Sooner or later (it seems), every Canadian writer passes through Toronto: they get a teaching position at the U of T, a job at one of Canada’s publishers or at one of Canada’s major corporations (that all seem to be headquartered in Toronto), or simply want to live in Canada’s largest city.
Due to this simple fact of our Dominion, everyone interested in Canadian writers should have a copy of Greg Gatenby’s Toronto: A Literary Guide on their shelves. It’s a mine of information, apparently researched over the course of decades, and invaluable to anyone attempting to reconstruct the biographical details of Canada’s neglected war authors.
Toronto: A Literary Guide is widely available in both public and institutional libraries across the country, and can be purchased here. It’s worth every penny.
Gatenby has arranged the book by each neighborhood in Toronto, includes maps and photos, and provides the ultimate guide for a literary walking tour.
There are seven entries that deal with Peregrine Acland. I’m going to cite them chronologically:
“45 Elgin was briefly the home (1905-06) of Peregrine Acland (1891-1963), author of the novel All Else is Folly, a book praised by Bertrand Russell and Ford Madox Ford among many others. Acland, when a teenager, moved with his family from this address to Ottawa where his father later became the King’s Printer” (Page 325).
“Peregrine Acland (1891-1963), author of the remarkable WWI novel All Else is Folly, had an apartment in the Windsor Arms in 1922” [No. 22 St. Thomas Street, running south off Bloor St. West, near the UofT campus]. (Page 225)
“Across the street at No. 98 [Charles Street East] was a building known as La Plaza Apartments…. Peregrine Acland (1891-1963), author of the novel All Else is Folly, praised by Bertrand Russell and Ford Madox Ford, also had a flat in this building from 1924-25” (Page 74).
“Peregrine Acland (1891-1963) lived at No. 292 [Spadina Road] from 1952 to 1956. Acland was born in Toronto, the son of Frederick Acland, the former King’s Printer. Peregrine’s novel All Else is Folly (1929) was praised energetically by Bertrand Russell –he called it “beautiful and original.” Ford Madox Ford liked the book so much he wrote an Introduction for it. Knowledgeable readers have compared it to another Canadian war novel, Humphry Cobb’s Paths of Glory” (Page 381-382).
“For the last three years of the fifties, novelist Peregrine Acland (All Else is Folly), discussed previously, resided in apt. 417 of No. 51 [Alexander Street, four blocks south of Gloucester address above]. He made his living at this time as a copywriter at MacLaren Advertising” (Page 82).
“Three authors lived at 100 Gloucester Street…. Apt. 1104 of 100 Gloucester was Peregrine Acland’s final address in Toronto. He lived here from 1960 until his death in May 1963. Acland (All Else is Folly) had been a major with the 48th Highlanders in WWI and was given the Military Cross. At the Battle of the Somme he was severely wounded. Following the first war he worked in advertising in New York, and later in Toronto. I wasn’t able to ascertain if he was in the city when one of his poems was read at the unveiling of the Queen’s Park statue dedicated to the 48th Highlanders. During WWII he was on the private staff of Prime Minister Mackenzie King” (Page 79). [note: this address is two blocks south of the 98 Charles Street East address].
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There is a wealth of information in these entries, which is why I have quoted them in full. Gatenby also mentions that Acland was a student at Upper Canada College, but I will deal with that in another post.
As a side bar, I find interesting that Gatenby is clearly taken with Acland’s novel, calling it “remarkable” and pointing out that “knowledgeable readers” have compared it to the better known novel Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb. From 1973-75, Gatenby was an editor at McClelland and Stewart, and I suspect that it was he that proposed All Else is Folly for inclusion in M&S’s New Canadian Library line. But I will speculate further about this in another post.
In the mean time, go buy a copy of Gatenby’s book.