Authors and Audiences

Authors and Audiences: Popular Canadian Fiction in the Early Twentieth Century

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Authors and Audiences
    Book Description:

    Authors and Audiences reveals the cultural milieu that gave rise to the golden age of hardcover fiction. Karr describes the relationships between authors, literary agents, and publishers in Toronto, London, New York, and other centres; examines the relationship between authors and the movie industry; and discusses the reception of fiction by critics and readers. This is the first Canadian study to use fan mail to highlight readers' interactions with author and text. Karr places the authors' careers in an international setting and shows how, despite living a considerable distance from the leading cultural production centres of New York and London, they became internationally recognized and read.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6860-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. 1 Five Authors in a Modern World
    (pp. 3-25)

    The year 1908 was an auspicious one in the history of Canadian culture. In a small town on the southern Manitoba prairie, Nellie McClung rose to best-seller stardom with her first novel,Sowing Seeds in Danny, which she had composed surrounded by the bustle of a busy household. Just fifty miles away, in the even smaller community of Cartwright, Robert Stead, an unassuming, twenty-eight-year-old newspaper publisher, paid William Briggs of Toronto to publish his first volume of poetry. In Winnipeg, the provincial metropolitan centre for these two communities, Canada’s most famous author, Ralph Connor (the Reverend Charles W. Gordon), had...

  7. 2 The Golden Age
    (pp. 26-40)

    In his autobiographical reflections, prominent Canadian critic Hector Charlesworth remembers the 1890s as a “glorious and stimulating time for young men with artistic predilections.”¹ Although he fails to recognize the prominent role of women writers, Charlesworth correctly identifies the decade as marking the beginnings of a cultural golden age for Canadians in which a mass market opened for such writers as Charles W. Gordon and Arthur Stringer.² This was also the decade in which new publishers appeared, old houses embarked on a process of transformation, and the concept of “best-seller” firmly entrenched itself in the consciousness of publishers, booksellers, and...

  8. 3 Apprenticeships, Writing, and Careers
    (pp. 41-57)

    Just before Christmas 1908, basking in the remarkable success of her first novel, Maud Montgomery told her friend Ephraim Weber: “I’ve served a long and hard apprenticeship – how hard no one knows but myself. The world only hears of my successes. Itdoesn’thear of all my early buffets and repulses.”¹ Although there were moments when several of the authors in this study rendered lip service to the cliché that writers are born not made, their career patterns suggest that the cliché is only relevant when it refers to a desire to write rather than a fully formed innate...

  9. 4 Authors, Publishers, and Agents
    (pp. 58-79)

    Stories of authors’ repeated rejections by publishers provide a typical, romantic picture of struggling writers facing near impossible odds in one of the most dynamic and unbalanced power relationships in the world of books. These legends have a special appeal for Canadians, who take delight in seeing themselves as David confronting Goliath, but slaying him only after a fierce, protracted, and heroic struggle.¹ Four publishers declined Montgomery’sAnne of Green Gables; eight rejected Stringer’sWire Tappers.² These examples, however, do not accurately reflect the experience of many authors in the early twentieth century.

    One of the reasons that this was...

  10. 5 Ralph Connor, the Sky Pilot
    (pp. 80-93)

    In marketing Ralph Connor, his publisher and close friend George Doran stressed the author’s birth in the Canadian forest and his Thoreau-like love of the wilderness. Although young Charlie had trekked two miles through this forest to attend a log-cabin school, he lived with cultured parents in a large brick house with a wide veranda. Also highlighted by Doran was Connor’s affection for little children, his confidence in humanity, and the successful combination of virility and tenderness portrayed in his character and in his fiction.¹ With its images of a positive belief in progress, the care and nurture of children,...

  11. 6 Robert Stead, Philosopher and Artist
    (pp. 94-107)

    In the summer of 1912, Robert Stead informed his readers in theHigh River Timesthat his duty as a writer was to make people think, for “the world is moved by thought, and every human brain at work is a dynamo generating the energy which is building up civilization.”¹ That energy, he believed, could transform individuals, communities, and even nations. Bob Stead, the resident philosopher, struggled with Robert J.C. Stead, the serious creative artist, for most of his literary career. Caught in the popular mind somewhere between a writer of westerns and an author of the less-defined homestead novel,...

  12. 7 Nellie McClung and Pearlie Watson
    (pp. 108-123)

    In Nellie McClung’s novelThe Second Chance(1910), thirteen-year-old Pearlie Watson, a student and school janitor, watches after school one afternoon as the teacher coaches Maudie Ducker in the art of elocution in preparation for a recitation in the Millford Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s forthcoming contest. At the family supper table that evening, Pearlie shares the recitation with her family and explains that Miss Morrison and Maudie focused on the exaggerated gestures and pronunciation rather than on the meaning of the story. Knowing that she could do better, Pearlie involves her whole family in acting out the temperance drama with...

  13. 8 Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne
    (pp. 124-137)

    In November 1910 an internationally famous Lucy Maud Montgomery, on the invitation of her publisher, Louis Coues Page, journeyed from rural Prince Edward Island to Boston. Reactions to her first “big city” experience by the Boston press, the local intelligentsia, and Montgomery herself provide important clues to the phenomenon ofAnne of Green Gables(1908). The event reminded many of Boston’s leading authors and journalists of a similar, now legendary, visit by Charlotte Brontë to London sixty-one years before.¹ More outgoing than the shy Brontë, Montgomery played the role well and provided her urban hosts with ample copy for a...

  14. 9 Arthur Stringer, the Debonair Businessman
    (pp. 138-151)

    In Arthur Stringer’s first novel,The Silver Poppy(1903), struggling writer John Hartley thinks, “After all, even the artist must have his modern ideas of the business side of life. It was the law of the land.”¹ Soon after this, Hartley would do what Stringer himself had done – resign from the world of New York journalism to pursue a career as a professional writer. Fellow author and close friend Victor Lauriston later told Stringer that he was “the only businessman of our bunch.”² To aSaturday Nightjournalist, he looked “more like a wholesale grocer than a poet.”³ With...

  15. 10 Readers and Reading
    (pp. 152-169)

    These excerpts from a three-page letter written to Ralph Connor by a young woman from Aberdeen, Scotland, provide some answers for, but also leave questions unanswered about, the relationship between readers and the texts of popular literature. In the rest of the letter, Mary Farquharson reveals that a friend had given her the book, that she was a Christian, albeit a “very poor specimen,” and that the reading of the book had drawn her closer to “my Master [Jesus] for it’s very easy to get cold and indifferent & out of touch with him.” She loved The Pilot and had shed...

  16. 11 Books and Movies
    (pp. 170-188)

    During a luncheon in 1922, motion picture impresario Ernest Shipman promised Robert Stead an annual return of $10,000 if he would invest in Shipman’s latest movie company. Later, in the quiet of the evening, Stead wrote in his diary, “We shall see.”¹ His skepticism was well founded, for he had tried unsuccessfully many times during the past decade to sell movie rights to his novels.² Yet the lure of the silver screen was still sufficiently attractive for him to yield to Shipman’s vision of riches by investing in Ottawa Film Productions, a company formed to create movies from Ralph Connor’s...

  17. 12 Being Canadian
    (pp. 189-204)

    “So much has been written … concerning Canadian literature that there are many who are beginning to doubt the existence of such a thing,” wrote twenty-year-old Arthur Stringer in 1893.¹ Finding the prevalent cultural “booming” distasteful, he reminded his readers that, like all “booms,” this one was “unsatisfactory, unprofitable, fatuous, and illusory,” and “we are beginning to realize that to scream at one another, that we have a literature is not going to give us one.” In fact, such a state of self-consciousness was hampering and confining the very literary freedom that was necessary for creativity to flourish. Thirty years...

  18. Conclusion: Journeys’ End
    (pp. 205-220)

    “I have had my day and must make way for new favourites,” Maud Montgomery wrote in her diary in the autumn of 1928. “For twenty years I have been in the van and that is considered a long time for the fickle public to be faithful.”¹ Although she would continue to write fiction for another decade, Montgomery, like the other authors in this study, experienced a decline in sales in the latter stages of her career. Not everyone was as philosophical as Montgomery, but even she would have sympathized with Henry James when he wrote, “a new generation, that I...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 221-306)
  20. Index
    (pp. 307-318)