Richmond Street Methodist Church, Toronto, 1867

On this date in 1867 Toronto became the capital of Ontario.

I haven’t found the source yet, but I know for sure Frye once dryly observed of “Toronto the Good” during the 1930s: “A good place to mind your own damn business.”

On the other hand, Toronto at its best seems, for Frye, to be a touchstone for the cosmopolitan society Canada appears determined to become.  From “Canadian Culture Today”:

When I first came to Toronto, in 1929, it was a homogeneous Scotch-Irish town, dominated by the Orange Order, and greatly derided by the rest of Canada for its smugness, its snobbery, and its sterility.  The public food in restaurants and hotels was of very indifferent quality, as it is in all right-thinking Anglo-Saxon communities.  After the war, Toronto took in immigrants to the extent of nearly a quarter of its population, and large Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Central European, West Indian communities grew up within it.  The public food improved dramatically.  More important, these communities all seemed to find their own place in the larger community with a minimum of violence and tension, preserving in their own cultures and yet taking part in  the total one.  It has seemed to me that this very relaxed absorption of minorities, where there is no concerted effort at a “melting pot,” has something to do with what the Queen symbolizes, the separation of the head of state from the head of government.  Because Canada was founded by two peoples, nobody could ever know what a hundred per cent Canadian was, and hence the decentralizing rhythm that is so essential to culture had room to expand.  (CW 12, 518)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 thoughts on “Toronto

  1. Jonathan Allan

    Robert Fulford opens his book _Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto_ (1996), “The great critic Northrop Frye, an ornament of the city for half a century, once called Toronto a good place to mind your own business.”

  2. Tamara M

    I find myself forgetting that Frye himself was from NB. Was he of any acadian decent? His social commentary is as valid, and insightfull as his literary commentary. He seems able to look at Canadian culture and see Canadians, as opposed to statistics. LOVE IT!

  3. Bob Denham

    “And Toronto, according to Morley Callaghan, who should know, is a good place for a writer to work: he can have all the friends he likes, but there is something in the Canadian reserve that allows him to write without feeling that anyone is breathing down his neck.” –NF, “Silence in the Sea”

  4. Michael Happy Post author

    Hi Tamara. Frye was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec and moved as a child to Moncton, which remained his home until he headed off to the University of Toronto in 1929. He was WASP all the way. However, he once described himself as liberal and bourgeois, and therefore “the flower of humanity.”

  5. Tamara M

    I am also liberal and at least faux-bourgeois. I can’t help but think that the Moncton years must have nurtured Fryes broad view of Canadian culture. I have always felt that as Canada’s only officially bilingual province, NB is one of the seats of true Canadiana.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *