Steele Collection NWMP uniforms

NWMP uniforms

Although the book was finally ready to go to press in August 1914, its printing and distribution would be additionally delayed by the start of World War I. Forty Years in Canada, newly subtitled Reminiscences of the Great North-West With Some Account of His Service in South Africa would not appear in bookstores in Britain and Canada until February 1915. Herbert Jenkins produced 3000 copies of the British edition and licensed the book to the Canadian firm McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart. The British house also provided the Winnipeg bookseller Russell, Lang & Co. with a number of copies with their name on the title page.[1]

When Steele received a copy of the book on 20 February 1915, he was unhappy with what he found: the finished product was shorter than expected and had gained an editor, Mollie Glenn Niblett. Niblett’s name was just below his on the title page. He would note in his journal the next day, “[v]ery much disgusted with the publisher he has cut out the best of it for the sake of space. It should have been two volumes instead of one.”[2] The British publisher responded to Steele’s charges that Forty Years in Canada was receiving glowing reviews in British newspapers and was selling well. In the letter the publisher defended his firm and Niblett, telling Steele his loyal editor had done what she thought in Steele’s best interests.

While the publishing process and the end product were not to Steele’s liking, the positive reviews were, and he quickly put the unpleasant experience behind him when his publisher agreed to produce two-volume second edition with Niblett’s name removed as editor. However, Steele would die in 1918 before this second edition could be published.


[1] Please see the following for a more in-depth analysis of the publishing history of Forty Years in Canada: Alison Rukavina, “‘Crying over spilled milk’: a publishing history of Sam Steele’s Forty Years in Canada.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 50.2 (2012), pp 239-261.

[2] Steele Journal, 21 February 1915, Steele Collection, MS 2008.