I happened upon “The Red Cow and Her Friends” by Peter McArthur (March 10, 1866 – October 28, 1924) recently, and found it so cute. It is nicely written with great feeling, as if the author was truly a friend to the animals which are his subjects.
The item which really intrigued me, however, was one sentence in a review I read, “Mr. McArthur is no mere æsthete, no lackadaisical dilettante, but is alive to his finger tips; and all his writings fairly tingle with life.” Isn’t that the loveliest thing to say about an author??
McArthur was an educated Canuck, father of five, and slogged the journalist – asst editor – editor -in-chief route. He wrote poetry and essays, while working a farm.
Raised on a farm by Scottish-immigrant parents, he developed a love of all things farm-ing , but I think his true love was writing. It is reported that his favorite writing spot was a tent in his woodlot. If there were more published works from him, I would consider comparing him to Thoreau, with more of a penchant for the fauna rather than the flora. Perhaps a touch of Alf Wight (known by his pen name of James Herriot), but from the owner’s perspective.
McArthur’s writing feels more like a diary, never meant to be read and certainly never criticized, due to the personal nature of his musings and observations. Because of this relaxed style, he has been chastised for hasty and uneven writing. However, his columns were for newspapers, which had a penchant for schedules and little eye to quality of content. His themes were of the common man, and salt-of-the-earth living. Garrison Keillor probably owes much to Mr. McArthur.
Pick up a copy of his collected essays today, and let me know what you think!