Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
July 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


John Galt


Galt, John (1779-1839), novelist, was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, on May 2, 1779, the son of John Galt, the captain of a West Indiaman. He was educated at Greenock, went to London in 1804, spent the years 1809-11 in the Near East, and then returned to England to support himself by writing. He tried journalism, biography, drama, and finally fiction. His stories of Scottish life, which he began to publish in 1820, established his reputation as a novelist. At the same time began his connection with Canada. In 1820 he was appointed London agent for the Canadian claimants for compensation in connection with losses sustained during the War of 1812; and in 1824 he was the promoter of the Canada Company, and was appointed secretary of the board of directors. As a commissioner of the company he visited Canada in 1825, and again in 1826. On the latter occasion, he was appointed superintendent, and he remained in Canada until 1829. He founded in 1827 the town of Guelph, Upper Canada ; and the town of Galt, Upper Canada, was named after him. To him belongs the honour of opening up the Huron Tract; but in doing so he did not succeed in carrying his board of directors with him, and he was recalled. The last ten years of his life were spent in England and Scotland, in poverty, ill-health, and book-making. In 1834 he interested himself in the formation of the British American Land Company, for the exploitation of the Eastern Townships of Lower Canada, and he was appointed superintendent of this company; but his health prevented him coming out again to Canada, and he died at Greenock, Scotland , on April 11, 1839. In 1813 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Dr. Tilloch, editor of the Philosophical Magazine; and by her he had three sons.

His most famous novels were Annals of the parish (Edinburgh, 1821), The Ayrshire legatees (Edinburgh, 1821), The provost (Edinburgh, 1822), Sir Andrew Wylie (Edinburgh, 1822), The entail (Edinburgh, 1823), The last of the lairds (Edinburgh, 1826),. and Laurie Todd (London, 1830). Very few of his writings deal with Canada. He was the author of. papers entitled Statistical account of Upper Canada (Philosophical Magazine, 1807), and Colonial discontent (Blackwood's Magazine, 1829), of a story entitled The Hurons, a Canadian tale (Fraser's Magazine, 1830), and of The Canadas from original documents furnished by John Galt, by A. Picken (London, 1832). His Autobiography (London, 1833) contains information about his life in Canada ; and to him is sometimes attributed "The Canadian boat song", which appeared in Blackwood's in September, 1829. See R. K. Gordon, John Galt (University of Toronto Studies, 1920), with bibliography; and R. and K. M. Lizars, In the days of the Canada Company ( Toronto , 1896).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. III, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 396p., pp. 5-6. 


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College