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Roberts, Charles George Douglas
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- Roberts, Charles G.D.
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Dates of existence
10 Jan. 1860-26 Nov. 1943
Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts was born 10 January 1860 at Douglas, New Brunswick to Emma Wetmore Bliss and George Goodridge Roberts. The family later expanded to include 6 children: Jane Elizabeth Gostwycke (Nain), Goodridge Bliss, William Carman, George Edward Theodore Goodridge (Thede) and Fanny who died in infancy. Charles grew up in Sackville, where his father served as rector of St. Ann's Church. In 1873 the family relocated to Fredericton, when Canon Roberts became rector of Christ Church Parish Church (St. Anne's).
Charles G. D. Roberts spent his adolescence in Fredericton, where both he and his cousin, Bliss Carman, attended the Collegiate School and worked under the tutelage of headmaster and classical scholar George R. Parkin. Roberts continued his studies at the University of New Brunswick, graduating in June 1879 with honours in mental and moral science and political economy, a scholarship in Latin and Greek and a medal for Latin composition. While at UNB, Roberts wrote several poems including "Memnon", which was published in The Century in the summer of 1879.
Following graduation, Roberts moved to Chatham to become headmaster of the grammar school. His first volume of poetry, Orion and Other Poems, appeared in the fall of 1879. The next year he passed up an opportunity to attend Oxford University to marry Mary (May) Isabel Fenety, the daughter of Eliza Ann Arthur and George E. Fenety of Fredericton. They would have 4 children: Goodridge Edward Athelstan, William Harris Lloyd, Edith Arthur Bliss and Douglas (Dud) Hammond Brock. Despite increasing responsibilities, Roberts received an M.A. degree from UNB in 1881.
Roberts returned to Fredericton in 1882 to assume the principalship of the York Street School; however, he would not remain there permanently. The Roberts family soon moved to Toronto, where Charles G. D. worked briefly as editor of The Week. In 1885 he became professor of English, economics and French at King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia. His 10 years at Windsor were some of his most productive and included the publication of 2 volumes of poetry, In Divers Tones (1887) and Songs of the Common Day (1893); a book of prose, History of Canada (1897); 3 novelettes, The Raid from Beauséjour (1894), How the Carter Boys Lifted the Mortage (1894) and Reube Dare's Shad Boat (1895); and a number of nature stories which appeared in Earth's Enigmas (1896). By 1895, when Roberts resigned his teaching post, he was being recognized as a promising Canadian writer. The Royal Society of Canada elected him a fellow in 1890.
Over the next 35 years, Roberts involved himself in a variety of activities and spent most of his time outside Canada. In 1897 he left his family in Fredericton and moved to New York City, never to co-habit with them again. Between 1907 and 1925, he travelled in Europe and made London his permanent home. During these years, he took up freelancing, worked as an editor of The Illustrated American in New York, served in the British and Canadian armies, gave lectures, published and toured Europe, Britain, and the United States.
Returning to Canada in 1925, Roberts took up residence in Toronto, where he continued his involvement in the Canadian literary scene. He lectured, published, promoted rising Canadian writers, and served as national president of the Canadian Authors' Association and as editor of Canadian Who Was Who. His literary talents were rewarded in 1926, when he was named the first recipient of the Lorne Pierce medal. He was knighted in 1935. Previously, he had been awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of New Brunswick (1906). Following the death of his wife, on 28 October 1943 he married Joan Montgomery. Charles G. D. Roberts died in Toronto on 26 November 1943.
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Revised 17 Aug. 2017
Archivist: Jeremy Heil
- Biographical sketch from the Canadian Encyclopedia article on Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sir-charles-george-douglas-roberts/ (Accessed 17 Aug. 2017).