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Roberts, Theodore Goodridge 1877-1953

ROBERTS, Theodore Goodridge 1877-1953

PERSONAL: Born George Edward Theodore Roberts, July 7, 1877, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; died February 24, 1953, in Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada; son of Goodridge (rector of Fredericton) and Emma (Wetmore) Roberts; married Frances Seymour Allan, November, 1903; children: three. Education: Attended University of New Brunswick.

CAREER: Novelist, poet, historian, and farmer. Began publishing poetry at age twelve; farmer in Stanley, New Brunswick; Independent New York, NY, subeditor, 1897-98, Spanish-American war correspondent in Florida and Cuba, 1898; Newfoundland Magazine, editor, 1898-1900; poet and novelist from 1900. Military service: Canadian military officer during World War I; officer in charge of Canadian Military Publications.

AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary D.Litt., University of New Brunswick, 1930; fellow, Royal Society of Canada, 1934.


The House of Isstens, Page (Boston, MA), 1900.

Hemming, the Adventurer, Page (Boston, MA), 1904.

Brothers of Peril: A Story of Old Newfoundland, Page (Boston, MA), 1905.

The Red Feathers: A Story of Remarkable Adventures When the World Was Young, Page (Boston, MA), 1907.

Captain Love, Page (Boston, MA), 1908.

Flying Plover: His Stories, Told Him by Squat-by-the-Fire, Page (Boston, MA), 1909.

A Cavalier of Virginia, Page (Boston, MA), 1910.

Comrades of the Trails, Page (Boston, MA), 1910.

(With Robert Neilson Stephens) Soldier of Valley Forge, Page (Boston, MA), 1911.

The Toll of the Tides, Laurie (London, England), 1912, published as The Harbor Master, Page (Boston, MA), 1913, published as Blessington's Folly, Long (London, England), 1914, reprinted, with an introduction by Desmond Pacey, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1968,

Rayton: A Backwoods Mystery, Page (Boston, MA), 1912.

Two Shall Be Born, Cassell (New York, NY), 1913.

Love on Smoky River, Long (London, England), 1913.

Jess of the River, Dillingham (New York, NY), 1914.

The Wasp, Dillingham (New York, NY), 1914.

In the High Woods, Long (London, England), 1916.

Forest Fugitives, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1917.

The Islands of Adventure, Hodder & Stoughton (New York, NY), 1918.

Thirty Canadian V.C.'s, Skeffington (London, England), 1918.

The Exiled Lover, Long (London, England), 1919.

The Master of the Moosehorn, and Other Backcountry Stories, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1919.

Moonshine, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1920.

The Lure of Piper's Glen, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1921.

The Fighting Starkleys; or, The Test of Courage, Page (Boston, MA), 1922.

Musket House, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1922.

Tom Akerley: His Adventures in the Tall Timber and at Gaspard's Clearing on the Indian River, Page (Boston, MA), 1923.

Green Timber Thoroughbreds, Garden City (Garden City, NY), 1924.

The Oxbow Wizard, Garden City (Garden City, NY), 1924.

The Red Pirogue: A Tale of Adventure in the Canadian Wilds, Page (Boston, MA), 1924.

The Stranger from Up-Along, Doubleday, Page (Boston, MA), 1924.

Honest Fool, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1925.

Seven Poems, McMurray (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1925.

The Lost Shipmate, Ryerson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1926.

Prize Money, Page (Boston, MA), 1926.

The Golden Highlander; or, The Romantic Adventures of Alastair MacIver, Page (Boston, MA), 1929.

The Leather Bottle, Ryerson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1934.

Loyalists: A Compilation of Histories, Biographies and Genealogies of United Empire Loyalists and Their Descendants, Roberts (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1937.

Poems included in Northland Lyrics, edited by Charles
G. D. Roberts, Maynard (Boston, MA), 1899.

SIDELIGHTS: In more than thirty novels, poetry collections and histories, Theodore Goodridge Roberts celebrated adventure in the Canadian outback, on the high seas, and on the New Brunswick shoreline he called home. His love of homeland and nature emerge through his attention to plant life, geography and portrayal of local customs and dialect. His novels often included pirates, native peoples, soldiers, woodsmen and their escapades, as well as romantic adventures. His most enduring works continue to earn praise for effectively using good versus evil in a variety of contexts.

Roberts was the youngest son born to Reverend Goodridge Roberts, the rector of Fredericton and the scion of a large and well-regarded family. Following the poetry-writing tradition of older brother Charles and cousin Bliss Carman, Roberts had poems published in the New York magazine Independent and in the Dominion Illustrated by age twelve. Roberts briefly attended the University of New Brunswick before setting off for Stanley, New Brunswick, in one of several attempts at farming. In the late 1890s he reported on the Spanish-American War from Cuba and Florida for the Independent. He returned to his home in Fredericton with malaria, which affected him the rest of his life.

In 1900 Roberts sailed to the West Indies and South America in a fully rigged brigantine ship, inspiring several poems collected in The Leather Bottle. Roberts returned to the West Indies with his bride, Frances, in 1903; their first child was born there one year later. The three soon returned to Fredericton, from where they would travel often. Roberts began publishing his novels, including Brothers of Peril, set in Newfoundland, where an Indian boy befriends an adventure-seeking English boy. A New York Times writer praised Roberts' characters as "vividly drawn," and observed that "the [readers'] interest is never allowed to fall below the properly breathless point." Another early effort, The Red Feathers, also set among the Indian tribes in pre-colonial Newfoundland, is considered one of Roberts' best. In this tale of the ongoing struggle between chief Run-all-day and his evil enemy, Bright Robe, for possession of the magical red feathers of the title, Roberts blends magic and warfare with perceptions about good and evil, according to Neil K. Besner in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Critics praised the novel as young adult fare suitable for adult readers.

The Harbor Master, set again in Newfoundland, was also successful. Roberts centers on ship's captain Black Dennis Nolan and the village Chance Along, which makes its living off the shipwrecks along its rocky coastline. "While Roberts obviously admires Nolan's intrepidity, he also wishes to show the process of moral education in which Nolan is subjected to what is presented finally as the natural and powerful force of love," Besner remarked. Strong supporting characters, led by the missionary Father McQueen, augment the main plot, according to Besner. A Springfield Republican reviewer in 1913 called The Harbor Master "distinctly the best story Mr. Roberts has written." Toronto publisher McClelland & Stewart brought this novel, and The Red Feathers, back into print in the second half of the twentieth century.

Roberts' poetry addresses similar themes and subjects, but "his verse reveals more clearly than his fiction Roberts's abiding nostalgia for youth, his reverence for nature, particularly for New Brunswick rivers and woods, and the more private passions that inspired his life," Besner wrote. Roberts' poems, in traditional forms and rhyme schemes, draw upon his travels on the high seas and his military service during World War I; some extol the beauty of the Canadian wilderness and revive figures from classical mythology to comment on love, death and poetic inspiration. The best of Roberts' writings, in poetry and fiction, express "the complex weave of the ideal with the earthy, the familiar and domestic with the foreign and exotic, the local and idiomatic with the legendary and universal," Besner wrote, adding: "Few other Canadian writers of his time and place have received so little attention for such various accomplishments."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 92: Canadian Writers, 1890-1920, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990, pp. 309-313.

Pierce, Lorne, An Outline of Canadian Literature, Ryerson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1927, pp. 40-41.

Roberts, Theodore Goodridge Roberts, The Harbor Master, introduction by Desmond Pacey, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1968, pp. 1-9.

Roberts, Theodore Goodridge Roberts, The Red Feathers, introduction by Martin Ware, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1976, pp. i-xiv.


Ath, October 28, 1905; January 18, 1913.

Bookman, October, 1905.

Boston Transcript, March 5, 1913; March 18, 1914.

Canadian Author and Bookman, spring, 1953, pp. 9-12.

Catholic World, October, 1910; May, 1911.

Essays on Canadian Writing, spring, 1985, pp. 75-92.

Fiddlehead, no. 18, 1953, p. 3.

Independent, September 3, 1908; December 8, 1910; April 11, 1912.

Nation, June 11, 1908; April 13, 1911; March 21, 1912.

New York Sun, March 1, 1913; April 19, 1913.

New York Times, July 29, 1905; November 2, 1907; June 6, 1908; May 4, 1913; February 8, 1914.

Outlook, October 26, 1907.

Public Opinion, August 12, 1905.

Spectator, February 8, 1913.

Springfield Republican, April 17, 1913; August 7, 1913.*

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