Skip to Main Content
A Glorious and Terrible Life With You

A Glorious and Terrible Life With You: Selected Correspondence of Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp, 1932-1939

Selected and edited by Margaret Burgess
from the edition prepared by Robert D. Denham
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 480
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Glorious and Terrible Life With You
    Book Description:

    Lavishly illustrated, this new edition includes family photographs and original graphics by both Helen Kemp and her father, S.H.F. Kemp, mostly dating from his own student days at the University of Toronto.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8397-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

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-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxxviii)

    “Oh, well, of course,Frye—” a thoroughly intimidated college chaplain is said to have remarked repeatedly “with a deprecatory smile” about the twenty-five-year-old prodigy during his year away from Oxford in 1937–38. The comment is reported in the context of references to the chaplain’s reaction to Frye’s “assaults on the citadel of Anglican smugness” in their discussions during Frye’s first year at Merton College in 1936–37, but it could equally well have been made by his tutor Edmund Blunden, who was clearly no less overwhelmed by the formidable mental capacities of his remarkable young charge, and about...

  5. Summer of 1932
    (pp. 1-51)


    Saturday night [Spring, 1932?]

    Red Squirrel:

    I’ve got all kinds of work I simply must get done, it’s getting late, and I must catch up on my sleep. Consequently I am in bed writing to you. I guess I will never learn sense.

    No, you have to be born with sense, and I wasn’t. What a week I’ve spent! (This, I warn you, is going to be a very egotistical note.) I don’t remember ever having been as thoroughly at loose ends before. Whenever I thought of you—which I did very often—I shivered, and whenever I thought...

  6. Summer of 1933
    (pp. 52-97)

    c/o V.V. Frye

    6104 Woodlawn Ave.

    Chicago, Ill.

    [17 June 1933]

    This letter was written by Frye at the beginning of a six-week visit to his sister Vera in Chicago.


    Well, I hope you don’t feel funny inside anymore. Not having seen anything of you more tangible than a snapshot for forty-eight hours, I am beginning to feel like an ascetic. However, I thought I’d better hurry and write before the novelty of being here wore off and I really started to miss you.

    When your palpitating little orange sweater had been lost to view—I like you to...

  7. Summer of 1934
    (pp. 98-167)

    152 Argyle Ave., Ottawa

    Wednesday night [11? April 1934]

    The letters from this period begin with Kemp at the National Gallery in Ottawa, where she had embarked on a training program for museum work. Frye was initially in Toronto, continuing his degree studies at Emmanuel College, and then left for his summer student mission field in Saskatchewan.

    My dear Norrie,

    I am settled at last, in the place I told you of, at Miss [Winifred] Smith’s—and it is just theverybest place I could have gone to. After a few doubts Miss Smith let me come here for...

  8. 1934–1935
    (pp. 168-253)

    Courtauld Institute of Art

    20, Portman Square

    London W1, England

    [23 September 1934]

    Written by Kemp on board the Cunard RMSAusoniaen route to London for her year at the Courtauld Institute. Postmarked from Plymouth, Devon, 29 September 1934; addressed to Frye atEmmanuel Residence, Charles Street, Toronto.

    My darling, it is Sunday night and there is a bishop from somewhere who is going to speak to the assembled company, in the tourist dining room. There was a feeble attempt at a dance last night in the tourist lounge, but there are so few people on board that no...

  9. 1936–1937
    (pp. 254-344)


    Oct. 8 [1936]

    Frye is in London, England, on his way to study at Merton College, Oxford.

    My little girl:

    Two days ago it was your birthday, and I wanted very badly to write to you, but I took a warm bath in a cold room, and it’s been headache, wretchedly sore eyes and a vacant mind, so no letter got itself written. I think of sending you greetings on your birthday rather than a week or so before it, because naturally celebrating your birthday comes more appropriately from one who gives thanks every day that you got born...

  10. 1938–1939
    (pp. 345-406)


    Written on board theEmpress of Britainen route to England. Postmarked 29 September 1938; addressed to Helen Frye, Art Gallery of Toronto.

    My dear:

    Well, it’s been a bit dull, after all. The food on theEmpressis bad. English and bad. Or at any rate I can’t eat it, and that combined with a cold put me rather off for a day or two.

    There are a lot of Rhodes fellows on board—they have two full tables at dinner, though, so I don’t eat with them. Of the three men at my table, one is a...

  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 407-408)
  12. Directory of People Mentioned in the Correspondence
    (pp. 409-426)