Theodore Goodridge Roberts
|Born||George Edward Theodore Goodridge Roberts|
July 7, 1877
Fredericton, New Brunswick
|Died||February 24, 1953 (aged 75)|
Digby, Nova Scotia
|Resting place||Forest Hill Cemetery, Fredericton|
|Alma mater||U of New Brunswick|
|Notable works||The Harbour Master, The Leather Bottle|
|Spouse||Frances Seymour Allen|
|Children||William Goodridge, Dorothy Mary Gostwick, Theodora Frances Bliss, Loveday|
He was born George Edwards Theodore Goodridge Roberts in Fredericton, to Emma Wetmore Bliss and Anglican Rev. George Goodridge Roberts. The poet Charles G. D. Roberts, and the writers William Carman Roberts and Jane Roberts MacDonald, were his siblings.
He published his first poem in 1899, when he was eleven, in the New York Independent (where his cousin Bliss Carman was working), and his first prose piece (a comparison of the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Gettysburg) in the Century two years later.
Roberts attended Fredericton Collegiate School, though (since school records were lost in a fire) the exact years are unknown. He later went to University of New Brunswick (UNB), but left without graduating. He published poetry in UNB's University Magazine.
In 1897 he moved to New York City, living with his brothers Charles and William and working at The Independent. In 1898 the magazine sent him to Cuba, as a special correspondent, to cover the Spanish-American War. While on the island he contracted malaria--he was sent back to New York and consulted specialists, who sent him back to Fredericton "to die."
An unnamed surgeon saved Roberts's life, and he was nursed back to heath by Frances Seymour Allen (whom he would subsequently marry). The next year he travelled to Newfoundland, where he helped to found and edit The Newfoundland Magazine. He published his first book of poetry (Northand Lyrics, an anthology edited by Charles G.D. Roberts and featuring his three siblings) in 1899, and his first novel, The House of Isstens, in 1900.
In 1901 Roberts sailed on a barkentine to Brazil. In 1902 he returned to Fredericton and briefly edited a second magazine, The Kit-Bag.
Roberts married Frances Seymour Allen in November 1903, and they had a two-year honeymoon in Barbados where their first child was born. They would have four children: William Goodridge, Dorothy Mary Gostwick, Theodora Frances Bliss and Loveday (who died as an infant).
Roberts averaged three novels a year from 1908 until 1914. At that time his "many novels of adventure and romance" already enoyed a "wide popularity in English-speaking lands."
A former militiaman, Roberts re-enlisted in 1914 when World War I broke out, serving as a lieutenant in the 12th Canadian Infantry Battalion, commanded by Lt.-Col. Harry Fulton McLeod of Fredericton--Roberts' entire family followed him to England. When the 12th Battalion was assigned to a reserve and training roll in early 1915, Roberts was transferred to a position perhaps better fitted to his combination of military knowledge and literary skill. "In the summer of 1915, he was transferred to the Canadian War Records Office at the request of Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook. Roberts wrote official reports and battlefield accounts and published three works in collaboration with others." He was promoted captain early in 1916.
When Roberts was in Europe he left his manuscripts and papers, including work not yet published, with a Dr. Wainwright in Saint John, who stored them in his basement. They were destroyed in the spring of 1919 when the Saint John River flooded.
In 1932 he undertook his last major sea cruise, sailing through the Panama Canal to Vancouver and back. The same year he did a cross-Canada reading tour, which "culminated with festivities in Vancouver."
He returned to New Brunswick in 1941, and in 1945 moved to Digby, Nova Scotia, where he would die eight years later. He is buried beside Charles G.D. Roberts and Bliss Carman in Fredericton's Forest Hill Cemetery.
The Dictionary of Literary Biography (DLB) says that T.G. Roberts's "poetry and fiction, staggering in sheer quantity and variety, show at their best Roberts's most enduring gifts: in his poetry a love of nature well served by a keen eye for local color and detail, a good ear for clean, clear rhythm and rhyme, and a forceful, uncluttered narrative line; and in fiction a talent for presenting his abiding perception of universal struggles between good and evil either in mythic tales of adventure or in regional stories animated by local settings, customs, and dialects."
Of the poems in his 1926 collection, The Lost Shipmate, The Encyclopedia of Literature commented: "Had this volume appeared forty years earlier it might have won for Theodore a reputation equal to that of his brother Charles or of Bliss Carman. Poems such as 'The sandbar' and 'Magic' are unmatched in Canadian poetry for a facility and clarity of image suggestive of high-realist painting.
However, much of what Roberts wrote has been forgotten with time, or has not stood the tests of time and changing fashion.
The writing that Roberts is most likely to be recognized for today is The Merriest Knight, his collection of Arthurian tales. This looks like the one book by Roberts currently in print - ironically, considering that it was never published as a book during Roberts's lifetime.
Roberts began to write Arthurian fiction in the 1920s; most of these stories, though, were published in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the fiction magazine Blue Book. Roberts planned to publish them as a collection, but died in 1953 before he could do so. In 2001 Mike Ashley, editor of the Mammoth publishing group, brought them out under his Green Knight imprint.
A review for SFSite called the collection's writing "polished," "erudite," and "eminently readable," but "somewhat tame": "literature for the afternoon tea and crumpets crowd - in a word 'polite' Arthurian fiction." Still, it concluded, "if you're looking for something a bit more upbeat, some Arthuriana-lite, The Merriest Knight is just the book for you."
The University of New Brunswick awarded Roberts a Doctorate of literature in 1930.
Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy St. Thomas University.