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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Andrew Macphail (1864–1938)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Archibald MacMechan (1862–1933)
 
THE TINY province of Prince Edward Island is noted for the pastoral beauty of its landscape and well deserves its by-name, the Garden of the Gulf. Here, in the Highland settlement of Orwell, a rich farming district, Andrew Macphail was born on November 24th, 1864. His father, William Macphail (who had been shipwrecked on the voyage out from Scotland and had lost all he possessed except his copy of ‘Horace’) was first a farmer-schoolmaster at Orwell, afterwards inspector or “visitor” of schools, and ultimately superintendent of the provincial asylum for the insane.  1
  Andrew Macphail attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown, the chief educational institution of the province, and in 1883 became principal of the Fanning Grammar School, a post he held for two years. In 1885 he began his studies at McGill University, supplementing his means by writing for various local papers and by acting as tutor, and was graduated in both arts and medicine within six years. He then went to London to continue his medical studies after graduation. He also visited the East in the interests of a newspaper syndicate.  2
  In 1893, he married Georgina Burland, a lady of rare endowments, who died in 1902, leaving a son and a daughter.  3
  Up to the outbreak of the Great War Macphail practiced medicine in Montreal, spending his summers on the paternal acres at Orwell, engaged in his favorite recreation of farming. He was Professor of Pathology in the University of Bishop’s College, Lennoxville, Pathologist to the Western Hospital, and to Verdun Hospital for the Insane, and Professor of the History of Medicine in McGill University. In 1915, as a captain in No. 6 Field Ambulance of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he followed his brother Alexander and his son Jeffrey overseas. He obtained the post, he said, not on account of his medical knowledge, but because, forty years before, he had learned to ride a horse.  4
  Macphail’s literary work is notable for its variety. Countless articles, a novel, some verse, an unpublished play, three volumes of essays, stand to the credit of his untiring pen. He has managed two important publications with conspicuous success, The Canadian Medical Journal and The University Magazine. During the war, he has found time to complete and see through the press his remarkable anthology, ‘The Book of Sorrow.’ He has assisted generously in other literary undertakings such as the publication of Miss Marjorie Pickthall’s exquisite poems.  5
  His first book, ‘Essays in Puritanism’ (1905), consists of five critical studies of such diverse personalities as Jonathan Edwards, who manifested the spirit of Puritanism in the pulpit, John Winthrop, who showed that spirit at work in the world, Margaret Fuller, who reacted against that spirit in one way, and Walt Whitman, who rebelled against it in another. The fifth essay is a sympathetic appreciation of the character and work of John Wesley. The essays were prepared first for the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal. They set all the five characters studied in a new light. The style is masculine and distinguished by quiet irony, caustic wit, and incisive vigor of phrase.  6
  With the by-products, apparently, of the research involved in these studies, he constructed his second book, ‘The Vine of Sibmah’ (1906). This is an historical romance of Puritan New England shortly after the Restoration. It recounts in the first person the adventures of a young Roundhead captain by sea and land, and reproduces skillfully the “jargon of enthusiasm” in which the Puritans expressed themselves. Though a strong piece of work, it was but coldly received.  7
  In 1907 Macphail launched The University Magazine, a quarterly review. It had its origin in McGill University but Toronto and Dalhousie also associated themselves in the enterprise. Macphail adopted the principle (new in Canada) of paying contributors a living wage and he proved himself an editor of tact and sound judgment. The policy of paying for contributions brought out unsuspected strength of native talent. It was even a commercial success. Not a little of the success, however, was due to the editor’s own vigorous articles. While offering an open forum for the discussion of all problems in literature, art, philosophy, and religion, the chief concern was Canadian and Imperial politics.  8
  In 1909, Macphail published a collection of his papers which had already appeared in magazines, under the title ‘Essays in Politics.’ No more able or impartial political criticism had appeared in Canada. It was free from partisan bias and the point of view was fresh.  9
  In 1910 appeared the ‘Essays in Fallacy,’ containing perhaps Macphail’s most serious and valuable criticism.  10
  No other Canadian writer has exercised the critical faculty as widely as Macphail, or presents such a mass of reasoned opinion upon so many themes of perennial human interest. At times, the full force of his judgments is not felt through the subtlety of his irony and his Scottish preference for the understatement. Generally destructive, as criticism must in its nature be, his discussions, especially in the domain of Canadian politics, tend to build up sound national sentiment and to encourage clear thinking.  11
 
 
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