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Charles Mair


Mair, Charles, was born at the village of Lanark, in the Bathurst district of Upper Canada, on the 21st September, 1840, and was educated at the Perth Grammar School and Qeeen’s College, Kingston. His father, the late James Mair, emigrated from Scotland to Canada nearly sixty years ago, and established large business interests in Lanark and Perth, and was one of the pioneers of the square timber trade in the Madawaska and the other tributaries of the Ottawa. Mr. .Mair’s familiarity with nature may be traced to the business in which his family was engaged. and which brought him into direct contact with forest and stream, and created a love for field sports. For a short time Mr. Mair was engaged in the study of medicine, but was called away from that study by the Honourable William McDougall to make researches in the Parliamentary Library, in reference to the question then pending about the transfer of the North-West territories to Canada. In 1868, Mr. Mair published a volume of poems entitled "Dreamland and other poems," which was very well received by the press, but which had only a limited circulation, as a large portion of the edition was bunt in the Desbarat’s fire while being bound. In the fall of 1868 Mr. Mair, was appointed by the government as paymaster of the party sent under Mr. Snow to Red River, to open up communication with the Lake of the Woods. He took with him a quantity of MSS., including several poems which he was preparing for publication. in the fall of 1869 the first rebellion broke out, and Mr. Mair was taken prisoner with a number of other loyal Canadians, and far many weeks was kept in close confinement in Fort Garry, and afterwards in the Court House. After some weeks, Louis Riel told Mr. Mair that he intended to have him executed, but with the assistance of his fellow prisoners, Mr. Mair and a few others succeeded in effecting their escape, and reaching Portage La Prairie. Here they raised a force, which, under Major Boulton, marched to Fort Garry and induced Riel to deliver up his prisoners. Afterwards, by treachery, Major Boulton and Thomas Scott and others were captured, and Scott murdered. Mr. Mair escaped and walked on snowshoes some 400 miles, reaching St. Paul in thirty days, whence he came to Ontario, where a he, Dr. Schultz and Dr. Lynch, received a hearty welcome from their native province. After the restoration of law and order, Mr. Mair returned to the North-West and endeavoured to recover his papers and MSS., which had been scattered during his imprisonment. All his efforts were unavailing, and the work of years was gone forever. Disheartened by the loss, he abandoned literature, and entered into the fur trade and general business at Portage La Prairie, where he remained till 1876, when he moved to Prince Albert, where he resumed the same business. During this period, at long intervals, he contributed a few articles to the Canadian Monthly. About the year 1883, he foresaw the trouble coming, which culminated in the North-West rebellion of 1885, and finding that no steps were taken by the government to remove the causes of discontent, he decided that it wouid be unsafe to leave his family at Prince Albert, and, therefore, removed to Windsor, Ontario, where he settled down to wait till the troublous times were ended. Finding that he had enforced leisure, he turned again to literature, and wrote the drama of "Tecumseh" which has just been issued (March, 1886). While he was engaged at this work, the rebellion broke out, and he at once made up his mind to proceed to the North-West and take part in the campaign. He was attached to the Govemor-General's Body Guard as quartermaster, and served with that corps during the whole campaign, and returned with the same to Toronto, where the corps were relieved from active service, and he was enabled to complete his drama. Notwithstanding the fruition and promise in Mr. Muir's early volume, "Dreamland and other poems," it is by his lately published work that he will take a foremost and an enduring place in the domain of purely Canadian letters. A volume of high-class verse is not a work that usually finds a rapid sale; but the history of the book under discussion, has been unprecedented in Canada in this respect. At the date of writing, though "Tecumseh" has been only a few weeks before the public, the edition is almost exhausted. It was received by the press with the strongest possible encomiums, and is the first book, wrought entirely of Canadian material, that has taken a thorough and permanent hold upon our own people. Its passports to the heart of the Canadian community were its lofty spirit of patriotism, the nobleness of its sentiment, its sympathetic insight into the questions with which it deals, and its splendid literary qualities. The imagery is rich and varied, but it is always true to nature, and to the human heart. "Tecumseh" is a work that the country will not allow to perish. It is gratifying to be able to write in this way of a drama, the subject of which is Canadian material, the writer of which is a son of our own soil. Mr. Mair married on the 8th September, 1869, at Red River, Eliza Mackenney, a niece of Dr. Schultz.


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