WILLIAM HALL CLAWSON (1879-1964)
Representative Poetry On-line
Editor, I. Lancashire; Publisher
Web Development Group, Information Technology Services
University of Toronto Library 2000.
Born in St. John, New Brunswick, on September 19, 1879, William Hall Clawson was
educated at St. John Grammar School and from 1896 to 1900 attended the University
of New Brunswick in Fredericton, where he got a B.A. in Classics and English.
Then he travelled to Harvard and received his A.B. and A.M. For the next three
years, from 1902 to 1905, he succeeded W. F. Stockley as Chair of English
and French at the University of New Brunswick. Returning
to Harvard, Clawson completed his doctoral thesis on the Robin Hood ballads
and earned his Ph.D. in 1907. William John Alexander invited him to Toronto
that Easter, gave the young man a dinner, and introduced him to the Department.
Clawson started teaching that fall at University College. His expertise was
philology and the history of the language, but shortly he was teaching
both first year Pass and first year Honours courses as well as composition,
Chaucer, English and Scottish popular ballads, and Elizabethan drama. He was
promoted to Assistant Professor in 1918, and to Associate Professor in
Most of his lecture notes are in the University Archives. Over his 42 years
of service at Toronto, he taught many eminent students, including the future
Governor General, Vincent Massey, the poet Earle Birney, Margaret ("Peg")
Stobie (who taught Old English at the University of Manitoba and taught this editor),
and A. S. P. Woodhouse, the future Department head at University College.
Clawson acted as secretary to the English and History Departments from 1914
to 1928, and after his promotion to Full Professor in 1944, went on to chair
the Department of Modern Languages twice, and the Combined Departments
At his retirement dinner, held at Hart House on April 10, 1950, University
College Principal W. R. Taylor celebrated Clawson's "loftiness of mind and
real graces of the spirit," but of all those at the dinner Northrop Frye was
most moved by Clawson's address. "Norrie Frye" wrote him afterwards: "I
don't want to let your dinner go by without telling you how deeply impressed
I was by your address. I felt that I was being directly confronted with the
fact that the working career of a fine scholar and teacher is, simply in
itself, a really monumental achievement. For one of the younger members of
the staff, such a vision is a tremendous sense of encouragement."
Clawson married Avis Geraldine in Halifax on September 7, 1910. In Toronto,
they had three children, William Kennedy, Gerald Hall, and Mrs. Homer Pearson,
and lived at 96 Oakwood Ave. He was a Liberal and an Anglican. The family
summered in Muskoka, like the Alexanders, and his recreations were canoeing,
walking, and swimming.
At his death Clawson left a complete manuscript of an edition of John Capgrave's Life of St.
Norbert from a unique manuscript, Phillipps MS 24309, now Huntington
MS 55, intended for the Early English Text Society. The introduction and notes,
and part of the glossary, were complete.
CLAWSON'S MAJOR PUBLICATIONS
- "Arnold Bennett." Canadian Bookman, NS 2.2 (April 1920): 46-51;
2.3 (July 1920): 33-40.
- "Ballad and Epic." Journal of American Folk-Lore 21.82 (Oct. -Dec.
- "The Framework of the Canterbury Tales." University of Toronto Quarterly
20.2 (Jan., 1951): 137-54. birn pam RBSC 1
- The Gest of Robin Hood. Toronto: University of Toronto Library,
1909. PR 2125 C5 Robarts Library
- "The Nature of Literature." American Journal of Psychiatry 100 (Jan.
- "Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry." Proceedings of the Ontario
Educational Association (1913): 149-57. PR 1181 P48C5 Robarts Library.
CIHM no. 86856
SOURCES FOR CLAWSON'S CAREER
- Records and papers of W. H. Clawson. University Archives B87-0052/001-007.
Includes the text of his address at his retirement dinner at Hart House.
- The Canadian Who's Who, Vol. IX, for 1961-1963. Toronto: