John Reade (1837-1919) in Canadian Singers and their Songs, 1919. Courtesy Internet Archive.

by George J. Dance

John Reade
Born November 13, 1837
Ballyshannon, Ireland
Died March 26, 1919 (aged 81)
Montreal, Quebec
Occupation editor
Nationality Canada Canadian
Ethnicity Irish
Citizenship British subject
Alma mater Queen's College, Belfast
Notable award(s) FRSC, FRSL

John Reade FRSC (November 13, 1837 - March 26, 1919) was an Irish-born Canadian poet, journalist, and essayist, once considered "the grand old man of Canadian letters." He is best known as the literary editor of the Montreal Gazette, a position he held for almost 50 years.[1]


John Reade was born in Ballyshannon, co. Donegal, Ireland, in 1837, the son of Frances (Smyth) and Joseph Reade.[2]

He was educated at Portora School, Enniskillen], and Queen's College, Belfast.[1]

Reade immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1856, settling in Montreal. Within a year he had founded and was editing Montreal Literary Magazine. In 1859 he became rector of Lachute Academy, and began studying theology. He was ordained an Anglican minister in 1865, and served in 2 parishes (Mascouche and Mansonville) before leaving the ministry in 1867 due to ill health.[1]

Returning to Montreal in 1868, Reade began writing for the Montreal Gazette. In 1870 he became the newspaper's literary editor, and held that position until his death in 1919.[1]

At the Gazette Reade was best known for his weekly column, "Old and New," but he also wrote "hundreds of unsigned editorials, reviews, and articles" for the paper. In addition, he "published poems, essays, translations, or short fiction in virtually all of the major Canadian journals of his day."[1]

Reade was a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature, and a founding Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was a member, and served as president, of both the Society of Canadian Literature and the Society for Historical Studies. He was also a member of the the Societe litteraire et historique de Quebec.[3]

8 of Reade's poems were published in the 1864 anthology, Selections from Canadian Poets. His own book, Merlin's Prophecy, and other poems (a book "steeped in Victorian Romanticism "), appeared in 1870.[3] The book included Reade's translations of Aeschylus, Euripides, Homer, Horace, and Virgil.[1]

In 1881 Reade edited Rosanna Leprohon's posthumous collected poems, The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon.[4]


"Merlin's Prophecy," which used the form of Tennyson's Idylls of the King, was a purported prophecy of contemporary Canada and the British Empire, which Reade wrote to commemorate Prince Arthur's 1869 visit to Canada. John Lesperance called it "the most perfect poem ever written in Canada."[1]

Critical reputationEdit

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography notes that although Reade "was appropriately identified in his later years as 'the grand old man of Canadian letters,' his reputation has not fulfilled the dream of his friend John Boyd that 'no anthology of Canadian verse will ever be complete without a wide selection from John Reade's work, rich as it is in content and faultless in its technique.' Despite such praise, the late-Victorian personal, political, and poetic values characteristic of Reade's poetry and criticism led to their general disregard within a few years of his death."[1]


McCord Museum

Reade's papers are at the McCord Museum of Canadian History in Montreal. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Reade was appointed a charter Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1882, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature of Great Britain in 1896.[5]

Rose-Belford's Canadian Monthly and National Review printed Reade's long poem, "Madeleine de Vercheres," in 1878.[1] In 1889, W.D. Lighthall selected "Madeleine" and 2 other Reade poems for his anthology Songs of the Great Dominion: "Hastings," which he used to begin the book, and "The Winter Carnival." Reade, Lighthall declared, was "one of the chief figures in Canadian literature, and probably the sweetest poet."[6]

He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 1909.[3]





  • “Winty Dane’s transformation,” New Dominion Monthly (August 1874), 878-879. (short story)


  • Thomas D’Arcy McGee: The poet,” New Dominion Monthly (Montreal), (February 1870), 12–21;
  • “Canada a hundred years ago,” Belford’s Monthly Magazine (Toronto), 1 (1877): 621–36:
  • “The testimony of names of places,” Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review (Toronto), 1 (July–December 1878), 602–8;
  • "Great explorers before Columbus," Trans. Literary and Hist. Soc., 17 (1882–1883), 3-31.
  • The Literary Faculty of the Native Races of America. Montreal: Dawson, 1884.[7]
  • The Basques in North America.[7]
  • “Lord Tennyson,” Dominion Illustrated Monthly (Montreal), [2nd ser.], 1 (February 1892–January 1893,: 631–39.
  • “What is imperialism?” Canadian Magazine, 19 (May–October 1902), 316–18.


  • 8 poems in Selections from Canadian poets (edited by E.H. Dewart). Montreal, 1864
    • (with introduction by D. Lochhead). Toronto and Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press, 1973.
  • "Hastings," "The Winter Carnival," & "Madeleine de Vercheres" in Songs of the Great Dominion: Voices from the Forests and Waters, the Settlements and Cities of Canada (edited by William Douw Lighthall). London: Walter Scott, 1891.[6]


  • Rosanna Leprohon, The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon. Lovell, 1881.[4]
  • George Murray, Poems.. Montreal: E.G. O'Connor, 1912.[8]

Except where noted, bibliographic information courtesy Dictionary of Canadian Biography.[1]

See alsoEdit




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Leslie Monkman, "Reade, John," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Web, May 1, 2011.
  2. "Reade, John," Encyclopedia of Canada (Toronto: University Associates), V, 225
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "John Reade fonds (P140)", McCord Museum of Canadian History, Web, May 1, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon," Old Poetry, Web, May 1, 2011.
  5. "John Reade," Quebec History Encyclopedia,, Web, May 1, 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 William Douw Lighthall, Songs of the Great Dominion: Voices from the Forests and Waters, the Settlements and Cities of Canada (Walter Scott [Windsor Series], 1889), Google Books, Web, May 1, 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Search results = au:John Reade, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Oct. 30, 2013.
  8. search results: George Murray, Open Library, Web, May 15, 2011.

External linksEdit

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