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Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal Fonds (P139)

Shadow, Poem by William McLennan, extract from Pen and Pencil Club scrapbook (detail), 1890. Transfer from McGill University, Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal Fonds P139, M966.176.9B © McCord Museum

Variations on the theme of shadow, by the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal

"Shadow -
For the Pen and Pencil, Nov. 29. 1890 -

The heavens [crossed out] were never more calm and bright,
The world was ne'er so fair!
My path with flowers was dight,
For life was young, my heart was light,
Men crown'd me with honour & Love with delight -
I knew not Pain nor Care"

William McLennan, notary, author and prominent member of Montreal's social and cultural scene, wrote this poem for the November 29, 1890, meeting of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal. This work is part of a collection of painted, drawn, and written compositions on the theme of shadow. A different topic was chosen for each of the club's regular meetings, which took the form of creative workshops.

Founded several months earlier, the Pen and Pencil Club epitomized the cultural and artistic vibrancy that characterized Montreal at the turn of the 20th century. Among the club's members were influential authors, artists and architects like Stephen Leacock, John McCrae, Edmond Dyonnet, William Brymner, Ernest Cormier, and William Sutherland Maxwell. The Pen and Pencil Club archives contain numerous original works, which chronicle the emergence and consolidation of a Canadian artistic and literary scene.

A victim of the passage of time, the club disbanded in 1966.


P139 Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal Fonds. - [1890-1966]. - 124 cm of textual records. - 88 iconographic documents.

Administrative History

The Pen and Pencil Club was founded March 5, 1890, by the artists and writers R.W. Boodle, William Brymner, J. Try-Davies, Robert Harris, William Hope and John E. Logan. Its mandate was to promote the arts and literature in Montreal, while serving as a symbol of the strong ties uniting artists and authors. The meetings of this club, whose members included leading artistic and literary figures, produced a wealth of creative work.

With the exception of the year 1892, when eleven members joined the organization, this very exclusive club never admitted more than three new members each year and never had more than thirty active members at a time. Members included artists Henri Beau, Maurice Cullen, Edmond Dyonnet, Joseph-Charles Franchère, Clarence Gagnon, Louis-Philippe Hébert, Charles Huot, Alexander Young Jackson, Henri Julien, James W. Morrice and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté; authors Stephen Leacock and Andrew Macphail; poets William H. Drummond, Charles Gill and John McCrae; composer Guillaume Couture; and architects Ernest Cormier, William Sutherland Maxwell and Percy Nobbs.

The Pen and Pencil Club's activities were reserved solely for members, though guests from outside Montreal were allowed. In addition, membership was for men only.

Beginning in 1893, the club organized an annual festival, while meetings were held on a regular basis. Most meetings were in members' homes, with many of them taking place in the studio of painter Edmond Dyonnet, who was a key contributor to the club, its general orientation and its achievements. Participants had to bring an artistic or literary work on the club's chosen topic to these meetings, which took the form of creative workshops. Meetings were also a forum for discussing and critiquing the works presented. In addition, the club funded the publication of some of its members' literary works.

The club's early years were characterized by a flurry of creativity that produced a number of original compositions. However, its activities began to wane shortly before the Great War.
Falling membership and a loss in creative momentum led to the club's gradual decline. The Pen and Pencil Club disbanded in 1966.

Scope and Content

The fonds of the Pen and Pencil Club covers the organization's activities from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, focussing primarily on its members' artistic and literary creations.

The fonds contains administrative documents such as minutes of meetings and governing documents. In addition, books of account, receipts, bank books, account statements and revenue and expense reports document the club's finances.

There are also documents associated with the Pen and Pencil Club's membership, creative activities and organized events, notably a list of members and some original typewritten and handwritten literary works. Furthermore, the fonds includes three scrapbooks containing unpublished artistic and literary creations by members like Edmond Dyonnet, William Brymner, William McLennan, and Thomas Joseph Workman Burgess. Composed of various drawings, watercolours, poems and essays, these scrapbooks cover the period 1890 to 1896. There is also a series of menus illustrated by members of the Pen and Pencil Club, and some sheet music. Finally, the collection includes correspondence, publications, press clippings and critiques, along with a series of photographic portraits, most of which are signed by the subject.

Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the fonds.

Physical description: Includes 88 photographs of Pen and Pencil Club members.
Language: The documents are in English and French.

Finding aids: The fonds includes a research paper entitled Sociability and National Questions. The Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal 1890-1914, written by Claudine Gélinas-Faucher with the help of a Max Stern-McCord Fellowship, as well as a research paper by Catherine Lambert, a student in the Masters in Art Studies program at UQAM.

Associated material:
LAC: Andrew Macphail Fonds (R2364-0-6-E).

Ville de Montréal Archives. 1924: Pen and Pencil Club Fonds (CA M001 BM083).

Centre for Research on French Canadian Culture, University of Ottawa: Edmond-Dyonnet Fonds (P9), Pen and Pencil Club series (P9/G).

General note: A menu (M997.40.85) dated April 28, 1945, produced for the Club's Annual Festival, is preserved in the McCord Museum's Paintings, Prints and Drawings collection. It features a work signed "H. R. P.," as well as the signatures of the 21 club members.


The fonds is divided into the following series and subseries:

  • P139/A Administrative Documents
    • P139/A1 Governing documents
    • P139/A2 Financial records
    • P139/A3 Minutes. - 1890-1966. - 17 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07 - Part 08 - Part 09 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12
    • Scope and Content: This subseries documents the meetings organized by the club's members over its 76 years of existence. It contains minutes recording the club's administrative concerns, its artistic direction (via the meeting topics chosen and the original works presented to those assembled), the planning of various events, and the issues that led to the club's dissolution.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Conservation: Many minutes were stored in ring binders and have been removed for preservation reasons.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P139/A4 Membership records. - [1889-1966]. - 22 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07 - Part 08 - Part 09 - Part 10 - Part 11
    • Scope and Content: This subseries documents the club's members and their creative activities. In addition to lists of members, it contains files of texts (prose and poetry) and musical compositions, several of which are original works produced for club meetings.

      The subseries preserves the files of 51 members presented in alphabetical order: Professor E. W. Arthy, Leslie Gordon Barnard, H. P. Bell, R. W. Boodle, E. B. Bronlow, T. J. W. Burgess, Warwick F. Chipman, Britton B. Cook, Leslie Coppold, Leo Cox, industrial designer James Crockart, Ben Deacon, Frank L. Flight, John Murray Gibbon, Robert Harris, John F. Hayes, W. Herrick, J. E. Hoare, Kenneth Holdmen, Dr. William Boyman Howell, Max Ingres, Professor Paul Lafleur, John Langdon, architect Harold Lawson, Montreal courthouse archivist Jean-Jacques Lefebvre, John Edward Logan, Sir Andrew MacPhail, Lt. Col. John McCrae, William McLennan, K. MacPherson, George Murray, Carl Niderost, Hall Ross Perrigard, [Robert W. Pilot], B. K. Sandwell, George Saunders, archdeacon Frederick George Scott, David Shennan, Leslie H. Smith, [Edouard] Fabre-Surveyer, Alvin D. Thiessen, D. L. Thomson, John L. Todd, Thurstan Topham, Forbes Torrance, Professor Ramsay Traquair, Captain J. Try-Davies, Professor F. P. Walton, Professor W. T. Waugh, Professor W. D. Woodhead and Ivan Wotherspoon.

      The subseries includes various genres of writing, including numerous poems, epitaphs, political, philosophical and scientific essays, narrative texts (short stories, fables, biographical accounts) and song lyrics. There is also a travel story and several historical studies. These works -- some serious in tone, others lighter -- focus on a variety of themes, such as politics, art and madness, death, exile, nostalgia, nature, poverty and perversity. Some texts and musical compositions feature patriotic topics, while others take on subjects of current interest to their authors, like international politics, war or communism. The club's spirit and atmosphere are illustrated in several works focussing on its history or members.

      In addition, the subseries contains copies of some of its members' published work. For example, there is Warwick F. Chipman's review of the Salon des Indépendants at the Paris spring exhibition, published in the Journal of the Canadian Bankers' Association. Leo Cox wrote a Quebec Tourism and Publicity Bureau publication (1943) about the war effort as well as a promotional tourist guide published by the Clarke Steamship Co. about the regions served by the shipping company. There is also a copy of a play with an historical theme inspired by the medical practice of its author, William Boyman Howell, published in the Annals of Medical History. Finally, the subseries includes several press clippings, greeting cards, illustrated menus and correspondence.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

    • P139/A5 Correspondence. - [1892-1966]. - 6 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02
    • Scope and Content: This subseries documents over 70 years of correspondence among club members. It contains many letters of friendship and thank-you notes, as well as correspondence on topics like the club's meetings, creative activities and administration.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

    • P139/A6 Speeches
    • P139/A7 General information and press clippings

  • P139/B Artistic Production of Members. - 1890-1966. - 44 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content: This series documents the artistic and literary contributions of Pen and Pencil Club members, from its founding to its dissolution in 1966. Literary texts, sheet music, illustrated menus produced for the club's meals, and several drawings and watercolours that may be associated with creating these menus make up the bulk of the content. The series also contains three scrapbooks of miscellaneous unpublished creations by artists like painters Edmond Dyonnet, William Brymner and Robert Harris, author William McLennan, and author and scientist Thomas Joseph Workman Burgess. Comprised of drawings, watercolours, essays, poems and prose writings, these collections cover the club's initial period of existence, from 1890 to 1896.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

    Physical description: The scrapbooks are made up of various textual and iconographic records.

    Language: The documents are in English and French.

    • P139/B1 Poetry and prose. - [ca 1895-ca 1946]. - 2.5 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

      Scope and Content:
      This subseries chronicles the interests and literary contributions of Pen and Pencil Club members and their guests. It contains 61 works in total, some of which have multiple copies, either handwritten or typewritten. Although it consists mainly of poems, it also contains prose works of various genres (short stories, essays, and a speech). Apart from four poems by R. H. Cardine, a club guest on September 27, 1941, the texts are not signed and most are not dated. Those that are dated extend over most of the club's existence, from 1895 to 1946. There are also several handwritten notes.

      The works focus on a variety of topics. For example, there is a series of 12 poems, one for each month of the year, and another of four poems, dedicated to the poet and his muses. A poem entitled Hunger dated 1896 considers hunger a vital force, while another looks at the relationship between mind and body. The subseries also contains several texts of a religious nature, including a poem entitled United Railroad Church to Heaven. In addition, the subseries chronicles some authors' interest in more mundane subjects. For example, a poem dated 1941 praises Sir Wilfred Grenfell and his mission to Labrador, and another recounts a flood in London. Cardine's contributions include reminiscences of trips to London and Chicago. There is also the text of a speech by Professor Jacob Heldenschlager of the University of Chicago entitled Ichthys or The Predominant Influence of the Fishing Industry in the Foundation and Early Development of Christian Religion (1928). Certain works are very much of their time, inspired by their authors' first-hand experience. A poem by Cardine, dated 1941, evokes listening to news of the Second World War on the radio. In a short story entitled A 1946 Proposal, the action takes place against the backdrop of the cultural atmosphere of this period.

      Some works look at the activities and customs of the club itself, occasionally mentioning some members by name, such as Percy Nobbs, Ramsay Traquair, B. K. Sandwell, William Brymner and Maurice Cullen. An undated poem called A Protest reveals the disagreements that arose when some members (Andrew MacPhail, Maurice Cullen, Edmond Dyonnet and J. Hoare) were elected to administrative positions in the club. A text dated May 18, 1912, noted the presence of B. K. Sandwell, Edmond Dyonnet, Robert Harris, W. S. Maxwell, Charles J. Saxe, Paul Lafleur, J. Hoare, William Brymner and Warwick F. Chipman at the meeting, along with Chipman's contribution.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the sub-series.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P139/B2 Sheet music
      Digitized documents

    • P139/B3 Illustrated menus
      Digitized documents

    • P139/B4 Scrapbooks. - 1890-1896. - 23.5 cm of textual records
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07

      Scope and Content:
      This subseries documents the creative vitality of the Pen and Pencil Club and its members' literary and artistic contributions. It contains three scrapbooks of unpublished creations. Comprised of drawings, watercolours, oils, essays, poems and prose writings, these collections cover the club's initial years of existence. The first scrapbook covers the years 1890 to 1892, the second, the years 1892 to 1895, and the third, the year 1896.

      The works, inspired by topics imposed on the members at each club meeting, are organized by theme. Each theme generated contributions in a variety of genres. For example, in 1890, the theme of "idleness" produced a collection of illustrations by Otto Reinhold Jacobi, William Brymner, Robert Harris, John Charles Pinhey and William R. Hope, essays by Samuel Edward Dawson, Paul T. Lafleur and Forbes Torrance, and poems by J. Try-Davies, J. E. Logan and William McLennan. Other names appear over time, chronicling the contributions of new members who gradually joined the club. In 1892, for example, the theme of "the duel" engendered contributions from original members, like William Brymner, J. Try-Davies and E. B. Bronlow, along with an oil by Edmond Dyonnet, a drawing by Henri Julien and a watercolour by Kenneth Ross MacPherson, all of whom had subsequently joined the club. Since the proposed topics were usually quite broad, creators enjoyed some latitude as to their chosen form and approach. Among the themes used were "spring," "shadow," "wine," "the theatre," "money," "ghosts," "hell," "faith," "strength," "the druid," "the devil," "the coward," and "the misanthrope" Some topics were of an historical nature. For example, under the theme "Champlain," the scrapbook offers a poem by William McLennan on the Order of Good Cheer founded by this explorer at Port-Royal in 1606 and a fragment of an opéra bouffe by J. Try-Davies entitled L'Astrolabe perdu. The theme "Columbus" inspired a watercolour by Edmond Dyonnet and verse by Frederick George Scott and J. E. Logan. In 1895, the theme "the veteran" inspired a political story by author William McLennan.

      Among the other contributors are Edward Westhead Arthy, Thomas Joseph Workman Burgess, A. J. Glazebrook, William R. Hope, Frank Houghton, Maxim Ingres, J. Macdonald Oxley, C. E. L. Porteous, William Raphael, Norman T. Rielle, Forbes Torrance, W. Townsend, Percy Franklin Woodcock, and Ivan Wotherspoon.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English.

  • P139/C Photographs of Members

 

Last update: February 25, 2019