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Measure of the Rule

Measure of the Rule

Robert Barr
Introduction by Louis K. MacKendrick
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 308
  • Book Info
    Measure of the Rule
    Book Description:

    The Measure of the Rule, originally published in 1907, is the nearest Robert Barr came to writing an autobiographical novel. It concerns the Toronto Normal School and the experiences there in the 1870s of a young man who undoubtedly is Barr himself.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5661-1
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxi)

    Robert Barr was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 16 September 1850. His family moved to Wallacetown, Ontario, in 1854, and then to a farm in Kent County before settling in Windsor. Barr later professed (probably politely) to recognize his own youth in his friend Stephen Crane’sWhilomville Stories. He attended schools in Chatham and afterwards taught on a provisional basis in the Chatham area; he was later to marry the daughter of a trustee of the township school which was his first position. Barr entered the Toronto Normal School in January 1873, in its forty-ninth session, and took a standard...

  4. Select Bibliography
    (pp. xxii-xxiv)
  5. Literature in Canada: Robert Barr

    • Part One
      (pp. 3-11)

      In the May number ofThe Canadian Magazinethere appeared an article by the editor entitled ‘The Strength and Weakness of Current Books.’ The article deals largely of Canada and its literature, and thus it is interesting to all of us who have an affection for Canada, especially as the subject is treated with illuminating restraint by Mr Cooper.

      As the matter is, strictly speaking, none of my business, I naturally desired to say something about it, but the year has grown several months older before I could snatch time from more pressing work than the delightful task of lecturing...

    • Part Two
      (pp. 12-28)

      In a previous article I devoted some attention to the somewhat benighted condition of the average citizen of the Dominion who, according to his own statistics, loves whiskey better than books. I now turn with equal horror to the contemplation of the educated Canadian.

      Canada has suffered much at the hands of her cultured class. Mr Cooper, in his article in the May number of this magazine, says the educated Canadian is conservative. This is putting it mildly, but I believe the statement is accurate as far as it goes. The educated Canadian is conservative because he has no opinion...

  6. The Measure of the Rule: Robert Barr

      (pp. 1-22)

      The short winter day, increasingly cold, was drawing to a close as the train, ninety minutes late, came to a standstill under the lofty canopy of the Union Station. For hours and hours it had crunched along over a frozen land, losing time because of slippery rails and accumulated snow. With the ending of that railway journey a section of my own life had reached its conclusion; for, like the train that carried me, hitherto I had been losing time. On the previous day an ambitious friend, solemnly bidding me farewell, suddenly realized to the full the importance of the...

      (pp. 23-33)

      The annals of next morning have frequently been written, and are sad reading. I regret, for the sake of the warning they might convey, that my experiences differed from those of the printed word. Perhaps my strenuous rural training had warded off the effects I was entitled to, for I had no headache, no parched throat or woolly feeling in the mouth, and no remorse. I confess to some uneasiness regarding what I had said the night before, of which not the faintest recollection remained beyond a misty remembrance of being on my feet, having trouble with my knees, and...

      (pp. 34-55)

      It was nearing noon when I slowly retraced the steps I had so jauntily taken that morning. I did not look over my shoulder at the noble University building, even when the solemn bell boomed after me that it was twelve o’clock. Although the benevolent principal had enheartened me while he spoke, I was now the more depressed in that, added to everything else, I should never come under his gentle governance. Life had suddenly become an ill-timed practical joke; I seemed to hear the cry of “April Fool” in the depth of winter. Vaulting ambition had overleaped itself. I...

      (pp. 56-68)

      McKurdy conducted me up one flight of stairs, then, opening the door to his right, ushered me into a small room with two windows overlooking Church Street, giving a view of one of the numerous sacred edifices with which he had accredited that thoroughfare. The street was quiet and pleasant, lined on either side with trees, whose gaunt branches gave promise of pleasant shade when hot weather came. A heavy circular table, covered with a drab-coloured cloth, stood in the centre of the room, which in turn was littered by well-worn text-books, sheets of foolscap paper, an ink-stand or two,...

      (pp. 69-78)

      I reached my hotel for the last time through brilliantly lighted streets, passing the same Aladdin-palace wonders of the shops to which I was not yet accustomed. The deep depression of noontide was dispelled, and although the evening did not see me in that state of exultation which enthralled me when I trod the pavement in the morning, I was far from being the despondent castaway of mid-day. This casual acquaintanceship, which had ripened with tropical rapidity, gave me a new interest in life, and I pondered with interest on what the young fellow had said regarding my career, little...

      (pp. 79-92)

      The headmaster’s class-room was of more than generous proportions, lighted by a row of tall windows along the north side. The floor was level, and we were not seated in the tiers of an amphitheatre, as was the case in the class-rooms of University College. Each man had a seat to himself, and fronting him was a desk with a lid, and a tank inkstand to the right hand of the level part at the top. So far as I can remember, we were not allotted any particular seat, but took what came, and yet I think this cannot have...

      (pp. 93-102)

      Short as the interview with Dr. Darnell had been, it nevertheless caused me to find the waiting-room empty when I re-entered it. Remembering that two strokes of the gong indicated the room of the mathematical master, I made my way thither, and was glad that the vacant seat assigned to me stood so near the door, for I was unused to tip-toeing, and should not have cared to traverse the whole room making experiments with my clumsy boots when so many eyes were turned upon me.

      Dr. Cardiff was our mathematical master, teaching arithmetic, geometry and algebra, but for some...

      (pp. 103-114)

      Doubtless Dr. Darnell regarded me as a confirmed inebriate, but he gave no sign of wishing to snatch a brand from the burning, being more anxious, I took it, to prevent my setting alight the green sticks surrounding me. His initial distrust of me was increased by what he supposed was the unerring instinct of my wickedness which led me into instant alliance with Sam McKurdy, who had been the chief revolter against authority in the former session, and who would have been expelled from the school had proof been as strong as suspicion. The headmaster’s attitude was that of...

      (pp. 115-123)

      I had been brought up to go to church, and had heard many a prayer, many a sermon, and many readings of the Scripture. So far as religion was concerned, I was an ordinary, commonplace, healthy youth, neither unduly elated at the prospect of heaven, nor exceptionably disturbed by the danger of hell. The Bible, after all, was a thing apart; to the older people, perhaps a thing of necessity, but to us youngsters with the whole world before us, with so much to do, with such chances of getting on, with constant fear of failure and poverty in our...

      (pp. 124-135)

      When, on the stroke of nine, I entered the great hall of the Model School, I found seated there the whole four divisions, each in its allotted two or three rows of seats, and standing on the platform the four masters; the suave Brent, the placid Jones, the severe McAlpin, and the kindly Davison, who taught respectively first, second, third and fourth divisions. The number of pupils in each division was exactly the same, and they ranged in age from six or seven in the fourth division to sixteen or seventeen in the first division. John Brent stood at the...

      (pp. 136-152)

      Instead of following the corridor which led from the Model to the Normal School, I passed outside into the street, where the air was of a temperature much lower than the atmosphere of the school-room, especially during the final minutes of my hour therein. I walked round the large square that contained the educational buildings, thus proving the possibility of circling the square, even if I could not square the circle. The nipping cold exercised a soothing effect on my anger, and, that departing, left me face to face with the situation my hot impatience had created. Fully warned by...

      (pp. 153-169)

      I hurried down the street and into the silent hall of my boarding-house. Then I looked at my watch, and found that I should barely have time to snatch a hurried lunch if I were to return to the school for the afternoon session. Usually when I entered our Church Street boarding-house, my greeting was a cheerful murmur similar to that which comes from a hive of slumbering bees when you tap it on the outside. Sometimes this murmur was punctuated by a laugh, and sometimes enlivened by a snatch of song. We all lived more or less under fear...

      (pp. 170-190)

      The fateful Thursday evening arrived, when, in defiance of statutes made and provided, I was to visit Miss Livingstone at the house of her aunt, not without hope, perhaps, of making the acquaintance of Aline Arbuthnot, despite her last glance of contempt, which still lingered disturbingly in my memory. Soon as supper was over, Sam prepared for his prayer-meeting, putting on hat and overcoat, but instead of departing at once, he sat down on the edge of the study table, swinging one leg back and forwards, while I, like the dutiful student I pretended to be, got ready my books...

      (pp. 191-207)

      John Henceforth is a difficult man to estimate accurately. His face, nose and eyes had something hawk-like about them, but his manners were those of the gentle dove. So quiet and unobtrusive was he that, although I lived in the same house with him, saw him every day at meals, heard him in the class, I had no suspicion of his quality until my attention was drawn to him by another. But now, casting back over the period of our acquaintance, I wondered why I had passed him by as being of no particular account in our lives. I found...

      (pp. 208-228)

      When we were all gathered in the waiting-room, I observed that Sam had stayed behind, in response, he told me afterwards, to a quiet signal from Dr. Cardiff. John Henceforth stood apart from the rest, his customary grin on his face, knowing the spirit of the class was against him, and not caring, I surmise. The others regarded his remarks as so many strokes below the belt. He was not playing the game, but no one said anything until the door opened, and Sam entered. I saw him, for the first time in my life, flushed with anger. McKurdy walked...

      (pp. 229-244)

      Winter relaxed, and melted into spring. Nothing happened. Spring mellowed and warmed into summer, and still nothing happened. The ice had long since broken up in the Bay, and the Lake was now picturesque with shipping. Continued immunity produced the inevitable result of making us careless. The optimism of spring was in our veins, and we took risks that would have made us shudder earlier in the year. It was a time of strong hope, noble ambition, complete confidence, and supreme content. How healthy we were, how innocent, how energetic, how penniless! I cannot believe that four such happy persons...

      (pp. 245-261)

      An old painter writing his reminiscences has one advantage over a novelist. I come now to a chapter which a writer of fiction would not dare use. The freaks of chance, which have ever made a football of me, sometimes to my advantage, sometimes to my undoing, play such a part in the incident I am about to relate that such a narration would be useless anywhere else than in a true story. We had become careless, as I have said, through long-continued favour of circumstance, and when John Brent’s blow fell on us it took us so thoroughly by...

      (pp. 262-269)

      When at last thedébâclecame, it was not through the carelessness of either Sam or myself, although we were both involved in the crash. John Brent’s triumph contained the odd element of being too complete. He had gone to work with a quiet doggedness that was admirable, and the downfall he caused bore some resemblance in its thoroughness to the rending of the Philistine pillars by that other athlete, Samson. Warned by his failure with us, he adopted another method, and John Henceforth was the god in the machine in this case. None of our masters knew much about,...

      (pp. 270-284)

      With the storm-cloud hanging over our heads, none knowing which of us would be struck by the lightning or which spared, the session dragged itself miserably towards its close. Habit is a strong taskmaster, and we trooped as usual into the different rooms for grammar, for mathematics or for chemistry, and listlessly learned something perhaps, although each knew that further acquirement of knowledge might be futile in so far as Normal School credentials were concerned. We reversed the conditions noted in the old war song. John Brown’s body lay mouldering in the grave, but his soul went marching on. Our...

      (pp. 285-290)

      John Henceforth returned from the wilderness, gave us a graphic account of Hezekiah Crump’s home-coming, then delivered himself up to the Education Committee, smiling sardonically when he learned that the police had not been informed of his assault on the first division of the Model School.

      Next morning he appeared in his usual seat, but we knew something untoward was about to happen, because all the teachers of both Normal and Model Schools were seated in a group on Dr. Darnell’s platform. After the fiercest prayer and chapter of the session, the headmaster, without seating himself, called the name of...

      (pp. 291-308)

      After the marriage ceremony Sally went home, as the marriage certificate in her case quite obliterated all thoughts of a teacher’s certificate. Sam stayed in town, waiting to learn whether he was to be expelled with the rest, or called upon to pass an examination for his credentials. Much to McKurdy’s amazement, John Brent said nothing about the marriage. Sam came triumphantly through his ordeal, and became possessed of the diploma which rated his qualifications at a high valuation.

      I bade good-bye to Dr. Darnell and the rest, telling them I was going to Paris. I lingered for one unhappy...

  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-309)