Of Canadian/English-immigrant parentage, Callaghan was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He was educated at Withrow PS, Riverdale Collegiate Institute, the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School. He articled and was called to the Bar, but did not practice law. During the 1920s he worked at the Toronto Daily Star where he became friends with fellow reporter Ernest Hemingway, formerly of The Kansas City Star. Callaghan began writing stories that were well received and soon was recognized as one of the best short story writers of the day. In 1929 he spent some months in Paris, where he was part of the great gathering of writers in Montparnasse that included Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce.
He recalled this time in his 1963 memoir, That Summer in Paris. In the book, he discusses the infamous boxing match between himself and Hemingway wherein Callaghan took up Hemingway's challenge to a bout. While in Paris, the pair had been regular sparring partners at the American Club of Paris. Being a better boxer, Callaghan knocked Hemingway to the mat. The blame was centred on referee F. Scott Fitzgerald's lack of attention on the stopwatch as he let the boxing round go past its regulation three minutes. An infuriated Hemingway was angry at Fitzgerald; Hemingway and Fitzgerald had an often caustic relationship and Hemingway was convinced that Fitzgerald let the round go longer than normal in order to see Hemingway humiliated by Callaghan. Whether this boxing match ever took place is a matter of conjecture, but it is certain that it could not have taken place at the American Club of Paris; since its founding in 1904, the American Club of Paris has never had a clubhouse, so it would have been impossible for the fight to have taken place there. If the fight did happen, it could possibly have been at Pershing Hall on the rue Pierre Charron, also known at the time as the American Soldiers and Sailors Club.
Callaghan's novels and short stories are marked by undertones of Roman Catholicism, often focusing on individuals whose essential characteristic is a strong but often weakened sense of self. His first novel was Strange Fugitive (1928); a number of short stories, novellas and novels followed. Callaghan published little between 1937 and 1950 - an artistically dry period. However, during these years, many non-fiction articles were written in various periodicals such as New World (Toronto), and National Home Monthly. Luke Baldwin's Vow, a slim novel about a boy and his dog, was originally published in a 1947 edition of Saturday Evening Post and soon became a juvenile classic read in school rooms around the world. The Loved and the Lost (1951) won the Governor General's Award. Callaghan's later works include, among others, The Many Colored Coat (1960), A Passion in Rome (1961), A Fine and Private Place (1975), A Time for Judas (1983), Our Lady of the Snows (1985). His last novel was A Wild Old Man Down the Road (1988). Publications of short stories have appeared in The Lost and Found Stories of Morley Callaghan (1985), and in The New Yorker Stories (2001). The four volume The Complete Stories (2003) collects for the first time 90 of his stories.
Callaghan was also a contributor to The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Maclean's, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Saturday Evening Post, Yale Review, New World, Performing Arts in Canada, and Twentieth Century Literature.
Callaghan married Loretto Dee, with whom he had two sons: Michael (born November 1931) and Barry (born 1937), a poet and author in his own right. Barry Callaghan's memoir Barrelhouse Kings (1998), examines his career and that of his father. After outliving most of his contemporaries, Callaghan died after a brief illness in Toronto at the age of 87. He was interred in Mount Hope Catholic Cemetery in Ontario.
Commemorative Postage Stamp
On September 8, 2003, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Canada, Canada Post released a special commemorative series, "The Writers of Canada", with a design by Katalina Kovats, featuring two English-Canadian and two French-Canadian stamps. Three million stamps were issued. Callaghan was chosen for one of the English-Canadian stamps.
- Strange Fugitive - 1928
- It's Never Over - 1930
- A Broken Journey - 1932
- Such Is My Beloved - 1934
- They Shall Inherit the Earth - 1935
- More Joy in Heaven - 1937
- The Loved and the Lost - 1951
- The Many Colored Coat - 1960 (reissued as The Man with the Coat, 1988)
- A Passion in Rome - 1961
- A Fine and Private Place - 1975
- A Time for Judas - 1983
- Our Lady of the Snows - 1985 (based on his novella The Enchanted Pimp)
- A Wild Old Man on the Road - 1988
- No Man's Meat - 1931
- Luke Baldwin's Vow - 1948 (reissued as The Vow, 2006)
- The Varsity Story - 1948
- An Autumn Penitent - 1973 (and In His Own Country)
- Close to the Sun Again - 1977
- No Man's Meat and The Enchanted Pimp - 1978
- A Native Argosy - 1929
- Now That April's Here and Other Stories - 1936
- Morley Callaghan's Stories - 1959
- Stories - 1967
- The Lost and Found Stories of Morley Callaghan - 1985
- The Morley Callaghan Reader - 1997
- The New Yorker Stories - 2001
- The Complete Stories (four volumes) - 2003
- Ancient Lineage and Other Stories - 2012
- That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Some Others - 1963
- Winter - 1974
- Turn Again Home (based on the novel They Shall Inherit the Earth, produced in New York City in 1940, and produced under title Going Home in Toronto in 1950)
- Just Ask George (produced in Toronto, 1940)
- To Tell the Truth (produced in Toronto, 1949)
- Season of the Witch - 1976
- The Cap (1984)
- Boire, Gary A., Morley Callaghan and His Works - 1990
- Boire, Gary A., Morley Callaghan: Literary Anarchist - 1994
- Cameron, Donald, Conversations with Canadian Novelists, Part Two - 1973
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 3 - 1975
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 14 - 1980
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 41 - 1987
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 65 - 1991
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 68: Canadian Writers, 1920–1959, First Series - 1988
- Morley, Patricia, Morley Callaghan - 1978
- Orange, John, Orpheus in Winter: Morley Callaghan's The Loved and the Lost - 1993
- Sutherland, Fraser, The Style of Innocence - 1972
- Wilson, Edmund, O Canada - 1965
- Woodcock, George, Moral Predicament: Morley Callaghan's More Joy in Heaven - 1993
- Books in Canada, April, 1986, pp. 32–33.
- Canadian Forum, March, 1960; February, 1968.
- Canadian Literature, summer, 1964
- Canadian Literature, winter, 1984, pp. 66–69.
- Canadian Literature, autumn, 1990, pp. 148–49.
- Dalhousie Review, autumn, 1959.
- Essays on Canadian Writing, winter, 1984–85, pp. 309– 15
- Essays on Canadian Writing, summer, 1990, pp. 16–20.
- Form and Century, April, 1934.
- New Republic, February 9, 1963.
- New Yorker, November 26, 1960.
- Queen's Quarterly, autumn, 1957
- Queen's Quarterly, autumn, 1989, pp. 717–19.
- Saturday Night, October, 1983, pp. 73–74.
- Tamarack Review, winter, 1962.
- American Spectator, February, 1991.
- Clara Thomas, Canadian Novelists 1920-1945, Longmans, Green and Comoany, Toronto, 1946 p. 17-18
- "50th Anniversary of the National Library / Canadian Authors," Canada Post, Web, Mar. 28, 2011.
- Morley Callaghan's entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Strange Fugitive
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. Order of Canada citation. Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 26 May 2010