This autobiography by Emily has been called "probably the finest... in a literary sense, ever written in Canada."
Completed just before Emily Carr died in 1945, Growing Pains tells the story of Carr’s life, beginning with her girlhood in pioneer Victoria and going on to her training as an artist in San Francisco, England and France. Also here is the frustration she felt at the rejection of her art by Canadians, of the years of despair when she...
This autobiography by Emily has been called "probably the finest... in a literary sense, ever written in Canada."
Completed just before Emily Carr died in 1945, Growing Pains tells the story of Carr’s life, beginning with her girlhood in pioneer Victoria and going on to her training as an artist in San Francisco, England and France. Also here is the frustration she felt at the rejection of her art by Canadians, of the years of despair when she stopped painting. She had to earn a living, and did so by running a small apartment-house, and her painful years of landladying and more joyful times raising dogs for sale, claimed all her time and energy. Then, towards the end of her life, came unexpected vindication and triumph when the Group of Seven accepted her as one of them. Throughout, the book is informed with Carr’s passionatate love of and connection with nature.
Carr is a natural storyteller whose writing is vivid and vital, informed by wit, nostalgic charm, an artist’s eye for description, a deep feeling for creatures and the foibles of humanity--all the things that made her previous books Klee Wyck and Book of Small so popular and critically acclaimed.
Emily Carr was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1871, and died there in 1945. She studied art in San Francisco, London and Paris. Except for a period of fifteen years when she was discouraged by the reception to her work, she was a commited painter. After 1927, when she was encouraged by the praise of the Group of Seven, interest in her paintings grew and she gained recognition as one of Canada’s most gifted artists. Now, nearly sixty years after her death, her reputation continues to grow.
Robin Laurence is an award-winning freelance writer, critic and curator based in Vancouver. She has a B.F.A. in studio arts and an M.A. in art history, and was educated at the University of Calgary, the University of Victoria, the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Instituto Allende in Mexico. She has written dozens of essays for local and regional galleries, and her articles on art have appeared in many magazines. Laurence was also visual arts critic for the Georgia Strait and the Vancouver Sun.
Ira Dilworth taught English at Victoria High School from 1915-26 and was the school's principal from 1926-34. He was a friend and mentor of the great Emily Carr, whose writing career he promoted as her literary agent. He taught at UBC for four years before joining CBC Radio, directing the corporation's BC operations from 1938-46. Dilworth founded the CBC Vancouver Orchestra in 1938 and in 1956 became director of the CBC English language network.
All boarding houses seemed to specialize in derelict grandmothers and childless widows, nosey old ladies with nothing to do but sleep, eat, dress up, go out, come back to eat again. Being lonely and bored they swooped upon anything that they thought ought to be mothered. They concentrated on me. I was soon very overmothered. They had only been out in the New World a generation or two. My English upbringing reminded them of their own childhood. They liked my soap-shiny, unpowdered nose, liked my using the names Father and Mother instead of Momma and Poppa. Not for one moment would they exchange their smart, quick-in-the-uptake granddaughters for me but they did take grim satisfaction out of my dowdy, old-fashioned clothes and my shyness. Their young people were so sophisticated, so independent. They tried lending me little bits of finery, a bow or a bit of jewellery to smarten me, should I be invited out, which was not often. One old lady of sixty wanted me to wear a "pansy flat" (her best hat) when someone took me to see Robin Hood. It hurt them that I refused their finery, preferring to wear my own clothes which I felt were more suitable to age and comfort even though they were not smart. I had a birthday coming and three of them got together and made me a new dress. The result disheartened them--they had to admit that somehow I looked best, and was most me, in my own things.
The landlady’s daughter and I were friends. We decided we would teach ourselves to sew and make our own clothes. We bought Butterick’s patterns, spread them on the floor of the top landing where our little rooms were, and in which there was not much more than space to turn round.
One day I was cutting out on the hall floor. The landlady’s daughter was basting. Spitting out six pins she said, "Seen Mother’s new boarder?" and pointed to the door of a suite up on our floor.
I replied, "No, what flavour is she?"
"Loud! The old house tabbies are furious at Ma for taking her but we have to live, there is so much competition now."
"The house is big. Those who wish to be exclusive can keep out of each other’s way."
"The new girl has her own sitting room--double suite if you please! I don’t think I like her much and you won’t but she’s going to your Art School so you will see her quite a bit."
"If she is such a swell she won’t bother about me."
Next morning I slammed the front door and ran down the steps. I had no sooner reached the pavement than the door re-opened and Ishbel Dane, the new boarder, came out.
"Can I come along? I rather hate beginning."
She had large bold eyes, a strong mouth. You would not have suspected her of being shy, but she was. She was very smartly dressed, fur coat, jewellery, fancy shoes. I took her into the school office and left her signing up. I went on up to the studios.
"Who?" I was asked and nudged by students.
"New boarder at my place."
Adda frowned, she had never approved of my boarding house--too big, too mixed. Adda was an only boarder and only sure about places that were "Momma-approved". Suddenly she had a thought. Diving into her pocket she brought out a letter.
"Momma is coming!" she said. "Brother is taking a course at Berkeley University; Momma and sister are coming along; I will join them. We shall rent a house in Berkeley. I’ve given notice. Why not take my room? Shall I ask them to save it for you?"
"No, thanks, I am very well where I am."
Adda said no more. She watched Ishbel but refused to meet her.
In the evenings I practised on my guitar. There was a tap on my door and there was almost pleading in Ishbel Dane’s voice as she said, "Come to my sitting room and have a cup of tea with me?"
I went wondering. We had not got to know each other very well. We were in different studios at School. My "grandmother guardians" in the boarding house advised of Ishbel Dane, "Not your sort my dear." Having found they could not direct my clothes they were extra dictatorial over my morals. I resented it a little, though I knew they meant well. They were very cool to Ishbel, confined conversation to the weather. All they had against the girl was her elegant clothes--she overdressed for their taste.
Ishbel had made her sitting room very attractive--flowers, books, cushions, a quaint silver tea service which she told me had been her mother’s. She saw my eyes stray to a beautiful banjo lying on the sofa.
"Yes, I play. I belong to a banjo, mandolin and guitar club. Wouldn’t you like to join? It helps one. I have learnt ever so much since I practised with others."
I said slowly, "I’ll think." I knew the old grandmothers, the landlady’s daughter and Adda would disapprove. When I left, Ishbel took my hand.
"Come again," she said. "It’s lonely. My mother died when I was only a baby; Father brought me up. Father’s friends arre allllll men, old and dull. A few of them have lookeed me up for Father’s sake. Father is in the South."
I joined tthe practice club. My friendship with Ishbel warmed while the old ladies’ affection chilled towards me. Adda was actively distressed. She moved to Berkeley. Her last shot as she started for her new home was, "My old room is still vacant."
Trouble was in her eyes, anxiety for me, but I liked Ishbel and I knew Ishbel and I knew my friendship meant a lot to her.
I had to go to the music studio for some music. The Club leader was giving a lesson. He shut his pupil into the studio with her tinkling mandolin, followed me out onto the landing. As I took the roll of music from him he caught me round the wrists.
"Little girl," he said, "be good to Ishbel, you are her only woman friend and she loves you. God bless you!" His door banged.
I a woman’s friend! Suddenly I felt grown up. Mysteriously Ishbel--a woman--had been put into my care. Ishbel was my trust. I went down stairs slowly, each tread seemed to stretch me, as if my head had remained on the landing while my feet and legs elongated me. On reaching the pavement I was grown up, a woman with a trust. I did not quite know how or why Ishbel needed me. I only knew she did and was proud.
While I was out a letter had come. I opened it. My guardian thought I had "played at Art" long enough. I was to come home and start Life in earnest.
Ishbel clung to me. "Funny little mother-girl," she said, kissing me. "I am going to miss you!"
A man’s head was just appearing over the banister rail. She poked something under my arm, pushed me gently towards my own room. A great lump was in my throat. Ishbel was the only one of them all who hadn’t wanted to change some part of me--the only one who had. Under my arm she had pushed a portrait of herself.
I came home one week before Christmas. The house was decorated, there was some snow, fires crackled in every grate of every room, their warmth drew spicy delight from the boughs of pine and cedar decorating everywhere. There were bunches of scarlet berries and holly. The pantry bulged with good things already cooked. In the yard was something for me, something I had wanted all my life, a dog!
They were glad to have me home. We were very merry. All day the postman was bringing cards and letters; flitter, flitter, they dropped through the slit near the front door and we all darted crying, "Whose? whose?"
I got my full share but there were two disappointments--no letter from Nellie McCormick, none from Ishbel Dane. New Year passed before I heard of either.
Adda wrote, "Nellie McCormick could endure home tyranny no longer, she shot herself."
From the boarding house one of the grandmothers absolutely sniffed in writing, "Ishbel Dane died in the ‘Good Samaritan’ hospital on Christmas Eve. Under the circumstances, my dear, perhaps it was best."
Nellie my friend! Ishbel my trust!
I carried my crying into the snowy woods. The weather was bitter, my tears were too.
Introduction by Robin Laurence
Foreword by Ira Dilworth
Drawing and Insubordination
The Outdoor Sketch Class
Nellie and the Lily Field
Difference Between Nude and Naked
Sisters Coming--Sisters Going
Back to Canada
Love and Poetry
The Voyage and Aunt Amelia
Aunt Amelia’s PG House
Letters of Introduction
Westminster Abbey--Architectural Museum
Leaving Miss Green’s--Vincent Square
Pain and Mrs. Radcliffe--The Vicarage
Kicking The Regent Street Shoe-Man
Are You Saved?
My Sister’s Visit
The Radcliffes’ Art and District Visiting
The Other Side of Life
Seventieth Birthday and A Kiss For Canada
The Book of Small