The Fin de Siècle Spirit: Walter Blackburn Harte and the American/Canadian Literary Milieu of the 1890s


151 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-232-5
DDC 070.4'1'092






Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


During the final decade of the 19th century, a significant number of
Canadian authors, journalists, and critics, lured by the promise of
greater career opportunities, migrated to the United States. James
Doyle’s examination of this expatriate contingent focuses on the lives
of two of its most prominent leaders, Walter Blackburn Harte and Bliss

In 1891, Walter Blackburn Harte, a Montreal journalist, began his
literary career in Boston as assistant editor of the New England
Magazine. His vigorous, caustic, and uncompromising essays on social and
cultural matters earned him considerable acclaim. Along with Bliss
Carman, he attacked the dominant school of realism, represented by
novelist William Dean Howells, and advocated a return to
transcendentalism and romanticism, which emphasized inner intellectual
and emotional intensity.

A close friend of Harte’s, New Brunswick-born poet, essayist, and
critic Bliss Carman, emerged as the most famous of Canada’s literary
exports. While Carman shared Harte’s detestation of cheap materialism
and the worship of wealth, he did not write with Harte’s vitriolic
sting. His contributions were welcomed by established popular
publications that shut their doors to Harte. Carman eventually won a
respected place among the literary figures of his era; by contrast,
Harte’s work was forgotten soon after his death. Both men acted as
interpreters of Canada to the United States, and both used their
editorial positions to introduce talented Canadian writers to the
American reading public.

James Doyle is to be congratulated for rescuing Harte from obscurity
and for giving us this succinct and perceptive study of Canada’s
literary influence in America at the turn of the century.


Doyle, James., “The Fin de Siècle Spirit: Walter Blackburn Harte and the American/Canadian Literary Milieu of the 1890s,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,