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CanLit150

Celebrate more than 150 years of Canada with 150 books.

Sandra Martin Recommends

The Imperialist by Sara Jeannette Duncan

The Imperialist (1904)

(From Broadview Press)

Set in the fictional Ontario town of Elgin at the beginning of the twentieth century, this 1904 novel was in its own time addressed largely to British readers. It has since become a Canadian classic, beloved for its ironic and dryly humorous portrait of small-town life. But The Imperialist is also a fascinating representation of race, gender, and nationalism in Britain’s “settler colonies.” This Broadview edition provides a wealth of contextual material invaluable to understanding the novel’s historical context, and particularly the debate, central to the story, over Edwardian Canada’s role in the British Empire.

Sara Jeannette Duncan

Novelist and journalist, was born at Brantford, Canada West. She was educated at the Toronto Normal School. Duncan soon abandoned teaching for journalism and served as an editorial writer and book reviewer for the Washington Post (1885-1886), as a columnist for the Toronto Globe (1886-1887), and finally as a columnist for the Montreal Star (1887-1888). During this period she also contributed numerous articles to the Week. In September 1888 she set off on a round-the-world tour and met her future husband, museum curator and journalist Everard Cotes, in Calcutta.

She married him in December 1890 and spent most of the next three decades in India. She died at Ashtead, England, in 1922. Sara Jeannette Duncan wrote nearly twenty novels in the years that followed her marriage. Though only two of her novels drew directly on her Canadian experience - including her most brilliant work of fiction, The Imperialist (1904) -, she frequently explored the differences between the Old and the New World in her work. This theme can be found in two of her more commercially successful novels, An American Girl in London(1891) and Those Delightful Americans (1902).