Thomas Guthrie Marquis

Thomas Guthrie Marquis
Thomas Guthrie Marquis

Thomas Guthrie Marquis (teacher, littérateur, lecturer, literary historian, Edwardian poet, and author), of Scottish origin, was born in Chatham, New Brunswick, on 4 July 1864 to Hugh and Mary, and died in 1936. He was raised in Chatham, where he attended high school under the tutelage of renowned Canadian poet Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, with whom he kept in touch for the rest of his life (Rhodenizer 1011). After high school, Marquis moved to Kingston and enrolled at Queen’s University, where he was again instructed by a famed Canadian literary figure, James Cappon (Rhodenizer 1011). During his time at Queen’s University, Marquis also became well known as a football player. He graduated from Queen’s in 1889 with a BA and certification as a teacher (Morgan 731). Upon the completion of his degree, he remained in Ontario and was appointed English master at Stratford High School (1892–1896). He also taught English at the Collegiate Institute in Kingston for one year (1896–1897), served as principal at the Collegiate Institute in Brockville (1897–1902), and was a highly recognized figure on the lecture circuit (Morgan 731; Roberts 148). In 1892, Marquis married Mary Adelaide King. In 1901 he retired from professional teaching and was, by that time, widely known in the Toronto book trade as a freelance writer and editor (Storey 515). He was also involved in publishing and in the commercial advertisement of various literary works (515).

In the words of his contemporary, Henry Morgan, Marquis was “a Canadian in the fullest acceptation of the term”: a prolific Edwardian poet, historian, and novelist, whose literary career garnered attention from his earliest stories (Morgan 731; Blodgett 44). Not surprisingly, his writing was heavily influenced by the Confederation poets and authors. As a result, his work picked up on the nationalism of this group and focused primarily on depicting Canadian histories. One such history, which contained his characteristically expressive and lyrical prose, was Stories of New France: Being Tales of Adventure and Heroism From the Early History of Canada (1890). This work was the second volume in a series started by Agnes Maule Machar, a literary nationalist and prominent female figure with whom Marquis would continue to collaborate throughout his career. Stories of New France was quickly followed by Stories From Canadian History (1893); Heroes of Canada: Based Upon Stories of New France (1893); and a historical romance, Marguerite de Roberval: A Romance of the Days of Jacques Cartier (1899). This romance retold the legend of Roberval’s 1542 colony and depicted Roberval as a cowardly reprobate. In 1903, Marquis wrote one of his only non-Canadian histories entitled Presidents of the United States from Pierce to McKinley. This work was published as the twenty-first volume in the highly regarded, twenty-six volume Nineteenth-Century Series. Marquis also acted as one of the four international associate editors of the series alongside Roberts. Subsequently, Marquis became editor of the Ottawa Free Press in 1905.

In 1913, Marquis wrote and edited a seminal work entitled “English-Canadian Literature,” which was first published in 1914 as a lengthy chapter in Canada and Its Provinces (Storey 515). His introductory chapter posed the question, “has Canada a voice of her own distinct from that of England?”; the remainder of the work set out to answer this query (“ECL” 493). By examining the development and growth of Canadian literature, Marquis concluded that while the voice of the Canadian author was distinct and of high quality, Canadian literature still suffered from a lack of criticism, which was largely due to Britain’s imperialistic attitude. Marquis posited that imperialism denied colonial literature its proper due, as “no British critic so far seems to have thought Canadian literary achievement of sufficient importance to treat it seriously as a whole or to look for its distinctive note” (“ECL” 493). However, he argued that this would change as Canada continued to develop as an independent nation, for “there are still rich literary fields to be cultivated; and with the increase of wealth and the consequent increase of leisure, with educational establishments, Canadian authors will have a home market for their productions, and will doubtless be able to do as good work as is done in other parts of the English-speaking world” (“ECL” 589).

Considered the first “meritorious” and “sustained examination” of its time (Morgan 731), Marquis’ survey of English-Canadian literature nevertheless lacked a “clear teleological structure” (Blodgett 44). Moreover, while Marquis included female authors such as Sara Jeannette Duncan and Lucy Maud Montgomery in his study, much space was given to privileging the “vigorous Canadian boyhood and manhood” found in the work of male authors like Edward William Thomson, Charles G.D. Roberts, and Norman Duncan (“ECL” 562). Yet to do justice to Marquis’ Canadian literary history, it must be nuanced in terms of context. At the turn of the century, critical writing of the kind we are accustomed to today was still developing, and the craft focused largely on depicting the histories of “great men.” As such, Marquis’ history should not be too harshly criticized for its focus on male authors and its absence of chronological composition, as these faults are also found in similar works composed by his contemporaries (Blodgett 44-52). Furthermore, modern criticisms leveled against “English-Canadian Literature” often overlook the point that Marquis’ work contributed to the creation of a Canadian identity by placing emphasis on Canadian authors.

Indeed, throughout his career as an author, Marquis’ writing consistently contained the passionate tone of Canadian nationalism. His entire literary focus can largely be attributed to his desire for unification and his “arden[t] hopes for Canadian independence” from Britain (Morgan 731). He did not view French-Canada as a threat to the country’s unification. Instead, he believed that unity and identity could only be achieved if the threat of British expansionism—a far greater threat than that of French Canada—was circumvented (Blodgett 53).

In 1916, Marquis published an important monograph in another series entitled The Jesuit Missions: A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness, within which he gave prominence to the importance of the Jesuit mission to Canadian history. Furthermore, The Jesuit Missions illustrated Marquis’ position on Anglo-Saxon imperialism. To Marquis, the Jesuits were “the vanguard of an army of true soldiers, of whom the words ‘Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die’” found their deepest meaning (JM 14). He fervently believed that “the colony sorely needed the self-sacrificing Jesuits.” To them, he added, “Canada ... owed its life; for when the king grew weary of spending treasure on this unprofitable colony, the stirring appeals of the Relations moved both king and people to sustain it until the time arrived when New France was valued as a barrier against New England” (JM 14).

Through his work, Marquis sought to embolden Canadians to embrace a spirit of nationalism. He expressed this aspiration in a review of Roberts’ poetry, stating that “[Roberts] has struck a stronger chord of patriotism than any other Canadian. But his power ... will not be recognized ... till the sons of Canada are determined that Earth shall know the ‘Child of Nations’ by her name. And the day is not far distant” (qtd. in Bentley 77). At an important moment in the development of Canadian unity and identity, Marquis employed his facility with the written word as a means of furthering the nation’s growth. Like his teachers and many of his contemporaries, he believed that Canadians were capable of standing on their own in an increasingly globalized world, a fact that is illustrated time and again in his writing.

Susan Shurtleff, Winter 2011
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Machar, Agnes Maule, Louis Honoré Fréchette, J. Castell Hopkins, David Creighton, William Buckinham, P. Blake Cropton and J. Lambert Payne. Builders of Canada from Cartier to Laurier. By Agnes Maule Machar. Ed. Thomas Guthrie Marquis. Philadelphia: Bradley Garretson, 1903.

Marquis, Thomas Guthrie. Battlefields of 1813. Ryerson Canadian History Readers 4F. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1926.

---. Battlefields of 1814. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1930.

---. Brock, the Hero of Upper Canada. Toronto: Morang, 1912.

---. Canada's Sons on Kopje and Veldt: An Historical Account of the Canadian Contingents. Toronto: The Canadian Son’s Publishing Co., 1900.

---. The Cathedral: A Poem. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1924.

---. The Cathedral and Other Poems. Foreword by Charles G.D. Roberts. Toronto: Musson Book Co., 1936. Rpt. of The Cathedral: A Poem. 1924.

---. Earl Roberts, V.C: From Cadet to Commander-In-Chief. Toronto: Bradley-Garretson, 1901.

---. “English-Canadian Literature.” Canada and Its Provinces. Vol. 12. Gen. Ed. Arthur G. Doughty and Adam Shortt. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1913. 493-589.

---. George Monro Grant. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1931.

---. The Great Fortress: A Chronicle of Louisbourg 17201760. Chronicles of Canda 8. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1915.

---. Hon. Alexander Mackenzie. Ryerson Canadian History Readers. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1930.

---. Introduction. Seigneur d’Haberville: (Canadians of Old): A Romance of the Fall of New France. By Philippe Aubert de Gaspe. Toronto: Musson Books, 1929.

---. The Jesuit Missions: A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness. Ed. George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton. Chronicles of Canada 4. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1922.

---. Joseph Brant. Ryerson Canadian History Readers. Toronto: Ryerson, 193.

---. The King’s Wish. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1924.

---. Marguerite de Roberval: A Romance of the Days of Jacques Cartier. Toronto: Copp, Clark, 1899.

---. Naval Warfare on the Great Lakes, 181214. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1926.

---. “The Period of Exploration.” Canada and Its Provinces. Vol. 21. Gen. Ed. Arthur G. Doughty and Adam Shortt. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1914. 13-62.

---. Pontiac and the Siege of Detroit. Ryerson Canadian History Readers. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1929.

---. “Pontiac’s War.” Canada and Its Provinces. Gen. Ed. Arthur G. Doughty and Adam Shortt. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1914. 53-72.

---. Presidents of the United States From Pierce to McKinley. The Nineteenth Century Series 21. London: W. & R. Chambers Ltd., 1903.

---. Sir Isaac Brock. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1926.

---. Sir Leonard Tilley. Ryerson Canadian History Readers. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1930.

---. Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Ryerson Canadian History Readers. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1930.

---. Stories of New France: Being Tales of Adventure and Heroism From the Early History of Canada. 2nd series. Boston: D. Lothrop, c. 1890.

---. The War Chief of the Ottawas: A Chronicle of the Pontiac War. Ed. George M. Wrong and H.H. Langton. Chronicles of Canada 15. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook, 1915.

Marquis, Thomas Guthrie, et al. Guarding the Channel Ports. Vol. 3 of Canada in the Great World War. Toronto: United Publishers of Canada, 1919.

---. The Turn of the Tide. Vol. 4 of Canada in the Great World War. United Publishers of Canada, 1920.

Marquis, Thomas Guthrie, and Sherman Charles Swift. The Voyages of Jacques Cartier in Prose and Verse. Toronto: T. Allen, 1934.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Bentley, D.M.R. The Confederation Group of Canadian Poets, 1880–1897. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2004.

Blodgett, E.D. Five Part Invention: A History of Literary History in Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2005.

Miller, Carmen. Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 18991902. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1993.

Morgan, Henry James. The Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Handbook of Canadian Biography of Living Characters. 2nd ed. Toronto: William Briggs, 1912.

Rhodenizer, Vernon B. Canadian Literature in English. Montreal: Quality Press, 1965.

Roberts, Charles G.D., and Arthur L. Tunnell. Canadian Who’s Who: 1910. Vol. 1. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1910.

Storey, Norah. The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Literature. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1967.