Sinclair Ross Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

James Sinclair Ross was one of the most important Canadian writers of the twentieth century. He grew up in the western province of Saskatchewan, where after graduating from high school he worked as a clerk for the Royal Bank in a number of the region’s rural communities. In 1933 he was transferred to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and began to write short stories based on his experiences of life on the Canadian prairie. His two collections of short fiction, The Lamp at Noon, and Other Stories and The Race, and Other Stories, are important landmarks in his literary career. When several of his early stories were accepted by the prestigious literary journal Queen’s Quarterly, Ross decided to try his hand at a novel, and As for Me and My House was published in 1941.

Appearing at a critical period during World War II, and a year before Ross began his 1942-1946 service in the Canadian army, As for Me and My House remained largely unnoticed until it was reissued in paperback in the New Canadian Library series in 1957. It was then hailed as a masterpiece of Canadian literature and has maintained this canonical status despite the comparative lack of enthusiasm with which Ross’s later novels were greeted.

As for Me and My House is narrated from the point of view of Mrs. Philip Bentley, whose husband is the Protestant minister in a small prairie town. An aloof, artistic, and deeply sensitive man, Philip chafes against the restrictions of rural life while trying to honor his commitments to God and family. He manages to create a hell on earth for himself and others. The...

(The entire section is 665 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

A very private man, Sinclair Ross was reticent about his personal life and preferred to let his art speak for him. It is possible, however, to piece together at least the outward facts of his life. Born January 22, 1908, in northern Saskatchewan, James Sinclair Ross was the third child of Peter and Catherine Ross, who met and married in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1897. Peter had been born on an Ontario farm to Scottish parents, and Catherine had been born in Scotland. When he was three, Ross’s parents separated, his mother taking custody of him, and his father taking the two older children. After the separation, Mrs. Ross found employment as a housekeeper on several farms. Ross assisted with farm chores and learned the vagaries of horses and men as well as the daunting effects of landscape and climate on the prairie dwellers. He retained strong memories of his isolation in those years.

After he graduated from high school in 1924, Ross went to work for the Royal Bank of Canada, his sole employer until his retirement in 1968. In 1933, the bank rewarded Ross’s stints in several small Saskatchewan towns by sending him to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he remained until 1946, except for World War II military service, and finally to Montreal. Upon retirement from the bank, he lived in Greece for three years and then moved to Spain in 1971. Culture and climate (he suffered from arthritis) influenced Ross’s decision to live by the Mediterranean Sea. Competent in Spanish and French, somewhat less so in Greek, Ross read the original versions of the literatures of these languages. Living abroad, he noted, gave him a stronger sense of his Canadian identity. Although the pattern of Ross’s life was one of gradual withdrawal eastward from the pioneer prairies toward older, more cosmopolitan cultures, his true subject and setting remained the...

(The entire section is 757 words.)