The Hugh MacLennan Papers: An Inventory of the Archives at the University of Calgary Libraries


262 pages
ISBN 0-919813-39-9




Edited by Jean F. Tener and Apollonia Steele
Reviewed by A.T.J. Cairns

A.T.J. Cairns was Associate Professor of English at the University of Calgary.


This is the first volume in an ongoing list to be issued by the University of Calgary under the general title of the Canadian Archival Inventories Series.

Canadian studies are said to be notoriously lacking in basic research documentation — indexes, inventories, bibliographies — of the masses of relevant material which have been acquired by Canadian universities in recent years. This series, based on the large numbers of Canadian authors’ collected papers, which have been purchased over the past decade by the University of Calgary library, is designed to alleviate this shortage of documentation, and, it is hoped, to encourage literary detective-scholars to proceed with this neglected field of study.

The Hugh MacLennan Papers is an auspicious debut. Attractively designed, with an unobtrusive elegance of layout, and printed on quality paper, the volume is at once easy to read and a pleasure for the eye. The editors, Jean Tener and Apollonia Steele, have done a skilled and conscientious job in every way, so that, while a work of this nature does not normally lend itself to criticism in the usual sense of the word, I can find nothing to quibble over in any aspect of this book.

Elspeth Cameron, Hugh MacLennan’s insightful, sympathetic biographer, has contributed an introductory biocritical essay that is a succinct, effective summary of the author’s achievements. This is followed by a brief archival introduction, by Jean Tener, and a correspondence series, a manuscript series (nonfiction, then fiction), a scrapbook series, a miscellaneous series, and a materials by other authors series. In addition, there are various appendices, listings, and indices.

The largest section by a considerable margin is that on correspondence. Here are listed some 553 items, including letters from such figures as Carlos Baker, Pierre Berton, Morley Callaghan, John Ford, George Kennan, Lester Pearson, Wilder Penfield, Pierre Trudeau, Barbara Tuchman, and Edmund Wilson, which illustrate and attest to the author’s extraordinary range of interests and acquaintanceships. It is likely that this will be the most useful as well as most interesting segment of a volume which very effectively inaugurates this welcome and overdue series.


“The Hugh MacLennan Papers: An Inventory of the Archives at the University of Calgary Libraries,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 3, 2023,