Marius Barbeau A glimpse of Canadian Culture (1883-1969)
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Barbeau's Story

Université Laval (2)

My living and school expenses were covered by what I made as a stenographer and (for now) as a clerk and in the militia during the summer. At Mrs. Sanschagrin's, in my room, I was warmly given food and shelter, much better than ever before. Mrs. Sanschagrin was a wonderful person who loved pleasure and meetings. I would go to the evening events. I had girl friends, short-term and not very seriously. At Leclerc's, I made the acquaintance of two girls, the two beautiful Rousseau. In addition, one evening, I met Blanche Pouliot, pretty and petit, with whom I would a little later become infatuated to tears. The last time I went to see her at her parents (her father was a large store owner), she would inform me that she had decided to enter the convent shortly.

Her vocation was there. I was broken-hearted. I kissed her on the cheek (for the first and last time), and she told me (melodramatically) "Respect what belongs to God!" She stayed with the nuns for a good number of years, then she left and got married. During these years in law (second, third and fourth) I had no girl friend whom it was worth talking about very seriously. However, I would visit several friends' homes especially at Rudolphe Audet, where I would go on Sunday evenings. The good friends that I had were the Baillairgé, from a family of sculptors and architects, which I later studied. There was Ruth, Naomi and Hagar, daughters of the architect (deceased) Charles Baillairgé. I was well received there and would go there often.

I had my meals at "Boss" Dionne's, near the University where I had friends and acquaintances. Gradually I became good friends with Louis Saint-Laurent, who was a student in law, one or two years ahead of me. With Saint-Laurent there was often Albert Sévigny and Jules-Arthur Gagné, also my friends. These last two became tops in their fields, in politics and in their profession, judges, and so forth. Saint-Laurent became, rather late in his life, Prime Minister of Canada. His friendship was to have significant consequences for him; he married my girl friend Jeanne Renaud whom I had introduced to him at Saint-Francois, where I had brought her with me. And for me, she led me to the Rhodes Scholarship. Here's how.

During some of my pastime (perhaps in the summer) I read "Intelligence" by Taine. This work had a profound influence on me. Taine explained the psychological phenomenon of intelligence in humans: muscular system, nervous system, dorsal spine, rachidian bulb, lobes in the brain, ideas. Man, for him, is a natural phenomenon on earth, not a supernatural creation. Therefore, no Revelation, and so forth. While walking on the Terrasse of the city of Québec with Saint-Laurent and Sévigny, one evening (as we would do almost every nice evening), I endeavoured to tell my friends what intelligence was. All of a sudden, Louis (Saint-Laurent) turned to me indignantly and said "If that is what you believe, you will be damned!" That was all for the moment. A Sunday in September, while on the way to the Baillairgé in Saint-Michel de Bellechasse with Louis, we had two miles to walk. En route, Louis said to me, "Since you have such ideas and you want to continue these studies (like Taine), why don't you apply for a Cecil Rhodes Scholarship?"

I didn't know anything about this scholarship. The CRS started in Canada in 1904. In that year and in 1905 and 1906, a few applicants had been chosen and had left for Oxford. In 1905, a scholarship was offered at Université Laval from the city of Québec and Montréal together. The offer was refused because they did not want to send a young Catholic French Canadian to a English Protestant university. But in September, 1906, they decided otherwise and to risk sending one! The person favoured as the personal choice of the rector of the University, Mgr. Olivier-Elzéard Mathieu, was Louis Saint-Laurent, a model and serious law student. Louis declined the honour, since he had other future projects such as practicing law (and perhaps he was already betrothed to his girl friend Jeanne Renaud from the Beauce). He told me, "Go see Mgr. Mathieu. Perhaps he will be interested."

I went to see Mgr. Mathieu. He took me in his arms and hugged me. Agreed! He formed a committee of five important people, including the Lieutenant Governor and had me elected. My future had changed in one fell swoop! I was with the little birds! But it was still winter. I could hardly believe it and I asked Mgr. Mathieu to delay the announcement for a few months. There was no discussion of the subject. My father was happy. My mother was near death. She died on December 1, 1906, at the age of 48. My father was at the bedside. When she breathed her last breath, he let out a heavy sob (sigh) . She would have wanted to live to see me continue my studies at Oxford.

In June 1907, I took my law exams at Université Laval, and I received an LL.L. Early in July, I took my exams and was admitted to the Bar of the Province of Québec. My father came down to the city of Québec to see me for a last time before my departure. I needed money. My Aunt Catherine Nash, still a benefactor of our family (and rich) had given my father the few hundred dollars needed for the trip to Europe. He gave me the money when we were together on the Terrasse across from the Château. And before he left me he let out a heavy sigh again. Just after I gave my exams to the Bar of Québec, I left at the city of Québec (August 16, 1907) on the "Victorian" of the Allan Lines-a magnificent boat. I was off to search of happiness. My dream had come true.

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