MB: living and writing the early days of parks canada

Marius Barbeau to MB Williams, 5 Mar 1936

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Ottawa, March 5th /36

Dear Miss. Williams,

            I was delighted to receive your letter, as I have often thought of writing to you but renounced the idea as I did not have your address. You speak of Egalee. It is a strange coincidence that I should yesterday have resumed working on this story. I left it aside even before you did, when you were still in Ottawa and intended at the time to give it a good long rest, but I never thought that this would mean more than six years! I have since been [waylaid] on a scheme of work at writing which left me no time for aught else and which is beginning to bear fruit. I have had 7 or 8 books published in the past two years and several more will come out this coming year. But I am now finding that I have over a month to finish [Mehlala]. Indeed, I revised, shortened and much improved it last summer and had it retyped. Instead of the 65,000 words which you read and revised this part of the text has boiled down to 35,000. I am now building up a third part I intend to bring up the ms to over 50,000. The new part - the 3rd - will concern the relation of Cadieux with the child and his bringing up. All this is involved in an adventure which I am now unfolding and which, I believe, will add to the value and interest of the story.

            Tomorrow I will select a copy for you of whatever is due - 15 chp, and if you feel so inclined, you may read it and let me hear whatever suggestions you are kind enough to offer; I am still anxious for further improvements. This story is the one on which I will have place the greatest care and affection and you and Mrs. Herridge have helped and encouraged me much. We have had delightful conversations around it. I am sorry there are no large possible on account of the long distance. 

            You enjoy I hope your prolonged stay in London and abroad. I have had imprecise news of you from time to time. CW was, indeed, glad to hear news coming direct from you. Mrs. Herridge’s son is, I presume, still in London? Give her my affectionate regards. I still often think of the

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delightful trip we took to Quebec and remember the place, near St. Jean Deschaillons, where Mrs. H. gently bumped a cart in which an old farmer seemed most surprised! And then an angel (wooden!) leaped overboard and fell upon the road without injury to its winged self!

            The two books (which you will see mentioned in McM.’s catalogue) will be very attractively illustrated and presented. They have been completed as a result of long preparation but in remarkably little time. I will not tell more about this before you see them.

            To-day I stopped at Mr. Harkin’s office. I had not seen him for a year. But he called me asking to submit a bit on wood carvings etc … for his new museum at Fort Chambly, which is now completed. Seemed very much as usual, although he complained of his health and at the amount his branch has to do with an insufficient staff. I suppose you have nearly forgotten the existence of the Branch and Body!

            You speak of stories for children which you are preparing and seem to want to know about more materials—Canadian materials. What kind of materials do you have in mind? Indian or French Canadian folk tales, anecdotes and legends? And is the length of each definite in your plan. The field for unused (in a literary way) Indian stories is vast enough, but the materials when already published in scientific form are scattered [through] a large body of scientific books and magazine (J.A. Folk – Lore) etc … The British Museum and Anthropological Institute (in front of the British Museum) have most of these publications. Yet, if you wanted guidance in this difficult mass I would be glad to give attention to it. It would be impractical to think of unpublished materials in a Museum (although there is much) because of its inaccessibility. Many of the French Folk-tales I have published in the Journal of American Folk-Lore might be good materials for you. But they would have to be rewritten, as there are only as told by the folktale tellers. Seven or eight of these may have appeared since 1916. Naturally I would be glad to let you use whatever you need.

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Dalila and Hélène, [the] daughters here, are growing fast. D. is now 16 and is as tall as myself - a difference since you last saw her!             

            To-morrow I will send you, under another cover, a few publications and various things meant as news. I presume you have been interested in Grey Owl’s peregrination to England? He has just returned and was here in Ottawa last week.

            Well, I will hope to hear from you again very shortly.

                Affectionately yours

                    Greetings to Mrs. Herridge

                    Marius Barbeau

P.S. I will ask Marjorie Borden (from Ottawa) to go and see you. She has worked for me last year to illustrate children’s games and [ ___ ?] dances and this year she has spent 2 ½ months working beside me at the office for the illustration of my last two books. She is a remarkable gay artist and has developed magnificently in the past year, as you will see from the work she has done – illustrations in black and white at chapter heads. She left for England on the first of March. She has taken a copy of [Mehlala] with her to read while sailing.

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Marius Barbeau, “Marius Barbeau to MB Williams, 5 Mar 1936,” MB: Living and Writing the Early Years of Parks Canada, accessed September 24, 2017, http://mbwilliams.academic-news.org/items/show/15.

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