The Conventional Man

The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878

Edited with an Introduction by Peter Oliver
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 680
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442680913
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  • Book Info
    The Conventional Man
    Book Description:

    Between 1856 and 1878, Robert A. Harrison kept a diary. Harrison, a Toronto lawyer often described as the outstanding common law lawyer of his generation, was Chief Justice of Ontario during that time and his diary is one of the most remarkable documents bequeathed to us by the nineteenth century. In it, Harrison provides detailed and intimate accounts of life and love among Toronto's upper crust, accounts that resound with ambition, passion, jealousy and rage as his life proceeds through courtships, marriages, deaths and all the throes and challenges of routine existence among the privileged classes. Not least important are behind-the-scenes insights into scores of courtroom battles fought before judges sometimes described as ignorant and thick-headed and juries who frequently succumbed to Victorian prejudices of race, gender bias, and religion.

    Although unusual in his driving ambitions and his consuming need to accumulate a fortune, Harrison remained in most respects thoroughly conventional and Victorian, and his diary offers unrivalled insights into the voice of the mid-nineteenth century Toronto male: confident, conventional, and smug. Harrison is forthright in his opinions on love, courtship, marriage, sexuality, medical practice, death, drinking habits, class, servants, technology, opera, and theatre in the city. In an extended biographical introduction, Peter Oliver provides an explanation and a critical assessment of Harrison's life and career which further illuminates one man's extraordinary record of an era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8091-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    R. Roy McMurtry and Martin Friedland

    The diary of Robert Harrison is a most remarkable document. In it Harrison provides detailed and intimate accounts of life and love among Toronto’s upper crust in the nineteenth century, accounts which resound with ambition, passion, jealousy, and rage as his life proceeds through courtships, marriages, deaths, and the vicissitudes of routine existence. The diary provides insights into hundreds of courtroom battles fought before judges sometimes described as ignorant and thick-headed and juries who frequently succumbed to Victorian prejudices in regard to race, gender, and religion. Although unusual in his driving ambitions and his consuming need to accumulate a fortune,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-1)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. 2-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-118)

    On 1 January 1856, Robert A. Harrison, a young Toronto lawyer, began to keep a diary. Then twenty-three years of age, he was employed as chief clerk in the Crown Law Office. This position involved a grab-bag of duties and responsibilities, everything from drafting legislation and representing the government in court to serving the Attorney General in the most menial ways, and in that sense was hardly analogous to the present-day position of deputy minister. Young Harrison was fortunate that for most of his tenure the attorney general was John A. Macdonald, then aggressively securing his position as the province’s...

  7. The Diaries, 1856–1878
    (pp. 119-626)
    BARBARA GOODFELLOW

    Tuesday, January 1

    Hired a cab 1 o’clock. A party in Mrs. Reford’s. Introduced to Miss Hiers of Boston. Danced a good deal with her. Remained till 2 o’clock next morning. Then home.

    Thursday, January 3

    Arose at 8 o’clock. Dressed. Breakfasted. To office. In office all day. In afternoon called upon Mrs. Harper and Mrs. Capt. Jones. Party at Donald McDonald’s. Fine entertainment. Introduced to Mrs. W.A. Campbell, Mrs. Recorder Duggan and others. Danced till 2 o’clock in the morning. Saw Miss Morgan and Mrs. Dv. into a cab. Then home. To bed.

    Friday, January 4

    Arose at 8...

  8. Appendix: Biographical Sketches
    (pp. 627-647)