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by Sara Jeannette Duncan
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Carole Gerson, Simon Fraser University
a realistic novel about highly-charged political issues whose legacy affects us today...
Sara Jeannette Duncan is well known for her stories juxtaposing life in colonial Canada and the Old World. The Imperialist is the most highly acclaimed of her novels. It is set in a fictional town of Elgin, though it is a thin veil for the town where Duncan herself grew up in Brantford. Through the eyes of Lorne Murchison, we see the impoverished small town rise and fall along with his own political ambitions.
Wallingham certainly invited them to dinner one Sunday, in a body, an occasion which gave one or two of them some anxiety until they found that it was not to be adorned by the ladies of the family. Tricorne was there, President of the Board of Trade, and Fleming, who held the purse-strings of the United Kingdom, two Ministers whom Wallingham had asked because they were supposed to have open minds--open, that is to say, for purposes of assimilation.
Inside Flap Copy
Sara Jeannette Duncan?s classic portrait of a turn-of-the-century Ontario town, The Imperialist captures the spirit of an emergent nation through the example of two young dreamers. Impassioned by ?the Imperialist idea,? Lorne Murchison rests his bid for office on his vision of a rejuvenated British Empire. His sister Advena betrays a kindred attraction to the high-flown ideals in her love for an unworldly, and unavailable, young minister. Nimbly alternating between politics and romance, Duncan constructs a superbly ironic object-lesson in the Canadian virtue of compromise.
Sympathetic, humorous, and wonderfully detailed, The Imperialist is an astute analysis of the paradoxes of Canadian nationhood, as relevant today as when the novel was first published in 1904.
About the Author
Sara Jeannette Duncan was born in Brantford, Ontario, in 1861. She attended the Toronto Normal School, then left teaching for a career in journalism. She worked as an editorial writer and book reviewer for the Washington Post, then wrote for the Toronto Globe under the name of “Garth Grafton,” and contributed a column to whose founder was Goldwin Smith. She was also parliamentary correspondent in Ottawa for the Montreal Star.
In 1888 Duncan set off on a round-the-world trip as correspondent for the New York World and the Montreal Star. In Calcutta she met her future husband, Everard Cotes, an Englishman serving there as curator of the Indian Museum. They married two years later. Duncan lived in India for twenty-five years, with extended stays abroad in London and frequent trips to Canada.
A prolific and popular writer of fiction, Duncan set nearly half of her novels in India. The Imperialist (1904), generally considered her finest, is her only novel set in Canada. During and after World War One she devoted much of her time to playwrighting.
In 1922 Duncan and her husband retired to England.
Sara Jeannette Duncan died in Ashtead, Surrey, England in 1922.
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