#81 Clive Phillipps-Wolley
January 26th, 2016
LOCATION: The Grange, 3443 Drinkwater Road (originally Norcross Road), Duncan. Between Cowichan Valley Highway and Somenos Road.
The only B.C. writer to be knighted, Sir Clive Phillipps-Wolley, owned this hunting lodge-styled home that was designed by renowned architect Samuel Maclure in 1911. Phillipps-Wolley took possession in 1912 and was buried in Duncan in the St. Peter’s Anglican Church cemetery in 1918. At the time of his death, Sir Clive Phillipps-Wolley’s estate was valued at $174,000. Clive Drive in Victoria, once the access road to his large home called Woodhall, is named after him.
With Kiplingesque bravado, Sir Clive Phillipps-Wolley was a great white hunter who epitomizes an era of British Columbian literature that portrayed B.C. as a rough Eden that only required English pluck and perseverance to be tamed.
Born Edward Clive Oldnall Long Phillips in 1853 in Dorset, England, Phillipps-Wolley was a distant relative of Lord Robert Clive, knighted for his military and administrative roles during the subjugation of Bengal in the 18th century. As Phillips, he successfully petitioned for the inheritance of his great-grandfather’s estate, dropped the first name Edward in favour of Clive, changed his last name to Phillipps-Wolley, took up the study of law, married 16-year-old Janie Fenwick, taught musketry and then managed to practise law for less than a year.
In 1881, he published Sport in the Crimea and Caucasus, based on his time hunting in Russia. Trottings of a Tenderfoot: A Visit to the Columbian Fiords (1888) is mostly about his two-month hunting trip to B.C., mainly on Vancouver Island. “I came across no place in America in which I would be so content to stay as in Victoria,” he wrote. He returned in 1886 on a game hunting expedition, described in A Sportsman’s Eden (1888), after which he settled in Victoria in 1890. “You could not pay me to come back to the old country,” he said in an interview with the London Mining Journal.
While it’s tempting to suggest Phillipps-Wolley might be dubbed ‘the first British Columbia novelist’ for his hastily written novel about a remittance man on Vancouver Island, One of the Broken Brigade (1897), it was published five years after Morley Roberts’ The Mate of the Vancouver (1892).
Phillipps-Wolley also wrote The Chicamon Stone (1900), a novel that includes a heroic Tahltan named Siyah Joe who knows the secret location of gold on McDame Creek. (Chicamon means gold.)
Phillipps-Wolley had some commercial success with Gold, Gold in Cariboo! (1894), a young adult novel, set in 1862, warning against the folly of gold fever, and proved himself popular as a public speaker, although he repeatedly failed in his attempts to gain election as a politician.
As a provincial sanitary inspector, he described Nelson as a disaster area and criticized B.C.’s Chinese as living cheaply in unsanitary conditions to compete in the labour market. “Wherever I have been in British Columbia I have found Chinamen living like sewer rats, a grave danger to white men’s health.” He concluded, “Nanaimo Chinatown can be cured in only one way—by fire.” He equally despised Americans. “Canada’s danger is a moral, not a physical one,” he decreed. “If you should allow your newspapers to draw their news, as they copy their style, from the Yankees, annexation will soon follow.”
Warning of an expanding German navy, Phillipps-Wolley began urging Canada to build warships for England in 1908. At his own expense, he published a pamphlet containing his speeches, entitled The Canadian Naval Question. Phillipps-Wolley’s son Clive Jr. was killed as a young soldier in 1914, days after England declared war on Germany. Phillipps-Wolley was knighted in 1915. Two years later he dedicated the poems in Songs from a Young Man’s Land to his dead son.
Phillipps-Wolley died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1918 and was buried in the St. Peter’s Anglican Church cemetery in Duncan.
Not very many British Columbia writers have been knighted. In fact, there is probably only one–Sir Clive Phillipps-Wolley. He was also one of the first novelists of British Columbia [preceded by Morley Roberts], publishing a young adult novel set in the Cariboo in 1894, as well as One of the Broken Brigade (1897), a novel about a remittance man in Victoria and the Shawnigan Lake area. The former was his bestselling book, warning against the folly of gold fever. The latter is mostly disregarded as a hastily-written, unconvincing story, rife with the author’s anti-Semitism.
Clive Phillipps-Wolley was the classic Anglophile with Kiplingesque bravado and racist prejudices, a great white hunter who epitomizes an era of early B.C. literature that viewed B.C. as a rough Eden that only required English pluck and perseverance to be tamed.
He was a writer, game hunter and non-practicing lawyer who first came to British Columbia in 1884 via the Northern Pacific Railroad. He returned in 1886 on a game hunting expedition, described in A Sportsman’s Eden (1888), after which he settled in Victoria in 1890. Although he loved B.C.’s lakes, rivers and forests, he was a quintessential Englishman who never thought of B.C. as anything but a colony.
He has the literary distinction of writing one of the first novels of British Columbia to prominently feature an Aboriginal character. With detailed descriptions of B.C.’s northern coast, Alaska, the upper Stikine River and the Cassiar area, The Chicamon Stone (1900) has a heroic Tahltan Aboriginal named ‘Siyah Joe’ as its protagonist. He knows the secret location of gold on McDame Creek. Chicamon means gold. Praised by the English press, The Chicamon Stone conveys Phillipps-Wolley’s respect for animals. “Half a dozen worn-out horses, standing freezing in the raw, morning air. They were to be pitied… no one would buy them, and hay was $100 per ton. The time for dogs was coming—-dogs who could drag sleighs over snow—-and horses were of no further value. So they were only waiting to be shot, and would be lucky if some merciful man took the trouble to shoot them before they starved. This was one of the most cruel features of the Klondike rush in 1898.”
Clive Phillipps-Wolley was born as Edward Clive Oldnall Long Phillips on April 3, 1853 in Wimborne, Dorset, England. Although he was merely the son of a public school master in a village, his family were distant relatives of Lord Robert Clive, knighted for his military and administrative roles during the subjugation of Bengal in the 18th century. Phillipps-Wolley’s father has been born in India. When Edward Clive Phillipps successfully petitioned for the inheritance of his great-grandfather’s estate, he dropped the first name Edward in favour of Clive and changed his last name to Phillipps-Wolley, to resurrect the more prestigious Wolley name. Clive Phillipps-Wolley joined a country club, took up the study of law and married 16-year-old Janie Fenwick. He taught musketry and practiced law for less than a year before turning to writing.
In 1881, he published Sport in the Crimea and Caucasus, based on his time hunting in Russia. Phillipps-Wolley described the Kerch area as having a ‘delicious climate’ and ‘any quantity of game’. He recalled ‘skating with the fair ladies of Kerch on the rink by the jetty.’ The young Phillipps-Wolley took on a wrestler from Caucasus, who threw him to the mat twice. Savage Svanetia, published in two volumes in 1883, detailed his journey through the Caucasus from the Black Sea to Baku in 1881. ‘A neatly worded advertisement had tempted me to join an expedition to the North Pole,’ he said. The hunting trip for polar bears, walrus, reindeer and salmon was planned for 17 days, but the expedition was turned back by ice.
Trottings of a Tenderfoot: A Visit to the Columbian Fiords, his third work, was published in 1888. Despite its title, the account was mostly about his two-month hunting trip to B.C., mainly on Vancouver Island. ‘I came across no place in America in which I would be so content to stay as in Victoria,’ he wrote. In an adventure novel written ten years later, he gave further praise. ‘The air, saturated with spring sunshine, was almost too soft and sweet to be wholesome for man. There was a languor in it which dulled the appetite for work; merely to live was happiness enough; effort seemed folly, and if man could have been found with energy enough to pray, he would have prayed only that no change might come to him, that the gleam of the blue waters of the straits and the diamond brightness of the distant snow-peaks might remain his for ever.’
Phillipps-Wolley brought his wife Janie to Oak Bay, Victoria in 1890, along with their four children, Maude, Margaret, Clive Jr. and Judith. Architect William Ridgeway Wilson was commissioned to build an Elizabethan Tudor home, which has since been demolished. ‘You could not pay me to come back to the old country,’ he said in an interview with the London Mining Journal, ‘where one only hears of falling rents and the damnable results of party politics gone mad.’ He publicized the Kootenay mines on visits to England to encourage his countrymen to invest ahead of the Americans, who were mining in nearby Montana. In 1892, there were already more than 2,000 Montana miners prospecting in the Kootenays. Rudyard Kipling would have agreed wholeheartedly with Phillipps-Wolley who wrote: “Canada’s danger is a moral, not a physical one. If you should allow your newspapers to draw their news, as they copy their style, from the Yankees, annexation will soon follow.”
A spokesman on behalf of Russia, he once gave a speech at the Victoria Theatre in 1892 on ‘Russia and the Russians.’ His plea was for food relief, as Russia was suffering through a period of famine.
Phillipps-Wolley first turned to fiction in 1888 with My Soldier’s Keeper. His second novel Snap (1890) is the adventure of four English schoolboys in the U.S. and Canadian west, including a ballooning excursion. Gold, Gold in Cariboo! (1894) is a young-adult novel set in 1862, when gold fever moved from the Fraser River to the Cariboo. The Queensberry Cup (1895), set in an English boarding school called ‘Fernhall’, is likely based on Rossall, a school on the Irish Sea coast of Lancashire. The story’s secondary theme is boxing, a subject Phillipps-Wolley was familiar with, having been successful in the ring at Rossall. One of the Broken Brigade (1987) is about a remittance man in Victoria and the Shawnigan Lake area.
Despite being a well-known hunting advocate, Phillipps-Wolley eventually gave up hunting in favour of photography. ‘The man who photographs a live beast in his native haunt… is spared the butcher’s work and that regret which we try to ignore when we have rolled over a beast in many things better than ourselves.’ The biggest admirers of Phillipps-Wolley’s writing were fellow hunters. His writing sometimes had the effect of luring young men to B.C. in search of hunting and adventure. He contributed articles to two volumes entitled Big Game Shooting, for which he was credited as author, and for which he earned praise from American president Theodore Roosevelt. The first volume concerns hunting in South Africa; the second volume concerns hunting in the Caucasus, Scandinavia, India and North America. According to The Times, Roosevelt regarded Phillipps-Wolley as ‘a kindred spirit possessing much of his own versatility, predilections and strenuousness.’ Phillipps-Wolley also worked as a provincial sanitary inspector, appointed through connections rather than relevant experience. Hired at a salary of $1,500 a year, he investigated settlements in Revelstoke, Rossland, New Denver and Trail. He described Nelson as a disaster area, where ‘Pigs perambulated the streets; cows wandered up the ravine in which the sewer leaked out its filth; and the local hospital had a cesspit from which an open cut carried the overflow down the hill.’
He criticized B.C.’s Chinese population as unsanitary, living cheaply to compete in the labour market. ‘Wherever I have been in British Columbia I have found Chinamen living like sewer rats, a grave danger to white men’s health.’ The worst health-code violation, according to Phillipps-Wolley, was a Chinese shanty in Nanaimo. ‘Men and dogs live under one roof in a densely-crowded street and blood stains, hog bristles… as well as the fresh leg of a pig, attested to the fact that swine are reared, slaughtered and sold as pork under the same roof as that under which Yick Hong and his household live.’ Phillipps-Wolley concluded, ‘Nanaimo Chinatown can be cured in only one way—-by fire.’
Phillipps-Wolley tried his hand at politics, first writing Ottawa dispatches for the Victoria Times Colonist, then running for a cabinet seat in the 1900 election on Vancouver Island. His platform was creating harmony between capital and labour; increasing B.C. representation in Ottawa; getting more money for the province from the federal government; and controlling the influx of Chinese labourers. He lost in 1900, and again in the 1904 election. Despite his losses, he continued to campaign for others.
In 1900 he and his family left their Oak Bay home and bought the unoccupied Piers Island off the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula. He put the island up for sale for $20,000 in 1909, and bought an estate at Cowichan Bay, near Duncan. Less than three years later, he had a house built at Somenos, north of Duncan, only a few miles away. Phillipps-Wolley was also a poet, with readership in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He wrote rhyming descriptions of pioneer life. Songs of an English Esau (wandering hunter) was published in 1902 and Songs from a Young Man’s Land was published in 1917. He donated 400 copies of Esau, plus some money from sales, to the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria in 1906.
Warning of an expanding German navy, Phillipps-Wolley began urging Canada to build warships for England in 1908. He joined the Navy League in 1910, and toured Ontario to advocate his cause. At his own expense, he published a 70-page pamphlet containing his speeches, entitled The Canadian Naval Question. Phillipps-Wolley’s son Clive Jr. was killed in 1914, days after England declared war on Germany. Clive Jr. had been on board the H.M.S. Hogue, which was torpedoed and sunk with the H.M.S. Cressy and the H.M.S. Aboukir by the German submarine U-9, in one of Britain’s first major losses at sea. For his work with the Navy League and his consistent support of British values, Phillipps-Wolley was knighted, and became Sir Clive Phillipps-Wolley in 1915. Two years later he dedicated Songs from a Young Man’s Land to his dead son. The poems were about his longing to serve in the war, despite his deteriorating health.
On July 8, 1918, at the age of 65, Phillipps-Wolley died of a cerebral haemorrhage.
The hyphenated Phillipps-Wolley was the 19th century precursor to the hyphenated, 20th century Roderick Haig-Brown, a fellow outdoorsman whose enlightened environmentalism sprang from the British nature writing of Phillipps-Wolley’s robust, manly era.
For a more complete summary, see Peter Murray’s 51-page biography of Phillipps-Wolley that appears in his book, Home from the Hill: Three Gentlemen Adventurers (Horsdal & Schubart, 1994).
Sport in the Crimea and Caucasus (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1881).
Savage Svanetia, two volumes (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1883).
The Trottings of a Tenderfoot: A Visit to the Columbian Fiords and Spitzbergen
(London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1884).
A Sportsman’s Eden (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1888).
My Soldier’s Keeper (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co, 1888).
Snap: A Legend of Lone Mountain (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1890, 1892, 1899).
Big Game Shooting, Vol. 1 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1894, 1895, 1902). With Contributions by Sir Samuel W. Baker, W. C. Oswell, F. J. Jackson, Warburton Pike, and F. C. Selous. Vol. I. With Illustrations by Charles Whymper, J. Wolf and H. Willink, and from Photographs. Vol. II. With Contributions by Lieut.-Colonel R. Heber Percy, Arnold Pike, Major Algernon C. Heber Percy, W. A. Baillie-Grohman, Sir Henry Pottinger, BART., Earl of Kilmorey, Abel Chapman, Walter J. Buck, and St. George Littledale. With Illustrations by Charkes Whymper and from Photographs.
Big Game Shooting, Vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1894, 1895, 1901).
Gold, Gold in Cariboo! A Story of Adventure in British Columbia (London: Blackie, 1894, London: Blackie, 1940).
The Queensberry Cup (1895)
One of the Broken Brigade (London: George Bell, 1897).
The Chicamon Stone (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1900).
The Remittance Man (1900)
In Memory Of Our Dead At Modder River, Feb 21 1900 (1900). Poetry.
Songs of an English Esau (1902). Poetry.
The Canadian Naval Question: Addresses Delivered by Clive Phillipps-Wolley, F.R.C.S., Vice-President Navy League (Toronto: William Briggs, 1910; Victoria, B.C.: Richard Wolfenden, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, 1911).
Songs from a Young Man’s Land (Thomas Allen Toronto 1917). Poetry.