W4863 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Mar 25 1903
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
My dear dear boy,
Since I wrote last we have been having very remarkable weather. Thursday and Friday were so warm we scarcely know how to bear it. Actually we kept the doors and windows shut as it was cooler inside than out. But the last few days it has been regular March weather, very windy, yet not extremely cold. I do not know if you wrote Anderson or heard anything from him, we understand he is going to Winnipeg and do not know what [page torn] going to do.1
Hilda came back from Toronto on Thursday, Reggie was getting on nicely, but it will be a terrible bill of expense, the nurse $18. a week and her board as she was a special nurse. But Reggie had saved up $100. fortunately. He is the best business man of the house, Frank and Holton both lazy and the former no brains. Frank has quite determined to throw up his place and go on a farm. So Henry is just distracted between them all, poor Mrs. W. [Whittemore] just a child among them.2
It is really so quiet just now, there is nothing at all to tell, and I only wish that there were no such things as clothes, one gets so tired of seeing the new things in the shops and thinking what to get for the best. Hilda came home sick to death of Toronto, every one there dresses so much and such extravagance one wonders where they get the money. A Mr. Wm. Murray-a cousin of the Bard's in Toronto died the other day3; he had been in New York and not feeling very well, went into a drug store & asked for something. As soon as he had taken it, he said he "felt it in his head and it was a pretty strong dose." After returning to his hotel was seized with vomiting; however he got home to Toronto, but did not recover. I am telling you this as a warning, it does not do to get doses from druggists. By the way are you looking after your teeth, you know when you were home last, you had let them go so that they were brown, now look to them & if they are not quite clean get a little charcoal & clean them off, do not neglect them. I suppose you are letting your poor hair go. Had a letter from Ida Welker with a little collar. She had not seen you for a long time.4
Sometimes I get in a panic and wonder how you are ever to keep up this everlasting writing, nothing seems to me so wearisome as this, so hard on the brain. Do you ever on your rounds see anything else that might be easier? Tom Irving is at McGill do you ever see him? Mrs. Irving is still here, but Katie stays in Toronto she never calls for her here with Annie, and in Toronto there are a number of Scarboro people who knew her father and she enjoys going to see them.5 Her chief amusement though is watching the Gamey business at the house. It seems abominable, that the Country should be forced by someone's trickery, to have its time and as a consequence money expended in such a way. Whoever is right or wrong, what a miserable dog Gamey is!6 But the most distressing thing to my mind is this charge against Hector MacDonald.7 Isn't it pathetic to think of him after all his achievements? It seems incredible. He is not married, I think, Poor fellow! He is mentioned for his brave Soldierly Conduct in Afghanistan where Lord Roberts distinguished himself.
I found Lord Roberts' book very interesting in that way, it mentioned the names of so many since distinguished.8 And it also gave one such a distinct idea of India's conditions before the mutiny and how she has been won for England really through the kind wise management of individual men, remarkable men, many of them Christian men of noble character and wonderful tact. One is filled with admiration of the men. Am reading "Donovan Pasha" now. Gilbert Parker9 has a marvellous gift of putting before you a whole life in a few words, he seems to do in writing what Bengough10 does, when by a few strokes he shows you a perfect likeness. Did I tell you I had read the "Blue Flower" and how much I was struck by "The Source."11
Well I cannot write any more as I have several other letters to write. Tom does not want to go on survey, he has some scheme in his head to take Editorship of Varsity which would bring him back September first, and so he proposes to go with his friend Grey up the Ottawa, Grey's Uncle has lumber interests, I believe and he would get paid but not so much I think as on survey.12 He does not expect to come home at Easter except perhaps just over Sunday as the boats will be running then.
Well as it happens this is the third letter I have written without any reply to mine. One reached you after you wrote last week, you wrote M.[Mary] and so it is. Well dear take good care of yourself. We have great reasons to be thankful that none of us have been affected with serious illness. I think we sometimes forget this, the anxiety and distress of mind and expense are sometimes terrible. I.P. Buchanan sent E.[Edna] a Cornell Calendar, with himself in a group,13 those Yanks are poor specimens in their sporting costumes reminded me of the Indian Famine Groups or as E.[Edna] said, the lepers.14 With much love dear boy.
Your loving mother
[P.S.] "Tatler" was very good.15
1 For Rev. Fred Anderson, see W4835
2 For Whittemore family, see W4815.
3 "The Bard" was William Murray of Hamilton, see W6636.
4 For Ida Welker, see W4521
5 For Irving family, see W4803. Possibly, Annie (Agur) Fletcher, Mrs. Irving's sister-in-law and Katie's aunt.
6 Gamey, Robert Roswell (1865-1917) politician, mining speculator, insurance agent, Conservative MPP for Manitoulin from 1902-17. "In 1903 he brought against the [Liberal] Ross government charges of bribery and corruption which caused a great sensation, and were partly responsible for the defeat of the government" (MDCB 288). The Montreal Herald carried the full account of the Royal Commission hearings, which lasted through April and June 1903, and prompted Mary to comment "The Gamey case is beyond me, I cannot afford time to wade through it" (W4885). Some of the reporting was likely done by Calvin after his "Tatler" column disappeared with the March 28 issue. The accounts contain verbatim testimony in which Mr. Gamey accused Hon. J.R. Stratton and other members of the Liberal government of bribery and other forms of corruption to gain his support. It involved large sums of money ($6000), mysterious parcels delivered anonymously, falsified bank deposits, forgeries, names of members who could be "bought," hidden witnesses and clandestine meetings in the "Piano Factory Episode," "patronage," "mining schemes," "timber concessions" and railroad subsidies. Serious charges were, in turn, laid against Gamey and he was in danger of being "prosecuted for forgery, larceny and mutilation of evidence" (April 21). He disappeared but a reporter discovered him at a "Buffalo Chop House" (April 22). It was finally disclosed that both sides were involved when Frank Sullivan admitted that "Gamey was playing me and I was playing him" (April 24). On April 25 the paper reported that J.P. Whitney came out in support of Gamey and predicted that "the Conservative party had its foot upon the threshold of the Government of the Province." Finally, on June 5, the Commission "decided that the evidence exonerates Mr. Stratton, the accused, and compromises Mr. Gamey, the accuser." However, Gamey was not expelled and Premier Ross said that he had "no intention of making him a martyr" (June 5). He was censured (June 27) but held his seat until his death. However, the damage was done and Ross's Liberal government fell to Whitney's (and Gamey's) Conservatives at the next election.
Tom, at University at the time, made daily visits to the legislature to witness the workings of government which he also reported to his mother. The McQuestens were staunch Liberals so when the government fell Mary remarked: "Woe! woe for the Liberals! It is a sad record this morning. And I do dislike Whitney so much. Mrs. Mullin thinks he looks like a Jew, and I think he is like a down East Yankee" (W6151, June 9, 1908; W4863, W4847, W4855, W4885).
7 MacDonald, Sir Hector Archibald (1853-1903) British soldier, served with distinction in Egypt, the Sudan, Punjab and in South Africa, leading to the relief of Kimberly and to the surrender of Boer generals (WBD 940).
8 For Lord Roberts and his writings, see W4436.
9 Parker, Sir Horatio Gilbert (1862-1932) Canadian journalist, author, dramatist, poet, is best known for his historical novels which introduced French Canadians and the North-West to English literature, such as Pierre and His People (1892) and Carnac (1922). He settled in England from 1890, became M.P. for Gravesend (1900-18), organized British propaganda directed at the United States during WWI, and supported British imperialism. He published more than thirty books, notably: Donovan Pasha (1902), The Weavers (1907), The Power and the Glory (1925). The Seats of the Mighty (1896), set in old Quebec, became an international best-seller. Horizon Canada lists him among prominent Canadian authors: "Parker, Connor (pseudonym of C.W. Gordon [see W5359]), Montgomery, Service and Leacock topped the best-seller lists year after year until the 1920's" (HC 1614, 210; MDCB 647).
In Parker's letter to William Thompson from Geneva Switzerland January 10, 1899 (which came into Calvin's possession, likely at Copp-Clark) Parker wrote: "I think it would be wise to answer in your advertisements (and to inform separate [?] in the newspapers (to the same effect) that 'over 50000 copies of The Battle of the Strong have been sold in England & America in less than three months.' Already over 30000 copies have been sold in United States alone." Five of Parker's books are in the Whitehern library (W4863, W7277, W4821).
10 Bengough, John Wilson (Johnny), political cartoonist (1851-1923) was one of the first substantial figures in editorial cartooning. He edited his own magazine Grip for 21 years from 1873, in which he provided a lively portrayal of Canadian politicians. He was a social radical who satirized utopian ideals such as communalism, vegetarianism and prohibition, and was a "much-loved-but-little-listened-to public scold" in his popular lectures called "chalk-talks." His Caricature History of Canadian Politics (2 vols. 1886) is in the Whitehern library. It was reprinted in 1974. Bengough's papers were donated to McMaster University by J.B. Elven "a relative" and administrator at McMaster from 1903-49 (DHB4.28-29; HC 203, 375-76; MDCB 58).
11 The Blue Flower (1902) by Henry Van Dyke and five other of his works are in the Whitehern library. The Source is not.
12 Tom took the job in the lumber camp, see W4977.
13 I.P. Buchanan, at Cornell University, was likely a grandson of either Isaac Buchanan or his elder brother Peter (DHB1.31). For Buchanan family, see W4367.
14 The missionaries in India became involved in "rescue work" during the famines of 1880-1900 (Brouwer 119-20).
15 In the March 21, "Tatler" article, "Is Britain Indifferent to Canada," (see Box 13-058) Calvin argued for British postal concessions to encourage British periodical literature in the Colonies and especially in Canada, where the American magazines "by their attractiveness threaten to monopolize the whole field." A second article compared British and American yachts and found them "drawing nearer together in speed. . . . the element of uncertainty which is the soul of sport is peculiarly large this year." In the "Questions and Answers" section he replied to an inquiry about the "Cost of Horse vs. Motor" and provided an itemized list showing that the annual cost of a gasoline motor vehicle is $2,300.50 and the horse and vehicle is 2,780.00. He also commented on a wide range of subjects including, "A Hostile Critic on Kipling," "Early decay of teeth" and "Happiness and Friendship" (The Montreal Herald, March 21, 1903). Calvin's "Tatler" column disappeared from The Montreal Herald after the March 28, 1903 edition, likely because of the increased workload caused by the Street Railway Strike, see W4963. He continued to write for the paper until September 1903 when he tendered his resignation because of a "threatened breakdown." Even though his articles are unsigned, his style and voice are sometimes recognizable.