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Archival description
Wilfred Watson fonds
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Wilfred Watson fonds

  • CA ON00389 F7
  • Fonds
  • 1941-1998

Fonds consists of correspondence, manuscripts, sound recordings, drawings and diaries created and accumulated by the poet and playwright Wilfred Watson, husband to Sheila Watson. Material has been arranged to align with the Wilfred Watson fonds held by the University of Alberta Archives.

Fonds is comprised of 8 series:

  1. Journals and Notebooks
  2. Literary Drafts/Writings
  3. Sketches/Artwork
  4. Correspondence
  5. Student Records-Watson (held within the University of Alberta’s Wilfred Watson fonds)
  6. Reference Material
  7. Personal Papers
  8. Audio-Visual Records

Watson, Wilfred


Series consists of drawings created by Wilfred Watson; the series is comprised of seventeen ink, pastel, crayon, watercolour, gauche and graphite drawings. The majority of these drawings are figurative and most likely from the period when Watson was living in Nanaimo, B.C.

Reference Material

Series consists of reference material compiled and retained by Wilfred Watson. Specifically, the series contains theses composed for and submitted to the University of Alberta's Department of English and presumably sent to Wilfred Watson for his perusal.

Personal Records

Series consists of items in the collection that are uniquely personal to Wilfred Watson, which includes ephemera, loose notes, poetry fragments, word play, jottings and citations made by Wilfred Watson on scraps of paper, cigarette packages and used envelopes.

Notes on [Boleuphoke?]

File consists of a three pages of handwritten notes regarding a philosopher [Boleuphoke?] and his support of natural religion.

Literary Drafts/Writings

Series consists of Wilfred Watson manuscripts, typescripts, drafts and notes regarding his writing, poetry, plays, short stories, miscellaneous papers and publications. Specifically, the series contains handwritten notes regarding an unknown philosopher; a typescript and published copy of the essay "McLuhan's collective wordplay"; manuscripts of poems; and a reflection paper titled "Mettre en conte le dream".

Journals and notebooks

Series consists of two diaries kept by Wilfred Watson during his writing career and includes a diary created by Watson after 1958, and a second diary kept between 1984 and 1993.


Series consists of correspondence—specifically letters, cards, and notes with occasional enclosures that includes manuscripts, publications and photographs—created and accumulated by Wilfred Watson. Series is primarily composed of personal correspondence from friends and colleagues (Fred Flahiff, Northrop Frye, Ruth Humphrey, Janet Lander, M.E. Madsen, Marshall McLuhan, Rob Sanders, and Keith Swift), as well as correspondence from publishers (Northern Review Press and ECW Press, as well as the periodicals "Experiment" and "The Fiddlehead").

Audio-Visual Records

Series consists of audio-visual material collected by Wilfred Watson and includes three 1.5 mm audiotape reels, and are presumably sound recordings of Watson's theatrical productions or his public readings.

Note from Keith Swift

File consists of a handwritten note from Keith Swift regarding a review he produced regarding Mordecai Richler's novel "St. Urbain's Horseman".

Notes from Rob Sanders

File consists of two notes from Rob Sanders of the Department of English at the University of Alberta; the first note is handwritten and on University of Alberta letterhead, and the second note is handwritten on University of Alberta letterhead and dated June 12, 1991.

Letter from John Sutherland, Northern Review Press

File consists of a letter, dated April 19, 1954 on Northern Review Press letterhead, from John Sutherland of the Northern Review Press (Montreal, Quebec), rejecting Watson's submitted poem "Water's Paradox". The original submitted copy of the poem is attached.

Letters from Marshall McLuhan

File consists of four letters from Marshall McLuhan, from 1964 to 1968. Correspondence includes an undated handwritten letter with an attached offprint translation of James Joyce's article, "Daniel Defoe", published in "Buffalo Studies" v1. no.1 (December 1964); an 11 page typescript by McLuhan and annotated by Watson titled "Noah's Archetypes"; a letter of introduction from McLuhan to the University of Toronto Library; and a handwritten letter from Marshall McLuhan dated August 31.

Letters from Janet Lander

File consists of nine letters from Janet Lander, including three short poems, from August 10 to September 16, 1964, including a letter draft by Wilfred Watson.

Letter from Fred Flahiff

File consists of a postcard, dated August 27, 1982 and featuring a Piet Mondrian painting, from Fred Flahiff.

Letter from Fred Cogswell

File consists of a letter, dated November 2, 1953, from Fred Cogswell, editor of the periodical "The Fiddlehead", regarding Watson's submitted poem "An Admiration for Dylan Thomas".

Letter from Roland Ryden-Smith

File consists of a letter, dated November 25, 1953, from Roland Ryden-Smith, editor of the periodical "Experiment", regarding Watson's submitted poem "Valediction".

Letter and photograph from Pauline Boote

File consists of a handwritten letter from Pauline Boote, sent March 9, 1998. A photograph of red socks in foreground and a snowy landscape in background is adhered to the letter.

Manuscripts of twenty two poems

File consists of 22 typed poems, including "Sermon on bears"; "The Hyacinth" (dated Paris, 1956), "The Canticle for the birds"; and a 19 page anthology of poetry (dated Point Grey, 1951), including the poems "Anchises and the Goddess of Love", "A Dialogue", "Simon Barjona" (2 copies), "Et Incarnatus Est", "Erischithon", "Verse-Letter to E.J.", "At the Corner of Bloor and Yonge", "Sad Bulletins", "This Was My Day" (2 copies) , "Totem Park, Point Grey" (2 copies), "A Riddle for Gillian Espinasse : 'Saga hwaet ic hatte'", "And Should She Ask", "Like One of Us", "On An Ash Wednesday Hill", "Lines Composed at Calgary Airport", and an untitled poem beginning "She is more fair than fair can say".

McLuhan's collective wordplay

File consists of a typescript and published copy of Wilfred Waton's essay "McLuhan's collective wordplay". The typescript contains inscriptions and notes made Watson. The published copy, featured in The Canadian Forum (Vol. LXI, No. 709, May 1981), contains notes made by, his wife, Sheila Watson.

Audiovisual material

File consists of three 1.5 mm audiotape reels, presumably sound recordings of Wilfred Watson's theatrical productions or his public readings.

Ephemera, loose notes and other material

File consists of ephemera, loose notes, poetry fragments, word play, jottings and scraps of citations made by Wilfred Watson on scraps of paper, cigarette packages and used envelopes.

Rhyme in Modern Poetry

File consists of David Clandfield's University of Alberta, Department of English, Master of Arts thesis "Rhyme in Modern Poetry", dated September 5, 1959.

Sketches and artwork

File consists of seventeen drawings and doodles by Wilfred Watson, predominantly of abstract female figures. The majority of these drawings are most likely from the period when Watson was living in Nanaimo, B.C.

Diary from Nanaimo

File consists of a bound journal kept by Wilfred Watson between 1984 and 1993. The journal contains 132 pages of hand written reflections on his health and wife Sheila Watson's hospitalization after a fall, descriptions of visits from friends and other writers, letters he received, ideas for stories, and current events.

Diary from Edmonton

File consists of a bound journal kept by Wilfred Watson after 1958. The journal contains an illustration on the cover, presumably by Watson, and is titled "True & Free = Man". The journal contains 110 pages of hand written reading notes, reflections on academia, sexuality, Canadian literature, Wyndham Lewis and other writers.