Poet Irving Layton was born in Romania in 1912. He emigrated to Montreal with his parents in 1913, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from Macdonald College in 1933 and pursued a Master of Arts degree in political science and economics at McGill in 1946. From 1943-1945 he co-edited First Statement with Louis Dudek and John Sutherland, and published his first volume of poetry Here and Now in 1945. From 1969-1978 he was a Professor of English at York University.
Layton's publications include Here and Now (1945), Cerberius (1952), Red Carpet for the Sun (1959), Balls for a One-Armed Juggler (1963), Periods of the Moon (1967), and For My Brother Jesus (1976). In 1985 he published an autobiography Waiting for the Messiah.
In November of 1954, Desmond Pacey wrote to Contact Press, inviting its co-founders Louis Dudek, Irving Layton, and Raymond Souster to submit their recent works for inclusion in an article he was writing for the International Year Book. Layton and Pacey met in Montreal in 1955, and began a long friendship and correspondence which lasted until Pacey's death in 1975.
This series consists of chronologically arranged photocopies of typescript and handwritten letters, postcards, Christmas cards, poems, and articles exchanged between Layton and Pacey from 1955 to 1975. As Michael Pacey asserts in his dissertation An Unexpected Alliance: the Layton-Pacey Correspondence (UBC, 1994 p.ii.), the Layton-Pacey correspondence provides an important document in the history of Canadian poetry and criticism in the post World War Two period, and explores issues such as the function of the poet and critic in contemporary society, the mythopoeic versus the realist approach to the creation of and criticism of poetry, and insights into the life and works of various Canadian writers.
The early correspondence between Layton and Pacey consists of spirited exchanges about the role of the critic and the poet. The letters make reference to central figures in Canadian literature, including Northrop Frye, F.R. Scott, Ralph Gustafson, Patrick Anderson, A.M. Klein, A.J.M. Smith, Earle Birney, Carl Klinck, Miriam Waddington, Louis Dudek, James Reaney, Elizabeth Brewster, John Sutherland, P.K. Page, Raymond Souster, Leonard Cohen, Dorothy Livesay, Eli Mandel, Jay Macpherson, Phyllis Webb, Margaret Avison, Anne Wilkinson, Malcolm Ross, Al Purdy, June Callwood, and Jack Mcclelland.
Layton's self-description as "earthy, un-genteel and unacademic" is reflected throughout his correspondence. He writes Pacey about his extensive travels, his teaching and writing careers, and about politics and literary theory. Throughout their correspondence, both Pacey and Layton offer critical evaluation of each other's works, and personal insights into their own publications. Many of Layton's letters have a marked political and anti-Communistic tone, particularly during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli conflicts, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the FLQ Crisis in Quebec in 1970.
Correspondence during the late nineteen sixties documents the radical student movement emerging at UNB, culminating in the Strax Affair (Case 11 File 2). Pacey's letters to Layton speak of the political turmoil on campus, particularly following the resignation of President Colin B. Mackay and Pacey's appointment as Vice President Academic and periodic service as both Vice President and Acting President. Pacey also speaks poignantly of his brush with cancer in 1972 and his disappointment over the UNB Board of Governor's December 1972 decision to hire John Anderson as President rather than Pacey.
Also included in this series are letters to the editor written by Layton, photocopies of poems, and numerous articles.
File titles are taken from the file contents.
Irving Layton collections also may be found at Concordia University and at the University of Saskatchewan.
Dr. Pacey's son Michael Pacey has edited a scholarly edition of the Layton-Pacey correspondence in his 1994 University of British Columbia dissertation An Unexpected Alliance: The Layton-Pacey Correspondence. A copy of this dissertation is available in the University of New Brunswick Archives and Special Collections Department.
Case 9 Layton correspondence, 1955-1960 File 1 Layton correspondence, 1955. -- 1955. File 2 Layton correspondence, 1956. -- 1956. File 3 Layton correspondence, 1957. -- 1957. File 4 Layton correspondence, 1958. -- 1958. File 5 Layton correspondence, 1959. -- 1959. File 6 Layton correspondence, 1960. -- 1960. Case 10 Layton correspondence, 1961-1966 File 1 Layton correspondence, 1961. -- 1961. File 2 Layton correspondence, 1962. -- 1962. File 3 Layton correspondence, 1963. -- 1963. File 4 Layton correspondence, 1964. -- 1964. Case 11 Layton correspondence, 1967-1974. File 1 Layton correspondence, 1967. -- 1967. File 2 Layton correspondence, 1968-1969. -- 1968-1969. File 3 Layton correspondence, 1970. -- 1970. File 4 Layton correspondence, 1971. -- 1971. File 5 Layton correspondence, 1972. -- 1972. File 6 Layton correspondence, 1973. -- 1973. File 7 Layton correspondence, 1974. -- 1974. File 8 Layton correspondence, [n.d.]. -- [n.d.].