Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 11, 1821-1835


984 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3436-5
DDC 920'




Edited by Frances G. Halpenny
Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality.


Thanks be for Canada’s birdseed man, James Nicholson. This Toronto businessman, who loved to read and wanted a biographical dictionary that would emulate those in other countries, left the residue of his estate in 1952 for this purpose.

Since its inception, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography has been distinguished by impeccable scholarship, but it is also much more. Each volume is an incredibly good read and an introduction to a whole panoply of characters who are faintly familiar or completely unknown.

This is the tenth volume of this landmark series. While one might quibble with the publisher’s decision to include individuals according to the year in which they died, it is impossible to think of any other satisfying criterion for so vast a project. Anyone interested in any facet of Canadian culture is bound to find something of interest in this or any of the volumes.

Although the present work covers the period from 1821 to 1835, it includes people like Francis Maseres, whose influence was felt in Canadian affairs immediately after the conquest of 1760, right up to the 30 biographies of those who perished during the terrible cholera epidemic of 1832. In all, there are 479 biographies in 28 different categories written by 283 contributors.

The longest accounts are limited to the most important individuals in public and business life, but the shorter ones are no less engaging. Read about Shawnadithit, the last known Beothuk (the original red skins), whose life serves as a springboard for an informed discussion of the extinction of an entire people. No less interesting is the fate of Mary Thompson, charged in early Upper Canada with infanticide. Her trial led finally to important changes in criminal law. Follow Anne Powell as she is spurned by Attorney General John Beverley Robinson but pursues her impassioned attachment to her death. The life of François Romain relates the beginnings of librarianship and free public education in Quebec, while Italian immigrant Thomas Delvecchio kept a museum of natural history and curiosities in Montreal which was a real spectacle.

Most of all, read and enjoy. The volume ain’t cheap, but it’s a real bargain!



“Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 11, 1821-1835,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 6, 2023, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34290.