Sir Charles G. D. Roberts fonds

MG L10

This finding aid was funded by a grant under the
Canadian Council of Archives Control of Holdings Program
Archives & Special Collections
Harriet Irving Library
University of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 7500
Fredericton, NB  E3B 5H5

March 1999

Table of Contents Series:
  1. Correspondence
  2. Manuscripts, scrapbook and other material
  3. Published material

Sir Charles G. D. Roberts fonds [textual record, graphic material]. -- 1859-1943, predominant 1883-1943. -- 48 cm of textual records, 4 photographs : b&w; 25.5 x 16.7 cm or smaller, 2 plate glass negative : b&w; 6.3 x 5 cm and 1 watercolour; 20.5 x 15 cm

Biographical sketch: Charles George Douglas Roberts, the eldest child of Emma Wetmore Bliss and George Goodridge Roberts, was born 10 January 1860 at Douglas, New Brunswick. 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 he received a formative education. 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.

Adams, John Coldwell, Sir Charles God Damn: The Life of Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, 1986
Boone, Laurel, ed., The Collected Letters of Charles G. D. Roberts, 1989
Pomeroy, E. M., Sir Charles G. D. Roberts A Biography, 1943

Custodial history: Much of the correspondence and other material comprising this fonds was held by Edith Roberts, the daughter of Charles G. D. Roberts. Beginning in November 1956, she deposited some of the correspondence, published copies of Theodore Goodridge Roberts's Acadie and other items in UNB's Bonar Law-Bennett Library.

Some correspondence and other items originally in Edith Roberts's possession came into the hands of Patricia Bliss Roberts Henderson, the daughter of Edith's brother Lloyd Roberts. She deposited them at the National Library, Ottawa prior to September 1967, adding other material to the library's holdings from time to time. In October 1967 these Roberts family records were transferred to the Harriet Irving Library.

Scope and content: This fonds documents the literary career of poet and prose writer Charles G. D. Roberts, which spanned more than 6 decades. It also reflects his activities both as an editor and a promoter of Canadian literature and Canadian writers. In addition, the fonds sheds light on his family life, his travels abroad, his years in the British and Canadian armies, his work with the Canadian Authors' Association, his financial difficulties and his personal relationships. It also provides information about the literary careers of other members of the Roberts family, most notably, Theodore Goodridge Roberts and Lloyd Roberts.

This fonds consists of 3 series: 1. correspondence  2. manuscripts, scrapbook and other material  3. published material.

It contains correspondence, a family scrapbook, Roberts's notebook, and holograph and typescript poems, stories and essays by Roberts, Bliss Carman and other writers. The fonds also includes copies of published poems, essays and stories by Charles G. D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, Theodore Goodridge Roberts, Lloyd Roberts and Dorothy Roberts Leisner as well as published articles about Charles G. D. Roberts and other members of the Roberts family.

Title based on contents of the fonds

13 photographs accompanying this fonds were moved to the Roberts family photograph collection

1 portrait photograph of Charles G. D. Roberts is located in MG L32 Isabel St. John Bliss collection

Lloyd Roberts offers a portrait of his father in The House of Roberts (1923)

Document Maintained by:
UNB Archives
email address
Last Update: 1999/05/14