The Controversialist: An Intellectual Life of Goldwin Smith

By Paul T. Phillips | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

From Academic to Sage

The effect of Goldwin Smith’s decision to take up residence on the other side of the Atlantic involved more than simply a change of scenery. His final permanent abode, the Grange, in Toronto, was as close to an English country house as one could find in North America. He continued to correspond with all his British friends and often had long stays in his mother country for the rest of his life. He never lost interest in Britain, and in fact some of his last writings were on its history and politics.

But change was very much in Smith’s mind at this time. He was particularly attracted to the mission of Cornell University, but it is not clear that he intended to pursue a full academic career. North American higher education in many respects was always alien to him. What was constant was a commitment to public life, in spite of his unfortunate experiences of recent years, as well as his continuing work as a writer. Smith’s short period at Cornell was an important opportunity to define for himself what would be his most long-lasting role as Sage of the Grange in nearby Toronto. Perhaps for that reason Cornell always occupied a special place in his heart.

Smith’s thoughts had been turning toward America for quite some time. Not only did he desire to extricate himself from the British scene, but he also felt he could enrich his life, and the life of others,

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