Eminent Canadians: candid tales of then and now
Ninety years ago, Lytton Strachey scandalized British society with his book Eminent Victorians, in which he disparaged the accomplishments and exaggerated the failings of four highly respected Victorians. It was an immediate bestseller, of course. In Eminent Canadians, John Fraser helps himself to Strachey’s title and to his innovative form – the journalistic profile – and goes one better by doubling the number of worthies under the magnifying glass. But his purpose is not the same as Strachey’s. Fraser wants, as he puts it, to “redeem the dismissed and humanize the demonized.” By telling stories about them, and about the Canada they live or lived in.
Of the eight Canadians Fraser subjects to his informed, opinionated, and highly entertaining scrutiny, four represent the past and four the present of a key national institution – the Anglican Church; The Globe and Mail; the prime ministership; and the monarchy. By juxtaposing rich portraits of past leaders with candid tales about their present or most recent counterparts, Fraser sheds light on just how exasperating an entity Canada has always been. And how lively a history it has.
Eminent Canadians has a serious purpose, but it is not a serious book. This is John Fraser, after all, so there is much fun to be had reading his tales of eight eminent Canadians who, as Fraser says, did the best they could to live up to the challenges of their offices and times.
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administration Adrienne Clarkson American Anglican Archbishop Bishop of Toronto Brian Mulroney British Canada West century church Clement’s clergy Clergy Reserves College colony Confederation deﬁnition diocese Doyle editor editor-in-chief England father Ferry ﬁgure ﬁnal ﬁnally ﬁnd ﬁne Finlay Finlay’s ﬁrst ﬁve francophone French Canadians friends Garnsworthy gay priests George Brown Globe and Mail going Gourlay Governor homosexuality inﬂuence jean Chrétien john Strachan john’s journalists King knew land later least Liberal live look Macdonald Mackenzie Massey College Megarry Michener monarchy Montreal mother National Post never Newfoundland newspaper newsroom Ontario parish party past Pierre Trudeau political prime minister Protestant province Published Quebec Queen Rector royal Saturday Night seemed sense sexual Sir Wilfrid smile someone speciﬁcs thing Thomson Thorsell’s thought tion Tory Trudeau Upper Canada Vanier vice-regal Victoria wanted Webster Wilfrid Laurier William Thorsell young