Duncan Campbell Scott

Citation metadata

Date: 2003
Document Type: Biography
Length: 1,207 words

Document controls

Main content

About this Person
Born: August 02, 1862 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Died: December 19, 1947 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Nationality: Canadian
Occupation: Civil servant
Updated:Sept. 5, 2003

Family: Born on August 2, 1862, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; died on December 19, 1947, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; son of William Scott (a Methodist minister) and Janet Campbell MacCallum; married Belle Warner Botsford (a concert violinist) in 1894 (died, 1929); married Desiree Elise Aylen in 1931; children: (first marriage) Elizabeth Duncan (died at age 12). Education: Wesleyan College, Stanstead, Quebec, 1877-79. Memberships: Ottawa Drama League (president), Canadian Authors Association (president, 1931-33).


Indian Branch (later Department of Indian Affairs), Ottawa, Canada: clerk third class, 1879-93, chief clerk, 1893-96, secretary of the department, 1896-1909, superintendent of Indian education, 1909-23, deputy superintendent general, 1923-32. Toronto Globe, columnist, 1892-93.


D. Litt., University of Toronto, 1922; Lorne Pierce Medal, 1927; LL.D., Queens University, 1939; fellow, 1899, honorary secretary, 1911-21, president, 1921-22, Royal Society of Canada; fellow, Royal Society of Literature (United Kingdom); C.M.G. (Companion, Order of St. Michael and St. George), 1934.




  • The Magic House, and Other Poems, Durie, 1893.
  • Labor and the Angel, Copeland & Day, 1898.
  • New World Lyrics and Ballads, Morang, 1905.
  • Via Borealis, Tyrrell, 1906.
  • Lundy's Lane and Other Poems, McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1916.
  • Beauty and Life, McClelland & Stewart, 1921.
  • The Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott, McClelland & Stewart, 1926.
  • The Green Cloister: Later Poems, McClelland & Stewart, 1935.
  • Selected Poems, edited by E. K. Brown, Ryerson, 1951.
  • Powassan's Drum: Selected Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott, edited by Raymond Souster and Douglas Lochhead, Tecumseh, 1985.
  • Addresses, Essays, and Reviews, Canadian Poetry Press (London, Canada), 2000.
  • Uncollected Short Stories, Canadian Poetry Press (London, ON), 2001.

Also wrote To the Canadian Mothers and Three Other Poems, 1916 and The Poems, 1926. Poetry also collected in Powassan's Drum: Poems, edited by Raymond Souster and Douglas Lochhead, 1985.


  • In the Village of Viger, Copeland & Day, 1896.
  • The Witching of Elspie: A Book of Stories, McClelland & Stewart, 1923.
  • Selected Stories of Duncan Campbell Scott, edited by Glenn Clever, University of Ottawa Press, 1972.
  • Untitled Novel, ca. 1905, University of Toronto Press, 1979.
  • (Editor with Pelham Edgar and W. D. LeSeur) The Makers of Canada, 22 volumes, Morang, 1903-08, 1916; revised edition, 12 volumes, edited by W. L. Grant, Oxford University Press, 1926.
  • John Graves Simcoe (biography), Morang, 1905.
  • (Contributor) Canada and Its Provinces, edited by Adam Shortt and Arthur Doughty, Glasgow, Brook, 1914.
  • Poetry and Progress (criticism), Royal Society of Canada, 1922.
  • (Author of foreword) Elise Aylen Roses of Shadow, Macmillan, 1930.
  • The Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada, Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 1931.
  • (Author of foreword and editor with E. K. Brown) Archibald Lampman At the Long Sault and Other New Poems, Ryerson, 1943.
  • The Circle of Affection, and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse, McClelland & Stewart, 1947.
  • (Editor and contributor) Archibald Lampman Selected Poems, Ryerson, 1947.
  • Some Letters of Duncan Campbell Scott, Archibald Lampman, & Others, edited by Arthur S. Bourinot, published by the editor in Ottawa, 1959.
  • More Letters of Duncan Campbell Scott, edited by Bourinot, published by the editor in Ottawa, 1960.
  • (With William Wilfred Campbell and Archibald Lampman) At the Mermaid Inn, University of Toronto Press, 1979.
  • The Poet and the Critic: A Literary Correspondence Between D. C. Scott and E. K. Brown, edited by Robert L. McDougall, Carleton University Press, 1983.

Also wrote the following plays: Pierre, produced 1921, published in Canadian Plays from Hart House Theatre I, edited by Vincent Massey, 1926; Prologue, produced 1923, published in The Poems, 1926; and Joy! Joy! Joy!, produced 1927.



Duncan Campbell Scott is best remembered as one of the leading poets of the "Confederation group." Writing in an era following the formation of the Dominion of Canada, Scott, along with poets Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, and Charles G. D. Roberts, helped create and cultivate a sense of national identity. Early cast as a regional writer of the northern wilderness, especially its Indian life, Scott is being reappraised in our time as a writer of great diversity with a complex, though unified, vision and a distinctly Canadian spirit.

Scott's lifelong interest in Native Americans began in his childhood when, with his missionary father, his family spent several years among the Indians. He later entered the civil service in Ottawa's Department of Indian Affairs, spending fifty-two years in a successful administrative career which culminated with his position as Deputy Superintendent General. On his frequent trips in this service, Scott became acquainted with the Canadian wilds and visited many Indian tribes, gaining insight into their customs and life. From these experiences came the material for his narrative poems of Indian life such as "At Gull Lake, 1810" and "The Forsaken." Scott's first poetry writing, however, was prompted by his close friendship with an associate in the civil service, the young poet Archibald Lampman. Together they collaborated with Wilfrid Campbell on a weekly literary column, "At the Mermaid Inn," which appeared in the Toronto Globe from 1892-93 and served as a guide to prevailing tastes. A collection of the columns was published as At the Mermaid Inn in 1979.

Scott has been praised as a lyric and as a dramatic poet. His best lyric poems are found in the collections The Magic House, and Other Poems, Beauty and Life, and The Green Cloister: Later Poems. Nature, its moods and seasons, are often the subject of these lyrics, and critics are unfailing in noting Scott's mastery at painting vivid, colorful descriptions and creating a mysterious and compelling atmosphere. Scott's dramatic poems are also highly regarded, especially the narrative pieces on Indian life. Violence emerges as an important theme in many of these narrative studies as well as in Scott's lyric poems. The dialectic of tension and resolution is, in fact, central to Scott's vision--from these conflicts, in nature and between people, issue beauty and peace. An outstanding example of such a dialectic is "The Piper of Arll," called by some Scott's masterpiece, which portrays the role of the artist and the nature of artistic experience. Filled with the tensions of contrasts (secluded bay and wild ocean, rustic shepherd and traveled sailors) and paradoxes (life in death, fulfillment in self-sacrifice), the poem culminates in a transcendent peace.

In the past decade Scott's stories, long neglected by critics, have begun to receive recognition. His two volumes of short stories,In the Village of Viger and The Witching of Elspie: A Book of Stories, are often contrasted with each other: the first, a prose counterpart to The Magic House, is light and pleasurable; the second, wild and bloody stories of the lonely fur-trade areas, is stark and harsh. Recent publication of Scott's only novel,Untitled Novel, ca. 1905, sheds new light on his prose, proving Scott an early innovator in the portrayal of the modern antihero. Some critics now conjecture that Scott may be remembered for his prose rather than his poetry.

Despite a long career as a civil servant, Scott received many awards in his lifetime that were a tribute to his literary artistry, including the Lorne Pierce Medal, which honors Canadians for significant achievements in imaginative or critical literature. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1899 and became its President in 1921. Scott is recognized as a commanding poet of distinct Canadian sensibility.




  • Antigonish, fall-winter, 1991-92, pp. 138-45.
  • Books in Canada, December, 1979, p. 10.
  • Canadian Literature, summer, 1959, pp. 13-25; autumn, 1962, pp. 43-52; summer, 1968, pp. 15-27; summer, 1979, pp. 142-43; winter, 1986, pp. 10-25, 27-40; autumn, 1990, pp. 176-79; summer, 1994, pp. 86-106.
  • Canadian Poetry, spring, 1988, pp. 49-67.
  • Dalhousie Review, April, 1927, pp. 38-46.
  • Essays on Canadian Writing, fall-winter, 1979-80, pp. 70-77.
  • Journal of Canadian Fiction, number 16, 1976, pp. 138-43.


Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000088803