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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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ROBERTS, CHARLES GEORGE DOUGLAS (1860-1943)

ROBERTS, CHARLES GEORGE DOUGLAS, principal of the Chatham Grammar School, 1879-82, and celebrated Canadian writer; b. Douglas, N.B., 10 Jan 1860, s/o the Rev. George Goodridge Roberts, DD, and Emma Wetmore Bliss; m. 1st, 1879, Mary Isabel Fenety, of Fredericton, and 2nd, 1943, Joan Montgomery; d. Toronto, 26 Nov 1943.

Charles G. D. Roberts was educated at the Fredericton Collegiate School and the University of New Brunswick (BA 1879, MA 1881). In keeping with a late 19th century practice of hiring the brightest of young liberal arts graduates to conduct the province's schools, he was engaged as principal of the Chatham Grammar School in 1879 at age nineteen. He took a lively interest in his keener students, such as the future teacher Bessie J. Ullock of Black River, and the future writer Thomas G. Marquis. He made friends with a number of other young men in the town, including the newspaper editor J. Edmund Collins and the pharmacist J. D. B. Fraser Mackenzie, who was a groomsman at his wedding.

During the 1879-80 school year Roberts devoted many of his private hours to getting his first work of literature ready for the press. Orion and Other Poems, which was issued in 1880, marked the beginning of his literary career as well as the birth of an indigenous Canadian tradition in poetry. Other aspiring writers to whom it pointed the way included his first cousin Bliss Carman and the young Ontario poets Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott.

Roberts's talents and ambitions soon dictated that he leave the Miramichi behind. In January 1882 he took a position in the York Street School in Fredericton. A year later he resigned and moved to Toronto as editor of The Week. In 1885 he was appointed to the faculty of King's College, Windsor. He held the position at King's longer than any other, but he resigned from it as well in 1895. From that date onward he was a full-time writer, living for different periods in New York, London, and Toronto.

The author of more than sixty books, Roberts is best known for his earlier volumes of poetry and his animal stories, which represent his most original contribution to prose literature. One of the stories is dedicated to "Mr Henry Braithwaite, master of woodcraft," the famous hunter, trapper, and guide, who taught him the ways of animals in the wild.

Roberts had a great many honors bestowed on him, including a knighthood by King George V in 1935, and his reputation as one of the great figures of Canadian literature has stood the test of time.

Sources

[b] Can. Who's Who 1936 [m] Daily News 30 Dec 1879; Encycl. Can. [d] Commercial World 2 Dec 1943 / Commercial World 6 Nov 1941 (re. Bessie J. Haines); Leader 19 Dec 1968; Macmillan DCB; World 25 Jan 1882


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