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The Scot in British North America
Preface to Volume IV


The lamented death of the author, whose clear, incisive style, vigorous thought, and painstaking research, have imparted so much interest to the preceding pages, leaving the manuscript of the concluding pages of this volume incomplete, renders apology superfluous for all delay in presenting it to the public. Another hand has completed the unfinished task with the honest endeavour to follow, as far as possible, the lines laid down by the author. A generous, and fair-minded public, will make due allowance for the difficulty of undertaking, at short notice, to deal with a subject demanding accurate historical and geographical knowledge and exactness of statement to do even a measure of justice to the work.

It is eminently fit that a book of the nature of the "Scot in British North America" should include some notice, however fragmentary and imperfect, of the writer, whose early decease has left such a void in the ranks of Canadian literature. The personal details that, had he lived, the modesty which was so conspicuous a feature in his character, would have prevented his giving, may now appropriately be supplied. William J. Rattray was born in London, England, about the year 1835, his father being a Scot and his mother English. The family came to Canada about the year 1848, settling in Toronto, where Mr. Rattray, Senr., was, for many years engage in trade, being highly respected as a man and a citizen. William J. Rattray entered Toronto University about the year 1854, and devoted himself earnestly to study especially in the department of metaphysics and philosophy. He soon developed rare intellectual gifts as a profound and acute reasoner. He became Prize Speaker and President of the Literary Society, and his clear and thoughtful utterances soon won him a brilliant reputation among the young men of his time. On graduating he won the gold medal in Mental Science. Mr. Rattray was for many years before his death connected with the press of Toronto, his most noteworthy work being done on the staff of the Toronto Mail. A series of articles which appeared weekly during a period extending over several years, dealing with the conflict between agnosticism in its various forms and revealed religion, excited much attention and were greatly admired by a wide circle of readers. They presented the orthodox side of the question with much force and ability. Mr. Rattray’s intellect was an unusually active one. His brilliant natural faculties were cultivated by assiduous study and constant reflection. Essentially a many-sided man intellectually, he displayed equal power and grasp of his subject in dealing with current political and social topics, as in grappling with the deeper problems of life and eternity, which, of late years, engrossed so much of his thoughts. His style was notable for its lucidity, smoothness, and finish, which made everything he wrote readable, and fascinated even where it did not convince. Personally, Mr. Rattray was one of the most loveable of men and though owing to a somewhat retiring disposition, his circle of intimate friends was not wide, there were many who, having but a slight and passing acquaintance with him, felt a pang of sincere sorrow at his untimely death. He died at Toronto on the 26th of September, 1883, after an illness, the long and insidious approaches of which had considerably impaired his customary mental force. The readers of the "Scot in British North America" can best realize how great a loss Canadian literature has sustained.

December 13th, 1883.


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