William Lyon Mackenzie King

By Robert Macgregor Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
CASUAL EMPLOYMENT

THE THREE YEARS following the defeat of the Laurier Government on September 21, 1911, saw Mackenzie King at loose ends: he had involuntarily joined the number of those who take work where it happens to be available. Even a position as an ordinary member of Parliament was denied him. He had committed himself to politics; he had enjoyed rapid and phenomenal success; and now he was to experience the uncertainties which always attend the life of an ex-Cabinet Minister. He also had to earn a living.

The great difficulty, of course, was that he had few genuine interests elsewhere which he could rely upon and turn to useful account. He dismissed peremptorily the possibility of making connections with a business corporation. "Business," he wrote Violet Markham on December 17, 1911, "is mere money-making, and to this I do not propose to devote my talents even if I starve." He turned down an editorial post on the Toronto Star at $3,000 a year; but entered into an arrangement to write occasional articles for the New YorkOutlook and other magazines. These, for some unknown reason, came to very little. For a time he considered writing a biography of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and secured for this Sir Wilfrid's agreement and even encouragement.1 After a little work, however, his enthusiasm petered out, and this project also was gradually abandoned.* Academic work was potentially

____________________
*
King liked to consider himself as an author, and he was fond of noting the subjects of possible books he might undertake to write. In his college days, for example, he was contemplating an economic history of Canada, an account of the development of the Canadian labour movement, and allied ventures in social economics. In 1909 (to take a later period) he spoke of the possibility of his writing in the future a life of his grandfather ( W.L.M.K. to Violet Markham, July 4, 1909), and was to an indefinite degree committed to a "book on the Opium traffic" ( George H. Doran to W.L.M.K., Feb. 18, 1909). All the King men-John, Max, and W. M. -- wrote books.

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