Where does one begin talking about Haliburton? Thought of as one of Canada’s first writers, he gained fame both at home and internationally for his satirical writing and it is hard to do justice to his biography within the limited confines of a blog post.
Here are the basics: born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Haliburton was a blue-blood loyalist and Tory radical (these terms once meant something). He attended King’s Collegiate School (I have a feeling we are going to hear more about this school as we read further into the NCL – the next author on the list taught there) and King’s College (now affiliated with Dalhousie). A prominent business man and judge he is best known for his writing and his politics. His enduring literary legacy is The Clockmaker serial that ran in The Novascotian newspaper.
In 1884, faculty and students at King’s College, Windsor, founded a literary society in honour of the College’s most celebrated man of letters. The Haliburton Club, still active at King’s College, Halifax, is now the longest-standing collegial literary society in the British Commonwealth and North America.
Since The Clockmaker is the book being reviewed this week, here is some political background information on it taken from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:
By his use in The Clockmaker of Sam Slick, Haliburton was able to deliver a balanced judgement with respect to the Americans, the British, and the Nova Scotians. His judgements were two-edged. He admired the English for their traditions and institutions, of which he felt himself to be a part. He criticized them because they refused to alter their traditions when faced with new conditions, and because they patronized the colonies. He disliked the Americans for their braggadocio, their opportunism, and for having defeated Great Britain in war. At the same time, he admired their industry, efficiency, and adaptability. Haliburton saw the Nova Scotians as a people who possessed fundamental British virtues, but who were ruining themselves by maintaining an unrealistic standard of living in the face of depressed circumstances more than 15 years after the close of the Napoleonic wars. Instead of following the Yankees example and improving their lot by practical means, they were squandering fast-vanishing opportunities in futile religious and political battles. Sam Slick, in Haliburton’s hands, becomes in his industry and practicality an example for Nova Scotians to follow and in his uncouth manners and vanity the epitome of those qualities his creator despised. Out of his deeds and observations emerges Haliburton’s vision of a possible Nova Scotian life combining the conservative principles of Edmund Burke with the practice of frontier practicality and industry.
Of the three series of The Clockmaker, the first was undoubtedly the best. Not only does a writer tell his best stories first but he usually tells them best if he tells them in his own good time. In the first series Haliburton worked at his own pace as the book ripened naturally out of the milieu in which he found himself. His principal biographer, V. L. O. Chittick, is probably correct when he suggests that the main purpose of each of the three series was slightly different: the first was to stimulate the Nova Scotians to self-help in order to solve their immediate financial difficulties; the second was to put down the Reform movement, which Haliburton dismissed as a sham whereby self-seeking politicians sought by creating a new ideology of “democracy” to supplant administrators who were in all respects their superiors; and the third was directed more to an English audience than to Nova Scotians, to persuade the Colonial Office not to grant responsible government to Nova Scotia. These were tasks of increasing difficulty which Haliburton failed to surmount completely in the second and third series of The Clockmaker. A crisis in his personal relations with Joseph Howe in the 1840s is a further confirmation that Haliburton was rapidly losing the balance with respect to the political and economic realities in Nova Scotia that was one of the strengths of The Clockmaker, first series.
Near the end of his life Haliburton – and his political leanings – left Nova Scotia and moved to England to become a member of Parliment.
Bookrags, Wikipedia, Dictionary of Canada.