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Gilbert Parker


Centurion, 1897–1932

Full Name Gilbert Horatio George Parker

Born 23 November 1862 in Napanee, Ontario, Canada

Died 6 September 1932 in London, England

Buried Belleville Cemetery, Belleville, Ontario, Canada

Proposed by Edmund C. Stedman, Arthur Sherburne Hardy, and Charles Dudley Warner

Elected 1 May 1897 at age thirty-four

Century Memorial

The British literary oracle who asked, a century ago, “Who reads an American book?” was not entirely accurate; his supercilious query was put at the moment when a very substantial body of English readers were immersed in Irving’s “Sketch Book” and “Bracebridge Hall”. But Sidney [sic: Sydney] Smith would hardly have even asked, Who reads a Canadian book? because in those days there was no such thing. As happened much earlier in America south of the St. Lawrence, the beginnings of Canadian literature came only with the stirring of national self consciousness. When Gilbert Parker published in 1891 the first of those vivid narratives, painted against the background of Canada’s early history, the country was just emerging from the status which phrasemakers of today would call the “colonial complex.” The rapid development towards nationality had begun, which in the next four decades created a Canada nominally dependent on Great Britain, willingly part of the British Empire, but essentially a powerful independent state, in some important aspects overshadowing for political and economic vigor the parent kingdom. Parker was a loyal son of the Empire; Canadian by birth, he sat for years in the Commons at Westminster and received a title from King George. But Canada was the country of his heart and imagination. If the colorful old French régime and the fur-clad “habitans” appealed most strongly to his fancy, some of his best stories have the setting of a later Canada. They were the literature of his people, and their successive publication served as landmarks in the progress of Canadian nationality.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1933 Century Association Yearbook