PART ONE: A review of the characteristics of the Dramatic Monologue, with examples of Dramatic Monologue poems.
PART TWO: Dramatic examples from the Whitehern letters which would lend themselves to Dramatic Monologues.
[Search on www.whitehern.ca. The search mechanism is user-friendly. IMPORTANT NOTE: Always read the footnotes, they provide historical richness and will lead to other letters on the same subject — or photos (IMG’s).]
A REVIEW OF THE CHARACTERISTICS
A REVIEW OF THE CHARACTERISTICS
To explore the possibilities of Dramatic Monologue within the Whitehern historical archives, we must first understand what constitutes a Dramatic Monologue. Many detailed definitions of this poetic genre can be found, but all boil down to these basics.
1. The Dramatic Monologue is written in the first person, apparent either at the beginning or disclosed somewhere within the poem. This is often an historical personage, who becomes the persona of the poem. This will often be the case with the Whitehern material since the monologue may be “spoken” by one of the members of the family, as in a letter.
2. In the Dramatic Monologue there is an explicit or an implied listener, and the listener is sometimes addressed in the poem.
3. In the Dramatic Monologue the persona of the poem reveals or betrays something of his/her own character in the telling, often a negative aspect, and certainly an ironic or dramatic aspect.
4. The form of a Dramatic Monologue varies, but is usually a lyric poem, and can be a strictly structured poem like a sonnet, or can be a prose poem, or blank verse.
DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE POEMS:
From Shakespeare's Hamlet (soliloquy):
My Last Duchess, by Robert Browning (rhyming couplets):
Porphyria’s Lover, by Robert Browning:
Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord, by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Mending Wall, by Robert Frost:
In Flanders Fields, By Lt. Col. John McCrae (1872-1918):
from Night Attack, by Siegfried Sassoon:
Lessons of the War, I. Naming of Parts, by Henry Reed
This is a Photograph of Me, by Margaret Atwood
Death of a Naturalist, by Seamus Heaney
Hanging Fire, by Audre Lord
Prayers and letters are good examples of Dramatic Monologue.
THE McQUESTEN SAGA AT WHITEHERN—A Three-Part Saga
The Rise of the House of McQuesten.
The Fall of the House of McQuesten.
The Restoration of the House of McQuesten was accomplished by The Hon. Thomas Baker McQuesten MPP, with a great deal of help from his sister Ruby and his mother, Mary. Ruby worked as a teacher and sent all of her money to Tom to put him through University and as soon as he graduated, she fell ill and died in 1911 of Consumption (Tuberculosis) — she is the Tragic Victorian Maiden of the story. A play is being planned about their lives: “Ruby and Tom: Tragedy & Triumph” to be presented at MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, October 14, 2006 at 7:30 p.m.
DRAMATIC CHARACTERS OR EVENTS: In the Whitehern three-part saga there are many dramatic characters and/or events: the Wealthy Industrialist, the Wicked Stepmother, Tragic death by Suicide, Alcoholism & Bankruptcy, the Victorian Matriarch, the Victorian Patriarch and the deathbed renunciation of his daughter, Repressive Presbyterianism (Alice Munro named it
“Southern Ontario Gothic”), disabled son and robust son (the Doppleganger effect), inherited mental disease, three thwarted love affairs, the Madwoman in the Attic, Victorian medicine, Lottie’s surgery, a Victorian Sacrificial Maiden, Thomas & the Restoration, many descriptions of death and dying, some Wills, especially David McQuesten’s will, Gender Conflict among the missionaries at home and abroad, the dramatic and poetic quality of the writing, religious sentiment regarding death.
POETIC QUALITY OF THE LETTERS AND WRITINGS:
Sep 11, 1826. The Death of little William. “Could you make one of our number this evening it would seem to dispel the gloom which rest upon all around me, but this is denied me, and in pensive silence will relate our tale of woe.”
Apr 17, 1833, Death of their mother Margaret Fisher McQuesten. “What we have long feared has come upon us. Our dear Mother is no more but is removed, I believe to a better world. . . . she said she had got partly on her way through the dark valley and then could speak no more…………………..”
Jul 22, 1833. The illness of baby Ellen (she finally dies about a week after this letter.) She was treated with Calomel powders (Mercury) “She is now very weak, coughs very hard, sometimes an hour, till nearly exhausted & once I thought her dying. . . . I never witnessed so much patience as this little sufferer shows.”
DEATH AND RELIGIOUS SENTIMENT
Jun 3, 1835. TO MRS. DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN (MARGARETTE B. LERNED) from a friend S.W. Robinson. “I hoped to hear that you was the happy mother of a well child. But as our heavenly Father saw fit to take the dear one to himself. I rejoice to see you sensible, that a murmur does not become his dear children. . . . You spoke in your letter of Mrs. Sadler & her love for her infant & I have since been informed of its sickness and death. Perhaps it was becoming an idol & for that reason was removed. We know that these Providences are in perfect wisdom.”
Oct 17, 1834. TO MRS. DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN (MARGARETTE B. LERNED) from her sister Louisa McAllaster. On the death of Dr. Calvin’s and Margarete’s firstborn son who lived only ten days. “Faith points upward where the saviour has taken your babe while spotless, to be an inhabitant of Heaven, taken him in the arms of his love & has a place reserved for the earthly parents who weep for their first-born.”
Mar 21, 1835. TO DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his cousin Caleb E. Fisher. “Though you feel that you have been severely chastened yet doubtless you can look up to your Father with true submission and say He doeth all things well; knowing that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.”
Aug 20, 1849. TO MARY ANN BAKER WILKES from her father Rev. Thomas Baker. Baker refuses to see his daughter on her deathbed because she disobeyed him and married her dead sister’s husband which was against the civil and scriptural law at that time. He is later slandered for his stand.
A WILL TO PROVIDE FOR UNWED DAUGHTERS
A QUOTATION FROM DAVID MCQUESTEN'S WILL (1757-1829) FOR HIS DAUGHTERS, MARGARET AND ELIZA:
The will bequeaths a bedstead and two hundred dollars to each of the unmarried daughters, Margaret and Eliza, a room each and, “a privilege in the cellar necessary for their accommodation with the privilege of passing to and from the bed room above mentioned. Also a privilege of using the oven. . . . Also the privilege of drawing water from the well at all times, with the privilege of passing through that part of the house necessary in going to and from said well. . . also one good cow. . . the privilege of cutting and taking eight cords of fine wood yearly, . . . a chaise, . . . harness and horse, etc.”
ANOTHER WILL: AND THE STRUGGLE OVER DR. CALVIN’S ESTATE WITH THE WICKED STEPMOTHER, ELIZABETH FULLER MCQUESTEN.
TO DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from G. who congratulates him on his third marriage to Elizabeth Fuller. “I do most heartily congratulate you on your return to a pleasant happy home with the one you chose to share your love and cares, your smiles and happy hours.”
A Will and Deed of Trust was drawn up in secret, and kept secret from Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten, until Dr. Calvin McQuesten’s death in 1885.
Feb 17, 1874. TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his half-brother Isaac Baldwin McQuesten, about the secret will and deed. “As to acquainting the O.L. (Old Lady). . . . So you see that all has been pretty well arranged for our safety, and yet not to place father in any humiliating position. In the next place whether father’s property were irrevocably out of his hands or not, if she found out about this she would lead him a perfect dog’s life. She is … without reason, judgment or kindness. It is self, self, all over. . . .Threaten her, & she is ugly, Treat her kindly, & she is ugly, etc., etc.”
ISAAC MCQUESTEN’S MYSTERIOUS LETTER, ABOUT AN ACT OF VIOLENCE THAT HE IS CONTEMPLATING, POSSIBLY ABOUT SUICIDE. Isaac died May 7, 1888.
Isaac had been treated for mental illness. He was an alcoholic and insomniac and was taking various sleeping potions, and likely Paregoric and Calomel (opium and mercury) He died very suddenly and his death was accompanied by bankruptcy. He states: “Don't think I am making any mystery now. I am not. But I want you simply to be prepared, when such occasion may occur, to quietly & calmly use your best judgement; etc.” FOOTNOTE: Isaac's comments are difficult to interpret. We have discovered a rather poignant indication of Isaac's preoccupation with death and suicide in a book of his entitled Responsibility in Mental Illness (London, 1874). The book is neatly underlined, presumably by Isaac. One passage so highlighted reads, "let him then suppose it to be no dream, but conceive himself to be overwhelmed by the horrible nightmare day after day, and to be, as he surely would be, incapable of the hope of relief; what cry would then suffice to express his agony and despair save the cry of supreme agony, 'My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?' –what act save an act of suicide?" (240).
After Isaac's death, MARY BAKER MCQUESTEN IS LEFT WIDOWED AND IMPOVERISHED WITH SIX CHILDREN BETWEEN 14 and 2 years of age.
THREE THWARTED ENGAGEMENTS, HILDA, RUBY & TOM
HILDA and KEN:
Aug 10, 1902. TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN (in Montreal) from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten. “My dear dear boy, It seems a very long time since I wrote you, when I did Ken [Trigge] was just here and his visit was the occasion of most trying experience for all concerned.” Ken had come to propose to Hilda and Mary found out that he was a travelling rep. and it was part of his job to drink and to “treat” his customers with alcohol. Mary objected to this and Hilda came to see the “sin” of this; she finally came to refuse Ken also. Unfortunately for Hilda, the Temperance referendum was being fought at the same time and the McQuesten family was very active in the fight. Also, alcoholism had been a major factor in Isaac’s life, his illness, bankruptcy and death.
Sep 24, 1902. TO CALVIN FROM HIS MOTHER. “So when I told her all that I had found out from Ken, she was thunderstruck & at once said “I would never do it!” and became at once just as determined as I was; so do not think I have coerced her, she entirely agreed with me, for she has an equal horror of these drinking men.”
RUBY’S ENGAGEMENT TO DAVID ROSS:
Aug 20, 1906. TO REV. CALVIN FROM HIS MOTHER. “Would you believe it he had come to propose to Ruby. . . he is only 24 and three years younger than Ruby. . . .But it seems to me that Ruby ought to do better than this, she is very attractive and it has always been a grievous disappointment that she never seems to meet any one worth looking at . . . He is such a boy too and has a weak face sometimes I feel angry at his presumption. . . . it seems as if Ruby were fitted for a fine place in a higher sphere.” David Ross wanted to take Ruby out West and take a homestead and build a log cabin for his mother and sisters and another sister’s children. She demanded that they wait two years, for David to become established, however that is also exactly the length of time until Tom’s graduation, after which Ruby’s salary would no longer be needed for Tom.
Mary was disgusted at David for being irresponsible since his widowed mother and his sisters were all working and he had not yet been able to look after them. No doubt this was a veiled comment to her own sons about their responsibility to their mother and sisters before considering taking a wife. This likely worked on Tom when he considered getting married. When Ruby was being treated for consumption out West, the romance was finally terminated and Ruby states that she burned all of David’s letters and that the affair was finally over. Her health was already failing at that time.
TOM’S ENGAGEMENT TO ISABEL ELLIOT:
At Tom’s graduation in 1907, Mary (mother) heard that he was engaged but did not know to whom.
Isabel Elliot tried to gain Mary’s favour by having a miniature painted of her, but she was repeatedly not satisfied with it and finally told Tom to tell Isabel that he was not yet pleased with it. Tom finally broke off with Isabel Elliott and there is no other evidence that he ever considered another engagement. He went on to devote himself to the “City Beautiful” and the “Social Gospel” movements and fulfilled himself in that way. . It is said of Tom that “his bride is the parks’ system.”
RUBY SUPPORTING TOM THROUGH UNIVERSITYAND HER ILLNESS AND DEATH
Nov 16, 1900. Ruby is sending money to Tom and he is not replying. There are many other letters in which Ruby is sending money to Tom. She also sent money home for a new sewing machine.
May 22, 1908. Letter stating that the doctor says that Ruby’s illness is just bronchitis, and Mary is relieved, but this is not the case.
MARY’S LETTER ABOUT HER PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND HER RELIANCE ON HIM TO PROVIDE. HER REALIZATION THAT SHE HAS BEEN “SELF-SEEKING.”
Sep 17, 1906. MOTHER TO CALVIN: “You say you have worried often about the girls, and I have too. Though I know it has been very wrong, for I feel that if I had attained to the perfect condition of Christian faith, I should feel quite at rest, believing that God plans all things for us with Divine wisdom. I confess that having brought up the family as nearly as possible to the way I thought pleasing to Him, I had fully anticipated that He would provide for them. Well, when I come to think it over, there has been much of self-seeking in my service, I am afraid, and most certainly, we do not know what is really best for us. Hilda says from what she has seen of her friends' married life, she would not be married for anything. I am afraid M.[Mary] is not fitted for it at all, she has not head enough and there would be trouble. Altogether it does not do for one to plan or worry, for we do not know what may come. It does seem sometimes, as if it had been a great cross to have been burdened with this property during the best years of our lives, and just when we seem most to need money, but then we do not know..”
RECOGNITION OF TOM’S WORK AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Jul 11, 1947. Tom as Christopher Wren from Rev. Ketchen. “Very few men can point to so many public benefits of enduring value. Like Christopher Wren's, your monuments are beauty spots.”
Feb 27, 1948. Tom as RBG founder and first President, from Dr. Laking to Rev. Calvin. "The death of Dr. T.B. McQuesten, K.C.,LL.D., in January, has removed from this Board the one member whose name has been practically synonymous with its work from the beginning. At this first Board meeting since his death we desire therefore to place on the minutes some formal expression of our sense of loss and of our appreciation of the fact that the Royal Botanical Gardens can never outlive the debt owed to him who was both founder and first president. Our late president's intense love for this city and its surrounding district, and his concern for the protection and enlargement of the Gardens property, are largely responsible for the existence and progress of the Gardens. His personal friendship and personal loyalty have been known to and valued by all who have worked with him. We who were his friends and who now must continue to administer the vast properties accumulated under his leadership wish to pay this tribute of personal affection and corporate gratitude."
Mar 6, 1906. Tom’s letter to mother giving her credit for his character. Mary has written on the envelope, "A very precious letter." Tom wrote: "Surely a man was never blessed with a better mother in every way. . . .You seem to demand the best of a man. . . . we know distinctly the difference between right and wrong, and I don't know that any mother can achieve a much higher result . . . . You were always thoroughly consistent. . . . I have seen you actually stinting yourself so that we could have more. . . . I do know my dear mother that if I am going to achieve anything and come to you for commendation, I must come with clean hands."
TOM’S PUBLIC STATEMENT ABOUT HIS MOTHER AT HER DEATH.
Dec 7, 1934. SHE LOVED BEAUTY: “When beauty is created, its author is entitled to gratitude and so is a person who inspired it. The late Mrs. M. B. McQuesten, who died this morning, was the inspiration behind many of Hamilton's most treasured beauty spots — spots that are the basis for a large part of our civic pride. True, it was her son, Hon. T. B. McQuesten, who played a leading part in bringing whose places of beauty into being. But Mr. McQuesten himself has told of the large part his mother played in molding his tastes, his standards and his plan of life. Not the least of her contributions to him was to give him love for beauty that was large enough to spread out and influence the appearance of a great city. Mrs. McQuesten was well-loved within her immediate circle of friend. She loved flowers. About her she gathered possessions that were rich in charm and character. And so even those who did not know her very well have reason for regret at her passing. Large areas of Hamilton are, in the last analysis, a reflection of her love for beauty.”
Jul 7, 1923. To Rev. J. W. MacNamara from Thomas B. McQuesten. Tom’s letter objects to women as organizers. In the letter, Tom strongly objects to the appointment of a woman in the role of organizer. This statement is rather astounding in light of his statements about his mother, his indebtedness to his sister, Ruby, and the fact that his mother was a great organizer both with her family and with the Women’s Missionary Societies, in which she was president for most of her adult life. Also, letters about the WFMS and “Gender Conflict” demonstrate that the women were excellent organizers and fund raisers. When the men saw how successful the women were, they wanted control over the funds; although the women resisted, they were finally coerced into complying.
more PROSE about Poetry . . .