Archibald Lampman

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1861-18 99

 

Lampman is considered one of the finest exponents of the Canadian school of nature poetry. He died at age 37 of pneumonia. In a “Night of Storm”, a sonnet written in 1887, Lampman points to the darker side of life in the city:

City of storm, in whose grey heart are hidden

What stormier woes, what lives that groan and beat…

Rude fates, hard hearts, and poisoning poverty.

 

Archibald Lampman, May 1895. Lampman imagined Ottawa becoming the Florence of Canada. (LAC MIKAN 3469441)

Lampman, his wife and first child lived at 375 Daly Ave., (Philomène Terrace) between 1893 and 1896. This handsome cut stone row of six houses built by Honoré Robillard in 1874-1875 and named after his wife is one of the most attractive rowhouses in Sandy  Hill[1]. In 1892, Lampman wrote: “I have moved into another house at the extreme end of Sandy Hill… . My house…is somewhat too large and too expensive for me. …In my new house I have a great advantage which never accrued to me before—a room where I can shut myself up to my work in solitude and silence. I have a presentiment that I shall do much writing there.”

 

For the last 16 years of his life, Lampman worked as a clerk in the Savings Branch division of the Post Office. He obtained the position in 1883 through the influence of his friend Archibald Campbell, whose father, Sir Alexander had recently been Postmaster General. This was an ideal job for Lampman because, although monotonous and dull, it gave him both a secure income and the time to pursue his passion for poetry.

 

In 1893, Lampman wrote in the Toronto Globe:

“I have often been tempted to sing the praises of Ottawa … as a most picturesque and wholesome foundation for the dwelling of men… . I venture to say that Ottawa will become in the course of ages the Florence of Canada. … Perched upon its crown of rock, a certain atmosphere flows upon its walls, borne upon the breath of the prevailing north-west wind, an intellectual elixir, an oxygenic essence thrown off by immeasurable tracts of pine-clad mountain and crystal lake. In this air the mind becomes conscious of a vital energy and buoyant swiftness of movement rarely experienced in a like degree elsewhere.”

Lampman was married at St Alban’s but preferred to attend the smaller St Margaret’s Church on Montreal Rd. where there is a plaque dedicated to him. He is buried in Beechwood cemetery.

[1] See write-up under Places and events of historical interest.