Charlotte Service-Longépé is the great-granddaughter of Robert W. Service. She remembers struggling with the language when she first read “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” in English, but she has clearly developed some facility with the language since then. This is obvious from the many short videos available on the robertwservice.blogspot.com.
Service-Longépé grew up in Paris, but spent a lot of time visiting sites in the Principality of Monaco and Lancieux, where Service spent most of his later years. She heard a lot about her famous relative from her mother, his daughter, Iris. Following the completion of a master’s degree in business administrations studies in Monaco, she spent three years studying Service’s life and work, and wrote Robert W. Service La Piste de l’Imaginaire. She has since spent a lot of time promoting his work and memory, as well as translating some of his verses into French.
An artist and photographer, as well as a writer, she combined two of her interests to comb the more than 1,200 poems in Service’s output, including a few from family papers that had not been published previously, to assemble this anthology. There are complete poems and snippets of others, grouped together by such themes as work, love, religion, home, nature, freedom, war and travel. In all, 20 themes are collected in 260 extracts.
The poems are illustrated with Service-Longépé’s pencil sketches; some are full page scenes, others are small drawings meant to fit the text.
In addition, there are samples from Service’s prose writings and appreciative quotations from fans of his work, some of them used to introduce specific poems.
As one might expect, the classic Yukon poems are represented, but this anthology spans the entire length of Service’s career, including some material that he wrote before coming to the Yukon and other material from the 1950s, a few years before he passed in 1958. I found quite a bit of material that I had never seen before.
The book is engaging and I devoured it in large gulps over three or four days. It’s a nice package, with only a few scattered typos. The only actual error I spotted was in her short biography of the poet at the end of the book. This was probably the result of her visit to Dawson in 2016, when she noted that the Service and London cabins were only separated by a few hundred metres on Eighth Avenue, and didn’t realize that London’s was still out on Henderson Creek when Service lived here.