Morley Callaghan Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Although Morley Callaghan was a masterful short-story writer, he also won recognition for his many novels, the most highly regarded being Such Is My Beloved (1934), More Joy in Heaven (1937), The Loved and the Lost (1951), and Close to the Sun Again (1977). He is also the author of a novella (No Man’s Meat), a children’s book (Luke Baldwin’s Vow, 1948), and three plays (To Tell the Truth, pr. 1949; Turn Home Again, pr. 1940; and Season of the Witch, pb. 1976). He recorded some of his stories for children, and others, such as Luke Baldwin’s Vow, have been filmed. Starting his career as a journalist, Callaghan contributed articles and essays to newspapers and journals throughout his life. His nonfiction works include the text for a book of John de Visser’s photographs, entitled Winter (1974), and That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Some Others (1963), an entertaining account of the heady days in Paris in 1929, when he socialized with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and other writers. Throughout his life, Callaghan continued to make significant contributions to Canadian cultural life as a book reviewer and essayist as well as a novelist.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

In the 1920’s, Morley Callaghan’s stories impressed Ernest Hemingway, who introduced them to Ezra Pound. Pound subsequently printed them in his magazine, The Exile. The stories also impressed F. Scott Fitzgerald, who presented them to Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribner’s. Perkins later published Callaghan’s stories as well as some of his novels. Although considered a highly promising writer in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Callaghan neither developed a large audience nor achieved the type of reputation that his works warrant. Edmund Wilson has commented that he is “perhaps the most unjustly neglected novelist in the English-speaking world.” Even so, Callaghan was the recipient of several awards: Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award (1951), the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Canada (1958), the Lorne Pierce Medal (1960), the Canada Council Molson Prize (1970), the Royal Bank of Canada Award (1970), and the Companion of the Order of Canada (1982). He was also nominated for a Nobel Prize. His fiction is praised for its direct, unornamented prose, though later criticism has suggested that his writing is wooden, with technical weaknesses. His fiction is also valued for its sympathetic portrayal of ordinary people and for its honest treatment of the problems of contemporary life. Callaghan’s lifelong exploration of the conflict between spirituality and human weakness and alienation has illuminated the best of his writing.

Callaghan held a D.Litt. from the University of Western Ontario (1965), an LL.D. from the University of Toronto (1966), and a D.Litt. from the University of Windsor (1973). In 1989, the city of Toronto awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Morley Callaghan (KAL-uh-han) built his early reputation as a writer primarily on his short stories, many of which appeared in European and American magazines such as The Transatlantic Review, The Exile, Transition, The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, and Scribner’s Magazine. Several significant collections of these stories have been published, including A Native Argosy (1929), Now That April’s Here, and Other Stories (1936), Morley Callaghan’s Stories (1959), and The Lost and Found Stories of Morley Callaghan (1985). In addition to the novels and stories, Callaghan wrote a few plays and published many articles in The Toronto Star, New World, Maclean’s, and Saturday Night. In 1963, he published That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Some Others, a memoir of his early years as a writer in the company of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert McAlmon, James Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

It seems almost typical of the Canadian literary scene that Morley Callaghan has been more widely praised outside his home country than within it. Many American and European critics have compared Callaghan’s work, especially the short stories, to that of the great Russians: Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and Ivan Turgenev. Literary critic Edmund Wilson asserted that Callaghan was probably the most neglected novelist in the English-speaking world. From the beginning of his career in the 1920’s, Callaghan attracted the attention of some of the foremost figures in the literary world: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Ford, Sinclair Lewis, James T. Farrell, Ezra Pound, Erskine Caldwelland, to name but a few. These writers praised his direct, laconic style, which was unencumbered by many of the excesses in language and description prevalent in the fiction of the 1920’s and 1930’s. American and European editors also found a special quality in Callaghan’s work and promoted it in the leading magazines of the day: The Exile, Transition, and The New Yorker.

In Canada, on the other hand, Callaghan’s early critical reception was often less than positive, as if there were some acute embarrassment in having a local author achieve international success. Callaghan himself was particularly sensitive to the vicissitudes of his reputation, and in A Fine and Private Place, using the persona of neglected author Eugene Shore, he placed himself at the forefront of Canadian letters. Certainly, much of the international praise of Callaghan has been extravagant, and much Canadian criticism has been parochial, but in the late twentieth century a more incisive and serious approach to this work created a well-deserved and long-overdue balance. Callaghan was awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal for Literature by the Royal Society of Canada as well as Canada’s most prestigious literary prize, the Governor-General’s Award (1951), for his novel The Loved and the Lost.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

How does Red Ryan, the historical model for Kip Caley, compare to the fictional character who is the protagonist of Morley Callaghan’s More Joy in Heaven?

Peggy’s innocence in The Loved and the Lost is referred to as malignant. Explain this unusual combination of ideas in this novel and/or other works of Callaghan.

Describe the conflict between Christianity and the church in Such Is My Beloved.

How has Callaghan’s friendship with Ernest Hemingway affected his literary reputation over the years?

How does the parable of the prodigal son relate to the themes of More Joy in Heaven and They Shall Inherit the Earth?

What aspects of Callaghan’s work do you find to be especially Canadian?

Callaghan’s style has been criticized as “corny” in recent years. Do you agree? Provide examples to support your view one way or the other.

Explain how ordinary people suffer from their dealings with the establishment in three of Callaghan’s works.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Boire, Gary A. Morley Callaghan: Literary Anarchist. Toronto, Ont.: ECW Press, 1994. Illustrated biography addresses critic Edmund Wilson’s claim that Callaghan has been “the most unjustly neglected novelist in the English-speaking world.” Includes bibliographical references.

Callaghan, Barry. Barrelhouse Kings. Toronto: McArthur, 1998. A memoir by Morley Callaghan’s son.

Conron, Brandon. Morley Callaghan. New York: Twayne, 1966. Comprehensive, carefully organized analysis of Callaghan’s short fiction and novels up to A Passion in Rome. Straightforward style and format make this book accessible to students. Includes a useful biographical chronology and a selected bibliography.

Cude, Wilfred. “Morley Callaghan’s Practical Monsters: Downhill from Where and When?” In Modern Times. Vol. 3 in The Canadian Novel, edited by John Moss. Toronto, Ont.: NC Press, 1982. Florid essay treats the darker side of Callaghan’s vision through a discussion of characterization in several of his short stories and in some of his novels, such as Luke Baldwin’s Vow and A Passion in Rome.

Gadpaille, Michelle. The Canadian Short Story. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1988. Includes a brief discussion of Callaghan’s short-story writing career, commenting on his working-class...

(The entire section is 615 words.)