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Macphail's writing - characterized by clarity of expression and support for unpopular positions - allowed him to develop and document many of the important political, social, and intellectual themes of his time. He argued for the reorganization of the British Empire to reflect the growing importance of Canada and against such modern trends and movements as utilitarian education, feminism, industrialization, and urbanization. A strong advocate for the rejuvenation of rural life, he carried out agricultural experiments on his native Prince Edward Island. When it became apparent that it was impossible to return to rural ideals, Macphail celebrated the world of his rural past in his most memorable work - the posthumously published The Master's Wife.