"If a pickle's worth a nickel, what's a dill worth?"

Ira Dilworth was, among many things, the most important literary conduit for Emily Carr's writing. His introduction to her work in Klee Wyck (1941) reveals the affectionate concern for her as both an artist and a friend. Few mentors and editors in British Columbia have been so influential on the career of a particular literary artist. Dilworth corrected Emily Carr's rather awkward spelling and grammar. He worked directly with her as an editor, spending three weeks with her on The Book of Small, for instance, and he also negotiated with her publisher. Dilworth effectively replaced the painter Lawren Harris as Carr's confidante. Dilworth and Carr were both intensely private people who were proud to be British Columbians. Despite their 20-year-age difference--or perhaps because of it--they were able sign their many letters to one another with 'love'. She confessed some of her most private feelings to him and sometimes playfully referred to him as 'My Beloved Guardian'. As Kate Braid has noted in her short but useful biography of Carr, she categorized her letters to him as N.N.T.A. (Not Necessary To Answer), R.A.L. (Read At Leisure), Red Hot Specials, Week Enders and Special Deliveries. In turn, she kept a bag of his letters by her bed to cheer her up.

Born in High Bluff, Manitoba on March 25, 1894, Dilworth grew up in the Okanagan and Victoria where he taught school from 1915 to 1926, completing his M.A. at Harvard in the process. As a high school principal in Victoria from 1926 to 1934, he became a trusted sponsor of Carr's work, later serving as her literary trustee. Living with his mother on Simcoe Street, Dilworth was a progressive presence in the city, hosting promising students that included Walter Gage, Roy Daniells and Jack Shadbolt, often playing them Schubert on the piano and encouraging them to write poetry. When he moved to Vancouver to teach English at UBC from 1934 to 1938, he was able to further promote Carr's career, gaining influence as director of CBC Radio's B.C. broadcasting from 1938 to 1946. He ultimately became director of the English language CBC network in 1956. Dilworth had studied at Harvard under George Lyman Kittredge and his own protegé Roy Daniells became head of the UBC English department. Ira Dilworth founded the CBC Vancouver Orchestra in 1938--still going strong more than 60 years later--and in 1945 he also became the first president of the Vancouver Community Arts Council, the first organization of its kind in North America. Dilworth died on November 23, 1962 in Vancouver.


Twentieth Century Verse, An Anthology Chosen By Ira Dilworth (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, and Company, 1945). Edited by Ira Dilworth.


Emily Carr--Her Paintings and Her Sketches, with a foreword by Ira Dilworth (Oxford University Press, 1946)

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2006] "Editor" "Carr"