Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
George Grant

George Grant: Selected Letters

Edited with an Introduction by William Christian
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 402
  • Book Info
    George Grant
    Book Description:

    George Grant was one of Canada's foremost political and religious thinkers. In his published writings, Grant was a careful and guarded writer, but in his letters he was frank and spontaneous, expressing ideas and opinions that he hesitated to convey in print. Grant's letters are remarkable for their continuity - about twelve hundred letters survive from 1923 to his death in 1988 - and for their quality. For more than fifty years, he favoured his correspondents with his observations about international relations, Canadian politics, religion, literature, and philosophy. William Christian has selected some three hundred letters, postcards, telegrams, and journal entries which reveal much about Grant - both the troubled man and the daring thinker.

    His correspondence begins with the letters from his early years at Upper Canada College and his undergraduate days at Queen's University, followed by letters from London during the Second World War, when he struggled with the conflict between his pacifism and his sense of duty. The middle section includes letters that describe his life at Dalhousie in the 1950s, his resignation from York University, and his hopes to create in the department of religion at McMaster University a kind of fifth column that would preserve a university within the multiversities he thought had taken over higher education in Canada. The later letters feature his remorseless attacks on what he felt were the perfidies of Trudeau during his long tenure as prime minister.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7529-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    William Christian

    In an age of the fax machine and e-mail, it is unlikely that Canada will ever produce another writer of letters of George Grant’s calibre. He was a remarkable correspondent. His letters are direct, intensely personal communications with the individual to whom he wrote. Whether they were to a close friend, or to someone who had written him an interesting letter, if they deserved his full attention, they usually got it.

    Mind you, a letter from George Grant, however pleasant an event, required more than a little effort from its recipient. His handwriting was difficult even when he was young,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Note on the Text
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Correspondents
    (pp. xxi-2)
  7. Prologue 1910–22
    (pp. 3-6)

    William Grant’s letter proposing marriage to Maude Parkin

    c/o Rev. C.M. Grant

    Clury House


    3 August 1910

    My dear Miss Maude,¹

    I came to Pitlochry² on Thursday to say something to you, and came away without saying it. So now I must write it; it would have been better said, but a drive downhill behind Donach, ending in a rush for a train, seemed hardly the fitting time.

    Ever since we first met at UCC,³ I have admired you more than any others and, in the last two years,⁴ I have come to love you very deeply. There! It...

  8. Childhood 1923–36
    (pp. 7-20)

    Grant’s father studied at Oxford and later taught there. Grant’s mother, a McGill graduate, had worked as deputy warden (assistant dean of women) at the University of Manchester. Her sister, Grace, married an Englishman, Harry Wimperis. As well, they had many friends in England, and they visited the Mother Country as often as they could. When possible, they took their children.

    Grant visited England with his parents several times when he was young. This early postcard recalls his visit to the London zoo.

    [probably 1923]¹

    Dear Aunt Grace,

    I have picked out this card for you specially. We have a...

  9. Queen’s 1936–9
    (pp. 21-38)

    In September 1936 Grant followed his father and grandfather to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Still a relatively small university, it had a core of excellent faculty. However, the choice of Queen’s was probably a mistake, because Grant felt smothered by all the family connections both at the university and in Kingston.

    30 Sydenham St, Kingston

    10 Dec. [1936]

    Dear Mother,

    Please do not think that in this awful time I have been supporting Edward VIII.¹ Please realise that, as soon as I saw how serious it was, I wasn’t ‘mawkishly sentimental.’ It was pretty awful what happened today. Anne²...

  10. War 1939–42
    (pp. 39-96)

    Grant’s sister, Alison, was living in London at 231 Sussex Gardens. She shared a house with Elizabeth and Mary Greey, two Canadian sisters who were friends from Toronto. Vincent Massey was high commissioner, and Alison served as Alice Massey’s (‘Aunt Lal’) unofficial private secretary. As a consequence, Grant had a place to stay whenever he was in London, and had good connections with people like Lester Pearson, who was first secretary at the high commission and a frequent visitor to the house.


    Dear Mum,

    This afternoon I arrived at Balliol. You can’t guess where I am staying. Chez the...

  11. Adult Educator 1942–5
    (pp. 97-115)

    87 Forest Hill Road¹


    [autumn 1942]

    Dear Ould and Gentle Heart,

    How was the journey? The pretence must be kept up, as I have lied black and blue and had a serious conversation begun by Aunt Marjorie about how far you were going on your gas and then, worse for worse when I tried to leave a gap open, saying that it would be nice to take gas in a can ‘Oh you can’t do that, just can’t do that these days.’ So there it is; it must be locked up, squeezed from all openings etc. You would be...

  12. God and Marriage 1945–50
    (pp. 116-165)

    Grant returned to Oxford, uncertain of what kind of studies he would undertake, but certain that it would be something in theology. What he really wanted to do was to ‘explore the universe.’

    Balliol College, Oxford

    [September 1945]

    Dear Ould,

    Just a line having arrived in Oxford and in the winds, a bit of a gloom after the pleasantness of London. London seemed real and vital and alive; this place seems drab and self-centred and populated with unintelligent, opinionated schoolboys.

    Of course, everybody was away on arrival, the Master and Mrs L. in Ireland, C.K. Allen too busy to see...

  13. Dr Grant 1950–9
    (pp. 166-198)

    His degree complete, Grant returned to Dalhousie via his mother’s cottage on Otter Lake.

    RR 2 Parry Sound, Ontario

    [August 1950]

    Dear Dr Kerr,

    I am sorry to be slow in answering your kind letter. It followed me back across the Atlantic.

    First about business. It is good of you to have appointed me for a year, as it were on faith. I hope the result of my DPhil will not show that you were wrong. All that can be said is that before my oral I was not confident and after it have become more confident.

    It was good...

  14. The Years of Lament 1960–70
    (pp. 199-252)

    Grant accepted a position as chairman of the new philosophy department of York University in north Toronto. He expected to be able to create a philosophy department that could present an alternative view to the study of philosophy at the University of Toronto. However, he did not understand the arrangement between the two universities, which made York an affiliate of University of Toronto until 1965. When he discovered that his department would be subordinate to University of Toronto in its initial stages, and that he would not have control over the curriculum, he resigned; and much to his surprise and...

  15. McMaster II: Beleaguered 1970–80
    (pp. 253-310)

    In April 1970 the Grants took a much needed vacation in Barbados. On their return from a May Day dance, their taxi was in an accident in which four passengers in the other car were killed. Both Grant and his wife were seriously injured. After the accident, Grant never had the same level of energy as before, and he was reinforced in his determination to withdraw, as much as was possible for him, into contemplation.

    3 June 1970

    Dear Mr Gonsalves,¹

    I am dictating this from hospital. The doctors are at last beginning to be a little clear about the...

  16. Dalhousie: Unhappy Return 1980–4
    (pp. 311-341)

    Dear Alex,

    It was so good of you and Rhoda to come to see us. It was extremely generous of you to bring us such a very beautiful present.¹ We have looked and looked at it and see more and more how beautiful it is. It simply takes my breath away to think what it must be to be able to make something of that beauty.

    Life produces enough sadness on its own without cultivating it and there is something in the tradition which a dying Protestantism inherited which pushes in a foolish tendency to cultivate suffering. Sheila and I...

  17. God Be Thanked: Retirement 1984–8
    (pp. 342-388)

    12 September 1984

    Dear Dennis,

    This is just to say that it is only now that I can say how marvellously helpful your editing of my writings has been, because it is only now that I have got down to correcting them. I was very ill this summer & have been in the hands of the medical establishment. But now I am seeing how very helpful yours is, in every way. So generous.

    I hope you have really good news ... Some modern ways help women, but some are very difficult for the most sensitive & loving women. What a strange thing...

  18. Index
    (pp. 389-402)