McLennan, William, 1856-1904

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McLennan, William, 1856-1904

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William McLennan (8 May 1856-28 Jul. 1904) was born in Montreal, the fourth child of Hugh McLennan and Isabella Stewart. McLennan attended the High School of Montreal and graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Law from McGill College in 1880. After being commissioned a notary on 7 October 1881, McLennan established a partnership with Albert Clarence Lyman in 1882 and a later partnership with William de Montmollin Marler and Ernest Henry Stuart in a firm to be known as Stuart, Marler, and McLennan. He was subsequently associated with four other notarial partnerships, involving Marler, Henry Fry, John Fair, and John Alexander Cameron, until 1900 when he retired from the notarial profession. For many years he held the official position of notary to the Bank of Montreal.
In addition to his notarial career, McLennan was a successful author and translator, producing poems, short stories, novels, and other works, many of which reflect his interest in history and scholarly antiquarianism. Over the course of nearly twenty years, dozens of poems, stories, sketches, and abridged versions of McLennan’s two novels were published in Canadian and American newspapers and magazines, including “Dominion Illustrated Monthly,” the “Arcadia” of Montreal, the “Week,” the “Canadian Magazine,” and the “Globe” of Toronto, and “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” and “Harper’s Weekly” of New York. McLennan’s first major published work was “Songs of Old Canada” (1886), a collection of fourteen French Canadian folk-songs with his English translations, many of which were first published in the Montreal “Gazette” in 1885.
Other of McLennan’s works with a strong basis in historical research include “Montreal and Some of the Makers Thereof” (1893); “An Outline of the History of Engraving” ([1881]); “Anciens Montréalais, I: Bénigne Basset, Notaire Royal, 1639–1699” in “Le Canada Français” (1890); “A Gentleman of the Royal Guard, Daniel de Gresollon, Sieur Du L’Hut” in “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” (1893); “Spanish John” (1898); “The Death of Dulhut,” in “Royal Society of Canada Transactions and Proceedings” (1903); and in collaboration with Jean N. (J. N.) McIlwraith, “The Span o’ Life” (1899), a Canadian historical romance. After an abridged version of the novel “Spanish John” was published in “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” in October 1897, author Thomas Guthrie Marquis charged McLennan with plagiarism, a charge that was refuted by McLennan’s meticulous explanation of the circumstances involved in the creation of the work and by the defense mounted by contemporaries including Edward William Thomson and William Henry Drummond.
Beginning in 1891, the publication in “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” of a series of seven stories about French Canadian life established McLennan’s reputation as a master of French Canadian dialect in English. 1n 1899, nineteen of these stories were published in a collection titled “In Old France and New.”
McLennan was heavily active in the social and cultural life of Montreal in the 1880s and 1890s. He served on the governing council of the Fraser Institute and was president from 1898-1902. He was a trustee of the Tiffin Library and was an active member of the Art Association of Montreal, the Shakespeare Club, the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, and the Pen and Pencil Club. McLennan was appointed librarian to McGill University in 1878, but he was obliged to retire due to ill health. He was named honorary librarian of McGill from 1882-1883. He later served on McGill’s corporation as representative of law. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1899. He attended the American Presbyterian Church.
McLennan married Marion Paterson, the daughter of Pemberton Paterson of Quebec, on 7 June 1883. Together they had three children, Alice Paterson (Patty), Elizabeth Paterson (Betty), and William Durie Paterson (Durie). Suffering from ill health, including asthma, McLennan moved to Europe after retiring from the notarial profession and traveled widely in Spain, France, and Germany until his death in Fiesole, Italy in 1904. He is buried in the English cemetery in Florence.


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