Category Archives: Victoria College

Northrop Frye Gold Medal Cabernet Merlot

My husband Mike gave a talk last week to incoming U of T students associated with Victoria University.

The frosh cheered heartily when the Frye quotation Mike used flashed on the screen.  The quotation was, “What [the university] does stand for is the challenge of full consciousness.”

He was given a bottle of Northrop Frye wine. On the back of the bottle, it says:

“From its founding, Victoria was steadfastly dry. In 1971, a motion
to apply for a liquor license was brought to the Board of Regents,
whose chairman said he would resign if it passed. Legend has it that
members sat on their hands until Northrop Frye (Vic 3T3, Emm 3T6)
raised his in support. The Board passed the motion and the rest

This wine seems to be available for purchase through Victoria University Hospitality Services.

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]


Quote of the Day

“Victoria’s distinctive tradition, then, has three aspects, religious, humanistic, and residential, and removing any of these would destroy, for both staff and students, the double identity of a distinguished college and a great university which they possess now. If all the colleges were weakened beyond effectiveness, the arts and science faculty would still be big and impressive, but no longer great. Such a disaster could occur, not through spiritual wickedness in high places, but simply through the heavy inert pressure of restricted budgets that in time will wear down any university into an academic processing factory. (“Installation Address as Chancellor,” CW 7, 521)

More on Frye and Victoria College, Including the Question of Whether To Stay or Not


Responding to Russell Perkin:

In the Prologue to his 1949 diary, Frye writes, “I’m beginning to feel a bit restless—impatient with Victoria’s corniness, & wondering if it is really the best place in the world to work” (Diaries, 53) Then there are these entries:

The English department [at Michigan State] however lives in a squalor that reminded me of Victoria College. (Diaries, 193––26 April 1949)

Well, well.  On the way back Woodhouse told me Don Cameron Allen of Johns Hopkins had written him asking him if he thought anyone in Canada was capable of filling a full professorship there: 19th c. preferred, but failing that, history of criticism & general problems.  At the end of his letter he said “What about Frye?”  I said “please don’t slam that door.”  Salary $7000, leading (they don’t say how soon) to $8000. (Diaries, 231––16 January 1950)

At the moment, of course, I feel dreadfully bored because two things dangling in front of me all month like the apples of Tantalus haven’t moved any closer.  One is the Johns Hopkins offer, the other the English invitation [NF had been invited by Bonamy Dobrée to lecture in England].  I’ve more or less written off the former, & the latter is fading.  Then again, by not applying for the Nuffield I’ve stuck my neck out on the Guggenheim, & if I miss it I’ve really had it.  Oh, well, I suppose I should set all this down, as I have at least another month of it to go through.  More important is my recurring restlessness about Victoria, wondering if they’ll really adopt [Walter T.] Brown’s policy of running it at a third-rate level.  If so, I must make up my mind to leave, & that won’t be easy.  As I’ve said, I don’t think much of Joe as the next head, but he couldn’t be much worse than Robins has been lately.  Well, that’s enough ego-squalling for the present.  Light—I mean Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom.  I don’t care about choosing my path, but I’d like to get a glimpse of it occasionally. (Diaries, 242––27 January 1950)

After the usual buggering I went into lunch with the males in the English department, Cecil Bald, & Bennett.  I had mildly suggested moving the party to Chez Paris [Paree], in view of the fact that Bald has a special interest in Coleridge & it was silly to leave Kay Coburn out.  Robins said he couldn’t make the switch because Bennett didn’t want to take the party “off the campus.” [NF had suggested that the group have lunch “off the campus” so that Kathleen Coburn could be included in the party.  Women were excluded from eating in the Senior Common Room until 1968]  That’s the kind of thing that makes me restless about staying at Victoria.  (Diaries, 248–9––3 February 1950)

Continue reading