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Great Canadian Biographies

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The list was started by celebrated biographer Charlotte Gray, with additional suggestions by members of our community.
Time Lord

Time Lord

edition:Paperback
tagged : time

This is the biography of an idea, and the remarkable story of the man who created—and then convinced the world to adopt—a unified standard for telling time.

Today we take the accurate telling of time across the world for granted. Yet little more than a hundred years ago, people even in neighbouring towns lived by different time schedules: noon was simply whenever the sun happened to be overhead—Toronto time, for example, was different from Hamilton time some forty miles away. None of this m …

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Excerpt

1

The Discovery of Time

An obvious question demands to be answered from the outset: Can anyone have a definition of time? Time is invisible and indescribable, endlessly fascinating and universally compelling. Time is everywhere; thus nowhere. It animates the world, yet nothing survives it. We can only guess how it started, or when it will end. It is our intimate assassin. One thing it lacks, however, except in Greek myth, is a compelling narrative.

Natural time—the time of the gods, the sun and the moon—starts in a savage, glorious myth and ends on an Irish railway platform in 1876, when Sandford Fleming missed his train. Originally, Time was embodied in a god, Uranus. He ruled over an immutable world. His children were the seven visible planets. Acting on a prophecy that his life was in danger from one of them, Uranus did the natural thing and slaughtered them all. Their mother, his sister Gaia, was able to hide one son, Kronos. Kronos, upon maturity, did the natural thing—castrated and killed his father. He married his sister, Rhea. When he learned of a plot against him, he cannibalized his children, but for Zeus, whose sleeping body Rhea had replaced with a stone. Zeus, of course, would castrate and kill his father.

Time is a bloodthirsty savage. None of us gets out alive, regardless of piety, decency, beauty, or innocence. But Zeus, at least, made it tolerable by setting the clock of mortality and mutability. We die, but we are replaced. Our children do supplant us; and they bury us. They can't admit it, but they want their parents dead. And parents can't admit it, but they want their children forever helpless and dependent. So long as they remain babies, we stay in our virile prime. Their maturing is our death. Mutability saves us from unthinkable violence, at the cost of our own life. I can't imagine a more ethically charged dilemma.

The powers of Time were scattered. Different gods attended to prophecy, history, fate, and dreams. Priestly castes learned the natural periodicities of the days, months, and years and determined rituals and sacrifices required for harvests, protection from floods, and return of the rains. Natural time is cyclical, a closed system, not admitting to change. Gods of the natural world are mysterious, unknowable, and violent. Any variation in worship might—or might not—bring instant death.

The collapse of "natural" thinking was most sudden, and most dramatic, in England. It was in England that the Romantic embrace of nature reached doctrinal intensity, where rambles in the Lake District inspired poetry, where the great and permanent forms of nature were invoked as guides in time of crisis and despair. One thinks of nature’s power not only to soothe but to inspire reveries of timelessness, as in Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1818). But England soon embraced the Industrial Revolution with even deeper fervor, so that within little more than a generation, the nation had been transformed into a virtual laboratory for creative destruction. Thirty years after Keats's ode, in The Communist Manifesto, time became cheaper than sand, not dearer than gold, a servant, not a master. It could be leased back to an employer at a fair rate and for a set duration, or even confiscated by the proposed new state on the behalf of labor. The social structure and the political order were transformed, but not by Marx and Engels. The revolutionary agent was speed, the new velocity introduced by trains and the telegraph. If industrialism and rationality teach anything, it is that nothing is permanent, especially nothing found in nature. There is no "natural" law. Displaying gratitude for the gods' gift of time became less important than showing up punctually for a day's work and collecting a guaranteed wage at the end of the week. Standard time, which also arrived in Britain in 1848, is the ultimate expression of human control over the apparently random forces of nature.

writers who find themselves fascinated by some aspect of time usually confess their inadequacy, or their confusion, by invoking St. Augustine's famous admission in his Confessions. It reads in essence: "I know what time is, but when I try to describe it, I cannot." That leaves quite an opening for anyone who would rise to the challenge. The English historian Simon Schama, in the opening of Landscape and Memory, speaks directly to the issue:

For a small boy with his head in the past, Kipling's fantasy [Puck of Pook's Hill] was potent magic. Apparently, there were some places in England where, if you were a child (in this case Dan or Una), people who had stood on the same spot centuries before would suddenly and inexplicably materialize. With Puck's help you could time-travel by standing still. On Pook's Hill, lucky Dan and Una got to chat with Viking warriors, Roman centurions, Norman knights, and then went home for tea.

The American physicist George Smoot, combining astrophysics with autobiography, begins his Wrinkles in Time on a simpler note: "There is something about looking at the night sky that makes a person wonder." A few sentences later, he brings that childhood wonder up to date:

I could discover not only new things, like ponds and tadpoles, but I could also find out what caused things to happen, how they happened, and how things fit together. For me it was like walking into a dark museum and turning on a light. There were incredible treasures to behold.

Fiction writers attracted to time can only envy historians and astronomers. Time, after all, is their raw material. Novelists are no less wonder-struck, no less time-besotted, and no less driven to fit things together, but their tool is the story, the actors and plot. Their approach lies closer to the way of sociology and psychiatry (or perhaps forensic science), stopping time, fragmenting it, backing it up, moving it forward, examining the pieces. Time lacks that narrative base, it is so nebulous that it might evade definition all together, by anyone. "Time is like Oakland," the sociologist Murray Davis once said, echoing Gertrude Stein, "there's no then there."

First of all, time comes in two distinct varieties: the untamed, mysterious Time, born with the big bang itself, and civil, obedient standard time, as in "What time is it?" or "How long has this been going on?" It's not clear that the same word even applies to both, or what the nature of their relationship, if any, might be. Perhaps time should have two names, like "horse" and "equus," the one to stand for hardworking, domesticated time, that which we control and can describe—the calendars, clocks, minutes and hours of the civil day—and the other for the untamed and unnamable, that which nature has not yet released.

The cesium-ion atomic clock is so accurate that it "loses" only one second every ten thousand years, and even that exact standard is open to further precision. It divides each second into more than twenty billion pulses. But what exactly is it dividing, what is it measuring, what is a second, what is a minute? And if we "lose" it, where does it go? When basketball games are won or lost in the final seconds, or when downhill ski races and Olympic dashes are decided by tenths, hundredths, thousandths, or ten-thousandths of a second, are we honoring accuracy or exposing the arbitrary nature of measurement, the meta-measuring of measurement itself? It seems apparent that some contests are not won or lost in head-to-head competition, but in the anachronism of relying on a starter's pistol, our inability to mark a true beginning—or, in terms of this book, our failure to fix a proper prime meridian. A smart lawyer could argue that a runner lined up in an outer lane, twenty yards away from the starter's pistol, hears it a significant thousandth of a second later than a runner five or six lanes closer.

The irony is inescapable. Ever-finer precision creates ever-widening ambiguity. The nineteenth century's faith in rationality led supremely confident rationalists in anthropology, sociology, and psychology to study the presumptions behind civilization, or reason itself. Only confident rationalists could explore the irrational, but once they got there, what they discovered undermined the confidence that had got them there in the first place. Enthusiastic evolutionists, as most late-Victorian scientists were, believed they’d been given a key to understanding far more than the origin of species. They saw evolution as applying to history, society, economics, to God, the cosmos, language and logic and the mind itself. Thomas Henry Huxley, the great apostle of Victorian science, believed, in 1887, that applied evolutionary theory would deliver a unified explanation of everything—biology, physics, chemistry, and religion. In 1879, Leslie Stephen, introducing the essays and lectures of his polymathic classmate William Clifford, who had died tragically young of tuberculosis that year, recalled their undergraduate enthusiasm for rationalism in all fields:

Clifford was not content with merely giving his assent to the doctrine of evolution; he seized on it as a living spring of action, a principle to be worked out, practised upon, used to win victories over nature, and to put new vigour into speculation. Natural Selection was to be the master key of the universe; we expected it to solve all riddles and reconcile all contradictions. Among other things it was to give us a new system of ethics, combining the exactness of the utilitarian with the poetical ideals of the transcendentalist.

Two years after writing this, a formidable presence appeared in Leslie Stephen's life, his daughter Virginia. She would grow up just as High Victorian certainties were yielding to doubt. Her generation would devote their creative lives to the refutation of nearly all the comforting, steady-state theories of consciousness they'd ingested in their privileged, progressive childhoods. The scientific and material advances that gave leaders of the Victorian establishment, like Leslie Stephen, their faith in reason became a pompous culture of confidence to Edwardian progressives like H. G. Wells, and a target of ridicule for Oscar Wilde. A generation later, Lytton Strachey, D. H. Lawrence, and Leslie Stephen's daughter Virginia Woolf saw their complacency as a pathology of posturing.

The thing we call time, in other words, is very difficult to disentwine from the ways we measure it, from language, social convention, or the internal clock of our DNA. It cannot be described in terms outside of itself. It is, as St. Augustine discovered, a tautology. Many things are like time, but time is only like itself. What can be described, however, is the history of standard time, clock-and-calendar time, the man-made system of time-reckoning. The great achievement of standardization in the nineteenth century, culminating with the Prime Meridian Conference in 1884, was to rationalize “real time” over thousand-mile (or fifteen-degree) zones, and to give it a starting line, Greenwich, agreed to by all. Thanks to standardization, we had the man-made tools to calculate that New York’s four o’clock was simultaneously Chicago’s three o’clock, London’s nine o’clock or Sydney’s . . . whatever. (At least, we know how to figure it out.)

It is useful, of course, to know what the "real" time is in other parts of the world when we make telephone calls and run the risk of waking up real people from real sleep, though it hardly matters to e-mailers or stock-traders. Standard time as we’ve inherited it is the final great achievement of Victorian rationality; unreformed, it is vulnerable to the same forces that swept away other golden keys to understanding. (I can't imagine that twenty or thirty years from now we will still be computing time on a foundation that we’ve inherited, unchanged, from the age of steam.) Adjusting to new time will be like learning a new language, perhaps very much like learning a new language, if we're hard-wired with space-time coordinates, as Immanuel Kant originally proposed, or as some modern followers of Noam Chomsky might endorse.

time has only one visible analogue, and that is space. For Fleming, leader of the standard-time movement in the late nineteenth century and a trained surveyor, time and longitude were interchangeable. He even devised elaborate new watch-faces to prove his point. A glance at the outer wheel of longitudinal letters would give the time, and the inner wheel of clock numbers would disclose the longitude.

In 1860, when he was then a thirty-three-year-old surveyor and civil engineer, the University of Toronto selected him as external examiner for the first-year course in Surveying and Geodesy. John Sang would have been proud. The test he set bears a close resemblance to his own apprenticeship as a teenager in Scotland:

1. Give a general description of a theodolite, its construction, and the uses of its essential parts.

2. What is understood by the line of collimation, and how is the error of collimation detected and corrected?

3. Describe the construction and uses of an optical square.

4. Describe generally one or more methods of conducting a trigonometrical survey and protracting the same, also the instruments employed in the field and office.

5. Explain the principle of the vernier.

6. State how the latitude of a place is ascertained.

7. What is understood by magnetic variation, as well as by the changes in the variation?

8. Give a description of one or more methods by which a true meridian may be determined, pointing out the comparative advantages of each method in practice.

9. Point out how the longitude is formed.

10. From the following bearings and distances, protract the figure, prove the accuracy of the bearings, correct the error, if any, and find the approximate area: [a six-sided figure was given].

11. A solid has two parallel ends 128 feet apart; the area of one end is 450 square feet; that of the other 270 square feet; find the number of cubic yards it contains by the prismoidal formula, and by any other method.

In many ways, Fleming's surveying test of 1860, conceived to judge ability in the measurement of space, applies equally well to time. A vernier (named for its French inventor), incidentally, is a kind of gauge, analogous to the second hand on a watch, that can be attached to a larger measuring instrument in order to provide an instant readout of more precise divisions of distance. The theodolite, then as now, is the basic instrument of surveying and civil engineering. Mounted on a tripod and precisely leveled, it measures vertical and horizontal angles. When the "lines of collimation" are connected, uneven surfaces are converted into a precisely rendered grid. In 1860, determining one's precise geographical location was a thoroughly rational profession. Temporal positioning, by contrast, was still arrived at by solar approximation. Before the decade had ended, in 1869, the first tentative proposal for linking time and longitude—that is, for rationalizing the dimensions of time and space—would be launched.

The surveyors' instruments have their great and small applications, from establishing the earth's longitudes and building railways, to determining property lines. They have analogies to timekeeping. Verniers and theodolites date from the sixteenth century, and both were in Fleming’s trunk carried from Scotland. When John Sang and his sons were forced to sell their instruments in a bankruptcy proceeding, they were giving up the tools of their identity.

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Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Volume 1

Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Volume 1

Passion, Reason, and Politics, 1825-1857
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : political

A brilliant writer, outstanding orator, and charismatic politician, Thomas D'Arcy McGee is best known for his prominent role in Irish-Canadian politics, his inspirational speeches in support of Canadian Confederation, and his assassination by an Irish revolutionary who accused him of betraying his earlier Irish nationalist principles. Thomas D'Arcy McGee, the first volume in a two-part biography, explores the development of those principles in Ireland and the United States. David Wilson follows …

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Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Gift of Wings
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

Mary Henley Rubio has spent over two decades researching Montgomery’s life, and has put together a comprehensive and penetrating picture of this Canadian literary icon, all set in rich social context. Extensive interviews with people who knew Montgomery – her son, maids, friends, relatives, all now deceased – are only part of the material gathered in a journey to understand Montgomery that took Rubio to Poland and the highlands of Scotland.

From Montgomery’s apparently idyllic childhood …

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Excerpt

Introduction

In November 1907, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote to a friend that biography is a “screaming farce.” She added that the best biographies give only two-dimensional portraits, but every person has a half dozen “different sides.” In 2008, one hundred years after the publication of Anne of Green Gables, we know much more about the many sides of “Maud,” as she liked to be called. And in fact many now feel that Maud’s greatest literary creation was her own tortured self­portrait, now published in her private journals more than fifty years after her death. But the truth may be even more complicated than that.

Maud’s life feels at times like a smoke-and-mirrors game. By 1920, when her name was famous all over the English-speaking world, Maud began preparing material for those who would later interpret her life. She compiled scrapbooks, account books, review-clipping books, and a multitude of other memorabilia. Although she was (in her son’s words) a “packrat” by nature, this material was also intended as a cache of information for those who would later become her biographers. She carefully recopied her journals, starting in 1919, making an edited, permanent copy. She saw her journals as her greatest gift to future biographers: they presented her life as she wanted it remembered.

When Elizabeth Waterston and I began editing the L. M. Montgomery journals in the 1980s, we took them at face value. Later we came to question elements in these fascinating life­documents. They did not hold the truth, we felt, so much as a truth. These journals, frank in so many ways, and so rich as social history, began to seem to us a cache of concealments, displacements, contradictions, and omissions. Initially, they seemed such a boon, but eventually they became another layer to excavate through. This biography will track some of my own processes, as well as my conclusions. In the nearly three decades that she has been the object of my part­time research I have never grown bored with Maud. She is truly a biographer’s dream subject: you never feel that you have found the master key that fully unlocks all the rooms in her house.

In 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery burst onto the literary scene with her first novel, Anne of Green Gables. At age thirty­three, she had already published scores of short stories and poems, but this best­selling novel achieved instant acclaim, with seven impressions printed in its first year alone. It churned up so much attention that her home province, Prince Edward Island, soon had a flood of visitors, all wanting to see the landscapes she painted so vividly. Her publisher demanded sequels, and she obliged, eventually making her beloved Island a site for tourists from all over the world. Her books appeared to be “simple little tales” (to echo her own modest phrasing in a journal entry dated October 15, 1908), but that was misleading: the last quarter century of scholarly research has shown that her writing has been, in fact, a very powerful agent of social change.

Anne of Green Gables was not written as a novel for children. It was aimed at a general audience of adults and children, men and women, sophisticates and simple readers, as were many of her other books. It appealed to famous statesmen as much as to ordinary people. In 1908, the celebrated author Mark Twain wrote Maud to praise “Anne” as “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice.” In 1910, Earl Grey, one of Canada’s most beloved Governors General and an esteemed writer himself, travelled to Prince Edward Island just to meet her. In 1923, she was the first Canadian woman to be elected as a member of the British Royal Society of Arts.

By 1925, translations into other languages were expanding her readership in Sweden, Holland, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Australia, and France. Two prime ministers of Great Britain expressed admiration for her books: Stanley Baldwin made a point of meeting her during his 1927 tour of Canada; his successor, Ramsay MacDonald, is reported to have said that he read all of her books that he could find – not just once, but several times.

At home in Ontario, where she moved in 1911 following her marriage to Presbyterian minister Ewan Macdonald, Maud was in constant demand as a storyteller and speaker. She was also active in organizations associated with the Canadian cultural scene, particularly the Canadian Authors Association. In 1928, a rapturous audience of two thousand gave her a standing ovation at the annual Canadian Book Week in Toronto, Ontario. In 1935, she was elected to the Literary and Artistic Institute of France for her contributions to literature. In the same year, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in Canada. In 1937, the Montreal Family Herald and Star reported from a survey that she and Charles Dickens were the “most read” authors in Canada. Also in 1937, the Prince Edward Island National Park was established to preserve the landscapes her books had made so famous. Her status as an international celebrity seemed secure.

By the time of her death in 1942, she had published over twenty books, and more than five hundred short stories and five hundred poems, all while raising a family, living a busy life as the wife of a country minister, and completing ten volumes of secret journals. Her books were read all over the English-speaking world, and were translated into many more languages. No other Canadian writer had reached such a pinnacle of success on so many fronts: she was truly an international celebrity.

But a reversal of her literary reputation had been slowly occurring. For the first decade after Anne of Green Gables was published, critics praised Maud’s books. However, as Modernism set in, with its grim focus on the breakdown of social norms, critics dimmed their view of her cheerful books, with their witty treatment of human behaviour and their celebration of the imagination and nature. Instead, the professional critics started faulting her novels for their splashes of purple prose and their “sentimentalism,” ignoring the darker soundings that haunted her stories before the reader got to the “happy endings.”

In the mid-1920s, the growing cadre of men who panned her books included influential newsmen, university professors, and writers in Canada, and they all knew each other. In 1926, one of Canada’s powerful newspaper critics led the attack, labelling her books the nadir of Canadian fiction. A much respected professor of literature termed her books “naïve” with an “innocence” that suggested “ignorance of life.” A grudging evaluation was made by another male novelist, who wrote: “ . . . not that those books may not have their readers who profit from them: I have found that out. But how a woman who judges so accurately can stand writing that stuff . . .” In the face of such attacks, even the critics who had previously lauded her writing started being careful to temper their praise.

Nevertheless, all these men were impressed (and annoyed) by her sales success. While some allowed that her large readership might speak to some undefined cultural need, others felt that her popularity merely proved her “lowbrow” quality. These detractors spoke with such a powerful voice in Canada between the mid-1920s and her death in 1942 that her work fell into disfavour. Librarians heeded what the influential critics said, and some libraries even shunned her books. In 1967, the don of Canadian librarians, Sheila Egoff, wrote a groundbreaking study of Canadian children’s literature that gave definition to the field. She repeated the view of the earlier critics, and attacked Maud for “sentimental dishonesty.” By the 1970s the general wisdom was that Montgomery was a sentimental writer who appealed to the uncultured and masses of undiscriminating women and children, and still in the 1980s, expressing an admiration for Maud’s books was rather risky. She was relegated strictly to the category of “children’s writer,” and was judged by her weakest books, not by her best.

My thinking for this biography began in summer 1974. At that time, I was a young academic attending an international children’s literature conference in Toronto, which brought together librarians, academics, and writers from North America and the United Kingdom. I was surprised to hear several Canadians there refer to Maud’s writing in terms that depicted it as a national embarrassment. That, I learned, was the legacy of the critics of the previous fifty years: their view was entrenched.

This puzzled me. I had come from the United States and a background in American literature. I taught Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn at the University of Guelph. In my view, Anne of Green Gables held up very well in comparison. The main difference was that Huck, a boy, could challenge conventions, but Anne, a girl, had to conform to them. Otherwise, there were many interesting similarities between the two books. Each author had a wonderfully comic way with satire, and each book – though telling a simple, episodic story – had a great deal of depth.

I soon discovered that one of my senior colleagues, Elizabeth Waterston, believed that Maud was undervalued, too. In 1967 – Canada’s centennial year and the year Sheila Egoff’s book was published – Elizabeth had written the first substantial scholarly article taking Maud’s books seriously. Soon after, she had been quietly advised by a distinguished university colleague not to waste any more time writing about Maud if she wished to advance up the academic ladder. He meant the advice in a kindly way, fearing that her critical talents would be squandered on an unworthy subject – at least in the eyes of the English Department’s Promotion and Tenure Committee.

By 1974, Elizabeth had moved on, and had become Chair of the Department of English at the University of Guelph. In 1975, a group of us in the department decided to start the journal CCL: Canadian Children’s Literature. (We had already started a course in “Children’s Literature,” a new academic field then.) Maud became the focus of our third issue, with Elizabeth’s 1967 piece reprinted as the lead article. We were scrabbling for material in a new field, and I set about writing a comparison of Huckleberry Finn and Anne. Writing this article intensified my interest in Maud. I didn’t like the sequels as much as I liked Anne of Green Gables, but there was something magnetic about her writing.

This ultimately led to a long journey into literary archaeology. In the late 1970s I met Maud’s son, Dr. E. Stuart Macdonald (who, as our friendship developed, I came to call “Stuart”), after sending him a complimentary copy of our special issue. By this time, I had formed an image of the personality I believed to be behind Maud’s books: she had a wonderful sense of humour and she looked at humankind with a bemused, tolerant smile. I thought she must have been the ideal mother, and said so early in my first meeting with her son. That ill­advised remark clearly hit a nerve, and I will never forget Dr. Macdonald’s slow, appraising look, first at me and then into me and finally through me. A succinct (and more measured) version of his response to me is found in a letter he once wrote to a Swedish woman:

. . . although in her writings, [my mother] . . . gave the impression of broad tolerance of human weaknesses, she did not condone any such elasticity in herself or her family. . . . She was extremely sensitive, although an excellent dissembler, and though she experienced great peaks, she also fell to great depths emotionally, which does not make for tranquillity. This rigidity and sensitivity, prevented any easy camaraderie in the family, but she was capable of inspiring deep affection in us all.

By the end of the interview, I was rather intimidated by Maud’s son, a busy and respected medical doctor who knew how to speak his mind forcefully when journalists and academics intruded on his time. But my curiosity about his mother’s personality was piqued to the extreme. Where did those funny, happy novels come from?

Dr. Macdonald died suddenly of an aneurysm in 1982, and Elizabeth Waterston and I began the long process of editing Maud’s journals together. Maud had willed them to Dr. Macdonald with the instruction that he should publish them eventually. I expected them to answer my evolving fascination with Maud’s hold on people – including me. A friend working on a Ph.D. told me her theory: “I reread Montgomery to wash the academic sludge out of my mind.” Other’s comments confirmed that reading Maud’s books seemed to make people feel happy, refreshed, and part of a special community. I mused over the possibility of measuring happiness through people’s neural responses while reading different writers, and I fancied the fun in matching Maud against a Faulkner or a Joyce.

As Elizabeth and I went through the journals together, editing them, we puzzled over the astonishing disjunction between the bright, happy novels and the dark, often painful life. How could one personality produce such different documents simultaneously – writing cheerful novels in the morning and tortured journals in the evening, so to speak? Maud was quite aware of her own bifurcated life. As a minister’s wife with a very judgmental nature, she developed a carefully controlled public persona and revealed little of her inner thoughts. Her journals were clearly a safety valve for a highly volatile woman. What was this complex woman really like?

Once, when a journalist came to interview her, she wrote that she was keeping her inner life private and hidden: “Well, I’ll give him the bare facts he wants. He will not know any more about the real me or my real life for it all. . . . The only key to that is found in this old journal.” But as Elizabeth and I worked closely with the journals, those “tell-all” documents, we discovered they did not reveal everything.

Dr. Macdonald had asked me to write a biography of his mother based on her journals shortly before he died. I argued that the proper order was to publish the journals first, and then write a biography, after more research. Elizabeth and I wrote a short biography called Writing a Life: L. M. Montgomery in 1995, and it is now available on the Internet (www.lmmrc.ca). Dr. Macdonald told me that if I did write his mother’s biography, he wanted it to be as truthful as possible for several reasons: first, because she herself hated prettied-up biographies that made no attempt to get behind the real truths in lives; second, because her achievements would be more remarkable if people knew the conditions under which she wrote; and finally, because there would be things people could learn from her life that might prevent them from making the same mistakes. His mother had left him written instructions that he was to publish all of her journals intact, eventually, but there is much in this biography that is not in her journals and that he himself did not know.

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Baking as Biography

Baking as Biography

A Life Story in Recipes
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
tagged : political

Hidden among the simple lists of ingredients and directions for everyday foods are surprising stories. In Baking as Biography, Diane Tye considers her mother's recipe collection, reading between the lines of the aging index cards to provide a candid and nuanced portrait of one woman's life as mother, minister's wife, and participant in local Maritime women's networks.

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The Great Maritime Detective

The Great Maritime Detective

The Exploits and Adventures of the Notorious Peachie Carroll
edition:Paperback
tagged : historical

He was a sailor a miner, a bounty hunter, a prospector, a ghost hunter, and a railway guard, just to name a few. Whether sinner or saint, Peter Owen Carroll, a.k.a. Peachie Carroll, is best remembered as the infamous Maritime police detective of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Although his methods were sometimes unscrupulous, and he was often considered a mercenary, Peachie Carroll was a formidable investigator. Peachie was fired, re-hired, and quit many times, but as a pol …

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Shadowmaker

Shadowmaker

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary, women

There is no doubt Rosemary Sullivan is a biographer of extraordinary talent. Her first biography, By Heart: Elizabeth Smart:A Life was a bestseller and nominated for a Governor General’s Award. Her third biography, The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood, Starting Out, was also a highly acclaimed national bestseller. And her second, Shadow Maker, won the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Non-Fiction, the City of Toronto Book Award and the University …

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The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary

Portrait of an Artist and her Generation

International award-winning and best-selling author, Canadian cultural icon, feminist role model, "man-hater," wife, mother, private citizen and household name ' who is Margaret Atwood? Rosemary Sullivan, award-winning literary biographer, has penned The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood/Starting Out, the first portrait of Canada's most famous novelist, focusing on her childhood and formative years as a writer and the generation she grew up in.

When Margaret Atwoo …

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