Note: This section contains detailed background information about the letters, where they were discovered, and their authors, Fred and Evelyn Alight. For a shorter overview of the letters, please see the Introduction.
The correspondence is between Frederick Stanley Albright and Elnora Evelyn (Kelly) Albright, and it spans the time of their early courtship, engagement and marriage and their separation in 1917 when Fred went overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War 1. Evidently they had known each other for some time before beginning to correspond.
Victoria College, University of Toronto (1904-1908) and received a B.A. in political science. After leaving university Fred moved to Calgary, Alberta where he completed a law degree, and was awarded the Thompson Prize in his final year. He practised as a barrister and solicitor with the law firm of Clarke, McCarthy, Carson and MacLeod and lectured in law at the University of Alberta.
After their marriage in June 1914 and honeymoon abroad, Fred and Evelyn set up home in Calgary. The pair was in London at the beginning of August in 1914 when war was declared and, like many others, made plans to return to Canada as soon as they could.
Fred felt compelled to write about events as they unfolded over that fateful weekend. (His account is placed after the letters.) The peaceful time which he and Evelyn enjoyed in Oxford a week before was now overshadowed by their present fears and uncertainties. He echoed the mood of the Empire when he wrote "The course of Right will triumph. Vicissitudes may come and defeats may be ours, but in the end we shall win because our cause is right."
There are frequent letters from September to December 1915 when Evelyn came east to visit her family. As there are no letters for 1916 it can be assumed that Fred and Evelyn had been reunited after this trip and were living in Calgary. On their second wedding anniversary, June 12, 1916, Fred wrote a short account of the changes that the last two years had brought to their lives. (This is placed after the letters.) In 1917, the letters were often written over several days and were filled with news of wartime events.
Evelyn was knowledgeable about plants and was fond of gardening. Both loved the outdoors and appreciated the changes of season and their letters present pleasing descriptions of the countryside at different times of the year. They shared a love of music and literature and quoted lines from their favourite poems. Occasionally they enclosed newspaper clippings of pieces they believed the other would appreciate. Fred loved the cultural and outdoor life of the west and hoped that Evelyn would feel at home there too. He considered Calgary fortunate to play host to world class musical and theatrical performers and to have its own symphony orchestra. He attended concerts and plays whenever he could. Although touring artists visited Toronto Evelyn had little opportunity to hear them, except on the Victrola. She played an active role in the church choir and was eager to pursue voice lessons. Both were interested in photography and occasionally exchanged snapshots. The correspondence displays the couple's patriotism to Great Britain and their distrust towards the United States and those who were not of Anglo-Saxon origin.
At times the long distance relationship started to show signs of strain as misunderstandings and annoyances arose. They struggled in their own way to seek compromise and resolution. They were candid with each other in all things and did not shy away from speaking the truth as it appeared to them. However, they took pains not to upset each other with their forthright views.
The couple wrote of their expectations for marriage and of the roles each would play. They both wanted children but, like many women of the time, Evelyn felt apprehensive about childbirth and was aware of its risks. Evelyn gives the impression of a woman ahead of her time. At first she seemed reluctant to want to embrace domesticity wholeheartedly. Fred understood her misgivings and reassured her. There was no hint of the war to come as the couple expressed their thoughts on what they believed would be a promising future.
Fred vividly portrayed his love for England in letters written when he was stationed there during the spring and summer of 1917. Whether exploring stately homes, cycling in the country through villages and market towns, or enjoying the freshness and beauty of his surroundings, his observations were perceptive and colourful. He gave eyewitness accounts of the damage caused by German air raids near his camp and in London. Fred was outspoken in his criticism of the military and expressed his disillusionment but knew that he could not say too much as letters might be censored. Evelyn voiced her own disenchantment with attitudes that friends and colleagues held about the war. Fred's letters from France graphically portrayed the daily life of soldiers and civilians in a country in the midst of war and he compared his impressions of the French countryside with those of England.
After only three years of marriage Evelyn found herself alone, with unfamiliar responsibilities and the constant worry of Fred's safety. With Fred overseas she studied law and was articled in his office. Evelyn's later letters suggest her growing maturity and her ability to tackle problems as they arose. No matter how discouraging the war reports, the couple remained optimistic about the outcome.
Spelling and punctuation in the correspondence have been retained to reproduce the original material as accurately as possible. Punctuation has been modified for purposes of clarification. Underlining in the letters has been kept. Fred and Evelyn often invented words but their meaning is usually clear from the context. They had various names for each other. Fred sometimes called Evelyn "Kiddie," or by her first name "Elnora," shortened to "Nora." Evelyn called Fred "Rusty," "Torchy" or "Ferd." Evelyn's family called her "Nona" or "Non," a name which Fred did not often use. Wherever possible the full names of people have been provided.
Comments relating to friends and fellow students in the notes at the end of each chapter are taken from: "It's Late and All the Girls Have Gone: An Annesley Diary 1907-1910" by Kathleen Cowen. Editors Aida Farras and David Knight. Toronto: Childe Thursday, 1984.
Since these letters were published, two diaries were discovered among the papers of Frances Gage. Ms Gage has kindly donated the diaries so that they may be added to the Website.
The first diary begins on November 14th, 1903 and ends on July 25 1908, a time in which Evelyn and her friends were preparing for College. The second diary was kept by Evelyn from October 18, 1908, when she was a student at Victoria College, Toronto and living at Annesley Hall, the women's residence. The diary ends on February 12, 1912.
Both diaries reveal a good deal about the development of Evelyn's character during mid-adolescence and young womanhood.Also included are three Letters of Recommendation, regarding Evelyn, written by Faculty Members at Victoria College in the summer of 1913 as well as a personal letter to Evelyn from Miss Margaret Addison, (Dean of Annesley Hall) which was enclosed with her Letter of Recommendation.