What happened next? The retirement of John Galt

Posted July 28, 2011 3:44 pm by Lauren Forbes

It’s always interesting to come across something in a letter that makes you wonder what happened next…

Among the letters of John Galt, novelist, in the archive, I came upon one written – or rather dictated – in January 1834. It was dictated because at this stage in life Galt had suffered a stroke – he died a few years later, in 1839. In this letter to John Murray II, Galt says:

“My continued suffering has at last forced me to determine on leaving London and as I had but to choose between Scotland and Canada I have resolved to retire to the latter country, where I have already two sons and have been of some use to the Province”.

He mentions plans to have 3 volumes published, as a “subscription work”, to enable him to achieve this goal.

However, to quote the Dictionary of National Biography entry on John Galt, “In 1834 he retired to Greenock”. There is no mention of his designs on Canada. The DNB notes that he was most at home in his native Scotland, and no doubt it is documented somewhere why the Canada plan fell through – perhaps because of insufficient funds. But letters that reveal a discrepancy between what a person wanted and what actually happened are always particularly intriguing.

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