The themes Charles Sangster wrote about


Charles Sangster was a Canadian poet whose 1856 volume, The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, "was received with unanimous acclaim as the best and most important book of poetry produced in Canada until that time." He was "the first poet who made appreciative use of Canadian subjects in his poetical work." The Dictionary of Canadian Biography calls him "the best of the pre-confederation poets."


Sangster was born at the Navy Yard on Point Frederick (now the site of Royal Military College of Canada), near Kingston, Ontario, the son of Ann Ross and James Sangster. A twin sister died in infancy. His father, a "joiner" or shipbuilder who worked for the British Navy around the Great Lakes, died at Penetanguishene just before Charles turned 2. His mother raised Charles and his 4 siblings on her own.

Sangster was an indifferent student, finding "the school curriculum irrelevant and his masters stern and uninspiring." At 15 years old, he left school to help provide for the family. He took a job in the naval lab making cartridges at Fort Henry and two years later was transferred to the Ordnance office at the fort.

About this time (1839) Sangster wrote his first serious poem, a 700-line narrative in rhyming couplets called "The Rebel." The poem "contains an extensive vocabulary and rich and imaginative historical and geographical allusions, ... beyond what might be expected of a boy ... who had so little formal education.... the content and form suggest considerable previous writing."

During the 12 years he worked at the Ordinance office Sangster began doing part-time work for a Kingston newspaper, the British Whig. He also continued writing poetry and submitting it, anonymously or pseudonymously, to the local papers.

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