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Selected Poetry of William Henry Drummond (1854-1907)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Image of William Henry Drummond

Index to poems

You can pass on de worl' w'erever you lak,
Tak' de steamboat for go Angleterre,
Tak' car on de State, an' den you come back,
An' go all de place, I don't care--
Ma frien' dat 's a fack, I know you will say,
W'en you come on dis contree again,
Dere 's no girl can touch, w'at we see ev'ry day,
De nice leetle Canadienne.
        (De Nice Leetle Canadienne, 1-8)
  1. De Nice Leetle Canadienne
  2. How Bateese Came Home
  3. Le Vieux Temps
  4. Little Bateese
  5. The Log Jam
  6. The Wreck of the "Julie Plante"


Notes on Life and Works

An immigrant to Montreal from Ireland, Drummond graduated with an M.D. from McGill University in 1884 and started practising in the eastern townships (along the St. Lawrence River) to which his dialect poems so often refer. In 1888 he moved to Montreal. It was ten years later, well after his marriage to May Isobel Harvey, that Drummond published his first book of poetry, The Habitant (1897). His preface includes the following remarks:

Having lived, practically all my life, side by side with the French-Canadian people, I have grown to admire and love them, and I have felt that while many of the English-speaking public know perhaps as well as myself the French-Canadian of the cities, yet they have had little opportunity of becoming acquainted with the habitant, therefore I have endeavored to paint a few types, and in doing this, it has seemed to me that I could best attain the object in view by having my friends tell their own tales in their own way, as they would relate them to English-speaking auditors not conversant with the French tongue. (xi)
Drummond's sentiments were welcomed by Louis Fréchette, a well-known French-Canadian poet, in an enthusiastic introduction to this book that closes: "le Canadian-français sent que c'est là l'expression d'une âme amie; et, à ce compte, je dois à l'auteur plus que mes bravos, je lui dois en même temps un chaleureux merci" (x).

Drummond went on to publish five more books of poetry, Phil-o-Rum's Canoe (1848), Johnnie Courteau (1901), The Voyager (1905), and The Great Fight (1908), and to become one of the most widely-read and loved poets of his nation. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1899 and received two honorary degrees, the first from the University of Toronto in 1902, and then from Bishop's University in 1905.

For a biography, see J. B. Lyons, William Henry Drummond: Poet in Patois (Markham, Ont.: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1994; PS 8457 R85Z75 1994 Robarts Library).

Biographical information

Given name: William Henry
Family name: Drummond
Birth date: 13 April 1854
Death date: 6 April 1907
Nationality: Irish
Family relations
          father: George Drummond
          mother: Elizabeth Drummond
          wife: May Isabel Drummond (from 1894)
          son: Charles Barclay Drummond
          daughter: Moira Drummond
Language: English
Education
          Tutored by Paddy McNulty: 1856
          Private school in Montreal
          Montreal High School: 1876
          McGill University
          Bishop's College (Doctor of medicine) to 1884
Honours
          Honorary LL.D., Toronto: 1902
          Honorary D.C.L., Bishop's College, Lennoxville: 1905
Literary period: Victorian
Occupations
          Telegraph operator
          Physician: 1884
          Professor: 1895
Residences
          Knowlton, Brome to 1888
          Stornoway, Lake Megantic
          Currawn, co. Leitrim, Ireland: 13 April 1854 to 1856
          Tawley, co. Donegal: 1856 to 1865
          Montreal: 1865
          Montreal: 1888
Cause of death: Cerebral haemmorhage
Buried at: Mount Royal Cemetary
First RPO edition: 1997