Hugh Garner? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A Canadian author once praised the writing profession because it “interfered less with my drinking”. Would you please help me to identify this author and find a citation?
Quote Investigator: Writer Hugh Garner is best known for the Depression-era novel “Cabbagetown”. He won the Governor General’s Award of Canada in 1963. In 1964 he published a collection titled “Author, Author!” of short pieces reprinted from periodicals. Within the introduction he referred to his difficulties controlling his consumption of alcohol. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
I have had a wonderful time as a freelance writer, and at one stage of my career was on my way to becoming rich, but I nipped that in the bud. There is no other job for which I was so fitted psychologically and temperamentally, and no other career which would have interfered less with my drinking.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Other artists have faced conflicts between work and alcohol. For example, in 1913 the New York periodical “The Mentor” published a piece by Professor John C. Van Dyke of Rutgers College about the 17th-century Dutch painter Frans Hals who found that creating portraits for wealthy burghers was interfering with his drinking: 2
He had a season of real prosperity, and might have become rich; but after a time the commissions interfered with his drinking, and that was something that Frans could not endure. He loved the tavern better than the studio; but his mastery over the brush enabled him to produce a vast amount of work in very short time.
Van Dyke asserted that Hals used the efforts of his students to support his imbibing:
The time came when he “sweated” his many pupils, making them draw and paint subjects for which he paid them little or nothing, which he sold at fair prices to meet his weekly tavern bills.
In April 1964 “The Calgary Herald” of Alberta reviewed Hugh Garner’s book “Author, Author!”, and the quotation under examination was reprinted: 3
In his introduction Mr. Garner tells us that he looks back on his career as a free-lance journalist with deep affection: “there is no other job for which I was so fitted psychologically and temperamentally, and no other career which would have interfered less with my drinking.”
In May 1964 the “Victoria Daily Times” of British Columbia reviewed Garner’s book and printed an altered version of the quotation: 4
By his own admission Mr. Garner chose to become a writer “because there was no other career which interfered less with my drinking.”
In 1973 Garner published his autobiography “One Damn Thing After Another”. He mentioned an episode of delirium tremens which is usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol: 5
I think that having had the delirium tremens, which started in my case in my apartment on Kingston Road when I held a conversation with our refrigerator, has helped me in my writing. I found I could write knowledgeably about a psychotic, as I did in a short story, “The Sound Of Hollyhocks,” and about old Lightfoot’s delirium tremens in Silence On The Shore.
In conclusion, Hugh Garner should receive credit for the remark about drinking. It appeared in the introduction to his 1964 collection “Author, Author!”
(Great thanks to J. Kelly Nestruck and Elliott Smith whose tweets led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Nestruck comically expressed an interest in more quotations from Canadians, and Smith responded with a germane inquiry.)
- 1964 Copyright, Author, Author! by Hugh Garner, Chapter: Introduction, Quote Page xv, Ryerson Press, Toronto, Canada. (Google Books snippet match with text visible; HathiTrust match; not yet verified with hardcopy; text does match in “Calgary Herald” book review) ↩
- 1913 June 2, The Mentor: A Wise and Faithful Guide and Friend, Volume 1, Number 16, Dutch Masterpieces: “The Laughing Cavalier” by Hals, Comment by Professor John C. Van Dyke (Rutgers College), Quote Page 16, The Associated Newspaper School, New York. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1964 April 25, The Calgary Herald, Book Of The Week: ‘Sacred Cows’ Prime Target by James Portman (Book review of Hugh Garner’s “Author, Author!”), Quote Page 7, Column 1, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1964 May 2, Victoria Daily Times, Social Criticism Spiced with Wit (Book review of Hugh Garner’s “Author, Author!”), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1973, One Damn Thing After Another by Hugh Garner, Quote Page 205, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Toronto, Canada. (Verified with scans) ↩