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Victoria University Archives Smith, Harold Morrey
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Harold Morrey Smith fonds

  • CA ON00357 2061
  • Fonds
  • 1916-1920

Fonds contains letters sent by Harold Morrey Smith to his family from military training camps in Ottawa, England and France during the period 29 June 1916 to 22 May 1919. There are some additional items such as a procedure manual for Signal Training (1918), dispersal certificate (1919 May 24), a small encased picture of Jesus Christ, and a student essay written for a Modern History course.

The letters provide an exceptionally clear and vivid picture of both the external and internal worlds of Harold Morrey Smith during the period of his military service. The world outside him is described in great detail: living conditions and social life in the military training camps; training methods and signalling techniques; excursions to towns and cities, and the social life he found outside the camps; religious services attended as well as movies, plays and musicals taken in.

The internal world of Harold Morrey Smith is pictured in as much detail. It is a world shaped both by the moral and religious outlook of Canadian Methodism, and by a broad education in the liberal arts. The mind of a future lawyer is suggested in descriptive passages that are precise and analytical in approach. Other passages, in which the writer's emotions are more visible, express moral and aesthetic opinions. In some instances it appears that the writer seeks to reassure his parents that their distant son is not falling prey to the common vices of military life. Nevertheless, the letters do explore in a frank and insightful way some of his feelings about his routinized existence and the moral complexity of the war he is training to fight. Other subjects discussed in the letters are his attitudes toward his promotion to higher rank, his desire to see "action", his unwillingness to commit himself to a romantic relationship during this period, as well his thoughts about religion, art, writing, and other more abstract topics. Throughout, his closeness to his family and his fondness for the Victoria College community as remembered in Toronto and experienced abroad are evident.

The letters are written in an unusually lucid and vigorous style, which makes their reading generally quite effortless in spite of all the descriptive detail. It is evident that Smith had definite ideas about composition and style, and that he invested a good deal of time in keeping up his correspondence and diaries (the existence of other letters and the diaries are not presently known). Researchers interested in the subjects addressed in the letters to his family are the ultimate beneficiaries of this substantial investment.

Smith, Harold Morrey