Muriel “Capi” Wylie Blanchet (1891-1961)

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In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, meet Capi Blanchet. Capi lived most of her life in North Saanich on Vancouver Island, and her story is part of the “Legendary Women” chapter in Sensational Victoria.

The Curve of Time
Frances, Peter, Betty, Davis, Joan and Capi in 1931. Courtesy Tara Blanchet

Capi Blanchet was found dead in 1961, slumped over her typewriter while writing a sequel to The Curve of Time. For a writer, that’s not a bad way to go. The tragedy in Capi’s case is that she died without ever having an inkling of the success her book would enjoy. There Cap Curve of timewas no way for her to know that a half century into the future, her book would be republished in a 50th-anniversary edition and become a national best-seller.

“Six months was all Capi had to enjoy and share her creation,” wrote her publisher and friend, Gray Campbell. “She never knew the far-reaching importance her work would later come to enjoy.”

Campbell has said that The Curve of Time was the inspiration behind Gray’s Publishing and likely responsible for dozens if not hundreds of books that would not otherwise have been published.

Born in Montreal, Muriel Liffiton married Geoffrey Blanchet, a banker when she was 18. In 1922 the family drove out west and bought Clovelly, a house designed by Samuel Maclure near the Swartz Bay Ferry. Soon after moving in, the Blanchets bought a boat called the Caprice. Five years later Geoffrey took the boat out and never returned, leaving Capi to wonder if it was accident or suicide.

Capi with Pam on the beach near her house. Courtesy Tara Blanchet
Capi with Pam on the beach near her house. Courtesy Tara Blanchet

“Destiny rarely follows the pattern we would choose for it and the legacy of death often shapes our lives in ways we could not imagine,” she writes in the Curve of Time.

Widowed at 33, and the sole support for five kids aged between two and 14, in an economy teetering on the brink of the Depression, the resourceful Capi survived by renting out her house for the summers, packing up the kids and Irish Setter, and sailing around British Columbia’s rugged coastline. The rent supplemented her income, and the trips provided the basis for her book.

In 1949, Capi and her son David built  a small house on the cliff of their property.

Capi in the wheelhouse of the Caprice. Courtesy Tara Blanchet
Capi in the wheelhouse of the Caprice. Courtesy Tara Blanchet

The current owner bought the property in the early 1990s and gave me a tour of her house several years ago. It’s a beautiful place with an amazing view, but what I loved is that while the house has been remodeled and enlarged over the years, they have built the house around Capi’s living-room and two bedrooms. The cedar that she and David hand-hewn to make the cathedral ceiling and the walls, as well as the original rock fireplace, remain unaltered.

Curve of Time
The house on Tryon Road. Eve Lazarus photo, 2012

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

 

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8 comments

  1. Very fascinating to see the photo inside the house and great to know that Capi and David’s handiwork survives! There’s an excellent sequel, “Following the Curve of Time: The Legendary M. Wylie Blanchet” written by Cathy Converse, which I highly recommend.

  2. The Curve of Time never leaves our boat and as Lisa Smith suggests “Following the Curve of Time” is a definite read for anyone wanting to learn more about this remarkable family.

  3. Oh my. Capi is my mentor. I never tire of reading her stories. I have a book coming out in October. I hope I have been able to follow her soft lovely way of words. The Klee Wyck Journal is about a wilderness beach and cabin reached only by kayak, the cabin built by family and friends over vacation weeks each summer for about 15 years. I kept an illustrated journal. Capi and Emily Carr are always near at my side. Have a look. http://www.loumckee.com Thanks for this little writing box, Eve!

  4. This is awesome, thanks for posting, I will now go to the Sidney library and see if I can get her book for my vacation read. Love all things historical, especially relative to where I live.
    Thanks, Kevin McTavish

  5. Hello Lisa! What a beautiful tribute to an outstanding woman. I wanted to share that I have just completed a screenplay based on The Curve of Time (for which I bought the rights in July 2015). I’m in the early stages of script/film development and hope to be able to share Cali’s story with the world, very soon. In honour of our wonderful country’s 150th, I can think of no better way than to honour the memory of this amazing pioneer. I’m very happy to read she’s still alive in Victoria. All my best, Lisa

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