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Charles Mair

charles mair wikipedia, charles mair
Charles Mair September 21, 1838 – July 7, 1927 was a Canadian poet and journalist He was a fervent Canadian nationalist noted for his participation in the Canada First movement and his opposition to Louis Riel during the two Riel Rebellions in western Canada


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Writing
  • 3 Recognition
  • 4 Publications
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Mair was born at Lanark, Upper Canada, to Margaret Holmes and James Mair He attended Queen's University but did not graduate On leaving college, he became a journalist

In Ottawa in 1868, Mair was introduced by civil servant and writer Henry Morgan to young lawyers George Denison, William Foster, and Robert Haliburton "Together they organized the overtly nationalistic Canada First movement, which began as a small social group"

Mair "represented the Montreal Gazette during the first Riel Rebellion, and was imprisoned and narrowly escaped being shot by the rebels"

Mair was a Freemason

Mair "was an Officer of the Governor-General's Body Guard during the second Riel rebellion in 1885, and was later employed in the Canadian civil service in the West" He died in Victoria, British Columbia


Mair published the first book of poetry in post-Confederation Canada, 1868's Dreamland and Other Poems "Negligible as verse," says The Canadian Encyclopedia, "the volume gained interest when Mair escaped after being captured by Louis Riel during the Red River disturbances of 1869-70"

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography DCB states that Dreamland "demonstrates a conventional colonial approach to poetry Such poems as 'August' succeed in their attention to natural detail: descriptions of the blueflies, the milkmaids, and the 'ribby-lean' cattle in parched fields anticipate the mature nature poetry of Archibald Lampman But too often he wrote not of the timberlands he knew but of a dreamland weakly modelled upon the romantic flights of Keats" However, the book was praised by "the established poet Charles Sangster, who referred to Canada's sophisticated literary tradition as one that was habitually overlooked in the popular press"

Writing later in the Ottawa Journal, William Wilfred Campbell saw Dreamland as a precursor to the nature poetry later popularized in Canada by the Confederation Poets: "The thirty-three poems constitute the first attempt to deal with Canadian nature, in the manner of Keats and the other classic poets, and many of them in theme and treatment are similar to the verse of Lampman and Roberts And there are strong evidences in Mair's work that he influenced these poets to a great extent"

Mair published Tecumseh, a historical drama mainly in blank verse dealing with the War of 1812, in 1886 Canadian critic Alan Filewood wrote of the political and philosophical ideas expressed by Mair in the poem:

Mair's projection of Canadian nationhood is embodied in the character of Lefroy, a Byronesque poet who flees civilization to seek solace in nature's genius

He learns – tragically – from the British General Brock that natural law finds its outward form in the monarchic principle, and from the Indian chieftain Tecumseh that nature must be defended against the perversion of American materialism The dying Tecumseh legitimizes the proto-Anglo Canadians as the natural guardians of the land, and Canadian manhood finds mature expression in a race of armed poets Mair looked to the day when the dominions would assume the responsibilities of adulthood: Then shall a whole family of young giants stand 'Erect, unbound, at Britain's side-' her imperial offspring oversea, the upholders in the far future of her glorious tradition, or, should exhaustion ever come, the props and supports of her declining years

The DCB calls Tecumseh "a major contribution to our 19th-century literary heritage, wherein the War of 1812 is the central event of Canadian history Among the many literary treatments of this war, including works by Sangster, John Richardson, and Sarah Anne Curzon Tecumseh stands as the most accomplished" The Canadian Encyclopedia says that the poem's "blank verse is pedestrian and untheatrical", but it also tells us that "Tecumseh was important in the development of Canadian drama It presents a vision of Canada as a co-operative enterprise in contrast with the self-seeking individualism of the United States"


Mair was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1889

In 1937 he was designated a Person of National Historic Significance

Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot adapted a line from Tecumseh, "There was a time on this fair continent," for the first line in his 1967 historical ballad, "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy" "There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run"


  • Dreamland and Other Poems London: S Low, 1868 Montreal: Dawson, 1868,
  • Tecumseh Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co, 1886 London: Chapman & Hall, 1886
  • Through the Mackenzie Basin: A Narrative of the Athabasca and Peace River Treaty Expedition of 1899 London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co, 1903


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  1. ^ a b c d "Mair, Charles," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online Web, Mar 21, 2100
  2. ^ a b c "Mair, Charles," Encyclopedia of Canada Toronto: University Associates, 1948, XV, 225
  3. ^ A few famous freemasons at freemasonrybcyca
  4. ^ a b WJ Keith, "Poetry in English: 1867 to 1918," Canadian Encyclopedia Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988, 1696
  5. ^ John Garvin, "Charles Mair," Canadian Poets Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1916, 19, UPennedu, Web, May 10, 2011
  6. ^ Alan Filewood, "Theatre, Navy and The Narrative of 'True Canadianism'", in Theatre Research in Canada, Vol 13 No 1&2 Spring/Fall 1992
  7. ^ Dennis Duffy, "Mair, Charles," Canadian Encyclopedia Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988, 1287
  8. ^ "Persons of National Historic Significance," Wikipedia, Web, Apr 22, 2011
  9. ^ a b c Search results: Charles Mair, Open Library, May 9, 2011

External links

  • Works by Charles Mair at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Charles Mair at Internet Archive
  • Charles Mair fonds at Queen's University Archives

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