My great-, great-aunt on my father’s side was Isabella Valancy Crawford who was born on Christmas Day, 1850 in Dublin, Ireland and died on February 12, 1887 in Toronto, Canada. She is recognized as one of Canada’s first major poets and one of the first in my country to actually make a living as a freelance writer. My favourite quote about my aunt is by Ethelwyn Wetherald, another popular Canadian poet, who wrote a beautiful introduction to one of several books containing Isabella’s writings. I have but one of just a few known copies of the book while others are within my family and in museums and historical library collections. The book I am referencing is Collected Poems, edited by J. W. Gavin, published in 1905. Wetherald said this about Isabella:
“Purely a genius, not a craftswoman, and a genius who has patience enough to be an artist.”
Isabella is already celebrated in Canada, not only through writings about her, but also with plaques and even a park named after her. She was also designated a “Person of National Historic Significance” by the Canadian Government in 1947. One of the plaques is in Paisley, Ontario where her family lived when they immigrated to Canada. The other plaque is in Toronto on Front St. at the bottom of John St., just a few blocks from where she died at home. That location is called Isabella Valancy Park and I visit it several times a year, as I live not far from Toronto and have a daughter living there now who also works about a 10-minute walk from the park.
I could go on and on about my beloved Isabella and perhaps one day I will write more about her, but for now I’ll just send you to some reference sites with her poems and other information.
- Wikipedia entry
- Information and pictures for Isabella Valancy Park and plaque in Toronto, with a link to the plaque in Paisley as well.
- Google’s .pdf copy of Collected Poems (referenced above). NOTE: you have to scroll through a few blank pages before you start to see the publication.
- You can also find 2 of Isabella’s books, a book about her, and even 2 songs written about her on Google Play. Just search her full name of Isabella Valancy Crawford to find them.
So in response to today’s Daily Prompt asking if I could dedicate a holiday to a distant relative and why, my answer is I already do celebrate Isabella. Every Christmas Day, every February 12th, and frequently on days in between while I am working on my first novel. I have many reasons to honour the woman who has been noted as “a central place in the canon of nineteenth-century Canadian poetry” (D. M. R. Bentley, 2011). The one I am most grateful for is passing on her love for the written word. Writing: it’s in my genes.
- Picture of Isabella – Wiki site (public domain)
- Picture of plaque – torontoplaques.com (photo by Alan L. Brown)