by George J. Dance

Talbot road

Adam Hood Burwell (1790-1849), Talbot Road: A poem. London: Canadian Poetry Press, 1991. Courtesy University of Toronto.

Rev. Adam Hood Burwell (June 4, 1790 - November 2, 1849) was a Canadian poet, journalist, and clergyman.[1]


Burwell was born near Fort Erie, Upper Canada (now Ontario), to Sarah (Veal) and Adam Burwell. By 1818 the family had moved to Port Talbot on the north shore of Lake Erie, where Burwell's brother, Mahlon Burwell (who had surveyed the Talbot Road and the town of Port Talbot) was living.[1]


While working on Mahlon's farm, Adam Burwell had a vision:[1]

I was at my brother's near Port Talbot at work in the field. Being much fatigued I came into the house precisely at noon, the sun shining very hot. I threw myself on the bed, fell instantly asleep and dreamed this singular dream:– "That the Oracle had foretold, that on a given year, month, and day of this reign of George the third, which day should be his birthday, a poet who should be a great man poeta homo magnus – should be born in Upper Canada. On examination being made, it was found that all the circumstances named by the oracle, agreed exactly with the circumstances of my nativity," and I instantly awoke and sprung out of bed .... I looked at the shadow of the sun on the noon mark, and could not perceive that it had moved.– I was born June 4th, 1790, near Fort Erie.[2]

Convinced of his destiny, Burwell began writing and submitting poems under the Pen name of "Erieus." His earliest published effort appeared in the Upper Canada Gazette of March 12, 1818.[3] Other poems quickly followed in publications like the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal, Niagara Gleaner, the Scribbler,[1] and the Niagara Spectator (which published his long poem, Talbot Road, in 2 parts in July and August, 1818). From 1818 to 1827, Burwell is known to have published more than 40 poems in Canadian newspapers and magazines.[2]

The Niagara Gleaner of August 5, 1819, contained an advertisement for "publishing by subscription" "The Original Poems of Erieus" by "Adam Hood Burwell, of Talbot-Road, Upper Canada," a "Volume of about 250 Pages, octavo" that was to have included "The Gourlayad: a Poem in doggerel verse, with notes" (presumably on the controversial reformer Robert Gourlay). No other trace of this proposed volume has survived.[2]


Thomas Talbot, proprietor of Port Talbot (to whom Burwell had dedicated Talbot Road), recommended Burwell to Bishop Jacob Mountain of Montreal (father of poet George Mountain) as a candidate for holy orders. In March 1827, Burwell was ordained at Quebec as a deacon of the Church of England, and was appointed to Lennoxville, Lower Canada (now Quebec).[1]

On February 22, 1829, Burwell married Sarah Bernard in Troy, New York. By 1830 he and his family had moved to Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada, where Burwell edited the Christian Sentinel and Anglo-Canadian Churchman’s Magazine, a weekly Anglican journal, between 1830 and 1831. Burwell hoped to transform the Sentinel into a “constitutional political paper,” but he also published poems and a quantity of prose in it. The journal died after only a year of publication, despite the moral support of Archdeacon John Strachan, die to financial and administrative pressures.[1]

During the early 1830's Burwell continued to advocate for his political and religious ideas, most notably in a series of essays which ran in the Kingston Chronicle from March 1831 to February 1832 under the pseudonym, "One of the People".[1]

In the middle of the decade Burwell came under the influence of Edward Irving, the Scottish-born preacher whose movement became the Catholic Apostolic Church. Burwell published 2 Irvingite tracts in 1835: Doctrine of the Holy Spirit . . . (Toronto) and A Voice of Warning and Instruction: Concerning the signs of the time . . . (Kingston). By October 1836 Burwell’s doctrinal differences had led him to leave the Church of England; he moved to Kingston, Upper Canada, where he helped to found the 1st Catholic Apostolic Church in North America, in which he served until his death.[1]


Talbot Road: A poem is the earliest known long poem of pioneer life in Upper Canada by a Canadian-born author. Dedicated to Talbot, it combines aristocratic 18th-century poetic diction with local charm and color.[1] The full poem, 654 lines of heroic verse, was serialized in the Niagara Spectator in July-August, 1818.

Most of his poems describe the everyday joys and sorrows of life; some display Burwell’s political sentiments. His affinity for natural scenery, evident in Talbot Road and early poems such as “A Summer’s Evening” and “Journal of a Day’s Journey in Upper Canada in October, 1816,” adumbrates his later theological beliefs in an apocalyptic nature. His poems display both sensitivity and a sincere commitment to literature as a means of social change.[1]

After his ordination Burwell continued to write and publish poetry (most notably in Montreal’s Literary Garland between January and September 1849). However, the neoclassical emphasis of his early poetry had been replaced by an intense mysticism, evident in such poems as “Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the tree . . .” and “Summer evening contemplations.” Essays like “On the doctrine of social unity” and “On the philosophy of human perfection and happiness” continued to reflect Burwell’s commitment to the achievement of a fundamentalist Christian society. These writings did not find a receptive audience.[1]





  • "Talbot Road". Niagara Spectator, July 31-August 6, 1818.[2]
  • Summer Evening Contemplations. Montreal: Lovell & Gibson, 1849.
  • The Poems of Adam Hood Burwell: Pioneer poet of Upper Canada (edited by Carl F. Klinck). London, ON: Lawson Memorial Library, University of Western Ontario, 1963.
  • "'New' Poems of Adam Hood Burwell", Canadian Poetry #18 (Spring / Summer 1986)
  • Talbot Road: A poem (edited by Michael Williams). London, ON: Canadian Poetry Press, 1991.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Michael Williams, “Burwell, Adam Hood,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–. Web, Oct. 29, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Michael Williams, Introduction," Talbot Road: A poem (London, ON: Canadian Poetry Press, 1991), Canadian Poetry. Web, Oct. 29, 2016.
  3. Appendix II, Talbot Road: A poem (London, ON: Canadian Poetry Press, 1991), Canadian Poetry. Web, Oct. 29, 2016.
  4. On the Philosophy of Human Perfection and Happiness, Web, Oct. 8, 2018.
  5. Search results = au:Adam Hugh Burwell, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Oct. 29, 2016.

External linksEdit

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