Trinity College / W.S. Rogers
The year 1920 was no watershed for the teaching of French in Trinity College; that would not come until towards the end of the decade. For seven more years, R.E.L. Kittredge carried on as head of the college department. He was assisted by a member of the German Department at Trinity, Leila C. Scott, as reader, then instructor, and by three colleagues from other French departments: from Victoria College, professors de Beaumont (1919-21) and Lacey (1920-23) and from University College, L.A. Bibet (1919-27).
In addition, there were two appointments to college staff in French: Angus Arthur Norton in 1920 and Laurence Adolphus Bisson three years later. Norton had received his ba from Cambridge and had taught in English schools. He then served for four years on the staff of the Winnipeg Free Press and taught at St
John’s College in Winnipeg before coming to Trinity. Born in Jersey, Bisson had been educated at Victoria College there and at Pembroke College, Oxford. He had also studied at the Sorbonne and the Université de Bordeaux, where he received his diplôme de l’université in 1932. He taught at Queen’s University in Kingston before joining the French Department at Trinity for three years, the last two as associate professor. He left to return to Britain, where he later held posts at the University of Birmingham, Oxford, and Queen’s University, Belfast. If he had remained at Trinity, Toronto would have been represented earlier in scholarly publishing in the field of French-Canadian literature, for his book Le Romantisme littéraire au Canada français (1932) was an important contribution to the field. Ten years later he published Amédée Pichot, a Romantic Prometheus. Provost F.H. Cosgrave recommended him on his departure as an excellent colleague and teacher whose “scholarship is of the first order.”
Professor Kittredge enriched both college and university annals with his eccentricities, as did his more famous brother at Harvard, George Lyman Kittredge. According to C.D. Rouillard, they complemented each other. G.L. Kittredge was spectacularly assertive as he would step out onto busy massachusetts Avenue on his way to and from Harvard Yard, taking no notice of traffic except to stride across, a white-haired Jehovah figure, bellowing “Hold!” Trinity’s Kittredge, by contrast, was fearful of germs. He became increasingly fastidious, reluctant to touch bannisters or doorknobs without the protection of a handkerchief. It was said that he would stand patiently waiting, books in hand, until students came along to open doors for him, sometimes in mischievous slow motion. A persistent, but unverifiable legend has it that in papers left behind after he resigned from Trinity were found a number of uncashed salary cheques. If so, he carried academic eccentricity to extremes.
With the move to Hoskin Avenue, completed in 1925, change was in the wind. Cosgrave took over as provost from C.A. Seager in 1926 and embarked on an active programme of appointments to strengthen the college’s academic role in the university. Two of these were made in the French Department in 1927: Rivers Keith Hicks came from Queen’s University in Kingston as acting head of the department during Kittredge’s leave of absence and Frank Thomas Herbert Fletcher from the University of Birmingham.
Dr Fletcher, who remained at Trinity for five years, had taken brilliant degrees at Birmingham and had received his doctorate from the Université de Nancy avec mention très honorable with a thesis on the writings of Jacques de Languyon entitled Étude sur la langue des Voeux du paon (1924). He had taught at Nancy and the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth and was lecturer at
Birmingham when he accepted his appointment as associate professor at Trinity. After a leave of absence in 1930-31 to do research for his study Montesquieu and British Institutions, he returned to Trinity in 1931 but resigned the following spring to accept an appointment as lecturer-in-charge of French at Goldsmith’s College, University of London.
Rivers Keith Hicks, born in London, England, in 1878, was educated at Cranleigh School in Surrey and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he took the mathematics tripos in 1901. This unusual beginning for a career in the teaching of French was to stand him in good stead in later years. After teaching in schools in England, he came to Canada in 1907 as assistant master at Upper Canada College, where he remained till 1911. He then did graduate studies at Harvard, leading to an ma in 1912. He was an instructor at Harvard and Dartmouth before
work.”14 In a later New French Reader (1937), professors Ford and Hicks confidently claimed, “The modern adapter of texts has the advantage of knowing exactly which words to accept and which to reject or defer.” And they added, “We are well aware that to some minds this tampering with works of literary art will smack of sacrilege; but in reply to this objection it is urged that the beginner faced with the original text is quite incapable of literary appreciation, and is satisfied if he can follow the story.” As we shall see later, not all their colleagues agreed with this innovative approach.
Professor Hicks thoroughly enjoyed the varied fields in which he taught: Old French and Philology, Renaissance, particularly Montaigne and Rabelais, and above all his beloved eighteenth century. He published articles on Molière and Rabelais. His essay on Hémon’s maria Chapdelaine was an early tribute to a
landmark in French-Canadian literature. He provided skilful verse translations for an edition of French-Canadian folk-songs and a version of the first play ever produced in Canada, marc Lescarbot’s Théâtre de Neptune (1608). This play was given a lively production in 1959 on the stage of the Arts and Letters Club, of which Hicks was a long-time member. He was well known for brilliant vers de circonstance, which he wrote for family and other occasions, frequently using the signature archaics (R.K. Hicks). He enjoyed playing with his name: when, at French gatherings he was introduced as “le Professeur Hicks” (pronounced, of course, “X”), his response was “Je cache mon identité.” His creative interest in the theatre involved him in dramatic productions at Queen’s, Trinity College, and Hart House. He acted in plays by Ibsen and Shaw, directed several student productions, and was always ready to help out with French Club presentations. For many years he served as honorary president of the Trinity College Dramatic
Society, a member of the Board of Syndics of Hart House Theatre, and a director of the Crest Theatre.
In his many capacities, R.K. Hicks played an important role in the life of Trinity College for over a quarter of a century. The tribute presented to the Senate of the University of Toronto at the time of his death in 1964 sums up his long and useful career: “A scholar whose learning shunned pedantry, a teacher who instilled the love of his subject through friendly and informal instruction, a colleague valued for his common-sense and wisdom, an administrator who took a kindly interest in the students he was called upon to advise, Keith Hicks will long be remembered with affection by his college and by this University, for his many contributions to the academic community.”15
In 1930, when F.T.H. Fletcher was on leave, Hicks brought from Queen’s a remarkable pair of academics, Felix and Dorothea Walter, who stayed throughout the thirties until the war years. Felix Harold Walter had been born in England in
1902 but had come to Canada at an early age. His father, Dr Hermann Walter, was professor of German at McGill University, where both Felix and Dorothea took their undergraduate degrees. After he received his ma at McGill in 1924, they went to Paris, where he studied at the Institut de Littérature Comparée under Fernand Baldensperger. He also began the research that would culminate, after lengthy periods in Spain and Portugal, in the thesis for which he received his diplôme de l’université: La Littérature portugaise en Angleterre à l’époque romantique (1927). From 1927 to 1930 he was assistant professor of French at Queen’s.
Perhaps as good an introduction as one could provide for this brilliant, at times abrasive, personality would be a brief account of his public jousting with his senior collegue and head of department, Hicks. Walter was one of the earliest and the
most outspoken opponents of the new methods of language instruction exemplified by the Ford-Hicks textbooks. In a paper read before the National Conference of Canadian Universities in 1932, this thirty-year-old academic, in the presence of the “chairman of the late Canadian Committee on Modern Language Instruction” (Hicks), outlined his views on “Modern Language Teaching in Canadian Universities.” With characteristic uncompromising forthrightness, he attacked head-on the views of a “new sect” whom he called “mathematico-psychologists.” “Their cult is a very complicated one and has developed an esoteric jargon: ‘word-counts,’ ‘frequency-tests,’
‘composition-scales’ and the like.” As for the “scientific,” “objective” examination methods, they were summarily dismissed: “Treat the student like a guinea-pig and count his squeaks on an adding-machine.” But he reserved his harshest words for their treatment of literary texts: “Their latest dodge in applying infantilism to the preparation of texts is to take some author, say
Mérimée, [the Ford-Hicks reduced edition of Colomba had appeared that year] – it will be Anatole France next, – and remove all the ‘hard words’ from a given work, that is to say, smash the individual style of the author into an unrecognizable pulp, and print the result with an accompaniment of comprehension tests and revision exercises.” It is only fair to add that Walter’s strictures extended beyond the Ford-Hicks texts to include an old stand-by: “Unwieldly, unimaginative and inaccurate text-books like the venerable Fraser and Squair still enjoy a practical
changed the course of his career. Academic debate, however ferocious, does not always destroy relationships.
Felix Walter was a brilliant teacher and lecturer. His complete command of French and English made his translation classes (chiefly thème in the thirties) a joyful, but exacting experience. He and his wife were gifted translators and collaborated on
an excellent translation of Ringuet’s Trente arpents (1940). His translation of Robert de Roquebrune’s Testament de mon enfance was published posthumously by the University of Toronto Press in 1964. His lectures and seminars in his fields of special interest – Seventeenth Century, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, and French-Canadian Literature – were memorable experiences. His contributions to the Graduate Department, particularly in the field of the history of the novel, were outstanding. The Omnibus of French Literature,
a two-volume anthology that he edited with Harry Steinhauer of the University of Saskatchewan, was published by macmillan in 1941.
Walter participated in the literary scene in Toronto as a regular contributor to the Canadian Forum, Saturday Night, New Frontier, and the University of Toronto Quarterly, for which he provided an annual review of French-Canadian literature in
the “Letters in Canada” issue. He served as president of the Alliance Française de Toronto from 1933 to 1936. In the summer of 1939 he was invited to lecture on French-Canadian literature at the Université de Grenoble. During this active period, he continued to participate in college activities, helping with the Cercle Français, organizing meetings, and putting on French plays for Trinity and for the Alliance, in some of which he and his wife acted. When Walter left Trinity in 1941 to join the Royal Regiment, he was destined not to return. He went on to a
distinguished career overseas with the Canadian Intelligence Corps and with External Affairs for a short period. After teaching for two years at Atlanta University, he entered the service of unesco in Paris in 1951. When he died there at the age of fifty-eight, the organization paid tribute to his work in “the cause of international co-operation in the improvement of the teaching of modern languages.”17
Although somewhat overshadowed by her brilliant husband, Dorothea Emilia Walter made an important contribution to Trinity’s French Department from 1930 to 1946. She had studied at McGill and the Sorbonne before taking her ma at Queen’s while teaching there. Her early schooling was with the Ursulines in Quebec, and her love of the French language, French Canada, and France was transmitted to her students in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. She
and her husband collaborated in a number of projects, including the translation of Thirty Acres. Trinity College was saddened by the resignation of the Walters in 1946 and by their separation and subsequent divorce. Dorothea went on to a successful independent career. In the immediate postwar period she worked in Montreal receiving and settling displaced persons. She then accepted an appointment as the first dean of women at the University of Waterloo. She also taught French there
and upon her retirement was the first person to be named an honorary member of the university.
In 1942 a recent graduate of the college, William Selby Rogers, had just completed two years’ residence in the Graduate Department of French at Columbia University, the second year as a university fellow. Provost Cosgrave invited him to join the staff at Trinity as lecturer in French. He taught there for the
academic year 1942-43 and then, after a summer in Ottawa with the Postal Censorship Branch, was accepted by the Royal Canadian Navy for service in naval intelligence. He resigned his commission as lieutenant in the fall of 1944 to join the newly created United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (unrra) as a displaced persons officer. In this position he worked in England, France, and Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, and as director of education for the dp camps in Bavaria, was instrumental in founding the unrra dp University in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. On his return to Canada, the new provost of Trinity, R.S.K. Seeley, offered him an appointment as associate professor of French, which he would take up in the fall of 1947, after a year of study in the Institut de Littérature Comparée at the Sorbonne.
During the war years, R.K. Hicks and Dorothea Walter had been the mainstays
of the department, with the help of such temporary appointments as G.S. Duvernet and madeline B. Ellis. With the departure of the Walters, Hicks faced the task of staffing the department to deal with the postwar influx of students. William Temple Ernest Kennett came in 1945 and William John Ruddock and Alan C.M. Ross in 1946, and Rogers returned in 1947. (Ross moved to
Victoria College when Rogers returned.)
Kennett had graduated in Modern Languages from the University of British Columbia in 1932 and had studied at the Sorbonne and in Munich before embarking on his doctoral studies at Princeton. He received his PhD in 1941 with a thesis on Balzac. During the war, like many other members of the French Department, he worked with the National Research Council in Ottawa. He also taught French and English at St
John’s College in Winnipeg. It was there that Seeley, then warden of St John’s, came to know him. When Dr Seeley was appointed provost of Trinity, he invited Kennett to join the French Department here. Apart from summer teaching at the University of Alberta, Kennett’s academic career was centred in Trinity College and the university’s Graduate Department of French.
He was a voracious reader with an encyclopedic memory, and he acquired a vast store of knowledge in a variety of fields. Patient and painstaking in his teaching, he excelled in the direction of research in the graduate school, as several distinguished theses attest. Following up his early work on Balzac, he immersed himself in the literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Zola, Flaubert, and the lesser realists and naturalists of the late nineteenth century and the poets of the twentieth, particularly Valéry and Claudel, became his special areas of
research. Professor Kennett retired in 1975 after thirty years of continuous service to the department.
Ruddock had come to Trinity College as an undergraduate in 1932 and had excelled as student, athlete, and actor. After graduation in 1936 and a period of study and travel in Europe, he entered the Ontario College of Education and subsequently taught high school in Kingston for a number of years with great success. He profited from his proximity to Queen’s University to pursue graduate studies, obtaining his ma in 1946 with a thesis on Proust.
After wartime service with the National Research Council, Ruddock came back to Trinity to begin three fruitful decades of university teaching. His dedication to the accurate use of language, both French and English, and the lively enthusiasm
of his teaching left a mark on successive generations of students. He served as secretary of the college and university French departments at various periods. For many years he continued an active involvement in the theatre, at Trinity, with the Dickens Fellowship, and at Hart House, where he served for four years as a member of the Board of Syndics. He made good use of his talent as actor to liven his classes and to embellish his gift as raconteur. For some years before his premature retirement in 1976, Professor Ruddock suffered from a severe heart condition. It was difficult for one so lively to be obliged to restrain, on the advice of his doctor, the use of his hands and of the dramatic gestures that had been so much a part of his ebullient Irish personality. He died in Guelph in 1982.
The third of the three “Bills,” William Rogers, returned to teaching at Trinity College in the fall of 1947. Two years later, when R.K. Hicks retired as head of
the department to devote himself to part-time teaching and his administrative duties as registrar and dean of Arts, Rogers became acting head. The following year he was confirmed as head and became the W.R. Brock Professor of French. He continued to lead the department until 1972. The following year he was invited by Provost George Ignatieff to be acting vice-provost and acting dean of Arts. His position as dean of Arts and programme director was confirmed in 1974, and he functioned in that capacity until 1978. This was a complex period during which the original Memorandum of Understanding was negotiated, with its provisions for university departments in the former college subjects and for the elaboration of special college programmes, such as Trinity’s in International Relations. After Professor Rogers retired in 1984, he worked for a year in the office of the dean of the Faculty of Arts in a public-relations assignment.
Throughout his four decades with the French Department of Trinity College, William Rogers was deeply involved in both college and university administration. He served as chairman of the combined departments of French in 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, and 1966-68. The last stint involved the development of sweeping changes in the curriculum as part of the New Programme for the Faculty of Arts and Science. From 1957 until his retirement he taught graduate courses on Molière, marivaux, and Comedy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, and directed a number of PhD and PhilM theses in his field. He published articles on Gide and Goethe and on marivaux, and edited a group of Voltaire’s comedies and prefaces for the collected works being published by the Voltaire Foundation. Frequently invited to lecture abroad, he taught in France and Germany and at the summer school in Saint-Pierre.
Rogers’s activities outside the university were closely related to his academic interests. He served as president of the Alliance Française de Toronto from 1949 to 1952. For many years he was a member of the Humanities Research Council of Canada, including a period as chairman of its Publications Committee from 1955 to 1963. His long-term support of scholarly publication was continued later as a member of the Editorial Committee for the Romance Series of the University of Toronto Press. He was chairman of the Humanities Research Council (1964-66), and received its medal in 1973. For many years he was a member-at-large of the Canadian National Commission for unesco and served as a Canadian delegate to its general conferences in Paris in 1968 and 1970. In the sixties, with the advent of a French radio station (cjbc) for the cbc in Toronto, partly the result of active lobbying by the French Department of the university, Professor Rogers contributed to panel discussions on books and the arts and
gave commentaries on topics of current interest. Because of his lifelong love of music (he was a member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for a quarter of a century), he was invited to write the programme notes for the French broadcasts of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and to prepare a weekly series of music chosen from the cbc record collection.
During the 1950s Rogers had made serious efforts to bring a greater French presence into the Trinity department. It was a difficult, and at times discouraging, process because the college was not in a financial position to match the salaries of other institutions, all of which were also actively recruiting staff. A number of appointments were made that proved to be of limited duration as lecturers and professors moved elsewhere. Louis Legall came from Grenoble in 1950 and left for the University of British Columbia a year later. G. Donald Jackson and his
wife, Anne-Lise, taught at Trinity from 1951 to 1955, before moving to York University. They were followed by Élisabeth Guillaume, agrégée de l’université (Paris), who came from a lycée in Valence, to which she returned at the end of a year. (It was said at the time in the Trinity Senior Common Room that if anyone asked for “Bill” or “Guillaume,” the entire French department responded.) For a three-year period, from 1956 to 1959, Jacqueline Hamel made a valuable contribution, particularly in language teaching, before she moved to the University of California. Lucie Polak enriched the department with her excellent scholarship in Old French and philology during the years 1958-60. She left to take up an appointment at Birkbeck College, University of London. In 1959 Jessie Gillespie, who had presented a brilliant thesis on Bernanos in the Graduate Department of French at the University of Toronto, came from the University of Iowa, to which she returned at the end of one year.
It was not until the 1960s that it became possible to make lasting appointments in such a way as to build a well-balanced and stable department capable of covering all aspects of the curriculum. This was accomplished slowly and successfully throughout the decade, and many members of the Trinity discipline group of the 1990s date from that period. New staffing problems were created, most acutely for the smallest of the federated colleges, by the introduction of the New Programme in 1969 and the concomitant proliferation of undergraduate courses. It required careful planning to recruit and maintain a complement capable of offering the core programme for majors and specialists. These problems were addressed and in part solved by the Memorandum of Understanding of 1974, of which Professor Rogers, then dean of Arts, was a co-signator. With this new dispensation, the University Department of French was created and cross-appointments in the former college subjects became possible.