Category Archives: Unpublished Work

Frye-Welch Correspondence, 1968-1970

We have posted in the library letters written by Frye to Jane Welch (later Widdicombe) at the beginning of her long tenure as his devoted secretary: she began working for Frye in 1968. Frye’s travels during these three years took him to Ireland and London; Berkeley; Bellagio, Italy; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Merton College, Oxford.  During this time he was working on The Critical Path, which, he tells Jane Welch in one of his letters from Merton College, “is the first book since the Anatomy of Criticism that I’ve actually written, i.e., that hasn’t been a series of public lectures.  It’s also a very important book.  I probably won’t live to see it recognized as such, but you may” (no. 16).  Then there are the usual Frye quips, such as “I’m not all that anxious to read the Blake Newsletter, and I never believe anything I see in such things anyway, as a matter of principle” (no. 11), and “A big research library is wasted on me, too bad I never learned to read, and I’m getting itchy feet again” (no. 17).

You can read them all here.

Notebook 13: Three Lost Sections Recovered

It is a great pleasure to announce that three previously misplaced sections of Notebook 13 have been posted in the Robert D. Denham Library here.  The material includes notes for the Alexander lectures which eventually became Fools of Time, notes for Frye’s book on T.S. Eliot, as well as a miscellaneous set of reflections on the imagination, false gods, Romanticism, Poe and other topics.

This is unpublished material, so that makes it especially remarkable.

Notebook 13: Three Lost Sections Recovered

I am working on three sections from Notebook 13 which I glossed over when Michael Dolzani was editing the Renaissance Notebooks and which then disappeared between the cracks.  These include notes on the Alexander lectures, notes for T.S. Eliot, and a series of entries on the imagination.  They should have gone into the Miscellany volume.

Here’s one passage I could have used in my various efforts to explain interpenetration:

The conceptual elements of irony include myths of cyclical return, of “entropy,” of the all too human, of the inferno & the “dystopia,” of the assimilation of the human (i.e. the social) to the natural, & of historical myths like those of Vico & Spengler.  Comedy has progress & evolution, metamorphosis, providential design, salvation & enlightenment in religion, victorious identifying dialectic in philosophy.  Romance, besides the quest, pilgrimage & treasure finding myths in its structure & its conceptual identity by interpenetration, destroys the antithesis of subject & object, time & space, creator & creature.  The hunch that the Avatamasaka doctrine of interpenetration is the meaning of romance is just a hunch, but a hunch that is going to work out all right.  No hunch that’s been in my mind for twenty years can be wrong.  I suppose I might reconsider my idea of calling the lectures the [“Information”?] of Tragedy, etc.  Or Spirit – sounds vague and sentimental.  Or perhaps just plain “theme.”

We’ll be posting all three recovered sections from Notebook 13 in the library shortly.

Two Previously Unpublished Letters [Updated]


[Update] These letters are now posted in the Denham Libary under “Previously Unpublished Material” here.

The two letters below from Frye to Helen Kemp regarding his mother Cassie have never been published.

The first letter is undated but it was written sometime during the summer of 1940, when Frye had left Toronto to visit his sick mother in Moncton, NB. Helen, who had accompanied him on a trip to Moncton in July, had returned to their home on Bathurst Street in Toronto.

My pet:

Thanks for your letter.  Nothing much has happened here.  I want to leave soon: I couldn’t leave as long as mother had her bad spell: she was at her worst the day after you left.  She’s getting much better but she won’t have a doctor, and that’s that.  She gives a hundred and fifty different reasons: the house is so dirty she’d be ashamed to have a doctor in, God’s told her to take cod‑liver oil (which we got her), Dad would never pay the bill and we shouldn’t––the whole thing is that she’s got the idea she has cancer, and is afraid to have a doctor tell her so.  Whether she has or not I of course don’t know, not being a doctor, but even if she has the worst thing we could do would be to bring in a doctor over her head.  Dad, however, says she’s had this cancer bug since Vera was a baby.  Her conversation is still a monologue of sickness and death and how many corpses that ghoul Aunt Dolly collected for her accursed boneyard.  Mentally and physically, she’s a hundred years old.

I find Blake difficult here.  Vera writes and says she’s coming to see us at Christmas, bless her heart.  After one look at where they put my Forum article I gave in and got a haircut.  I’ve been trying to locate my dentist, but he seems to have disappeared or joined the army or something.  I drive around with Dad and lift cans of paint around for him––how he manages alone I don’t know.  He hasn’t made any more trips, but talks of going to Toronto this week.  We’ve got to look around and find a girl to come and live here during the winter: if she got her room free it would be well worth it.  Sorry about the cut in the budget––not altogether unexpected, I suppose, and if Baldy is not too much of a born grafter to save on Ent. it perhaps won’t matter much.

There’s a bulky dress bag folded up on top of your suitcase: do you want it?

Dad saw Lichtenberg the other day and tried to tease him by telling him that another builder, a cheap shyster who undercuts his competition and swindles his clients, was tearing the town wide open and getting all sorts of orders.  “Yeh,” said Lichtenberg.  “I hear a rooster crowed like hell all vun morning.  By night his head vass off.”  I love you.


Vera = Frye’s sister

Aunt Dolly = Elthea Howard, eldest sister of Frye’s mother

Forum article = the reference is uncertain but the obvious candidates are “Poetry.” Canadian Forum 20 (July 1940): 125–6, and “War on the Cultural Front.” Canadian Forum 20 (August 1940): 144, 146.

Baldy =  Martin Baldwin = curator and director of the Art Gallery of Toronto

Lichtenberg = Described by Frye in the Diaries as a “good-natured German in Moncton . . .  who had been a peaceful, thrifty, industrious contractor there for thirty years.  For two wars the local Gestapo have cut their teeth on him: when the news is bad or they get tired of reading spy stories they’d go up and practise on him. . . . Dad’s friendship for Lichtenberg has come in for much unfavorable comment in that stinking little kraal Moncton.”

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New Additions to the Denham Library

chapel windows

Victoria College Chapel

Bob Denham has provided us with two new additions to the Denham Library.

The first is class notes for Frye’s course on Milton, 1953 – 1954.  This is the eighth set of class notes to be added to the Library.  Bob jokes that soon enough Frye scholars will in effect be able to attend Frye’s classes without registering or paying tuition.

The second is a previously unpublished set of notes on the Victoria College chapel windows, perhaps intended for a lecture or a sermon.  This is most definitely very rare Frygiana.  Take a look.

We are also very pleased to tell you that our new administrator, Clayton Chrusch, is slowly but surely making his way through the Denham Library collection to correct minor formatting problems that arise when translating from one text software to another.

Happy New Year


Just taking a break from the VH1 “Top 100 One Hit Wonders of the 80s” marathon to wish you a happy new year and to announce our latest additions to the Denham Library.

But, first, for the record, Flock of Seagulls were not one hit wonders.  Everyone remembers their megahit “I Ran” but tend to forget that they charted again with “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)”, the Pachelbel’s Canon of New Wave pop tunes.  Besides, even if they really were just one hit wonders, they’d still be revered and remembered because nothing, absolutely nothing, says 1982 like Mike Score’s waterfall haircut.  It captures the time, like Beatle boots.

Okay, so happy new year.

Also check out our newest acquisitions at the Denham Library, two sets of class notes from the mid-1950s: Nineteenth Century Thought and Modern Poetry.

After the jump, Pachelbel’s Canon, the Flock of Seagulls’s “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” of Baroque music.

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Unpublished Notes Now Posted


Our latest addition to the Robert D. Denham Library (live link in the upper right of the Menu column)  is a set of previously unpublished notes on miscellaneous subjects, including Jung, Jung and Blake, Shakespeare, Milton, the Providence of God, The Great Code, and William Morris.  (These notes can be found in the Previously Unpublished Material section.)

We are still getting a handle on working our new library wing.  There are some minor formatting issues to resolve which we will address first thing in the new year once our tech adviser is available.  For example, the unpublished letters of Elizabeth Fraser to Northrop Frye should soon include her original drawings that appear in them.  We’ll keep you updated.  But, in the meantime, everything posted is readable, so browse away.  There is already an extraordinary wealth of previously obscure material in there that any Frye scholar will want to see.

A Christmas Miracle


No sooner had I put up the previous post announcing the latest additions to the Denham Library than I discovered a mysterious gift stuffed into my stocking hung by the chimney with care — okay, it was actually an email with an attachment from Bob, but still no less amazing.  In it was a 162 page previously unpublished Frye manuscript, “Notes on Romance,” which I have breathlessly just added to the library (once again, see that new link in the upper right hand corner of our Menu column).  After the holidays I will have to speak to our tech adviser at McMaster’s Mills Library, the wonderful Amanda Etches-Johnson, about putting such a lengthy text into a more manageable format, such as PDF, but I could not resist sharing it with you all on the longest night of the year.

God bless us, every one!

Denham Library: Class Notes


We have added to the Denham Library transcriptions of class notes provided to Bob over the years by former students of Frye. (See the Robert D. Denham Library link in the top right of our Menu column.)  While transcribing Frye’s diaries Bob corresponded with more than a hundred students who are mentioned in them. His immediate purpose was to gather information for annotating passages in the diaries. But he also asked correspondents to comment on Frye as a person and a teacher, as well as the scene at Victoria College during the 1940s and 50s. The correspondents responded generously, and eighty-nine of their reminiscences have been brought together in a manuscript Bob is working on, Remembering Northrop Frye: Recollections by His Students and Others in the 1940s and 1950s. Several of the correspondents also offered to send their class notes, which Bob continues to transcribe and which we will post in the library as they become available. These are treasures, including class notes from Frye’s famous Religious Knowledge course, 1947-48, which we will also continue to post on the blog one lecture at a time.