The business of writing home: Authorship and the transatlantic economies of John Galt's literary circle, 1807-1840

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John Galt
The Canada Company
The Wealth of Nations
Transatlantic literature
Nineteenth-century literature

This dissertation examines nineteenth-century Scottish author John Galt’s dialogue with the political economics of his time. In particular, I argue that both in his practices as an author and through the subject matter of his North American texts, Galt critiques and adapts Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776). Galt’s critique of Smith becomes evident when we examine the relationship between his engagement with political economy in his most important North American literary texts and his overt political interests, specifically those concerning transatlantic land development and colonial expansion, a project he pursued with the Canada Company. In Chapter One, I examine John Galt’s role with the Canada Company. Through a literary analysis of the Canada Company coat-of-arms and charter, I argue that the Canada Company ideologies were written into the very language of the charter as well as reflected in the imagery on the coat-of-arms. In Chapter Two, I examine the group of writers Galt employed in the Canada Company and the texts they wrote as a result of their work in Upper Canada. I argue that this coterie of Canada Company author-agents deployed the British periodical press to promote the Canada Company and its land speculation in Upper Canada. In Chapter Three, I turn to Galt’s most explicit critique of Adam Smith: his 1830 novel, Lawrie Todd. I argue that Lawrie Todd should be read as an adaptation of The Wealth of Nations that ultimately provides a model for British emigration that accommodates a desire for continued British national loyalty. In Chapter Four, I turn to Smith’s theory of authorship as being unproductive labour and examine Galt’s lengthy response to this categorization found in his 1831 novel, Bogle Corbet. I argue that through Bogle Corbet, we can see the central role of a transatlantic literary marketplace for successful middle-class North-American emigration. The project concludes with an evaluation of Galt’s correspondence with British politician Robert Peel. In this correspondence, Galt makes explicit the need for a literary periodical to respond to British political unrest.

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Leith Davis
Carole Gerson
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.