GEORGE WHALLEY ...a search for the durable and the concrete

Elevate form over function to get at less easily articulable truths.

GEORGE WHALLEY ...a search for the durable and the concrete

Postby RonPrice » Wed Jul 16, 2014 1:13 pm

...a search for the durable and the concrete

Part 1:

George Whalley(1915-1983) was a scholar, poet, naval officer and secret intelligence agent during World War II. He was also a CBC broadcaster, musician, biographer, and translator. He taught English at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (1950–80), and was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1959.

The TV series, The Twilight Zone, was released in October 1959, and I joined the Baha'i Faith that same year; I was 15, in grade 10, in love with a girl around the corner from where I lived, and was also a baseball player of local fame. Whalley married Elizabeth Watts on July 25, 1944 the same week that I was born. Until today I had never even heard of George Whalley. In my study of Shakespeare, a study that began in 1959/60, and a study that has continued periodically until now, over 50 years, I came across an essay by George Whalley. This prose-poem is a result of the interest I have taken in the first 24 hours of coming to know of his existence.

Part 1.1:

Whalley's writing has a blend of seriousness and humor; nostalgia is minimal in his literary work, and there is little or no sentimentality. His literary characteristics show an alertness, observation skills, perceptiveness and a careful craftsmanship. Whalley’s best writing always contains these qualities. Due to his wide range of interests and talents some called him a “Renaissance man” and a polymath.

Over the several decades of writing, Whalley aimed at achieving a sense of unity in multiplicity, an understanding of the poetic process, and a clarity of language. It has become increasingly clear, especially since his death in 1983, that, like George Grant, Whalley was an outstanding Canadian, one of the great minds that Canada has produced. I had the privilege of being one of Grant's students in my first year at university, 1963-4. In my years as a student in Canada and Australia, from 1950 to 1980, Whalley taught English literature at Queens University in Kingston Ontario but, as I say above, I knew nothing about him until today.

Part 2:

"Canadians are stubbornly Canadian," wrote Whalley, "we may prove in our secret way to be as unassimilable as the Jews and as inedible as the Laurentian Shield, though given to much worry about what it is to be Canadian. Canadians are often mistaken for Englishmen in Canada and for Irishmen in England; this continuously look for something of their own that is distinctive and perhaps symbolic of their Canadianness. I find certain durable things in my childhood and recall them as things concrete with no nostalgic intent.1--Ron Price with thanks to 1Michael Moore, editor, Whalley: Remembrances. Kingston: Quarry Press, 1989, p.16, quoted in "Life Of George Whalley", John Ferns, Professor Emeritus, McMaster University.

The tradition of literary criticism
I am told has two poles: Aristotle
and Coleridge, & the imagination
performs a realizing function, has
a dynamic state of wholeness that
is accessible to all men, overflows
into prose and poetry giving them
a life of their own. This gives my
way of thinking an extraordinary
promise, an intimacy of initiative
as I come to study others' words1
in a spirit that combines suffering
and unity of action & a testimony2
to life's vitality and pain's conflict.3

You are right, George, about that
stubbornness & that inedibleness,
that unassimilableness that is part
of my search for things distinctive
and symbolic of my Canadianness
as I examine ny childhood and my
adolescence for what is durable &
concrete, a home for my nostalgia.

1 John Baxter, "George Whalley and a Way of thinking About Shakespeare" in Animus: The Canadian Journal of Philosophy and Humanities, Volume 15, 2011.
2&3 This was a focus for Aristotle in his Poetics see Baxter above, pp.9-12.

Ron Price
I have been married for 48 years(in 2015). My wife is a Tasmanian, aged 68. Weve had 3 children: ages in 2005-40, 35 and 28. I am 70, a Canadian who moved to Australia in 1971 and have written 3 books--all available on the internet. I retired from part-time teaching in 2004 and full-time teaching in 1999 after 32 years in classrooms as a teacher and another 18 as a student.

In addition, I have been a member of the Bahai Faith for 56 years. My website is at: You can go to any search engine and type: Pioneering Over Five Epochs or RonPrice Poetry for additional writings.
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Apr 16, 2006 6:50 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

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