Victoria College
Nov. 2, 1954

My dear Earle:

It was a delight to get your letter this morning. Here's wishing you triumphant success in your forthcoming novel. Your Turvey grins at us from the top shelf of my den. I think you brought off both a psychological and a literary masterpiece in that work. You are the only one in this country who is hitting the high spots in prose and poetry alike.

I was interested in the Auden affair. Imagine fourteen hundred students craning their necks from the gallery beams to get a sight of a person who is 100% intellectual! When ability and publicity go together there's no limit.

I was so glad to know your David was prescribed for the Senior students in the Ontario schools. I had the good fortune in having the Titanic on five years ago and again the year before last. In texts is the only way to start a savings account. The general market, though good in its way, doesn't change nickel into gold.

Your North-star West still thrills me as does the old Saturday Night funeral ceremony. B.K. S. often refers to it when we get together. Auden couldn't do as well I feel sure.

Victoria C. has given me a room to hang up my coat and hat and get my mail. I miss the students though but one must accept the years.

I haven't done anything poetically since the Spike, one reason being that the sight of my right eye troubles me and is in constant need of treatment from the oculist – drops seven times every day to maintain a stubborn level. The other reason is more important. Claire is in hospital in New York. She had been working at Harvard Press – editorial work – but she found that the spinal curvature resulting from polio of earlier years was increasing. We knew that the best surgeon in the U.S.A. was Dr Cobb of the Hospital for Special Surgery. He has her now in a cast prior to the operation which may be within a couple of weeks. We were staggered at the description of the spine. It must be straightened first through pressure of the preliminary cast; then the operation in two or three sections at intervals of months when a bone must be grafted onto the spine – rather two or three bones. It will take ten months perhaps a year during which time she must remain horizontal. After the first operation she comes back to the flat for six months on a stretcher, then returns for further treatment. It is her own decision, plucky little youngster and the doctor says it is absolutely necessary as braces are simply makeshifts and cannot hold back the progression of the curve. So you see what we are \up against. The fee of the surgeon is $2500.00 and the private room is $20.00 per day, but when the thing is over and successful, all that will be a minor affair. To have her straight as she was at ten years of age will be heaven on earth.

Vi has just come back from N.Y. having spent a week with her and I leave tomorrow night to spend a time. So we'll alternate our trips. Fortunately she has an aunt – my sister – living in Brooklyn. She is a nurse and will visit her very often. One thing I feel sure of is that she is in good hands and starts in relatively good health otherwise.

Well, that's enough of my troubles and now I'll write Esther and tell her a couple of stories as a counter-irritant for myself and to give her a laugh.

Here they are. Pass them on.

your forthcoming novel
Down the Long Table (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1955).

Auden affair
The poet W.H. Auden had given a lecture-recital at the University of British Columbia in October.

North-star West
Based on a flight from Montreal to Vancouver in a Trans-Canada Airlines North Star plane, published in Trial of a City and Other Verse (1952).

Saturday Night funeral ceremony
Unidentified. However, Pratt had recommended to Jack Kent Cooke that Birney become a regular contributor to Saturday Night. (See the letter to Birney, 20 November 1952.)