Category Archives: Unpublished

Two Poems by Frye from 1931

Frye in 1929





An attractive young sophette from Tait House

Went out to a party at Gate House,

Which was not at all wild,

But her don said, “My child,

This place is your home, not a date house.”





The loved one’s shoes are small and neat,

And my beloved is light and fleet.

But one thing seems to me unmet:

They are so awfully full of feet.


[from Acta Victoriana 56, no. 3 (December 1931): 42]


Frye’s Previously Unpublished Notebook 51

Cross-posted in the library here

This small holograph notebook, discovered in the bedside table of Elizabeth Eedy Frye following her death in May of 1997, is a Double Vision notebook.  It was not included in Northrop Frye’s Late Notebooks, Collected Works, vol. 6.  The numbers in square brackets at the end of some entries refer to the paragraph numbers in the typescript for Notes 53, where there is a similar or parallel entry.  Parallel passages in Notes 54‑1 are also noted in square brackets. This is one of the few examples of Frye’s using a holography notebook as the basis for his typed notes.  Transcribed by Robert D. Denham.

[1]  Fiction.  Cena form.  Characters meet in a house with mind-bending characteristics.  Paradoxes of time‑space (bilocation) and life‑death involved.  Characters as Jungian archetypes: house is unity of social and individual body.

[2]  Romantic archetypal characters: enough realism for a novel: cena form but an individual as well as group enlightenment.  Some things take on a curious importance; Charles Williams, Mary Johnston’s Sweet Rocket [1920], things in other contexts I’d call second rate.

[3]  Something to think about: not necessarily something to write.

[4]  Myth absorbing history: prophecy and the sense of the “historical[.]”   Not absorption but confrontation.  Extreme of Egypt; extreme of pan-historical view now, when there’s a terrific itch for the “historical” Jesus. [194]

[5]  Domination of history by myth: Egypt.  In that nothing happens.  Wonder if I should take the Byron epigram seriously,[1] & interpret my whole 8th ch. complex as history. [195]

[6]  Two levels of history: aggressive and cultural.  The aggressive is imperialistic & seeks the reconciliation of the pax Romana: agreement or the linguistically aggressive dogma.  Cultural history interpenetrates: variety & unity, but no uniformity. [196]

[7]  If so, then why “go into the world & preach the gospel”?  Because the gospel was primarily aimed at Rome (Acts) & so, eventually, at the taking over of the Roman Empire, the Beast & Whore of Revelation.  Of course this initiated what Blake calls the ages of Constantine & Charlemagne.  (Blake’s 27th church is Luther; it should be Loyola.)

[8]  Joachim: age of the Son or dividing Word up to 2000: age of the Spirit after that. [197]

[9]  Logos from Heraclitus to Philo doesn’t mean word: it means a human consciousness linked to some principle of divine origin immanent in nature.[2] So the John logos, which returns to the Hebrew DBR,[3] is an extension. [198]

[10]  Two: go on to Keats, G.U. [Ode on a Grecian Urn] (Wedgwood).  In Blake it’s the trdnl. [traditional] spiritual–physical duality.  Anyway an impersonal-objective vs. a personally-involving world.  Connected by puns on law.  Personal world imports a creator God––unless it’s the other way round.  Yes, the disengagement of personal from impersonal worlds affects [effects?] purifying of religion.  Providence. [199]

[11]  Spengler’s “decline” applies to the empires who conclude the cultural process: as they decline they move towards a confrontation, or historical judgment.  Three. [200]

[12]  The Islamic revelation was a counter-apocalypse, which arose as a part of the Christian failure to separate the two worlds.  They failed because science hadn’t developed far enough.  Three. [201]

[13]  Trace dialectic of the two worlds from the beautiful-true to the spiritual-physical. [202]

[14]  One is the dialectic from “I believe that that really happened (in the past),” the red herring of discursive language, to “I see that that’s the way it has to be.”  Study of poetry of course is training for us.  All three form a larger dialectic running through language, space and time. [202]

[15]  Orwell’s doublethink is the soul-body civil war where the consciousness hypnotizes itself into thinking it believes what the repressed consciousness knows to be nonsense.  Fear of external authority creates internal repression.  All genuine imgn. [imagination] is doublethink as Orwell defines it. [203]

[16]  I suppose Blake’s distrust of memory is linked to the red herring of the past. [202]

[17]  Red herrings: (1) it really means (2) it’s really there (3) it really happened.  From metaphor to spiritual reality. [204]

[18]  Imperial monuments follow the law of Ozymandias: they crumble.  Genuine culture is tribal & regional. [205]

[19]  Literature is the art of inscribing verbal patterns within a mythological cosmos.  It starts as rhetoric, or the figuring of speech: as rhetoric passes into ideology it becomes kerygmatic or spiritual language. [206]

[20]  Myth is the abstract form of narrative; later, in historical writing, it becomes the continuing form of narrative (“decline & fall” stage).  Then it’s Weltgeschichte, & moves on to its confrontation in Heilsgeschichte. [207]

[21]  Esse est percipi; but we know the world keeps on existing whether we see it or not: hence, for Berkeley, we trust that God keeps on watching it, as, to be consistent, the world must be an idea in God’s mind.  It’s a good thing that, as the Psalmist says, God neither slumbers nor sleeps. [208]

[22]  Lewis Hyde: we instinctively speak of cultural abilities as “gifts” (i.e. of the spirit).[4] [209]

[23]  Law, besides the option of obeying it or not, may be just or unjust, logical (the original sense of logos) or arbitrary. [210]

[24]  Feminism and metaphor: man for men & women. [211]

[25]  If the Sabbath was made for man, the Church was too. [212]

[26]  The ideologue identifies truth with whatever promotes his cause: the trouble is the mortality of causes.  Truth, like the classic in literature, is whatever won’t go away, & keeps returning to confront us.  I don’t know what “the truth” is in most matters, only that it’s likely to be connected with whatever returns until we deal with it. [213]

[27]  (Logical positivism failed because it was the exact opposite of “the truth”]: only statements that make no sense have any validity.) [213]

[28]  Interpenetration of belief is unity with variety, like metaphor: reconciliation, conversion, agreement, are all forms of (imperialistic) compulsion. [214]

[29]  Truth is in the repeating pattern which forms the structure of knowledge.  Unique experience has its own kind of truth, but it has no pattern. [215]

[30]  Symmetry is the characteristic of the aesthetic-teleological world: occultism. [216]

[31]  The feminist objection to “man” for “man & woman” is part of the literal fallacy.

[32]  Conspiracy theories of history are fostered, first of all, by the paranoids in establishments. [216]

[33]  Two worlds: one way of relating them is to consider the imgve. [imaginative] or made one as the real form of the other.  Only this is usually a creation myth, where it’s God who makes both worlds. [218]

[34]  Look up The Domain of Arnheim again:[5] Eco 57. [217]

[35] Look up [E.M.] Forster’s “only connect.”[6] Eros connects. [217]

[36]  Eco’s comprehensive sendup of conspiratorial theories of history.[7] Of course, since Jacobins (and Jacobites) there have been conspiracies.  Halfway between history & myth. [216]

[37]  Three: immense importance of the imgve. [imaginative] way of life.  Interpenetration & mythical history are subordinated to that. [219]

[38]  Pagan sequence: first nature-gods reflecting the uncertain temper of nature: remote & unconcerned universal god (Lucretius later).  Animals numinous: transformations of Zeus. [Notes 54‑1, par. 62]

[39]  Transfer from nature to social gods (not a sequence).  War, “wisdom” (cunning).  Eventually some few realize that the true “god” is a Muse or Angel, an aspect of human creative power (Vita Nuova).  This true “god” is transitional from idolatry to monotheism. [Notes 54‑1, par. 63]

[40]  Only why gods of mousike rather than techne? [Notes 54‑1, par. 63]

[41]  Man turning back on a million crosses in war cemeteries to explain how aggression has profound survival value. [Notes 54‑1, par. 64]

[42]  Fraternity: aristocracy: snobbery.  Sense that a real community has to be a minority, a small group.  Link with tribal complex maybe.  Also with the difficulties of the “king” metaphor about God. [Notes 54‑1, par. 65]

[43]  The Jehovah of the O.T. is a humanized being, as violent & unpredictable as King Lear.  We read in Plato & Plutarch about the “hyponoia” & other efforts to make the gods behave themselves & be proper role-models.  The central image of man trying to make this creature into a decent God is Jacob wrestling with the angel. [Notes 54‑1, par. 66]

[44]  Aristocracy: ancestor-worship: efforts to keep a time of continuity with our ancestors as (temporal) authors of our being, nature-gods in a true sense.  Virgin Birth & pushing aside Joseph essential for the myth of the spiritual Father. [Notes 54‑1, par. 67]

[45]  China & its heaven-earth axis: also featured in the Lord’s Prayer. [Notes 54‑1, par. 69]

[47]  Essays from the valley: the pleasant valley, the Tao Te Ching valley, the valley of dry bones, of the shadow of death.  Probably a fifth.

[48]]  Who the hell is Arturus Rex?  No evidence that he was ever a god or had a cult; the British fighter of Saxons is totally irrelevant.  I mean the Arthur of Camelot, presiding over the Round Table, sending knights out on quests and collecting their defeated giants.  Nobody like him before or, really, since.

[49]  The two views of Tempest as (a) profound (b) potboiled not incompatible.

Continue reading

Two Books from Frye’s Childhood Home

I recently acquired two books from Earl Johnson, a man now living in Nova Scotia who as a boy lived next door to the Fryes in Moncton, New Brunswick, from 1937-1943.   Earl is the source of some previously acquired items, including a typewriter Frye probably used during his high school years, now on display at the Moncton Library.  (Post here.)

The signature inside the first book, Lorna Doone, looks to be Frye’s when I compare it to the signature inside my autographed copy of The Great Code.  The “y” is the same, and the upward slope to the right is also the same.  Below the signature is written “Grade XIA,” suggesting that this must be Frye’s signature while still in high school.

The second book is Melbourne House by Elizabeth Wetherell (pen name for Susan Warner), and inside is a dedication to Frye’s older sister from their father, Herman: “To Vera Frye, from Papa.  Christmas 1910.”

There are enlarged photos of both books after the jump.

Continue reading

Llar Eggub: “Is Northrop Frye a Sun-Myth?”

This erudite article was found in the Frye Fonds at the Victoria University Library.  The identity of “LLAR EGGUB” is unknown.  Spelled backwards, it is “Bugger All.”  “Llareggub” is the small Welsh village in Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.  (Cross-posted in the Denham Library here.)

Scholarship in the humanities and social sciences has this century turned its attention to the function of man as a myth-maker.  A great deal of scholarly energy and vast tracts of B.C. forest have been expended in explorations of the nature of man and his myths and rituals.

I see no absurdity in extending the critical principles of mythopoeia to examine individuals themselves.  Let’s start with Northrop Frye.  Is he a myth as well?

First, what evidence do we have that he really exists?  Eyewitness reports are highly suspect, even inadmissible.  Preppies who claim to have “experienced” his “lectures” are likely brainwashed.  It wouldn’t require much washing either.

Second, Frye is reputed to have a “tabernacle” at Massey College.  But who’s ever been in there?  Don’t even pretend you have, or will.

Let’s face it, there’s no use trying to extricate a “kerygma” from this myth.  There is no real evidence for the existence of an “historical Frye”.

But if we turn from biographical and empirical approaches to the mythopoeic, these pseudo-critical “problems” disappear.  Frye’s “reality” is irrelevant.  Evidence which is indisputable points conclusively to an understanding of Frye as a sun-god, “displaced” by “romantic” Vic “students” to the level of a “culture hero”––a figure of “enlightenment”!

We have only to turn to world mythologies for analogous processes.  For instance, in Polish mythology, the sun-god wears rimless glasses.  So does Frye, according to reliable sources.

As if that wasn’t enough, in Greek mythology, the sun does not sit in a chair.  And in the devotional icon of him in Pratt library, Frye does not sit in a chair either.

And in all primitive cultures (such as South House), the dazzling presence of the sun can provoke the sacred awe, the “religio,” as does the sun reflected from rimless glasses.  This was prevalent in Egypt, where until the Hashish dynasty rimless glasses were sacred and expensive.

Similarly, ancient Sumerian postcards often depict the deity Shamash-ole with a pet aardvark.  Frye’s liturgical connections with aardvarks are too well known to reproduce here.  Suffice it to say that in Swahili, “Frye” means “aardvark”.

Then, Frye, like the sun, is said to be extremely, if not perilously, “bright.”

The sun, in almost all mythologies, rises in the morning, showers, and traces his course across the heavens, to sink in the evening .  (The exception is in Irish mythology, where the sun is mistaken for a civilian every evening and blown up.)  In a startling parallel, Frye’s apostles admit that he, too, “rises” in the morning, brushes his teeth, writes a book, and traces his way to Vic.

In an even stronger parallel, apocryphal texts infer that Frye ate a baloney sandwich at midday.  This is surely a primitive recollection of solar flares.

And finally, Frye is said to trace a course westward in the evening.  He is said to enter the common flow of humanity at the subway, jump the turnstile, and ride the silver Ouroboros through the underworld to his mysterious “house” in the West.

The cult and influence of Frye is pervasive, with priests proselytizing everywhere, followers (“small-Fryes”) on the campus, and reviews in every second issue of Maclean’s.

“Frye-dolatry” is a vast religious movement, powerful, and feared by pagan professors everywhere.  Colonel Sanders has already received a franchise for a chicken “Myth-Bucket” (one “self-contained” piece) and a formula for removal of “Anagogic Acne” is near its “total form” of development.  Is it not time for the scholarly community to investigate beyond notions of a “literal” Frye?


Llar Eggub (signed)

Previously Unpublished Correspondence: Rewriting “Fearful Symmetry”

The praise and international recognition that Fearful Symmetry brought Frye did not come easily. Frye told David Cayley that the book went through “five complete rewritings of which the third and fourth were half again as long as the published book” (CW 24, 924).  He reported the same thing in interviews with Art Cuthbert, Valerie Schatzker, and Andrew Kaufman (ibid. 413, 595, 671).  Then there was the major rewriting called for by Carlos Baker, one of the readers for Princeton University Press.  Part of Baker’s report on Frye’s 658‑page manuscript can be found in Ian Singer’s introduction to the Collected Works edition of Fearful Symmetry (CW 24, xxxv).  Other parts are recorded by John Ayre (Northrop Frye: A Biography (192–3), who has a full account of Baker’s judgments about the strengths and weaknesses of the book.  Frye’s response to Princeton was to undertake another rewriting.  Once he had completed this large task, Baker reread the report and sent the memorandum below to Datus C. Smith, Jr., the director of Princeton University Press.


Inter‑Office Correspondence

Department of English

To: Datus C. Smith, Jr.

From: Carlos Baker

Subject: MS. of Frye’s Book on Blake

September 10, 1945.

I have reread this MS. with particular interest and care in order to discover just how complete the revision was.  I find that he has done the job with great attention and thoroughness.

1)      The length is lessened by about 20% with, I should say, a 20% gain in intensity and interest.

2)      He has either eliminated or completely reworked all the allusions to other major poems than those of Blake about which I originally felt quarrelsome.  What is left seems to me right and just, and his method of handling these matters at the heads of chapters seems to me preferable to the method I suggested: viz. separating them off into one section of the book by themselves.

3)      He has been liberal and helpful in inserting signposts of the reader’s self‑orientation.  But nota bene: if you decide to print the book, you ought still to insist on a prefatory page where the Blakean canon is listed.  Or this could appear as a one‑page appendix.

4)      In short the book is now definitely publishable, is the best book of Blake that I know, and I should describe it as brilliant, sensitive, witty, and eminently original.  It should do much to make better known and more respected a poet who might have been more so at an earlier date but for a series of accidents of which he himself was one of the most conspicuous.

5)      With carefully chosen and strategically placed reproductions of Blake’s own pictures, it should make a handsome book.  Both because of the size of the Blake cult and the originality of these utterances, the book might create something of a stir, especially in Academia but also outside.

I find in the revision a crack not there before, anent Blake’s use of Rahab, the Apocalyptic Whore of Babylon.  Says Frye slyly: The Joyce of Finnegans Wake might have referred to her as The Last Strumpet or The Great Whorn.