by George J. Dance

Grace blackburn

Grace Blackburn in Canadian Poets, 1916. Courtesy Simon Fraser University

Victoria Grace Blackburn
Born April 17, 1865
Died March 4, 1926 (aged 60)
Nationality Canada Canadian
Citizenship British subject
Alma mater Hellmuth Ladies' College
Notable work(s) The Man Child, 1930

Victoria Grace Blackburn (April 17, 1865 - March 4, 1926) was a Canadian poet, journalist, novelist, and playwright.[1] "For three decades she was a leading figure in the cultural life of London," Ontario.[2]


Blackburn was born in Quebec City,[1] the daughter of Emma Delamere and Josiah Blackburn, and raised in London, Ontario, where her father was the owner and editor of the London Free Press.[3] She was educated at Hellmuth Ladies' College in London. After graduation she worked as a teacher in Faribault, Minnesota, and acted as principal in Indianapolis, Indiana, then moved to New York City to study journalism.[1]

In 1896 she returned to London, and began to work for the Free Press.[1] In 1900 she became a literary and dramatic critic for the Free Press, where she wrote under the pseudonym "Fanfan".[3] She became an assistant managing editor in 1918, and continued to work at the newspaper until her death in 1928.[1]

In 1913 she was elected literary correspondent of the Association of Canadian Clubs.[3] She was a founder of the Women's Canadian Club of London, and served as its president, 1918-1919. She also served as president of the London Women's Press Club, 1921-1923.[1]

She was a friend of poet and priest Robert Norwood, who appears in her novel The Man Child as "Rev. Norman Brooks."[2] She wrote a forward to Norwood's long poem Bill Boram.[4]

Blackburn died of cancer in 1928. She is buried in London's Woodland Cemetery.[5]


Blackburn wrote poetry throughout her life, much of which was published, though not collected in book form until after her death. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says that her "writing about World War I is superior to her other work," mentioning in particular her poem "Christ in Flanders," in which "the wounds of a female survivor resemble those of the crucified Christ."[2]

The Canadian Encyclopedia calls her novel, The Man Child (published in 1930, 2 years after her death), "Blackburn's most critically acclaimed work." The Man Child tells the story of Jack Winchester, a Canadian boy who goes to fight in France in World War I. Blackburn "plays with form throughout her novel, switching from a traditional narrative structure to an epistolary one as the story moves from London to France. This change in form not only demonstrates Blackburn's skill as a writer, but also mirrors the change in her protagonist as war becomes a personal experience and not just something read about, thousands of miles away."[1]

Blackburn also wrote 2 1-act plays, which were never published: Seal of Confession, which "explores ideas of self-sacrifice through the perspective of a French priest;"[1] and The Little Gray, "a farce set in a New York dress shop,"[2] which "shows Blackburn's reflective side as it mocks her own social class and its fascination with fashion and aesthetics."[1]



  • Fanfan's Poetry: The collected poetical works of Victoria Grace Blackburn (edited by Elwood H. Jones). London, ON: University of Western Ontario, 1967.


  • The Man Child. Ottawa: Graphic Publishers, 1930.


  • Canadian Poets (edited by John Garvin). Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1916.[3]
  • Canadian Poems of the Great War (edited by John Garvin), 1918.[2]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Rodger J. Moran, Victoria Grace Blackburn, Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, September 11, 2011. Web, June 8, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 James Stewart Reaney, Blackburn, Victoria Grace, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto / Universite Laval, Web, June 8, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 John Garvin, Grace Blackburn", Canadian Poets (Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart 1916), 383-384, A Celebration of Women Writers, University of Pennsylvania,, Web, June 8, 2012.
  4. Bill Boram; With Foreword by Grace Blackburn, Web, Mar. 4, 2019.
  5. Blackburn, Grace, Canada's Early Women Writers, Simon Fraser University. Web, Mar. 28, 2017.
  6. Search results = au:Grace Blackburn, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 4, 2014.

External linksEdit

  • Grace Blackburn in Canadian Poets (6 poems: "The Evening Star," "Epic of the Yser," "Sing Ho for the Herring," "If Winter Come," "The Cypress Tree," "The Chant of the Woman").
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