Letter from Donald Creighton to John [Gray] (Macmillan Company of Canada), 19 February 1952

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Hotel Inverness Court,
1, Inverness Terrace
London. W. 2
19/2/52
My dear John:
Today I sent off to you the revised pages in the first eight chapters of Macdonald vol I. I didn't send the whole script, for airmail (even with M.SS rate) is expensive; and all you really need are the pages with the corrections on them.
About two weeks ago, I sent off the epilogue, which you probably have by now. I am beginning to hope now that sometime soon I shall be through with this business.
I worked carefully through the avalanche of suggestions that you sent me. It sometimes seems to me that about half the population of Toronto has read my manuscript -- each person feeling perfectly qualified to send in his two-cents' worth of criticism -- some of the points I thought were well taken. Others were merely carping, because they weren't necessary and wouldn't have improved anything at all. Others would have made things worse. --I have added a few short explanations, done some cutting, made some valid changes.
As for the gentleman who is so "well qualified as a critic", I could write a short essay on his remarks; but I forbear because I haven't the time, and his views (in this case) aren't worth it.
I gather that the real trouble with my biography is that it doesn't correspond to what he remembers of his public school history. I am prepared to admit this: but it doesn't interest me greatly. However, to pacify the gentlemen and his kind, I have stuck in the [kind?] pontifical commonplace which I suppose he likes (about Lord Elgin).
As for Macdonald's charges against Brown, I never said or implied that they were false. I am certain that Macdonald believed they were true. But the evidence has almost entirely vanished: and it is impossible to determine the truth of the case now. Brown certainly had an evil reputation among impartial contemporaries: note [Gaden's?] remark that he was "the most unscrupulous politician in British North America" (or words to that effect). Yet the "educated gentleman" immediately assumes -- on no evidence beyond what I have given him -- that Macdonald was in the wrong, and demands that I "admit" it. It is a good example of criticism arising out of ignorance and prejudice.
What Macdonald's drinking [sic]. I have thought about this problem and tried to get evidence about it for literally years. Do you suppose I can lay my hands on a dozen or so letters with remarks such as the following: "Macdonald took several drinks too much last Saturday night" or "Macdonald was pretty tight over last week-end" or " Macdonald has been completely blotto for five days." There isn't any such evidence. I have put into the book almost every scrap of evidence I got in years of work. Of course I have had to say "may" and "perhaps": I cannot do anything else. It isn't quite so simple "to clear the air" on this subject as you seem to think it is.
In a previous letter, I suggested that you (or your editors) might go ahead and make small changes on your own. Now, however, you have sent me a long list of minute, particular suggestions; and as a result I have gone very carefully over the manuscript. I do not think I want any more verbal changes than those I have accepted in the corrected sheets I have sent you today. --I except, of course, changes in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. I should welcome efforts to remove any inconsistencies here.
As for notes, and the necessary reference numbers, I don't see how I can give that up. Do you recall that even Gaedella had notes? And, of course, Arthur Bryant's Pepys (which is our model) had them also. And, by the way, speaking of notes, the typist who typed the reviewed Chapter I in your office left out all the reference numbers. They must be put in. Have you got my manuscript still? I have no copy of it.
It was good to get your telegram. And I shall be interested to know what you think of Chapter XV, and the Epilogue. -- On the whole, I have been pleased in going over the story in detail. It does seem readable, at any rate. I shall try to get on with the revision, and sent [sic] you corrected pages for Chapters IX - XIII by the end of this week. By that time your suggestions for the rest of the book may have reached me. -- I think I have acted upon every important change that you have suggested so far.
At present we are in London, at the Hotel Inverness Court. 1, Inverness Terrace, W.2. We shall be staying here until about the middle of March; and then we go back to Oxford and 18 Rawlinson Road. -- We have been going to a few theatres and concerts, etc -- the kind of thing we came to London (in part) to do. --The poor King died very shortly after we arrived; and of course, we saw the proclamation, the funeral procession, etc. -- That is the kind of thing that is superbly done here.
The very best to Tony and yourself from both of us.
Yours as ever,
Donald.