Catching up with Prince Peter Kropotkin, from 125 Years Ago
2022 Anniversaries in the History of Canadian Science and Technology.
First posted Friday, November 4, 2022 / Yom shishi, 10 Cheshvan, 5783.
By David Orenstein, Emeritus, Danforth CTI, Toronto
In 1897, 125 years ago, Prince Peter Kropotkin was in Canada for the 1897 Toronto Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He wrote several letters to his friend James Mavor, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Toronto.
They’ve been saved as part of the James Mavor Fonds at the University’s Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library.
When I wrote about Kropotkin’s September 18, 1897, letter to Mavor from Calgary, I forgot to turn the page of my notes. I recently found there the notes that Kropotkin had left on the margins of that letter:
Page 1, Left Margin:
“The Washington Geog. Soc. ask me to lecture to them in October. But – they can only pay travelling expenses”
Page 2, Left Margin:
“Tell to dear Mrs Mavor, how thankful I am to her for the flannel things she gave me, and many kisses to the children”
Page 4, Left Margin:
“Thanks for letters I was so pleased to have one from Sophie and Sasha at Calgary”
Earlier I had referred to the letter from Glacier, B.C, whose September 3, 1897, I had missed. It’s a handwritten letter of three pages on two sheets of paper.
Here it is:
“… near the end of our Journey…. For a lover of Nature everything… the prairies, the mountains have an infinite charm and I have thoroughly enjoyed it… [as have] all in our party… [A] lot of excellent men, and that renders it more enjoyable.
“…. At Winnipeg I forgot to ask if there were any letter[s]. But you being on your trip this would have been hardly possible.
“… I not yet decided whether to go to Victoria…. [with] 29 dollars, perhaps it is wiser not ot go, although all say that it is a pity
“not to terminate the journey….
“My intention is to go straight from Vancouver to Calgary… to stay for 5 days, and during these five days to go to Edmonton…. [T]he trains do not coincide. In the train I met with Mr. Dennis, Irrigation Superintendent, and … he will [??]
“… We arrive to Vancouver the 4th … the 6th I… leave Vancouver for back journey I will be back in Calgary about the 9th (or 10th) [staying] till the 14th including… Edmonton.
“… 14th or 15th from Calgary… 16th or 17th in Brandon. From Mr. Hamilton (C.P.R.) I have a free pass to Napinka-Morris-Winnipeg… 18th to Winnipeg… 20th to Toronto.
“That will give me an excellent idea of the country, with all that I may
“learn from books.
“But… that ought to cost… 40 dollars more…. I thought to telegraph you, but it is too costly.
“How is Mrs Mavor and my dear little friends – Jimmie, Dodo, and ‘baby’ dear? How did they enjoy the island?…. Did you have a good rest?
“…. There is something so grand, and so inspiring in that majestic Nature! I saw grand Nature in Siberia, but nothing on such a scale, nor so impressive! As to health – for many years I did not feel so well.
“Heartiest regards to you all
Yours very sincerely P Kropotkin”
Page 3, Written up left margin:
“Have you letters from home? Did you send me some? I feel so uneasy without news from my own ones.”
These letters in my various Kropotkin-Mavor blog posts are from the notes I took in January and February 2017. That is, more than five years ago and in the Pre-Pandemic Era.
For example, the next letter that I transcribed was written from:
“New York 102 E. 96th St.
October 24, 1897”
It begins with a short account of Kropotkin’s afore mentioned lecture to the “Washington Geog. Soc.”
But that’s another story!
Previous Kropotkin to Mavor CSTHA Blog Posts:
- Kropotkin shares good news: “I’m coming to Toronto for the BAAS.” Posted July 21, 2022.
- Kropotkin arrives in Canada. Posted August 8, 2022.
- Kropotkin in Vancouver. Posted September 8, 2022.
- Kropotkin in Calgary en route to Edmonton. Posted September 12, 2022.
- Kropotkin back in Calgary from side trip to Edmonton. Posted September 18, 2022.
- Kropotkin in Manitoba. Posted September 21, 2022.
Kropotkin on p.474 of “Geography at the British Association, Toronto, 1897”
The Geographical Journal Vol. 10, No. 5 (Nov., 1897), pp. 471-476 (6 pages)
James Mavor Collection, MSS 119, Finding Aid
The Kropotkin-Mavor Correspondence is to be found at the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library at the University of Toronto. It’s in the manuscript collection MSS 119, where Box 10B is “Peter Kropotkin”. Our letters are in File #5.