Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878

Article excerpt

Peter Oliver (ed.), The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, for the Osgoode Society of Canadian Legal History, 2003), xii + 644 pp. Cloth. £48. ISBN 0-8020-8842-2.

Robert Harrison was a wealthy and workaholic Toronto lawyer who became Chief Justice of Queen's Bench in 1875. By this time his weight was pushing twenty stone, and three years later he died after a series of heart attacks which are among the experiences he recorded with chilling vividness in this fascinating diary. Omission of most of Harrison's discussions of his bowels has made it possible to reduce the published text to about thirty per cent of the original. The diary appears in the Osgoode Society series because of the picture it gives of a working lawyer in nineteenth-century Toronto, but its value goes far beyond this. In some respects, the title is hard to understand. Harrison was indeed a pillar of society, even running his own sister out of Canada after she had an affair, but he was no caricature Victorian. Although a fervent believer, he read the heretical Colenso, the Gospel-populariser Seeley, the rationalist Paley and the atheist Bradlaugh all with genial approval. He took a matter of fact attitude to a wide range of matters relating to courtship, sex and parturition. True, he did read his first wife a sermon on adversity to cheer her up when she had a touch of post-natal depression, but readers of a squeamish nature should skip his description of attempts to stimulate lactation in his second wife after childbirth. His two marriages provide the main theme of the diary. In 1859 he married Anna Muckle. The death of their first child two years later drew from Harrison an unusually moving deathbed account. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.