Finding Aid:

Search the Archives

Fonds Level Description

Accession Number: 97-1028

Title

Margaret Laurence letters. -- 1981-1986. -- 3 letters.

Biography / History

Margaret Jean Laurence (nee Wemyss) was born in Neepawa, Manitoba in 1926. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father remarried her aunt. He died when she was nine years old and at that point her aunt and stepmother raised her. Margaret married Jack Laurence on September 13, 1947 (they later divorced) and they had two children; Jocelyn and David. She was educated at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Margaret lived in a number of different places including: Somaliland (1950-1952), Ghana (1952-1957), Vancouver (1957-1962), England (1949-1950 and 1962-1969) and finally Ontario until her death in 1987. Her most important piece of literature was the Manawaka series which consists of: "The Stone Angel" in 1964, "A Jest of God" in 1966, "The Fire Dwellers" in 1969, "A Bird in the House" (connected short stories) in 1970 and "The Diviners" in 1974. The subject matter of this series dealt with women and how the prairies were treated by politics. She also wrote about Africa which included: "This Side of Jordan" in 1960, "The Tomorrow-Tamer" in 1963, "The Prophet's Camel Bell" in 1963, "Drums and Cannons" in 1968, "Heart of a Stranger" (personal essays about Africa, her Canadian roots, and her discovery and recognition of her own Canadian identity) in 1976, various short stories, a non-fictional account of her life in Somaliland and a study of Nigerian novelists and playwrights. Her autobiography "Dance on the Earth" was published posthumously in 1989. (Taken from: Ousby, Ian. "The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English." Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1993.) Margaret won the Governor General's Award for "A Jest of God" and "The Diviners". She received honorary degrees from 12 universities including Trent University in 1972. She was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1973 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1977. She was Chancellor of Trent University from 1981 to 1983, a writer-in-residence and frequent guest speaker at Trent. Margaret Jean Wemyss Laurence died at Lakefield January 5, 1987. (See the Trent Fornightly, Vol. 17, No. 9.)

Custodial History

Two of the letters were in the custody of Mary E. Hamilton before they were donated to Trent University Archives. The third letter, dated 1986, was found inside a book and was forwarded in 1999 by the Canadian High Commission in London, England.

Scope and Content

This accession consists of three letters, one dated January 27, 1981, one April 6, 1982, written by Margaret Laurence to Mary E. Hamilton, a college acquaintance, and one dated September 8, 1986. In the first, which is a photocopy, Laurence expresses her delight in the book "And Some Brought Flowers...", a copy of which Hamilton must have sent to her. She praises the illustrations and the text and suggests that her delight be passed on to Mary Alice Downie and E.J. Revell, co-authors of the book. In the second letter, which is an original, Laurence graciously acknowledges Hamilton's use of a quote in publicizing the "Flower" book. She also comments on the possibility of being nominated for the Nobel prize, asserting that her body of work is much too slim. An additional letter from Laurence dated September 1986 and addressed to Elizabeth Ritchie was forwarded to Trent University Archives in 1999 by the Canadian High Commission in London, England. The letter had been found inside a book and concerns Laurence's prognosis of cancer and her desire to complete her memoirs.

Notes

Title based on the creator of the letters.

These letters were donated by Mary E. Hamilton and the Canadian High Commission, London, England.

Restrictions: N

Associated material located at McMaster University and Archives, Hamilton, Ontario, the National Archives of Canada and at the York University Archives in Toronto.

For related records see: 92-015, 92-1004, 95-015, and 95-1000.

Archival Finding Aids

Creating the Library of the Future - Details about our exciting transformation