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Gilbert Parker


Sir Gilbert Parker (1862-1932), prolific Canadian author and British politician, best known for his historical stories of French Canadian culture and history.

Horatio Gilbert George Parker was born 23 November, 1862 in Camden East township, Addington county, in the province of Ontario, the son of Captain J. Parker, R.A. Parker was educated at Ottawa, then later at Trinity University in Toronto. Parker then went on to teach for several years at the Ontario School for the deaf and dumb in Belleville, Ontario.

Parker went on to lecture at Trinity college, then in 1886 became associate editor of the Sydney Morning Herald after travelling to Australia. His ensuing travels to Europe, the Pacific, Asia, Egypt, the South Sea Islands and eventually Northern Ontario, and his observations and experiences of pioneering life, were to provide much fodder for his future characters and stories. In 1890 he finally settled in London, England, where he wrote a number of romantic novels. He also had many of his stories published in the magazines and newspapers of North America and England, including selections from his Pierre and his People (1892) volumes. Some of his works also made it to the stage including The Seats of the Mighty (1896, dramatized in 1897).

London saw Parkers' reputation as a romantic novelist flourish. Québécois or, French Canadian history and culture were one of his main subjects of inspiration and often thought of as his best. His highly descriptive and dramatic historical stories established his permanent place in literary history with works such as The Trail of the Sword (1894) and When Valmond came to Pontiac (1895). Parker had a gift for creating atmosphere, thus providing the edge of authenticity to his characters that many writers struggle with. "Had I not been able to create atmosphere which would have given naturalness to Pierre and his friends, some of the characters, and many of the incidents, would have seemed monstrosities, melodramatic episodes merely."

In 1895 Parker married Miss Van Tine of New York, a wealthy heiress. Now Parker was devoting more of his time to his political career. In 1900 he became a member of parliament for Gravesend (retired 1918) and knighted in 1902 for his contributions to Canadian literature. A staunch Imperialist, he organised and worked with the British War Propaganda Bureau against the United States during WWI.

Some of Parker's later publications, such as The Right of Way (1901), were deemed by some critics as not his best effort, though Parker writes: "This book has been written out of something vital in me--I do not mean the religious part of it, I mean the humanity that becomes one's own and part of one's self, by observation, experience, and understanding got from dead years." The stories contained in Northern Lights (1909) were written during and after Parker's travels to the Far West and North of Canada. Romany of the Snows (1916), is a continuation of Pierre and His People.

Gilbert Parker died in England and his remains were buried on 26 September, 1932, in Belleville, Ontario, one of the pallbearers being the then Prime Minister of Canada, Richard Bedford Bennett.

"That I understood Canada could not be established by the fact that I had spent my boyhood there, but only by the fact that some inner vision permitted me to see it as it really was." Gilbert Parker, from the Introduction of Donovan Pasha.(1902)

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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