Bridle, Augustus

Augustus (John) Bridle. Critic, writer, editor, b East Stour, Dorsetshire, England, 4 Mar 1868, d Toronto 21 Dec 1952. Of illegitimate birth and orphaned in infancy, he became a ward of the Rev T.B. Stephenson, founder of the National Children's Home in London. Bridle was sent to Hamilton, Ont, in 1878. Details of his early childhood are not clear, but it is believed that he lived and worked with a shoemaker, a Mr Stewart in Merlin, Ont, in 1880, and moved in 1882 to the farm of Richard Smith in Dealtown, Ont. He received his teaching certificate in 1887 and began teaching in 1889 in Blenheim, Ont. He taught later in Edmonton and in Stratford, Ont. In 1903 he took up newspaper work, writing for the Stratford Herald, the Toronto News, and the Edmonton Bulletin. He was associate editor 1908-16 and editor 1916-20 of the weekly Canadian Courier, then briefly editor of Musical Canada. In 1922 he joined the staff of the Toronto Daily Star, which he served for 30 years as music critic, book reviewer, and film and drama editor. In 1935 he began to review films for the Star Weekly also.

The moving force behind the formation (1908) of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, Bridle was its secretary 1908-13 and president 1913-14, and was referred to as 'Perpetual Grand Secretary' for the rest of his life. He instigated and contributed three essays about music to The Year Book of Canadian Art 1913, and was a staunch champion of the Canadian painters known as the Group of Seven. He sang briefly in the bass section of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Bridle was responsible for devoting an entire issue (12 Oct 1912) of the Canadian Courier to Canadian music and musicians. In one of the articles, 'Music in two cities' [Toronto and Montreal], he revealed a shrewd grasp of the problems of isolation and regionalism and declared that 'if Canada is ever to achieve anything national in music, the people who make music, as well as those who listen to it, must at least find out what has been and what is being done in other parts of the country than their own'. His article 'Who writes our music?' (Maclean's, 15 Dec 1929) was the first attempt to survey contemporary Canadian musical composition on a comprehensive scale. During the early 1920s, under the auspices of the Star, Bridle organized over 100 free 'Good Music' concerts (these later became the Star Fresh Air Fund concerts) and several free 'famous music' and carol concerts, and participated in the creation of the Canadian National Exhibition Chorus. In 1927 in Toronto he staged his symbolic pageant 'Heart of the World' at the CNE for an international meeting of the World Federation of Teachers.

Bridle was the author of several books, including A Backwoods Christmas (Toronto 1910), Sons of Canada (Toronto 1916; it includes biographies of Guillaume Couture, F.H. Torrington, and A. S. Vogt), Masques of Ottawa (Toronto 1921), a novel, Hansen (Toronto 1925), and The Story of the Club (Toronto 1945). In later years his reviews were known for their epigrammatic and telegraphic style. His papers are held at the NA of C.