Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

John Galt was important to his own time both as a settler in Canada and as a novelist who presented Scottish life in fiction. As both a novelist and a leader in the Canada Company, he has, however, been largely forgotten. In the field of fiction Galt was so far overshadowed by Sir Walter Scott in his own time that he never became widely known outside of Great Britain. A Scot himself, Galt wrote in the ANNALS OF THE PARISH: OR, THE CHRONICLE OF DALMAILING about the Scotland he and his parents had known, and he wrote lovingly. His humane feeling and the love he gave to his own country can be marked on almost every page he wrote. In this novel, the strongest and most sympathetically portrayed character is of the Scottish Presbyterian clergyman of strict Calvinist persuasion. Hardly less important are the descriptions of the new class of industrialists.

In the tradition of Daniel Defoe’s MOLL FLANDERS, Galt’s ANNALS OF THE PARISH is a fictional autobiography, chronological in form. It is successful in conveying a diarist’s immediate experience of the kind of daily living that has a way of becoming social and cultural history. Some critics think it blasphemous to juxtapose Defoe’s story of a thief and bawd with Galt’s account of a pious clergyman, but both works share a common psychological impulse: the need of the central protagonist to combine factual objectivity, confessional in spirit, with self-justification.


(The entire section is 474 words.)