The Mystic Leeway


194 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88629-253-0
DDC 811'.52




Edited by Ben Jones
Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


Frances Gregg has hitherto existed as a shadowy figure flitting through
the memoirs of several of the major proponents of literary modernism in
English. She was the lover of, among others, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle),
Ezra Pound, and John Cowper Powys. The Mystic Leeway is a volume of
memoir, completed (if it is complete) only a few weeks before she was
killed, along with her mother and daughter, during the bombing of
Plymouth in 1941.

She was, in the best sense of the word, an eccentric. She had a
contempt for traditional Christians, yet idolized a Jesus of her own
construction who denied God and any form of church while preaching the
divine within the human. Above all, she was an excellent writer of

In this attractively designed and printed volume, her memoir is encased
(one almost wants to say asphyxiated) in a mass of editorial material.
The editor, Ben Jones of Carleton University, contributes a preface, an
introduction, endnotes, and a bibliography. Oliver Marlow Wilkinson,
Gregg’s son, offers his own memoir and a note on the text. Much of
this is extremely helpful: Gregg is placed solidly within the rather
bizarre context of her friends and acquaintances. It is, however, a sad
comment on the biases of our own age that Jones feels bound to defend
Gregg (rather uneasily, one suspects) for some critical remarks on the
Jews, yet feels no obligation to comment on her dismissal of most
Americans as “morons” or her description of the English as a
“hypocritical, double-dealing, false-hearted people.” Moreover,
perhaps because this is part of a “Women’s Experience Series,” he
ignores her statement “I loathe, despise, abhor, woman and all her

Yet Gregg is primarily important for her wit and splendid sense of
humor, as well as for the courageousness of her independent thought. Her
brief descriptions of contemporaries such as Pound, W.B. Yeats, May
Sinclair, George Moore, and Esther Meynall are superb.

This is, then, a significant contribution to our understanding of the
milieu that produced the great writing of the first half of this


Gregg, Frances., “The Mystic Leeway,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,