March 22, 1952

Father V.J. Guinan, C.S.B.
President
University of St. Thomas
Houston 6, Texas

My dear Father:

Your kind letter brought back vivid memories of my visit to Houston several years ago. It was a delightful journey for me in that I made real friends among the staff of St. Thomas. All of you set out to make things comfortable for me and hospitable to the last degree. It will be a pleasure to renew the friendships.

I sent off a telegram of acceptance yesterday, but there is just one qualification which I discussed with Father McCorkell. I like giving lectures, but Floor discussion is a bit uncongenial, partly because an ear infection this winter has made me slightly deaf, and partly because controversy from the Floor has always been a nervous exaction for me. I don't mind small groups where there is a sit-around intimacy and informality and everyone is at ease. Would Mr Tatton consent to this limitation?

In addition to my main lecture, I could substitute for any prospective participant who for some reason or other couldn't make the Conference. Or I could do my part in filling gaps with poetry-readings.

As for Houston, I should gladly place myself at your disposal for as many 'talks' and lecture-recitals as desired, inside or outside your city, the same as on the previous trip. The dates mentioned suit me admirably. I would go by train arriving in Houston Monday 26th or Tuesday, whatever is convenient to you.

I remember going with Father Dwyer and Father McCorkell to Galveston and to some other town where I spoke to the Seminarians for Monsignor (?) and also to the party at the house of the Decorator where I read for a few minutes. It was all most pleasant for me.

Here is a list of subjects to choose from:

  1. 'The Titanic.' I gave this with readings at Houston. Would it be appropriate for the address at the Conference? It takes about three-quarters of an hour.
  2. 'Brebeuf and His Brethren,' a poem on the Jesuit Missionaries to the Huron territory in the 17th Century. This was also given in your city. I should prefer a leisurely treatment of the 'Titanic' if the audience at Corpus Christi were largely secular.
  3. 'Heroism on the Sea,' a new lecture with readings.
  4. 'Pitfalls in Verse Composition' – largely humorous (I hope) from my own efforts.
  5. 'Rescue of Life without thought of gain,' or more briefly 'Risk without counting the cost.'
  6. 'Newfoundland Life and Idiom' – a new lecture, now in preparation, illustrating quaint habits and modes of speech (essentially Irish).
  7. 'Readings of Miscellaneous Poems.'

I shall be glad to hear from you and accept any suggestions. By the way, do I need to bring a dinner jacket with black tie? I have a dark-business suit (light in weight) and with white soft shirt. That's what I wore last time.

With kind personal regards,

Yours sincerely,
E.J. Pratt

Sorry I cannot type, as I have a broken shoulder from a fall. It is getting better.
P.


Father
Father Guinan was President of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He had invited Pratt to give several lectures or readings both at St. Thomas and at meetings of the Southwest Writers' Conference in Corpus Christi.

visit to Houston
Pratt's previous visit had been made in April 1946. (See the letter to Viola and Claire Pratt, 9 April 1946.)

last degree
A rough draft of this letter follows this sentence with the words 'even though it was Lent and I couldn't ask for any Irish stew.'

Mr Tatton
John M. Tatton had proposed that Pratt address the Writers' Conference in Corpus Christi.

Monsignor (?)
The name Pratt could not recall was that of Monsignor James Fleming, the Rector of St. Mary's Seminary at LaPorte, Texas.