Writing in the December, 2016 issue of Hispania magazine, Elena Retzer of California State University has declared that Robert Thomson's Love Songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and Learning (Godwin 2015) "is an inspired project that could successfully be used to add an enjoyable cultural component in many beginning, intermediate or even advanced Spanish language classes in the hands of a skilled teacher." This 126-page book of lessons on how to learn Spanish uses twenty-four Spanish-language boleros, tangos, rancheras and other love songs (on an accompanying CD) as the guide. The reader and listener is guided to enjoy such classics as Gardel's "Mi Buenos Aires querido" and "El día que me quieras," as well as Agustín Lara's "Granada" and Ernesto Lecuona's "Siboney" (both in Plácido Domingo's rendition), as well as the birthday standard "Las maáanitas." Website: www.godwinbooks.com

With a Ph.D in Romance languages from Yale, Robert Thomson of Victoria is also the publisher of two books by his great-uncle George Godwin. [See George Godwin entry.] He has also made a third book by Godwin available via his internet site [listed below].

A former professor or Romance languages, Thomson is also the co-author of a book by Aqlim Barlas who emigrated from Pakistan in 1984. Despite a broken marriage and little money, she scraped together a down payment for a house and rented it out, bought another using her Visa line of credit, rented the basement and lived upstairs with her son. She later bought six houses and four condos and made one million dollars. Her story is explained in Hot Tips for Real Estate Investors (Godwin Books 1993 $8.95), co-authored by Thomson, the publisher.

He also wrote and published Multi-Sensory, Audio-Visual Teaching for the Language Arts: How to Integrate Songs, Musicals, Movies, and Magazines into Your Program of English Language and Literature. (Godwin 2003).

Earlier he wrote and self-published a grammar of operatic Italian entitled Italian for the Opera (1992). It was followed by Operatic Italian (Godwin Books 2008), a much larger work on the same subject, three times longer, with photos throughout. In the summer 2009 edition of "Opera America," Alexa B. Antopol reviewed Operatic Italian: "Robert Thomson attempts to bring clarity to the Italian language as used in librettos by using a variety of teaching techniques and visual aids, including hundreds of memorable extracts from operas; accurate word-for-word translations; phonetics and stress patterns; detailed exercises; commentary about historical background, operatic themes, composers' lives, nuances contained in the original Italian which do not translate well, if at all, into English; and links to specific audio-visual examples on Web sites." A reviewer for NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing noted in Journal of Singing, "The essential component of a successful teacher is a deep knowledge of a subject. A great pedagogue, however, is one who combines this expertise with a love for the material so palpable that it inspires students. Thomson is such a teacher. Aficionados of Italian opera, as especially singers and their teachers, should own this book.Operatic Italian has a rightful place next to the Italian dictionary and handbook of Italian diction on the shelf of every serious student of opera."

Godwin has also self-published Sidestepping the Power Struggle (A Manual for Parents). Visit
http://www.godwinbooks.com or


Home Study Projects and New Ideas for English Language Arts (Godwin 2020) $30 9780995876026

Florence, Dante and Me: A Canadian Student Goes Italian for a Year, 1960-61 (Godwin 2017) 978-0-9958760-0-2

Love Songs in Spanish for Enjoyment and learning (2015) $25 plus postage ($5) www.godwinbooks.com 978-0-9696774-9-9

Learn Spanish with Love Songs (2014). [See foreword below]

Operatic Italian (Godwin Books 2009). A clear, lively guide for understanding and enjoying the language of Verdi, Puccini, etc. Illustrated. 453 pages 0-9696774-7-2 $30 plus postage ($5) if applicable.

Hot Tips for Real Estate Investors (Godwin Books, 1996, revised edition). Written for the home buyer. Offers advice every step of the way, from how to choose a realtor to how to negotiate the lowest price. Based on co-authors' (Thomson and Barlas) vast experience. Praised by Mike Grenby, Canadian syndicated columnist and financial expert. Illustrated.

Italian for the Opera (Godwin Books 1991) 150 pages

Wing of the Raven
$25 (Can) or $20 (US).
Postage: $6 for Canada, $6 (US) for the USA.

"Mauriac and Psychoanalysis", in "Literature and Psychology" Rhode Island College: 1988 (XXXIV, no. 2). Article by Robert S. Thomson, Ph.D.(Yale)

Tel: 250-370-7753 rthomson@islandnet.com


The Eternal Forest (1929), by George Godwin, Thomson's great-uncle on his mother's side. Out of print since 1929. Republished by Godwin Books, 1994.

Why Stay We Here? (1930), the sequel to The Eternal Forest, was republished in a critical edition (Godwin Books, 2002). It deals with Godwin's experiences as an infantry officer in France in World War I.


[BCBW 2017] "Advice" "Music" "Publishing"


This review appeared in number 82 (Sept. 2018) of the NECTFL REVIEW, pp. 80-82 (NECTFL: The Northeast Conference for Teachers of Foreign Languages.

Thomson, Robert Stuart. Florence, Dante and Me: A Canadian Student Goes Italian for a Year, 1960-61. Victoria, British Columbia: Godwin Books, 2017. ISBN: 9-780995-876002.

This book compiles forty-four of the letters that the author wrote to his fiance during an academic year abroad, in 1960-61. A student at the University of British Columbia, he had won a scholarship from the Italian government and used it to attend lectures at the Universite  per Stranieri in Perugia, during his first two months, and then to take courses (taught in Italian and French) at the Universite  di Firenze. Over eighty black and white photographs are interspersed throughout, and there are endnotes elaborating on a number of details. This book would appeal to anyone interested in accounts of a person's growth, especially through a prolonged encounter with another culture, and it would be especially valuable for undergraduates preparing to spend time abroad, because it exemplifies (and quietly encourages) the kind of reflective immersion that would enable them to benefit richly from the various opportunities presented to them, especially exposure to new ways of thinking. It would definitely help them realize that by doing their best to use the language of the country they were living in, and by continually broadening their knowledge, they could not just gain insights into history and culture but, even more importantly, forge very special friendships. I knew a college student a number of years ago who went off to Florence for a semester but spent all his time with other Americans, instead of interacting with Italians; I wish he had read a book like this one, because it might well have given him the push (aka the kick in the butt) he needed to take risks and plunge into all the rewarding challenges that surrounded him daily. The younger Robert Thomson is enthusiastic, bright, and observant as he takes in various aspects of Florence, reads more and more Italian literature, especially Dante, and travels throughout the country. For example: There was a magnificent rainbow this evening. It stretched in a perfect arc from Fiesole to the mists over Belvedere. There was a fine spray in the warm May air and the city's towers and palaces were lit in gold. (208) Or, as Thomson bikes north of Florence: I passed the Grotta della Madonna, a cave with a statue to the Madonna in front of it. Nearby is a waterfall and an ancient broken-down mill beside it. God knows how old! It could be from Dante's time. I can well imagine him trudging along this very road at the beginning of his life-long exile from Florence. Maybe it goes as far back as the Romans, or even the Etruscans! You can feel the history over here. It's mysterious and powerful. (101) And when Thomson visits Pompeii, he notes: The walls of the buildings are dark and somber, often with jagged tops. In contrast, the grass (where there is any) is lush and very green. This place is unlike any I have ever seen. It has an eerie, tragic atmosphere. (132) The letters, taken as a whole, convey a great deal of information about many different topics-from singing lessons to a suit made to order, from the library where Thomson studies to the noisy street below his rented room, from cultural differences to musical performances, from paintings he discovers to the struggles and suffering of Italians under the Nazis (still quite fresh in their memories because only fifteen years have passed since the war ended). What is especially striking and endearing is that he is befriended, warmly, by a number of Florentines. One of them, a fellow renter named Colonel Cugiani, knows well Thomson's growing passion for Dante and gives him a book of photographs entitled Il Paesaggio italico nella Divina Commedia, inscribed "All'amico canadese Roberto, amico di Dante, l'amico fiorentino Colonnello Franco Cugiani in segno di stima e di affetto." (122). His landlady thoughtfully brings him coffee and poetry, in addition to including him in her circle of acquaintances; and he spends a week just outside Naples with the family of another renter, a violinist named Gino. Thomson's stay with them exemplifies a particularly striking feature of the letters: he grows as a person during his ten months abroad. Seeing the tremendous affection that Gino and others show his mother and grandmother makes Thomson realize how special and important family can be (his own background, about which he is very candid, is saddening). Or during a trip to Rome, he becomes aware, for the very first time, that the ancient world actually existed, instead of being "a bit academic, unreal, and unconvincing." (43). "At the moment I harbor no doubts whatever about the reality of these ancient civilizations. I have changed and it has come through real physical contact." (44). Even more notable is that reading Dante makes him deeply rethink his life: "Looking back on my schools and family I realize that there was almost no discussion of the Bible or values. Realizing this has come as a jolt and I have Dante to thank for it." (70-71). The strong impression made on Thomson by the Commedia is clear in reference after reference, whether brief or more extensive, throughout the letters. There are two aspects of the book to be aware of that can distract from its many interesting descriptions and observations. As a 20- or 21-year-old, the author of the letters is still coming into his own, both as a person and as a writer, and so there are more than a few moments when he makes brief comments that are stilted, such as "When nature mixed the best of artistic talents in one man, surely it was Botticelli!" (54) or, as he compares the French and English versions of Canada's national anthem, "How pale and insipid is our version in English" (157); or "How arrogant and full of myself I have been at times! I cringe!" (71). His sincerity is clear, but the reader may wish he would convey it in a more natural, less precious way. More pervasive is a limitation posed by the book's format: since these are letters, rather than essays, each one keeps shifting its focus, pausing over or just touching on various aspects of Thomson's year abroad, and the lack of sustained discussion can be tiring - though never tiresome. It may be best to read the book twenty pages at a time, to stay focused on all its positive qualities. There is no question that Florence, Dante and Me will fulfill the hope that Robert Thomson expresses near the end of his introduction: "I will feel very gratified if this book inspires some people to take the trouble to learn the language of the country they travel to. Such knowledge will bring understanding of the culture and enable them to connect with people in a more meaningful way." (ix).

-Stephen Westergan, Professor of the Humanities, St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin