Callaghan, Morley (Edward)

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CALLAGHAN, Morley (Edward)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Toronto, Ontario, 22 September 1903. Education: St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, B.A. 1925; Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, 1925-28, LL.B. 1928; admitted to the Ontario bar, 1928. Family: Married Lorreto Florence Dee in 1929 (died 1984); two sons. Career: Part-time staff member, Toronto Star, 1923-27; lived in Paris, 1929; chairman of the radio forum Things to Come (later Citizen's Forum), 1943-47; panelist, Beat the Champs radio quiz show, 1947, and Now I Ask You radio show and Fighting Words television show, early 1950s; worked with the Royal Canadian Navy on assignment for the National Film Board during World War II. Awards: Governor-General's award, 1952; Maclean's award, 1955; Lorne Pierce medal, 1960; Canada Council medal, 1966, prize, 1970; Molson prize, 1970; Royal Bank of Canada award, 1970. D.Litt.: University of Western Ontario, London, 1965; University of Windsor, Ontario, 1973. LL.D.: University of Toronto, 1966. Companion, Order of Canada, 1982. Died: 25 August 1990.


Short Stories

A Native Argosy. 1929.

Now That April's Here and Other Stories. 1936.

Stories. 1959.

An Autumn Penitent (includes In His Own Country). 1973.

Close to the Sun Again (novella). 1977.

No Man's Meat, and The Enchanted Pimp (novellas). 1978.

The Lost and Found Stories of Callaghan. 1985.


Strange Fugitive. 1928.

It's Never Over. 1930.

No Man's Meat. 1931.

A Broken Journey. 1932.

Such Is My Beloved. 1934.

They Shall Inherit the Earth. 1935.

More Joy in Heaven. 1937.

The Varsity Story. 1948.

The Loved and the Lost. 1951.

The Many Coloured Coat. 1960.

A Passion in Rome. 1961.

A Fine and Private Place. 1975.

A Time for Judas. 1983.

Our Lady of the Snows. 1986.

The Man with the Coat. 1987.


Turn Again Home, from his novel They Shall Inherit the Earth(produced 1940; as Going Home, produced 1950).

To Tell the Truth (produced 1949).

Television Play:

And Then Mr. Jones, 1974.


Luke Baldwin's Vow (for children). 1948.

That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Some Others. 1963.

Winter, photographs by John de Visser. 1974.



by Judith Kendle, in The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors 5, edited by Robert Lecker and Jack David, 1984.

Critical Studies:

Callaghan by Brandon Conron, 1966, and Callaghan edited by Conron, 1975; Callaghan by Victor Hoar, 1969; The Style of Innocence: A Study of Hemingway and Callaghan by Fraser Sutherland, 1972; Callaghan by Patricia A. Morley, 1978; The Callaghan Symposium edited by David Staines, 1981; Orpheus in Winter: Morley Callaghan's The Loved and the Lost by John Orange, 1993; Moral Predicament: Morley Callaghan's More Joy in Heaven by George Woodcock, 1993.

* * *

It has often been said that the short story is the genre in which Canadian writers have most excelled, and from the animal stories of Charles G. D. Roberts and the social tales of Sara Jeannette Duncan in the later nineteenth century it has been a genre in which they have seemed much at home. Indeed, very few Canadian fiction writers have devoted themselves merely to the short story; the broader form and higher critical standing of the novel have attracted many of them, but not always with complete success.

An example is Morley Callaghan, who held his position as one of Canada's leading writers from the early 1930s to the later 1980s. Callaghan excelled from the beginning in briefer fiction—short stories and the novella. From 1937 to 1950 he went into a period of virtual literary silence. He emerged in 1951 with The Loved and the Lost, first of a group of ambitious quasi-romantic novels in which he battled, never quite successfully, with the larger forms. And though he returned in the 1970s to shorter and simpler kinds of novel, he never recovered the lapidary eloquence of his early stories about simple people, not all that intelligent, with their laconic speech patterns and their understated joys and sorrows.

His best later book was not in fact a work of fiction at all but autobiographical, That Summer in Paris, a memoir of a few months spent in France at the end of the 1920s, largely in the company of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. His acquaintance with Hemingway was indeed largely responsible for the course his career took; he worked as a cub reporter on the Toronto Star and for a time had Hemingway as a colleague. The influence of Hemingway on Callaghan's early work, and particularly on the simplification of his sentence structure, is evident, and Hemingway was the first fellow writer to acknowledge Callaghan's talents and to encourage him to continue working.

Not much was happening in Canadian short fiction at this time except for the kind of Anglicized quasi-romantic writing against which Callaghan almost naturally reacted. And because Hemingway took him up, and even arranged for the publication of his early stories in avant-garde international journals of the time like This Quarter, Transition, and Exile, Callaghan at first tended to be associated with the group of young American writers often referred to as "The Lost Generation," though the locales of his stories remained largely Canadian. People like Ezra Pound, Fitzgerald, and Sinclair Lewis would sometimes patronize him and flatter him even in 1960, at a time when Callaghan's vogue in American literary circles was long past; and Edmund Wilson was rediscovering him as a "highly neglected writer" and eccentrically comparing his work to that of Chekhov and Turgenev.

By the beginning of the 1930s Callaghan's stories were appearing in more popular magazines like Scribner's, Harpers' Bazaar, Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker. Out of the work of this period he collected and published two books of short fiction, A Native Argosy and Now That April's Here and Other Stories. Much later, in 1959, he collected all his work in this genre into Morley Callaghan's Stories, which contained no new work and marked the real end of his career as a writer of true short stories.

It was a seedy world of the unsuccessful and unattractive that Callaghan presented, not without compassion, in his short stories as well as in the novellas of the 1930s that are closely related to them. His characters tend to live by their wits when they have any, and many of them are petty crooks, prostitutes, hangers-on of the sporting world with all its rackets; they often have ambiguous links with the world of financiers and politicians whose corruptions are seen as being merely of another kind. There will occasionally be a glimmer of gilt in a whore's heart or a usually fatal impulse of loyalty in a gangster's mind, and love is sometimes real, but Callaghan never tries to idealize his characters. Even if they are not rogues, they are fools. The best of them have destructive flaws and the dismalness of the lives lived by most of these people is accentuated by the deliberate simplicity of mind with which the writer approaches them, his refusal to write with either elegance or eloquence; "literary" is one of the dirtiest words in his vocabulary.

In some ways Callaghan's best writings are the sparsely written novellas he produced in the 1930s, formally intermediate works whose structures and themes were too complex for them still to be called stories but lacking in the structural and psychological complexity of a true novel. In fact, from Such Is My Beloved through They Shall Inherit the Earth to More Joy in Heaven, they may perhaps be claimed as parables, which their titles suggest. At this time Callaghan, a birthright Catholic, was taken up with the radical theology of Jacques Maritain, then teaching in Canada. And these works do reveal a kind of basic Christianity in which ecclesiastical institutions and potentates are rejected in favor of those humble people who grope their way towards Christian action and are martyred by the very world the churchmen support and represent. Written in the socially conscious decade of the 1930s, they are typical works of the age in so far as they imply—rather than state—the need for transforming all our values, though they do not offer a forceful means of achievement. But their leading characters are really holy fools, and overshadowing their naive efforts is a chronic pessimism on the author's part that ultimately presents the world as irredeemable because the vast mass of people are trapped in their spiritual and emotional limitations. Their efforts to change their world and even themselves, as in the case of the "reformed" bank robber in More Joy in Heaven, at best fail and at worst end in disaster.

—George Woodcock

See the essays on "Now that April's Here" and "Two Fishermen."