In 1919, Howard O’Hagan went east to study law at McGill University. There, Stephen Leacock was one of his professors, and, with A.J.M. Smith, he edited the McGill Daily. Graduating in 1925 with a B.A. and a L.L.B., he came back west where, without being called to the bar, he practised law long enough to have one man thrown in jail and another released. Howard O’Hagan never did want to become a lawyer. Instead, he began to guide and pack in the Rockies. Between jobs and life in Australia, New York, England, Berkeley, Victoria and Italy, it was to the Rockies that he always returned. Fred Brewster, his life-long friend and one of the leading guides and outfitters in the area, introduced him to two park rangers on a cold, bitter Jasper night, paying him the greatest compliment of his life: “I want you to meet Howard O’Hagan, the best mountain man I’ve ever travelled with.”
The School-Marm Tree is a novel about mountains: about the “presence” in mountains, about the heart’s desire to go beyond mountains. No other writer in Canada knows mountains as O’Hagan does, or has quite the same affinity for them. The School-Marm Tree witnesses that knowledge and affinity.
About the author
Howard O’Hagan was born and raised in the Canadian Rockies. He received a Law Degree from McGill University, articled, was called to the bar, and then practised law for one day. Deciding that the world of formal law was not for him, he returned to the Rockies to become probably the most interesting mountain guide ever known. He was a writer for a series of gentlemen’s magazines, including Esquire, in the 1940s and ‘50s. He was hired by the British Railway as a publicist for the railway they were building through the area O’Hagan called the Argentine. After its completion, he settled down to a career of writing. Howard O’Hagan is one of the classic figures of Canadian Literature. He is best known for his novel Tay John. The School-Marm Tree (1977) and Trees Are Lonely Company (1993) are available from Talonbooks.
“The School-Marm Tree is testimony to Howard O’Hagan’s intelligence as a novelist for he has what D.H. Lawrence saw in Hardy—a deep sensuous understanding.”
— Globe and Mail