William Kirby

William KirbyWilliam Kirby

NCL Biography:

[From Series Three The Golden Dog]

William Kirby was born in Kingston-Upon-Hull, England in 1817, and emigrated with his parents to the United States when he was fifteen. Strong British sympathies led him to Canada in 1839, where he eventually settled at Niagara-on-the-Lake, and became Editor of the Niagara Mail. Between 1871 and 1895 he was Collector of Customs, and was made a charter member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1882. He died in 1906.

Although The Golden Dog is his most important work he did a considerable amount of writing. A passionate Loyalist and Tory, he was opposed to the introduction of Responsible Government, and the occasion of Sir Charles Metcalfe’s retirement led to the writing of his 167-stanza Monody. His prose tirade, Counter Manifesto to the Canadian Annexationists, first appeared in the Mail in 1849 under the pseudonym “Britannicus,” and later as an anonymous pamphlet, although its authorship was an open secret. His lively Annals of Niagara was first published by the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society in 1896. It was reprinted in 1927, with an introduction by Lorne Pierce, and remains a standard work. He also wrote a number of poems on historical subjects.

The Golden Dog, a historical romance in the grand manner, was the result of eleven years research on the last days of New France and the causes of its downfall. The book was first published without Kirby’s permission (New York, 1877), was extensively pirated, and had a Montreal edition the same year. It was translated into French by Pamphile Lemay in 1884. Kirby revised the book for the authorized edition, which finally appeared in 1896.

Books in the NCL:

The Golden Dog [N65]

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