Galt, John

Portrait
Born: 1779 AD
Died: 1839 AD, at 60 years of age.

Nationality: Scottish
Categories: Novelists


1779 - John Galt was born on May 2nd in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of a sea captain who traded with the West Indies.

1789 - The family moved to Greenock and much of Galt’s fiction draws from the localities of the west coast of Scotland where he spent his youth.

         - He was a sickly child and much of his time was spent listening to the traditional tales of his mother and the local women of Greenock, an influence that feeds into Galt’s gift for storytelling and his acute ear for regional dialect.

1796 - Galt worked as a junior justice clerk in Greenock before setting off for London on a sudden impulse of restless ambition. Here he studied political economy and commercial history and practise but failed to really make his mark on the business world despite several promising ventures.

1803 - Around the age of twenty-four Galt began writing. He experimented in verse but was an inferior poet. Several of his essays, however, were published and this writing at this time demonstrates his early interest in politics and the colonies, particularly Canada which had long captured his imagination.

1809 - Galt spent a period of time travelling on the Mediterranean and it was here that he made his acquaintance with Lord Byron who was to become the subject of his acclaimed biography The Life of Byron.

1811 - Returned to London, his commercial aspirations disappointed and turned to journalism as a means of making money.

1813 - At 34 he married the daughter of his literary patron, Alexander Tilloch.

         - It was at this time too that Galt gained his experience of the workings of Parliament as a lobbyist for the Edinburgh-Glasgow canal. These experiences were to be formative in Galt’s later political career in Canada and were also to inform his later political novels, The Radical and The Member.

1813 - Galt conceived the idea of writing a west of Scotland novel based on the observations of a parish minister but he was to wait until the writing of Walter Scott had transformed the climate of Scottish literature before a publisher would accept a book about a Scottish subject.

1820 - Once published Galt’s works flew off the press. The Ayrshire Legates were serialised.

1821-1823 - Then came Galt’s The Steamboat and Annals of the Parish, and Sir Andrew Wylie, The Gathering of the West, The Provost and The Entail. Ringan Gilhaize, was published, followed by two less successful historical novels.

1824 - Galt became actively involved in political campaigning on behalf of the Canadian colony and two years later left for Canada leaving the manuscript for The Last of the Lairds with his publisher.

1827-1829 - Galt developed the virgin territories of the Canadian colony and founded the townships of Guelph and Goderich.

1832 - Galt resorted to writing for money, contributing short stories to periodicals and penning and several long novels. These, however, were not the format in which his talents lay and his final political novels The Member and The Radical mark a return to form.

1839 - He returned to Greenock and continued writing up until his death, on April 11th, aged 60.

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