In the four decades between 1920 and 1960, William Deacon, Canada's first full-time literary journalist, devoted his career to the twin goals of fostering a Canadian readership for Canadian writers and creating a sense of community among those writers. His reviews in Saturday Night, The Mail and Empire, and Globe and Mail were the most widely read literary commentary of his day. His vast correspondence with a wide range of writers, politicians, historians, cultural nationalists and a select number of eccentrics created a forty-year dialogue in which is ideas about writing, publishing culture, and politics were shared, formulated, and debated with a formidable array of personal and literary friends, among them E.J. Pratt, Laura Goodman Salverson, Duncan Campbell Scott, A.R.M. Lower, J.S. Woodsworth, Thomas Raddall, Hugh MacLennan, and Mazo de la Roche.
The exchanges trade the ebullient cultural nationalism of the 1920s and Deacon's enthusiastic immersion in that climate, the hardships and readjustments of the 1930s, the consolidation and new discoveries of the 1940s, and the rounding-off of his career in the 1950s. A few exchanges from the 1960s reveal his continuing interest in the issues of the day and his support of young writers.
Whether he was corresponding with Emily Murphy or Peter Newman, with Grey Owl or Gabrielle Roy, his goal was the same -- to encourage, celebrate, and support the literary and culture vitality of Canada. His correspondents responded with intimacy, candour, and warmth, expressing their concerns and rejoicing in their successes. Their combined voices within the Deacon correspondence still create an immediate sense of the unfolding of Canadian cultural history across four important decades.
About the authors
John Lennox is Professor of English, York University, and a specialist in Canadian Literature. In 2000 he was awarded the Governor-General's International Award in Canadian Studies, which is given annually for outstanding service to scholarship and to the development of Canadian Studies internationally.
MICHELE LACOMBE is a professor of Canadian Studies at Trent University.