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The Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal, its Members and their Works (1890-1907)

By Catherine M. J. Lambert

Founding of the club

On the evening of March 5, 1890, six artists and writers - notably R. W. Boodle, William Brymner, J. Try-Davies, Robert Harris, William Hope and John E. Logan - founded the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal during a meeting at the home of William Hope. The goals of the Club were to promote the arts and letters and to provide opportunities for social exchange. All members of the Club were required to furnish an original composition on a predetermined subject for at least every second meeting. The meetings were to take place every two weeks (on Saturday nights, starting on March 29, 1890).

At the first meeting it was decided that several men would be proposed for membership without voting on their candidacies, namely: E. W. Arthy, E. B. Brownlow, E. Colonna, S. E. Dawson, C. H. Gould, O. R. Jacobi, E. Lafleur, P. Lafleur, W. McLennan, C. E. Moyse, J. C. Pinhey, W. Raphael, Norman T. Rielle, A. W. Steele, A. T. Taylor, Forbes Torrance, Percy Woodcock and L. Fréchette. Only M. Steele declined the invitation to join.

The Club's constitution and rules were adopted by the membership on November 1, 1890, and the Pen and Pencil Club was legally incorporated by the Province of Quebec on November 29 of that year.

The presidency was filled by each member in turn based on an alphabetical rotation (using members' last names). According to the constitution, the positions of president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer were held for one year, with the change-over taking place at the Club's annual meeting, after the summer holidays.


There were three categories of membership in the Pen and Pencil Club: regular members, non-resident members and honorary members. At the meeting of November 1, 1890, the annual membership fee was increased to $5, though at the inaugural meeting of the Club it had been agreed that each member would pay a $2 annual fee, payable in advance.

At the meeting of January 16, 1892, it was decided that the annual fee for members not residing in Montreal would be $2,50. Then, on October 22 of that year, the fee was reduced once again, to $1 a year. Honorary members were not required to pay a membership fee.

All new candidates for membership had to be proposed by an existing member and seconded by another, then accepted by a vote at a later meeting, providing a quorum was present. Each candidate had to submit an original composition, and if accepted to the Club agree, like all members, to bring to at least every third meeting a visual or literary work (initially, an original contribution was required at every second meeting). Non-resident members were asked to contribute a work twice each season and to leave a copy of it with the Club.

The members of the Pen and Pencil Club were encouraged to invite to regular meetings - upon the approval of the secretary - special guests living outside of Montreal. However, guests could not be invited until members had voted to extend an invitation to them.

Artistic content of meetings

The majority of each meeting was devoted to a discussion of the literary and visual works presented by the members. The works generally dealt with a subject that had been agreed upon in advance (for example, summer, hell, a duel). The essays, poems, watercolours and oil or pencil compositions were analyzed, and often criticized, by all those in attendance.

In accordance with the constitution, the last meeting of the year took the form of a festival dedicated to an "unrecognized genius". These events, the highlight of which was always a dinner, were organized by a committee. The committee members were often heaped with praise and appreciation at subsequent meetings; in fact, so popular were these dinners that the membership eventually agreed to hold them once a month.

Location of meetings

From March 17, 1890, to May 7, 1892, the Pen and Pencil Club met at the Montreal Racquet Club in a room rented for this purpose. After October 1892, when Professor Paul T. Lafleur was asked to find and negotiate the rental of a new location, the meetings were held at 58 University Avenue. This was probably where Guillaume Couture, a member elected that year, had his studio. On October 2, 1894, a special meeting of the Pen and Pencil Club was held in the studio of Edmond Dyonnet at the Fraser Institute, located at 9 University Avenue, and this became the new meeting location.

Thereafter, according to the minutes of the Club, from November 24, 1894, to 1910 the Pen and Pencil Club met at the studio of Edmond Dyonnet, with two exceptions: the December 22, 1894, meeting held at the studio of Maxime Ingres, which was also located at 9 University Avenue, and the May 4, 1900, meeting held at the Royal Montreal Golf Club.

Source: "Constitution of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal and Subjects Discussed by Members During the Meetings from 1890 to 1907" (unpublished)
McCord Museum Archives


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