Hugh MacLennan

October 26th, 2012

This fall, The Writers’ Chapel Trust honours the life and writings of Hugh MacLennan by installing a plaque in his honour in the Writers’ Chapel of the St. James the Apostle Anglican Church in Montreal.

Hugh MacLennan, novelist, essayist, and professor, was born in 1907 in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Educated at Dalhousie University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Oxford, he travelled in Europe before taking a doctoral degree in classical studies at Princeton University. While at Princeton, MacLennan began to write fiction, but economic necessity required him to turn to teaching. He taught Latin and history at Lower Canada College (Montreal) in 1935. In the early fifties, he began lecturing part-time in the English department of McGill University and in 1968 was made a full professor there. He retired in 1979 as professor emeritus.

He married Dorothy Duncan, an American writer, in 1936.

MacLennan wrote seven novels of which Barometer Rising, Two Solitudes and The Watch that Ends the Night are his best known. Barometer Rising (1941) deals with the class structure of Nova Scotia and the Halifax explosion of 1917; Two Solitudes (1945) with French-English tensions in Québec; and The Watch that Ends the Night (1959) with the political maelstrom of Montreal in the thirties.

His themes are universal and his literary aspirations and ambitions were international but MacLennan is likely recognized most as a Canadian nationalist who pioneered the use of Canadian scenarios in fiction.

MacLennan also published three volumes of essays Cross-Country (1949); Thirty and Three (1954); and Scotchman’s Return and Other Essays (1960).

He won the Governor General’s Award five times, three times for fiction and twice for non-fiction and was awarded seven honorary degrees.

MacLennan died in 1990 at the age of 83.

For further information about Hugh MacLennan’s life and works, visit:
- The Canadian Encyclopedia entry

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