Lily Lewis: Sketches of a Canadian Journalist


284 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-190-0
DDC C818'.409




Edited by Peggy Martin
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.


This is an attempt to rescue a virtually unknown 19th-century Canadian
writer from permanent obscurity. The subject, Lily Lewis, was a
journalist and travel writer at a time when it was unusual for women to
have a career and to travel without a male’s “protection.”

Lewis was born in Montreal in 1866 and by 1888 was an established
newspaper correspondent. Accompanied by another female writer, she
travelled across Canada to British Columbia, then moved on to travel the
world, visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Celon, Singapore, India, Egypt, and
England. From there she explored Europe, and lived in France for a

Throughout her travels she wrote sketches of the people and places she
observed, with emphasis on art and culture. These were published in
Canadian newspapers and later, in British publications. In this
turn-of-the-century world she followed the tradition of many women
writers and signed her writing either with her initials or with the male
pseudonym Lewis Lloyd.

This book is half biography and critical discussion of Lily Lewis’s
work, and half reprints of selected sketches by Lewis. A sketch is a
literary genre (often called a vignette), used to give a brief portrait
of a person, place, or situation, with no requirement to give either a
comprehensive or balanced view. It is highly subjective, crossing the
border between essay and editorial. It is an opportunity to demonstrate
wit and style.

Martin shares her efforts to research Lewis’s life and career, an
undertaking made difficult by factors that undoubtedly contributed to
Lewis’s obscurity today. These include her decision to live in England
rather than return to Canada after her travels, alienation from her
family, and a prolonged hospitalization in England due to mental
illness. Nonetheless Martin did the detective work to give us a portrait
of an early Canadian journalist who showed great promise in the early
stages of her career. At a time when other women wrote about fashions
and domestic issues, Lewis took an international perspective and made
art and culture her main subject.

The work tells the Lily Lewis story, adding another piece to the
history of Canadian women writers who deserved to be recognized and
remembered as part of our literary heritage.


“Lily Lewis: Sketches of a Canadian Journalist,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,