorts of things in Canada. Gourlay, being very much a forgotten figure, I suppose it was felt that something of an introduction was warranted. The pedestal reads: "Banished from Upper Canada in 1819 on false charges of sedition brought by the Family Compact. His writings had an impact on events leading to the 1837 rebellion." True enough, though Gourlay would be the first to add that he condemned that rebellion; indeed, he fought against it by sending Lieutenant-Governor Francis Bond Head intelligence on rebel activity south of the border.

It's simply not possible to reduce such a complex and confusing life to a couple of sentences – and I'm sure not going to try it here. The best account of Gourlay's life, written by S.F. Wise for The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, is recommended reading, if only for the description of the "darling system" (which proponents of electoral reform are encouraged to study).

When James McIntyre met this frustrated man, Gourlay was an octogenerian. Newly married to a 28-year-old bride, he was attempting one last time to gain some small amount of influence in a run for parliament. McIntyre reports his sad defeat.

In The Four Jameses, William Arthur Deacon treats the poet rather unfairly, writing that Gourlay "returned to Canada in 1856; and contested the Oxford seat in 1860, not in 1858 as McIntyre asserts." In fact, McIntyre is correct, though he does misspell Gourlay's surname – an obvious error that appears to have escaped the critic's notice.

Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, ON: Chronicle, 1889)

26 April 2010

Drowning by the Dock of the Bay

Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, ON: Chronicle, 1889)

It seems they were forever fishing bodies out of Toronto Bay in the 19th century. Here's a small sad story from the 29 June 1886 New York Times in which authorities dragging the bay for one man found another.

The next day the paper used the the very same headline in reporting the death of a third man.

James McIntyre's young Montrealer of genteel form and dress may have been Henry Jaques, eldest son of Great Lakes shipping magnate G.E. Jaques, whose body was found floating in the harbour in May of 1873. Though initial reports drew attention to head and facial wounds as evidence of foul play, a coroner's jury found otherwise. According to the 28 May 1873 Montreal Daily Witness, his "features were much swollen and discolored from immersion in water", not as "the result of violence." Blame was instead placed upon the dangerous state of Toronto's Hamilton Wharf, from which, it was presumed, Jaques fell.

25 April 2010

A Lesson for Sunday

A cautionary tale concerning faith from Thomas Conant's Upper Canada Sketches:
During the winter of 1842-3 the Second Adventists, or Millerites, were preaching that the world would be all burnt up in February, 1843. Nightly meetings were held, generally in the school-houses. One E— H— , about Prince Albert, Ont, owned a farm of one hundred acres and upwards, stocked with cattle and farm produce, as well as having implements of agriculture. So strongly did he embrace the Second Advent doctrines of the Millerites that he had not a doubt of the fire to come in February and burn all up, and in confirmation of his faith gave away his stock, implements and farm. Sarah Terwilligar, who lived about a mile east of Oshawa "corners," on the Kingston Road, made for herself wings of silk, and, on the night of 14th of February, jumped off the porch of her home, expecting to fly heavenward. Falling to the ground some fifteen feet, she was shaken up severely and rendered wholly unfit to attend at all to the fires that were expected to follow the next day.
The apocalypse was to have begun at two o'clock in the morning, at which time the fresh February snow would have turned to blood and started to burn. Obviously, the Millerites were a bit off in their prediction.

Conant was less a year old at the time of the anticipated apocalypse, and so relied on others in penning his sketch. This including a manufacturer named Whiting, who complained that come morning "he could do no business, because the people had not gotten over the surprise of finding themselves alive."

And poor Sarah Terwilligar? The author tells us she broke her leg.

23 April 2010

Nineteenth-Century Logrolling

In this hectic week it took me three days to realize that Thomas Conant's cautious praise of James McIntyre was part of an exchange of mutual admiration that began with this awkward verse:

Though the date these lines were sent is unrecorded, we know it must have been before they appeared in Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, ON: Chronicle, 1889). Conant was a frequent contributor to the Globe, and did indeed "give fine sketch of bird and fowl", but his masterpiece, Upper Canada Sketches (Toronto: Briggs, 1898), dealt with much more than ornithology. An entertaining blend of nature writing and history, it gives the Conant family a bit more weight than might be their due. That said, it is worth mentioning that Thomas' namesake, his grandfather, was one of the four people killed during the Upper Canada Rebellion.

The scene was imagined by Edward Scrope Shrapnel.

The artist contributed twenty-six paintings to Upper Canada Sketches, making it one of the most attractive books to come out of nineteenth-century Canada.

22 April 2010

Uncollected McIntyre: Mars on Hogs

Five weeks after publishing "The Evolution of the Hog", James McIntyre returned to the pages of the Globe with this mysterious, seemingly untitled poem. His inspiration – "signals sent to us from Mars" – escaped the attention of the newspaper. I've been unable to find even one account of these historic messages from the red planet.

Eighteen hundred and ninety-four, in which this poem was written, is remembered by aresologists as the year in which Percival Lowell studied and sketched the canals of Mars. Could it be that the Cheese Poet was just a tad confused? Whatever the answer, Mars provided an opportunity to touch upon the First Sino-Japanese War, then in its first month, before turning yet again to the ravenous hog.

The Globe, 15 September 1894

21 April 2010

Uncollected Mcintyre: The Hog Poet

James McIntyre published a good number of poems in the Globe, most of which have never been republished. The most interesting, "The Evolution of the Hog", published 7 August 1894, was part of a letter in which the poet writes of his maturation of thought concerning the merry, playful, doomed "sweet and tender swine".

To the Editor of the Globe:
Sir,—In a poem published long ago I predicted the fall of wheat and the rise of the cow and the hog, but I, at the first, felt sad to see my prediction verified; but I am now fully reconciled, seeing the pretty, happy little pigs enjoying themselves along the roads in company with their mother sow and bringing a ten dollar bill each to their owner when they are six months old. It is a common thing to sell 50 of them in one year from a 100 acre farm, realizing $500 from this one source. Many of the improved breeds are like Jacob's sheep, ringstraked, speckled and grisled. The cheese and the pork are the concentrated essence of the farm, and the cows and hogs enrich the land. Sending bulky stuff like hay across the sea impoverishes the soil and brings but small returns in money. Feeding wheat to hogs, the best returns are obtained by chopping it and soaking it in whey or slops.

The Evolution of the Hog.

In these days of evolution
There's a wondrous revolution;
The hog is coming to the front,
And he can now contented grunt.

For every day he gets to eat
The very choicest kinds of wheat;
No more it pays wheat for to sell,
Only 50 cents a bushel.

Farmers find that the best combine
Is to raise good cows and fatten swine.
For on this point each one agrees,
There's nothing pays more like pork and cheese.

Hundreds of pigs you now behold
Where none were seen in days of old,
And little hogs now roam all over,
Happy, rooting 'mong the clover.

And merrily they do dance jigs,
So playful are these little pigs;
And dairymen it well doth pay
To fatten them upon the whey.

For the people love to dine
On young, sweet and tender swine;
For the hog doth lead the van
As the favourite food of man.

Some say land's going to the dogs,
But it's going into cows and hogs,
And there is no cause to mourn,
For they give good and quick return.

Small pigs, more playful than young lambs,
Soon they do make the sweetest hams;
When they are a few months older,
Delicious is their shoulder.

So, 'tis no wonder that the hog,
He is coming into vogue,
For he doth cheerful pay his way
And is entitled to his whey.

Ingersoll, August 4.

20 April 2010

The Verse Inside

Newspaper editor John Stephen Willison was an admirer of James McIntyre, which may explain the position of the poet's name above those of Alexander Charles Stewart, Bliss Carman and Charles Sangster in the 23 December 1893 edition of the Globe. What follows is a brief overview of "real Canadian poets" by critic Thomas Conant. All is quite polite. Of McIntyre, Conant cautions:
The great majority of his fellow poets will, I suppose, be disposed to pass him over in silence because he is deficient in grammar and early elementary education. No doubt he has written some lines which would have been better never to have seen the light, and doggerel, I am afraid, they must be termed. Yes, and so have the best of his fellows of the muse done the same to some extent! Not that I mean to be at all ungenerous, but only just to Mr. McIntyre: for he has really the verse in him, and gives us some here and again quite worth while.
The critic is selective in quoting McIntyre's verse, drawing lines from "Prologue to South Ontario Sketches" and "Province of Ontario". I take the same liberty in presenting the first 28 of the latter:

Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, ON: Chronicle, 1889)

"This is certainly from the pen of a man who loves Ontario," observes Conant.

Those in need will find an antidote in "The Flight" by McIntyre's contemporary Susie Frances Harrison, otherwise known as "Seranus":

S. Frances Harrison. Pine, Rose and Fleur de Lis (Toronto: Hart, 1891)

19 April 2010

Pulp and Its Origins

Thomas P. Kelley, King of Canadian Pulps, as imagined by Henry van der Linde
The Globe & Mail, 9 January 1982.

A holiday from the working month of McIntyre today so that I can go on about No Tears for Goldie.


The most interesting thing about the novel is the story of Ginger Daniels, the young widow who turns up ready to work at the brothel. Hers stands out for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that she never actually becomes a prostitute. So, why include this character at all? She arrives, consumes close to a fifth of the novel with her story, then departs, never to be heard from or mentioned again.

What gives?

I think the answer has to do with the author's habit of recycling material. Plainly put, I believe Kelley was reusing material he'd penned for a romance magazine.

In No Tears for Goldie, the working girls encourage Ginger to tell her story. "You needn't tell much of the first part of your life," says Aunt Maggie, "just begin where you met that husband of yours..." And so she does, sweeping the omniscient narrator aside to speak of her love for a young lawyer named Rod, encounters with his shrew of a mother and the attempt to sabotage their wedding. The account, much more detailed than any other part of the novel, runs one full chapter, ending: "I now know that I would never have to worry about his mother again now that Rod was mine forever - and I was happy."

Happy? Happily ever after, it seems... but the narrator returns in the following chapter, and we discover that Rod died in a car accident ten days into the marriage.


On an unrelated matter, I was curious as to whether Kelley used "Jack C. Fleming" for any other works. True, he claimed to have employed thirty pseudonyms, but in a career that lasted nearly five decades, one might expect considerable repetition. Curiously, the only other works I've found attributed to Jack C. Fleming are mid-20th-century editions of another Canadian book, Musson's Improved Ready Reckoner, Form and Log Book, which was once used in calculating measurements for lumber and other products.


I think not.

Related post: Heart of Goldie

17 April 2010

Heart of Goldie

No Tears for Goldie
Jack C. Fleming [pseud. Thomas P. Kelley]
Toronto: Arrow, 1950

Cover copy paints No Tears for Goldie as "the story of poor, little Goldie Clarke who knew all about sex from first hand experience at an age when most girls were thinking about 'coming out' parties or their first prom." It's an odd piece of writing in that it reveals more about her past than is found in the novel. Odder still, Kelley spends much of No Tears for Goldie recounting the histories of the other girls at Goldie's place of employment, "Aunt Maggies [sic]", an early 20th-century San Francisco brothel. There's Tess, who had been "quick to pick up a knowledge of sex from the lowest sources"; Alma, who was seduced by a hobo at age thirteen; and Vera, who lost her looks and became a scrub woman.

The longest of these stories – twenty-one pages in a 123 page novel – belongs to Ginger, a young widow whom Aunt Maggie turns away. "You're a clean kid if ever I saw one," she says, "there's nothing of the whore in you." The working girls all chip in to help give Ginger a new start, but not Goldie. To quote Aunt Maggie a second time, her best girl has "a heart as hard as steel".

As if to prove the madam wrong, Goldie soon falls for Harvey Perry, a wealthy alderman who lives alone in a palatial mansion by the ocean. Within days they make plans to get marry and leave San Francisco. But then Perry dies. And Aunt Maggie dies. And Goldie finds she is pregnant. She gives birth to a boy, leaves him on the doorstep of a wealthy childless couple named Carson, and spends two years wandering the globe before ending up in a Denver brothel.

In the 8 July 1967 Star Weekly Magazine Kelley described his method, writing that when beginning a novel he had absolutely no idea what would happen, how the plot would unfold or how it would all end. I don't doubt there's truth in this – it explains much – but this ending would have been planned.

On the morning of 18 April 1906, Goldie returns to San Francisco with dreams of getting a job as the Carson's maid and so be close to the son she had given up. Before she can set her plan in motion Goldie happens upon Mrs Carson and the boy on the street:

The time was exactly 9.12 a.m. And then a terrific rumble sounded. THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE HAD BEGUN!!
In horror, she witnesses a disaster of biblical proportions:
The street before her was split wide open, in a long and angry gap. She saw humanity plunged into it, to disappear forever. The sky around her was suddenly aglow, with the glare of countless fires!
The din was indescribable!
Mrs Carson is crushed by a boulder. Goldie shelters her son, before both are buried under "a hundred tons of bricks and mortar". In time their bodies are found by a rescue party, who note that Goldie died with a smile on her face:
"...You'd think she almost welcomed death, with her baby in her arms", one remarks. I wonder who she was?"
The death car made its way up the street. The men returned to their work. And Goldie Clarke's tormented soul had found a certain peace!!

A "profound novel with a message and a purpose", the cover copy concludes. The message? The purpose? Damned if I know.

Trivia: The 1906 earthquake struck at 5:12 a.m., about one hour before Goldie's return to San Francisco... but, hey, No Tears for Goldie is fiction.

Object: A cheaply produced mass market paperback.

The copyright page informs the reader: "This book has been selected for reprint because of its popular appeal and its successful record of sale when originally printed." In fact, this is the first and only edition of the novel; Arrow Publishing placed this notice in all their books. I'm grateful to bowdler of Fly-by-night for confirming my hunch.

Access: No trace on Worldcat, nothing on AddAll, No Tears for Goldie holds the distinction of being the most elusive book yet featured in this blog. I was fortunate to find a copy two months ago for just five dollars.

Related post:

16 April 2010

A Second 'To Jas. McIntyre'

from William Arthur Deacon's The Four Jameses (Ottawa: Graphic, 1927)

A man of mighty mark,
Who crossed the ocean dark
To win some glory;
Resolved to carve his name
High in Canadian fame,
And live in story.

And this methinks will be,
For friend and foe agree
Rare is his talent;
And as much diversified
As our world is wide.
Hail Scotia's gallant!

He racy is, and witty,
As shown by many a ditty
In humourous vein;
And some say wit's his forte,
His muse all turns to sport,
He eschews pain.

But we who know him best
'Gainst this view must protest
He's oft pathetic;
And with his pen so wise,
Can bring tears to the eyes
Of each ascetic.
Related post: Don't Answer the Door!

15 April 2010

Don't Answer the Door!

Fort Frances Times, 8 February 1917.

The devoted daughter of James McIntyre, Kate Ruttan wrote several poems honouring her father, including at least two titled "To Jas. McIntyre". This, the superior, was written in happy times, before McIntyre's business was lost to Canada's River Thames. Late in life, she described the gothic scene in a letter to William Arthur Deacon:
Foundation of furniture factory fell & sailed down the River Thames. Coffins, caskets, cupboards, card tables, chairs, pianos, pianolas - all commingled in confusion worse confounded. Also he was previously burned out. He wrote me his true townsmen collected Six Hundred Dollars for him that mournful morn. He was the loveliest man on earth.

It seems Mrs Ruttan inherited her father's bad luck. Widowed at a young age, she struggled to support her small family by working as a schoolteacher, postmistress, newspaper columnist and, it seems, door-to-door salesperson for evangelist Billy Sunday. Her only volume of verse, Rhymes, Right or Wrong, of Rainy River, was published in 1926 by the Fort Frances Times. She died two years later.

13 April 2010

Nablo in Paperback

Not much more to say about the elusive Nablo, though these paperback covers of The Long November are worthy of mention. The first, published by News Stand Library in 1948, juxtaposes a "Vigorous, lusty; a tale of passion and virile drive" with "AN R.C.A.F. VETERAN'S SENSATIONAL NEW NOVEL", as if to say: "Before you label this as smut, the publisher would like to point out that this novel was written by one of our heroic servicemen."

The artwork is a touch better than most News Stand Library covers, but makes the whole thing look like some light-hearted, mildly risqué romp. And where in Canada do leaves begin falling in November?

News Stand Library's second cover, from 1949, isn't a whole lot better. Does it not look like Steffie Gibson is drowning? Poor little rich girl, caught in a whirlpool with tiny autumnal leaves floating above her beautiful visage.

Predictably, the finest of the lot belongs to the 1952 Signet edition. "Too Many Women - Too Little Time" might not be the most original of pitches, but the cover captures the novel's dark mood and does depict an actual scene.

This last beat-up cover was rescued a couple of decades back from a store's 25¢ bin. It was being rained on and, I'm betting, was within an hour or two of being tossed. Appropriate then, that today's James McIntyre poem was inspired by a neglected book happened upon while out for a stroll, its pages "scattered o'er the ground".

Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, ON: Chronicle, 1889)

The volume concerned is The Posthumous Works of the Late George Menzies, Being a Collection of Poems, Sonnets, &c., &c., Written at Various Times When the Author was Connected with the Provincial Press. Published in 1850 by his widow, Harriet, it can't be bought for under two hundred dollars.

Related posts:

12 April 2010

Nablo in Hollywood

The only image I've been able to find of the Hollywood James Benson Nablo – and don't it look like crap. Blame attendees of the 1936 American Library Association's annual meeting and their enthusiastic endorsement of microfilm.

Published in the 11 May 1946 edition of the Globe and Mail, it has no article attached, so I can't begin to speculate as to why The Long November was never filmed. That said, is it not odd that the project is described as "the first motion picture attempted by Doyle-Nablo productions [emphasis mine]"? And don't the Doyles seem such an unhappy couple? Mrs Doyle looks to be scanning the room for the exit.

But co-producer Nablo is all smiles, as are the others around the table:

Brooke Burwell, who fits Nablo's description of Steffie Gibson to a tee, is a bit of a mystery woman. It appears she never made a film, and has not, to use another's terminology, "been traced".

Kenneth Roberts was a prolific writer, who had a number of forgettable films adapted from his equally forgettable historical novels.

Norman Reilly Raine was really an American, though he did work as a Toronto newspaperman, and later served in the Canadian army during the First World War. At the time this photo was taken, the 51-year-old would have been enjoying success for his adaptation of John Hersey's A Bell for Adamo (1945).

Raine's longtime flame, "Hollywood dancing star" Nova Dale, had one uncredited role as a chorus girl in 1951's Showboat. She died the following year, at the age of 31, several days after smashing up her car.

All this leads to Drive a Crooked Road (1954), which would be the first film based on a Nablo story. These nice, clear images from the trailer, point to a movie that is nowhere near as interesting as what is promised; evidence that promotion hasn't really changed all that much in the past half-century.

Finally, as part of
the National Poetry Month promise, another James McIntyre poem. "Niagara Dry" recounts the day – 30 March 1848 – when both the Canadian Falls and its bland cousin ran dry. Nablo grew up just over a kilometre from the falls, practically across the street from where the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum stands. Culture.

It happened once in early spring,
While there did float great thick ice cakes,
That then a gale did quickly bring
Them all down from the upper lakes.

And Buffalo to Lake Erie,
Across the entrance to river,
It was a scene of icebergs dreary,
Those who saw it will remember ever.

The gale blew up lake and river,
And left Niagara almost dry,
This a lady did discover
As above the Falls she cast her eye.

Such scene it had been witnessed never,
Since Israelites crossed the Red Sea,
When they had resolved forever
From Pharaoh's bondage to flee.

Lady she resolved to venture,
Proudly carrying British flag,
Erected it in river's centre
In crevice of a rocky crag.

It seems like a romance by Bulwer,
How she captured Niagara,
But it was seen by Bishop Fuller,
Who did at sight of flag hurrah.
Ten thousand years may die away
Before another dry can tread,
In bottom of Niagara,
For she doth jealous guard her bed.

But ice her entrance did blockade,
And wind it kept the waters back,
So that a child could almost wade
Across the brink of cataract.

Related posts: