WHY I REMAIN A CANADIAN'

An Interesting Discussion

BASIL KING November 1 1919

WHY I REMAIN A CANADIAN'

An Interesting Discussion

BASIL KING November 1 1919

WHY I REMAIN A CANADIAN'

An Interesting Discussion

BASIL KING

Note.—In the next (December) issue of MACLEAN’S will start Mr. King's splendid new novel, “The Thread of Flame." It will fully sustain the high reputation that he has won with his earlier stories, “The City of Comrades," “The High Heart," “The Inner Shrine" and “The Street Called Straight." Inasmuch as it is not as generally known as it should he that Mr. King is a Canadian, the

editors asked him to set down a few facts with reference to himself. He has convplied with the following exposition of his position with reference to the land of his birth.

I AM a Canadian, and an extremely enthusiastic one. Though circumstances, partly domestic, partly of a business nature, and largely of health,

have compelled me to live outside of Canada for many years of my life, I have always retained what oldfashioned lawyers used to call the animus revertendi— and even now I have not abandoned it. I never land on Canadian soil, whether on the Atlantic or Pacific coast, without the sense of coming back home which almost everyone feels on returning to his birthplace. Whether in this country, England, France, or Germany—my time for some thirty years being divided among all four—I see things from the Canadian point of view; and it is that same point of view which gives whatever small originality there may be in my writing.

In this country (the United States) where I have been a resident since 1910, as I was a resident once before in the nineties, I have made it my business to be in a modest way an exponent of the Canadian factor on this continent. Without pretending to have accomplished much I hold that every man can serve his country by trying to represent it worthily in

any other country in which his lot may be thrown, and, even if he reaches no more than a few individuals, he has at least reached them. One does not have to take oneself too seriously to believe that between two countries like the United States and Canada, perhaps more closely inter-related than any other two countries in the world, the role of the unofficial ambassador is a most important one. However humble one is in one’s circumstances, or however circumscribed, there is always room for this function. Most Canadians who have settled in this country have become naturalized American citizens, and doubtless have done their duty in the act. I myself have always felt that I could “swing my job” better for remaining a Canadian; and when I have talked to intelligent Americans on the subject—which has not been often—they have agreed with me. I remain therefore a loyal subject of the King, and a most devoted citizen of my native land.

At the same time I should like to express my equal devotion to the land in which I am a resident. I think as an American as freely as I think as a Canadian— just as a man thinks as his father’s son with the same facility with which he thinks as his mother’s. There has never been a time since my early boyhood when my ties with this country were not of the closest, with long periods of residence. The result is that I have a kind of international mind, American in texture, and Canadian in coloring.

DIOGRAPHICALLY I was born in Prince Edward Island, educated there and at King’s College, Nova Scotia, passing my earlier manhood in Halifax. I recognize the fact that all three places have left an indelible stamp on me.

To my little Island province I owe whatever I have of largeness of outlook. Where the dry land is small one acquires the habit of looking chiefly at the sea and sky and their immensity. “Abeguite—a leaf lying on the water,” was the Indian name for the Island; and it is just that. It gives you the same sense of vast horizons far away that you get on board a ship on the ocean.

At Windsor the effect was different. King’s College is old, according to the Canadian standard, and withdrawn. It occupies itself mainly with books, with thought, with ideals. Larger colleges primarily yield one contact with men. Here the contact was chiefly with minds, and we got much of it. I have often had occasion to note with graduates of Oxford, Harvard, and McGill, how little of the great fundamental grounds covered by what we know as the humanities were familiar to them as compared with the stretches we traveled where there was not much else to do.

Halifax gave me that affection and admiration for British government and character which have been important factors in my life. In my time it was not so much the bustling Canadian port that it is to-day, as the gateway for British ideals to enter the Dominion, and a distributing centre for the seeds of Imperial loyalty. My receptiveness to the British appeal did not render me free from irritation which often became indignation; but when allowances were made for that I still retained an impression of greatness which has made me proud to be connected, however humbly, with so magnificent an ideal as that of the British Empire.

npHE Canadian’s contribution to the comity of the world is, as I see it, to be the harmonizing element between that Empire and this Republic; and I often wish that my fellow-countrymen could more consciously* and conscientiously adopt the role of mediation. To do that however they need to be bigger in spirit than either the Englishman or the American, and the very land they live in breathes this sense of spaciousness. I am always sorry* when I find Canadians adopting a small or provincial or colonial or bombastic point of view. Sometimes I find one who has the big, genial, patient, human qualities that can bear with foibles, whether English or American, and take by instinct the harmonizing attitude, and then I know I have come on a Canadian who realizes—even though but subconsciously—his national destiny. It is this quality of a big, rich heart in a big, rich land which makes so many Canadians lovable to me, and which I covet for them all.