Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

December 29, 2005

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Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 6:18 pm

‘The Circle of Affection’ and Duncan Campbell Scott

Duncan Campbell Scott,1862-1947, was born in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. He was educated in various schools in Ontario and Quebec and at Stanstead College, Quebec. He was a civil servant in the department of Indian affairs (1879-1932). He became a clerk at the age of seventeen. He was Deputy Superintendent from 1913, until 1923, when he became Deputy Superintendent General for the Federal Government. His responsibilities included representing the Federal Government in intergovernmental negotiations with the aboriginal peoples in landholding agreements and establishing treaty settlements.

[…]

Duncan Campbell Scott was also a Canadian author of poetry and fiction, and published many volumes of each, he along with Archibald Lampman, Sir Charles G.D. Roberts and Bliss Carman, is considered one of the Confederation Poets. At the age of 31 Scott began publication with “The Magic House and Other Poems” in 1893 also “New World Lyrics and Ballads” in 1905, “The Green Cloister” in 1935. Much of his discussion revolves around Scott’s sympathetic Poetic treatment of Native Culture versus the severe policies of the department he headed. Many of his narrative poems, such as “The forsaken,” deal with Native American life. Scott is also known for his devotion to the career of his friend, Archibald Lampman. Scott was involved in the publication of several of Lampman’s books. He also wrote short stories.

-from a biography.

He also loved Emily Bronte.

In his work ‘Wayfarers’ he visits places where authors lived who made deep impressions upon him. The opening lines declare his love for his subject:

I PROPOSE TO ASK THE READER to visit, with two wanderers, a few of the places that interested them, where the associations are with spirits that can never die, with minds that are as vital as life itself. The sense of obligation lends to these scenes the desire to acknowledge a debt that can never be paid.

In part five he visits Haworth:

Let those who come to Haworth, the home of the Brontes, come to it through sunshine. Let them leave the plain of East Yorkshire from magnificent York and go toward the higher plateau at Harrowgate. If the gods are kind to them they will have brilliant sunshine and be reminded of the clarity of Canadian skies and the rolling, unconfined fields of North Sasketchewan where the wheat is ripening. At Knaresborough they will find nothing to remind them of the West. Over the deep glen through which the river Nidd flows, dark and silent, under the ruins of John of Gaunt’s Castle a change has come into the sunlight. It may be just as bright but it falls on a landscape which takes its interest from associations that crowd out any thought of a country innocent of events greater than sowing and reaping.

He has come for one reason- Emily:

One is prone to think of Haworth as always in shadow and mist, the very center of storm. The accent of much of the Bronte literature is on that aspect of nature. Even on this day in August the clouds press down on the moors and the vista is diminished to a glimpse of Keighley through mist and its own smoke. These two visitors come to the home of Emily Bronte; others may think of the three sisters and pay due homage; to us Emily alone is the source of the faithful wonder and admiration which leads us to her shrine.

Yet he cannot escape another Emily, the other ‘great woman poet’- Emily Dickinson:

Thinking of her genius one inevitably thinks of that other Emily, Emily Dickinson, and our two great women poets are joined in thought, so dissimilar yet so in spirit akin and almost “equal in renown.”

I cannot refrain from comparing this dour landscape with the little, gentle space of earth that Emily Dickinson looked upon in 1848, the year of Emily Bronte’s death. There the fruitful fields of Massachusetts were outspread holding the village of Amherst, and at the center of Amherst life was the spacious dwelling of the Dickinsons. It was planned on the generous New England scale and today it maintains that tradition of dignity in domestic architecture. Around the house was an intimate garden, farther away were fields which could give Emily the feeling of an estate, and the countryside was familiar to her. But when she was in the early power of understanding and interpreting the larger scene, the world was drawn close about her by her own will; her outlook was restricted to the trees, the paths and the flowers of this garden. In 1870 she could reply to an invitation by the refusal absolute, “I do not cross my father’s ground to any house or town.” In Massachusetts violent storms break and there is deep cold and heavy snow; the reader traces these changes in Emily Dickinson’s letters and poems; they play only a small part in the general fruitful serenity of the State. In 1886, the year of her death Amherst could still be called a ‘village’ and the farms came to its margin. When I visited it in 1929 and 1930, forty-three years had made it more than a town. The house and garden had not changed; flowers from this soil and these trees had been companions, one source of her deepest thought on life and nature. I recalled her admiration of Emily Bronte, ‘magnificent’ among all the modern writers she was familiar with, and remembered the words of that immortal poem of hers read by Col. Higginson at the funeral. Both my visits to Amherst were made in the full sunshine of July and September, and in the summer there was a vireo hidden in the garden preaching to a heedless congregation of leaves. How then could I refrain from comparison between that light and song with this shadow that is soundless.

The rest of the work can be read here: Circle of Affection and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse.

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