[47 Glencairn Ave.]
[Nov. 1956] †
Your article is magnificent. It is the sort of thing I like (1) appreciation and (2) helpful criticism. I had a talk about it today with Norrie Frye who has a very high estimate of your literary descrimination[?].
I agree with most of your judgments. You may have noticed that I discarded in Collected Poems most of the heterogeneous poems in N.V. especially the monologues & dialogues. To me now they appear very amateurish.
I am glad that you liked the three of my own favourites, the R. and the A., the Titanic and Brébeuf. In fact, I put so much energy into that last I developed a severe chronic eye strain which certainly interfered with the later composition. You know what I mean, Des. Take care of your eyes; they are valuable beyond comparison.
Poor John Sutherland. I didn't know he was writing that book until about two weeks before his death though I visited him in hospital two or three times every week. I didn't know till afterward that he was racing against time to complete the book. I never knew a man who showed so much courage & patience under siege. As you may know, from being an unbeliever he became a R.C. and hence his interpretation may be coloured by his convictions. When a friend of mine asked me if I intended the dinosaur to represent Christ I first had an impulse to laugh at such a far-fetched comparison (to say nothing of the contrast), but John's dying condition choked the laugh. It is true that he mentioned his purpose was to go beyond my conscious intention, and when I read the final Feud and the dinosaur's ascent up the cliff, his suffering, etc., I could see what he meant. He had at least a half-truth. To give him credit he was the first critic who tried to get inside those years I spent in Psychology before going to Vic. I hated the whole Wundtian business though I had to teach Wundt. That physiological (or mechanized) being is life was as abhorrent to me as Professor Blewett's Idealism a[...] the life of the spirit was attractive. But behind all this lies the idea of conflict. In spite of evolution, has the savagery of human warfare been much diminished? With Hitler out, the present Kruschoff trends give us much basis for optimism. It may be a long time before the Sermon on the Mount will conquer the totalitarian quest for power & conquest. The two things are in conflict, let us make no mistake about that. But what is there left to us but our devotion to Christ come what may?
Des. Most of this is confidential. I wouldn't hurt the feelings of Mrs Sutherland for anything with genuine faith in Christian humanism as you adequately describe it.
My love to Mary & you & your family,
PS. By the way where does your article appear?
R. and the A.