Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Defence of Fred Taylor

In this morning's National Post Robert Fulford has written a review of John Virtue's new book published by McGill-Queen's University Press which is entitled Fred Taylor: Brother in the Shadows. The review is entitled "Bitter Fred turned red: Lazy communism and E.P. Taylor's little brother" (can be read here). Mr. Fulford's article paints my uncle Fred (actually my maternal grandmother's cousin), an artist based in Montreal and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, in a highly negative light Seems there is not single good thing to be said about him. According to Fulford he was unprincipled because (the way Fulford depicts it) his political commitment to Stalinism was easily terminated when my Aunt Florence (his mother) cut off his allowance, his paintings were lousy, he was an angry and petty man who treated his wives and servants very badly and so he committed suicide in 1987 because he was "so displeased by his life."

 I haven't read the book itself yet, so Fulford may not be characterizing it entirely accurately.

Nevertheless I did carry on quite a lot of correspondence with Uncle Fred when I was a student in the 1970s. He always wrote back from Mexico promptly on airmail paper using a nib pen and brown ink. His nephew, a former Globe and Mail China correspondent and writer, Charles Taylor was an elder brother-like mentor figure to me when I was a student at Trinity College of the U of Toronto (we are both named "Charles" after our common ancestor, E.P. Taylor's grandfather, Charles Magee). Uncle Fred was a common topic of our conversation. Charles and I had great affection and respect for him, as did everybody else in the family insofar as I was aware.

 My grandmother, Mary Greaves went to stay with Uncle Fred and Aunt Nova in Mexico at least twice before she died in 1962. She was very fond of them both.

The facts given in Mr. Virtue's book may indeed be true, but we people who knew Fred Taylor well all loved him.

 And I very much admired his paintings, water colours and etchings too.

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