A Biography of Robert Baldwin
The Morning-star of MemoryBook - 2012
Congratulations to Michael S. Cross for his book, A Biography of Robert Baldwin, winner of the John T. Saywell Prize in constitutional history by the Osgoode Society.Congratulations to Michael S. Cross, winner of the 2013 Lela Common Award for Canadian History for his book A Biography of Robert Baldwin.The quest for responsible government took place in turbulent times. The "very strange" personality driving this quest, Robert Baldwin, comprises the stuff of narrative so compelling it seems at times less history than novel. Baldwin's intervention in Canadian history was momentous, and in thisaccount history is intertwined with Baldwin's enigmatic private life.Decades of research by historian Michael Cross has unearthed new insight into this highly complex, troubled, and exceptional man. In Cross's exploration, Baldwin inhabits an intricate emotional world, entangled with reflections on past and future. Cross' narrative flows with elegant non-linearity,reflecting Baldwin's own fluid psychological chronology; the memory of his wife Eliza, who died comparatively young, haunted Baldwin's often distressed mental landscape. In fact, the first chapter may contain one of the biggest surprises in any recent historical biography - taking place a monthafter Baldwin's death.Even so, the book is full of comedy and charm. Cross is a delightfully polished writer, with a remarkable knack for character. Lord Sydenham is a "coxcomb" and a "rake" in the original sense of the words; Lord Elgin is an "unprepossessing little man" but with "steely determination," "a countenancestern in its frame of iron-grey muttonchops"; Louis LaFontaine is "handsome and charming but irritatingly pretentious." Interactions with the deep thinking and duty-bound Baldwin are at times chaotic collisions of markedly different personalities.The book covers events such as the War of 1812, the 1841 Union of the Canadas, and mass migration of Irish famine refugees; it also contains a detailed chronology, portraits, maps, and paintings. Here is not just a vision of an unsettled Canada that will take many readers aback, but also anencounter with a fascinating, "very strange" personality whose profound influence changed Canadian history forever.
Publisher: Don Mills, Ontario : Oxford University Press, ©2012.
Characteristics: xii, 430 pages, 10 unnumbered pages of plates :,illustrations, maps, portraits ;,24 cm.