Edwin John Pratt

Fonds number:
Title: Edwin John Pratt
Dates of Material:
[1882?] - 2000
1.76 m textual records
114 photographs: b&w
17 photographs: col.
10 photographs: sepia
53 photographs: 35 mm b&w negatives
14 photographs: 4x5 inch b&w negatives
1 photograph: 12 x 9.5 cm b&w negative
6 photographs: 35 mm col. negatives
6 photographs: 35 mm col. slides
3 pencil drawings
4 ink drawings
6 printed drawings
1 painting
23 artefacts
21 reels of microfilm
3 sheets of microfiche
25 audio cassettes
28 audio reels
40 audio discs
Introduction to the Collection

The collection contains manuscripts and published works by E.J. Pratt, as well as notebooks, drafts of poems, lecture notes, correspondence, critical works and theses, photographs and memorabilia. Also contains personal material including degrees, medals, artwork, and programs and invitations for various events.

Canadian poet and Professor of English at Victoria University, Pratt was a founder and the first editor (1936–1943) of the Canadian Poetry Magazine, on the Editorial Board, Saturday Night, member of the Canadian Authors’ Association and the Arts and Letters Club. He won the Governor-General’s medal for The Fable of the Goats and Other Poems (1937), Brébeuf and His Brethren (1940), and Towards the Last Spike (1952). The poet was also awarded the Lorne Pierce Gold Medal for distinguished services to Canadian literature; the Canada Council medal for distinction in literature (1961), and many more.

Accessing the Collection

There are two ways to access parts of the collection:

Guide to the E.J. Pratt Papers:
A detailed finding aid to the papers in the collection. The finding aid has six series. For material relating to Viola Whitney Pratt, see the Viola Whitney Pratt Fonds. For material relating to Claire Pratt, see the Claire Pratt Fonds.

University of Toronto Catalogue:
For catalogued items in the E.J. Pratt and general collections at Victoria University Library, as well as the E.J. Pratt Pamphlet Collection.

Biographical sketch

Edwin John Dove Pratt (1882–1964) was an academic and a poet. He was born in Western Bay, Newfoundland, the son of Reverend John Pratt and Fanny Pitts Knight. He married Viola Leone Whitney on August 20, 1918 and they had a daughter, Mildred Claire, born on March 18, 1921. He died in Toronto, Ontario on April 26, 1964.

Pratt was educated at St. John’s Methodist College (1888–1901) with a three-year interruption. He received a B.A. in 1911 at Victoria College, University of Toronto, a M.A. at the University of Toronto, and a B.D. at Victoria University, both in 1913. He was ordained as a minister in 1913, and received a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in 1917.

Pratt was an Assistant Minister at various churches in Streetsville, Ontario (1913–1920). He was Demonstrator-Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Toronto (1913–1920), joined the faculty of the Department of English at Victoria College in 1920, and was promoted to Professor (1930), Senior Professor (1938), and Professor Emeritus (1953). He was appointed Visiting Professor, summer sessions, at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Queen’s University in Kingston, and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He served as Literary Adviser to the Editorial Board of Acta Victoriana and was the founder and first editor (1936–1943) of The Canadian Poetry Magazine.

Pratt was a member of the Royal Society of Canada, the Editorial Board of Saturday Night, the Canadian Authors’ Association, the Empire Club of Canada and the Arts and Letters Club. He received several awards, including a Governor General’s Award in 1937, 1940 and 1952, the Canada Council Award in 1957, the Civic Award of Merit from the City of Toronto in 1959, and the Canada Council Medal for distinction in literature in 1961. In 1946, he was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George by King George VI.

Pratt’s publications include: Rachel: A Sea Story of Newfoundland in Verse (1917), Newfoundland Verse (1923), The Witches’ Brew (1926), Titans (1926), The Iron Door: An Ode (1927), The Roosevelt and the Antinoe (1930), Many Moods (1932), The Titanic (1935), The Fable of the Goats and Other Poems (1937), Brébeuf and His Brethren (1940), Dunkirk (1941), Still Life and Other Verse (1943), They are Returning (1945), Behind the Log (1947), Ten Selected Poems (1947), Towards the Last Spike (1952), and Here the Tide Flows (1962).

Custodial history

E.J. Pratt’s records were acquired E.J. Pratt, Viola Whitney Pratt, Claire Pratt, the Provincial Archives of British Columbia, Margaret (Peggy) Brown, Concordia University, and from other unknown sources. 

The Viola Leone Whitney Pratt fonds was originally a unique collection that was then transferred into the Edwin John Pratt fonds. In 2016, it was subsequently moved back into its own separate collection.

Some pamphlets were originally acquired separate of the E.J. Pratt fonds, but were transferred to the collection based on their relation to E.J. Pratt. They were also catalogued in the University of Toronto catalogue as part of the E.J. Pratt Special Collections, where this pamphlet collection is updated. In 2017, the entire pamphlet collection was transferred out of the archives and became part of E.J. Pratt Special Collections, forming the pamphlet collection. Series 7 of this fonds lists pamphlets collected and added to the E.J. Pratt fonds but are located in the Pamphlet Collection. For a complete list of pamphlets in, as well as access to, this collection, refer to the University of Toronto Catalogue for location information.

E.J. Pratt's annotated copy of French's Acting Edition of Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff was donated by Margaret Rodgers.

Since its acquisition by the archives, the E.J. Pratt fonds has been revised in 1981, 2006, 2016, 2018 and 2022. The current finding aid is the most recent revision of the collection.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of E.J. Pratt’s records pertaining to his activities as a teacher, minister and poet. It contains manuscripts and published works by E.J. Pratt, as well as notebooks, drafts of poems, lecture notes, letters, critical works and theses, photographs and memorabilia.

The fonds is arranged in the following seven series:

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition

E.J. Pratt material acquired from E.J. Pratt in 1946–47; from Viola Pratt in 1964, 1967–68, 1978, 1980–82; from Claire Pratt in 1979; from the Provincial Archives of British Columbia in 1979; from Margaret (Peggy) Brown in 1980; from Concordia University in 1980; from an unknown source in 1988; and from various donors at unknown dates.

The handwritten poems in accession 2018.09 were received from Andrea Poole in 2016. Andrea is the daughter of Bill Poole, who was a friend of E.J. Pratt, and to whom Pratt dedicated the poems.

The annotated copy of Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff in accession 2022.01 was received from Margaret Rodgers in March 2022, who inherited it from her aunt, Marion Kearney. Kearney was a friend of Pratt's sister, and she purchased the book after finding it at a book sale.

The letters from E.J. Pratt to Herbert Davis in accession 2022.09 were received from Davis' son-in-law, Dr. Graham Falconer, in May 2018. The letters remained in the Chief Librarian's office until July 2022.

Language of material


Access restrictions

Restrictions on access: Some restrictions on access. See file lists for individual restrictions.

Terms governing use and reproduction

Individual files are governed by terms of use and reproduction. Individual audio cassettes cannot be published without the permission of the speakers and of Ottawa University. See file list Series 6.

Part of the material (Box 1–10) is available on microfilm (in Box 30), which researchers are requested to use unless an enquiry can be satisfied only by consulting original documents. For further information contact the Chief Librarian. See also the file list.

Finding aids

File list available at series level


No further accruals are expected.

Related material

University of Calgary Library, Special Collections: Letter to Miss Urquhart (reference: ULM 199-26).

Biographical material relating to E.J. Pratt (correspondence, photocopied; article, reprinted; clippings) is held at Victoria University Archives.

Access points

Provenance access point:
Pratt, E.J. (Edwin John), 1882–1964
Pratt, Mildred Claire, 1921–1995
Pratt, Viola Whitney, 1892–1984


The fonds is stored in 36 boxes.

Location of originals

Individual files contain photocopies of originals. For location of originals see description in file lists.

General notes

The material in Box 1–10 is available on microfilm (in Box 30).

Related special collections at Victoria University Library

Viola Whitney Pratt fonds contains records related to E.J. Pratt's writings and personal life.

Mildred Claire Pratt fonds contains records related to her parents, Edwin John Pratt and Viola Leone Whitney, which she inherited after their deaths.

The E.J. Pratt Pamphlet Collection can be accessed through the University of Toronto Catalogue. Some pamphlets in this collection are listed in the finding aid for Series 2 and Series 5

Related resources

Pitt, David G. E.J. Pratt: The Truant Years, 1882–1927. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984.
A definitive biography of E.J. Pratt, in two volumes.

Pitt, David G. E.J. Pratt: the Master Years, 1927–1964. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

Frye, Northrop. “A Poet and a Legend.” Vic Report, vol. 7, no. 3, 1979, pp. 6–7.

The Complete Poems and Letters of E.J. Pratt: A Hypertext Edition
An online supplement to to The Collected Works of E.J. Pratt, created by Professor Elizabeth Popham, Trent University. 

E.J. Pratt from the Canadian Poetry Online
Includes a biography of the poet and a selection of his poems. 

E.J. Pratt from the Literature Resource Center
Contains biographies, literary criticism, overviews and bibliographies of E.J. Pratt and his work.

Poet E.J. Pratt on Turning 75 from CBC Archives.