Toronto, was born in 1839, at Loanhead, a
village in Midlothian, Scotland, about half way between De Quincey's house
at Lasswade, on the Esk, and the woodland domain of the poet Drummond, of
Hawthorenden, close by the far-famed castle and chapel of the Earls of
Roslyn. His father, who died in 1841 was factor on the estates of Graeme
Mercer of Mavisbank and Gorthy, after whom he was named. The family is
connected with the Adams of Blair-Adam, in Perthshire, and on the paternal
side has given many representatives to literature and other professional
callings; while on the maternal side, numberless Wisharts (his mother is a
lineal descendant of the Scottish martyr, George Wishart), have served
their country in many of Britain's great battles on sea and land. After
receiving his education, first at Portobello, and then at Edinburgh, Mr.
Adam entered an old-established publishing house in the Scottish capital
while very young, and at the age of nineteen was entrusted with the
management of one of its important departments. Owing to the death of the
head of the house, the business was wound up, and young Mercer Adam was
offered, through the Nelsons, a post in a large colonial book-house in
Calcutta, and from the Blackwoods he had at the same time a proposal to go
to Canada, to take charge of the book business of Mr. (now Rev. Dr.) J
Cunningham Geikie; the latter of which he accepted, and came to Canada in
September, 1858. Two years afterwards he succeeded to this business, as a
member of the firm of Rollo & Adam, who, it may be said, were the
publishers of the first of the more ambitious native periodicals published
in Canada, the British American Magazine. In this periodical Mr.
Adam made his first published contribution to literature. In 1866 Mr.
Rollo retired from the business of Rollo & Adam, and the firm of Adam,
Stevenson & Co. was formed. This book-house was well known in its day
for its many publishing enterprises, and for the aid it gave the
intellectual life of Canada, in furthering native literature and in
introducing a higher class of book importations than had hitherto found
sale in the country. Unfortunately, the house for a number of years met
with many and severe losses, and its business was wound up in 1876, Mr.
Adams withdrawing for a time to New York to found a publishing house
there, which has since developed into the extensive firm of the John W.
Lovell Publishing Company. Mr. Adam, however, returned to Toronto in 1878,
and since then has almost exclusively devoted himself to a literary life.
In 1879 he established, and for five years edited, the Canada
Educational Monthly; and in 1880 assumed the editorship of the Canadian
Monthly, which, in connection with Professor Goldwin Smith, he was
instrumental in founding in the year 1872. Mr. Adam has also had
connection with many other periodical publications issued in Ontario,
either as a writer or in business relations therewith. His services to
literature have been wide and important, for he has been journalist,
educationist, critic, reviewer and essay-writer. In 1885 he wrote
"The North-West, its History and its Troubles," published by the
Rose Publishing Company; he edited an edition of Lord Macaulay's Essay on
Warren Hastings; founded the Canada Bookseller, a trade organ, in
1870, and has written, in conjuction with W. J. Robertson, B.A., of St.
Catherines, a "School History of England and Canada." Mr. Adam
has served Canada in the militia force for twelve years. He was a captain
in the Queen's Own Rifles, and commanded a Company of that crack corps at
the fight at Ridgeway, between our volunteers and the Fenian marauders. He
is a graduate and first-class certificate holder of the Military school,
Toronto; received a second class certificate in 1865 from Colonel Peacock
of Her Majesty's 16th regiment; and in 1866 a first-class certificate from
Colonel Lowry of the 47th regiment. Mr. Adam has for the last twenty years
been brought into contact with every literary man in the country, and many
representatives of other professions in Canada, and we have not probably
another man who has a larger or more intimate acquaintance with books,
book-men and the book-trade, as vouched for by the publishing and
bookselling fraternity, as well as by educational schools of all
professions - law, medicine, education, theology, &c. Mr. Adam married
in 1863, Jane, second daughter of the late John Gibson, of Lovell &
Gibson, parliamentary printers, and editor for many years of the Literary
Garland. This lady died in 1884, profoundly regretted, leaving eight
children to survive her. In religion Mr. Andam is a member of the Church
of England; in politics he is an independent and a Canadian nationalist.
Besides the literary work noted, Mr. Adam has edited and prepared for the
press innumerable manuscripts; and he has been looked upon by literary
people as a sort of general reference library. The most pretentious of Mr.
Adam's published work so far is "The North-West, its History and its
Troubles;" and this is a book that will be certain to survive in the
literature of the country. The style of the work is like everything that
proceeds from the pen of Mr. Adam, - it is clean cut, easy, swift and
direct. There is a fascinating grace about all of Mr. Adam's work; and one
finds himself pausing constantly to admire the grace with which a sentence
has been rounded, or to linger over its exquisitely balanced rhythm.
nature he loves with all his heart, and many of the descriptive passages
in the work in question are delightful. There is present, likewise, the
judicial quality, and the sense of historical responsibility; while the
strong individuality of the writer is ever manifest. What we say of the
work referred to, is true of Mr. Adam's writings generally. But to him, as
some of our recent published historical and biographical works bear
testimony, Canadian literature lies under a debt which it can never repay.
Literature the man loves, and it is not an exaggeration to say that his
life has been consecrated to it. How bitter have been the fortunes of
letters in Canada, is a fact only too well known, but Mr. Adam has always
been fighting the literary fight, and when others have dropped out of the
battle, he has kept up his courage. He is at present engaged exclusively
in letters, and has now attained his meridian powers, and we await much
from his gifted pen.