North American Scholar

MACKAY, Louis Alexander

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1901-02-27
  • Born City: Hensall
  • Born State/Country: ON
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1982-06-24
  • Death City: Berkeley
  • Death State/Country: CA
  • Married: Constance Charlesworth, 29 June 1928.
  • Education:

    B.A. U. of Toronto, 1923; M.A. 1924; B.A. Oxford (Balliol Coll.) (Rhodes Scholar), 1928.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. to asst. prof. Lat. U. Toronto, 1928-41; asso. ed. The Canadian Forum, 1930-33; asst. prof, to prof. U. British Columbia, 1941-8; prof. Lat. U. California (Berkeley), 1948-68; Guggenheim fell., 1945; pres. APA, 1959-60.

  • Publications:

    The Freedom of Jean Guichet in Canadian Plays from Hart House Theatre, ed. V. Massey (Toronto, 1927); "Phaselus Ille Iterum (Catullus CIV)," CP 25 (1930) 77-8; Viper's Bugloss (poems) by John Smallacombe (pseud.) (Toronto, 1938); "A Syntactical Experiment of Sallust," CP 36 (1941) 280; "On Patavinity," CP 38 (1943) 44-5; The Wrath of Homer (Toronto, 1948); The Ill-Tempered Lover, and Other Poems (Toronto, 1948); "Notes on Lucretius," UCPCP 13 (1950) 433-45 (repr. New York, 1971); "Latent Irony in the Melian Dialogue," Studies Robinson, 2:570-2; "Tacitus Agricola 36.3," Studies Norwood, 224-8; "Aristotle Rhetoric 111,16,11 (1417bl2-20)," AJP 74 (1953) 281-6; "Aristotle Poetics 1455b7-8, 1456a7-9," AJP 75 (1954) 300-2; "Notes on Lucretius," AJP 77 (1956) 61-7; "Janus," UCPCP 15 (1956) 157-82; "Notes on Juvenal," CP 53 (1958) 236-9; "Lucan, I, 280-285," AJP 79 (1958) 183-7; "Horace, Augustus, and Ode, 1,2," AJP 82 (1961) 166-7; "Odes, 1, 16 and 17: O matre pulchra . . . , Velox amoenum," AJP 83 (1962) 298-300; "Propertius, II, 24A," AJP 89 (1968) 72-6.

  • Notes:

    During the 20 years that he taught in Canada, MacKay was both Latinist and poet and published in both fields. Once he moved to the University of California for his last 20 years of teaching, he devoted himself primarily to scholarship in Latin literature. He was not a man to write books. He liked to pursue smaller problems in a variety of Latin (and Greek) poets, both literary and textual. His articles regularly display his special combination of sensitive perception and acute, often witty, imagination; that same combination made his public lectures quite scintillating. As a teacher, he functioned best in small classes where he and the students read the Latin texts closely, questioning and probing the acceptability of the printed text and inquiring into the meaning of the Latin author. Although he used to tell with a smile how he himself once fell asleep while lecturing, few students ever nodded in his sparkling classes.MacKay's strong commitment to being a poet undoubtedly affected his deep sympathy with the Latin poets. And his love of the Latin poets carried over into his poems. There is both a recognizably personal and strongly Catullan quality about this passage:


    Ask me not how much is true
    In all this—as if I knew!
     Other men before my time  
    Have wonderfully lied in rhyme
     Nor likely knew, no more than I,
    Which was truth and which was lie.
    Damn the meaning! Take the sound!
    It's words that make the world go round.


    In a pinch, he would be satisfied with the sound, but, as poet and teacher and curious reader in the most diverse kinds of literature, ancient and modern, he would rarely stop there. After all, the thought that poets lie and do not always know what is truth is an idea of significant meaning.

  • Sources:

    Fontenrose, 64; W. S. Anderson, APA Newsletter (Fall 1983) 3.

  • Author: William S. Anderson