Phelps, Arthur

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Phelps, Arthur

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  • Arthur Leonard Phelps

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Arthur Leonard Phelps was born on December 1, 1887 in Columbus, Ontario. He graduated with a B.A. from Victoria College, Toronto in 1913 before furthering his religious training. By 1915, he was an ordained minister and was married to Lila Irene Nicholls. He already possessed a literary and artistic flare publishing several poems and some illustrated and wildlife articles for the local Toronto newspaper and publications like The Christian Guardian and Canadian Courier. A chance encounter during a speaking engagement led to Phelps being offered a teaching position within the English Department at Cornell College in Iowa in 1920. The following year, Phelps embarked on a twenty-five year tenure at Wesley College at the University of Manitoba where he soon became the Chair of the English Department.

Phelps published two thin books of poetry: Poems (1921) and Bobcaygeon (1922). In 1941, material from his C.B.C. radio broadcasts were published as This Canada and These United States. In 1951, he published the critically acclaimed Canadian Writers with McClelland and Stewart. In a career that spanned over forty years on the air as both a radio and television journalist, Phelps came to be regarded as the foremost cultural critic of the era. Beginning with a series of "University on the Air" debates produced locally in Winnipeg in the late 1920s, Phelps quickly moved over to a fledgling Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In the early 1940s, he hosted the "Canadian Pattern", expounding on the theory that Canada needed its own National Arts Board to stimulate the country's artistic community. For seven years, he broadcast "Letter to Scotland" over the B.B.C. He wrote and delivered a monthly editorial comment for "Trans Canada Matinee" as well as serving as the host for the long running Sunday morning series "The Neighbourly News." Phelps was something of a pioneer in television as well, acting as a moderator on three shows during the 1960s: "It's Debatable", "Students Themselves", and "Canadian Question Bee".

In 1945, Phelps left United College (formerly Wesley College) to become the General Supervisor of the International Service, a position he held for two years before returning to academia. From 1947 to 1953, Phelps was a professor of English at McGill University. It was during this time that A.S.P. Woodhouse nominated him for entry into the Royal Society as a Man of Letters. Subsequent academic postings followed well into his retirement. He was a Special Lecturer at University of British Columbia in 1954-1955, a Special Lecturer at University of Toronto between 1956 and 1958, and taught Summer School at Queen's in 1959. In 1965, Phelps' wife Lila died. He married Margaret Duncan in 1968. Phelps died in 1970.


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Created by Lewis Stubbs (2000). Revised by N.Courrier (October 2018).




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