Site Search
Random Quote
When I was young and Scottish I...

Main Menu
In the Spotlight !
This poem is often wrongly thought to be by Robert W Service. It is published here to the memory of Hugh Antoine D'Arcy, its rightful father.
An Evening with the Bard of the Yukon, July 18 th 2003 at 20.30pm in the Town-Hall of Lancieux, Brittany.
All Entries 1997 - 2002
All Entries 2002
Odds and Ends, Other Items Of Interest About Robert

Did You Know?

Published by Webmaster on 09/01/2003 (67899 reads)
« 1 (2) 3 »

A proof copy of Sourdough is in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at Toronto. The description of the book is as follows:

Robert Service (1874-1958), Songs of a Sourdough, [proof copy], Toronto, W. Briggs, 1907.

A rare proof copy of Robert Service's first book of poetry, this book was owned by Alice Freeman, a journalist who wrote under the name of Faith Fenton. In 1898 she had travelled to the Yukon to cover the rush to the Klondike for the Toronto Globe. She remained in the territory until 1904, marrying John Brown, the physician to the Territory's commissioner. Fenton and Service did not meet in the Yukon, but according to manuscript notes in the text, she and her husband entertained him at their home at the Toronto General Hospital, probably in 1912.

Peter Mitham, who is working on a bibliography of Service, has confirmed that this proof copy of the poems was printed after the galley proofs were prepared by William Briggs, but before the review copies, distributed in February, 1907. Fenton's copy, therefore, was printed as the final changes were being made to the text by Briggs, and was given to her "for her opinion as to its merits", according to Brown's manuscript note in the text.

Purchased with funds from the Friends of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and from George Kiddell in 1997.

Contributed By John Lambert

This brief article appeared in a Vancouver newspaper sometime during WWII. My thanks to Jim Katz for this item.

Bob Service

Robert W. Service is a changed man from the Robert W. Service who created "Dangerous Dan McGrew."

Grey-haired, florid-faced and worried, he admitted at his secluded Vancouver apartment that his Yukon ballads,
written early in the century, "seem as if they were written by another man."

"I remember little of the Yukon or what I wrote there," he said in a United Press interview. What's more, he doubts that he ever again could capture the Yukon atmosphere that inspired the most famous of his ballads.


Always a lone wolf, Service was able to take the money brought in by his early verses and go into seclusion on the French Rivera.

"I have an intense dislike for artificial society," he said. "In France, one could lead a free life - to do what one wanted to do without interference or criticism from one's neighbors."

Service was driven from his French retreat by the war. Now he lives chiefly for the day when he can go back.

Seclusion is his watchword in Vancouver. Desk clerks and elevator boys in the apartment house are instructed to turn away callers.


He admits he always has seen more of interest in vice than in virtue.

"The only society I like," he said, "is rough and tough, and the tougher the better. There's where you get down to bedrock and meet human people."

To budding poets, his advice is: "Write verse, not poetry. The public wants verse. If you have a talent for poetry, then don't by any means mother it, but try your hand at verse.

The Pretender - two versions of Service's novel?

Publishers note:, opposite title page: "In the opinion of the publishers the Author has consented to certain alterations being made in his work."  William Briggs (publisher) had found parts of this novel of Paris a bit strong for its tastes and were able to get changes made in five chapters. Book 2 chapter 5,"The City of Love", 2nd paragraph, page 145, reads "Now the Crystal Palace is one of these traps for the stranger with which Paris is baited. Your Parisian knows these places as part of the city's life which is not there for the Frenchman but for the tourist and stranger. These people look for these things as a part of life of Paris, your Parisian says and in consequence they are there."

The American text much more interestingly reads "Now the Crystal Palace is one of these traps for the unwary stranger with which Paris is baited. You are ushered into a brilliantly lit room, whose walls and ceilings are made of mirrors. Presently the door opens, and in a troop of five girls, clad only in tambourines, who straightway proceed to dance a tarantella. At its conclusion your asked to buy them champagne, and you are indeed lucky if you can get out of there for under a hundred francs. Half of this goes as commission to the guide, a gang of whom infest this particular corner."

If this is any indication of the good parts left out, the US. edition should be worth double! The US edition by Dodd, Mead  does carry the same note, and contains the milder text. What edition has the original text?

« 1 (2) 3 »

Navigate through the articles
Previous article The Face On The Barroom Floor Sam McGee's Cabin Next article
The comments are owned by the author. We aren't responsible for their content.