JAMES ROBERTSON MACGILLIVRAY (1902-1992)
The following is the text of Hugh MacCallum's memorial resolution on James Robertson MacGillivray (August 22, 1902 - August 9, 1992), delivered to University College Council on September 21, 1992.
The Council of University College profoundly regrets the death of James Robertson MacGillivray at the age of eighty-nine.
J. R. MacGillivray graduated in English and History from University College, Toronto, in 1926, and two years later he received the M.A. degree from the University of Toronto. He continued his graduate studies at Harvard, and was awarded the Ph.D. in 1930.
He joined the faculty in English at University College as Lecturer in 1930, and in the following years progressed steadily through the ranks, becoming Assistant Professor in 1937, Associate in 1944, and Professor in 1952. When he retired in 1970, he had given forty years of service to the College and the University.
Professor MacGillivray's scholarship centered on the Romantic period. His interests were historical and biographical, and he had a sharp eye for bibliographical issues. His first publication in 1931 was an essay on the social ideals of Coleridge, but soon he was also working on Wordsworth and Keats, often in order to reveal newly discovered poems or to settle issues of chronology. In 1949, he published a substantial work entitled Keats: A Bibliography and Reference Guide with an Essay on Keat's Reputation. This was described by a contemporary reviewer as "an indispensable work for all who are interested in nineteenth-century poetry and in the changing tastes and standards of its literary critics." His scholarship was recognized by his election to the Royal Society of Canada in 1957, at which time he was deeply engaged in the study of Wordsworth. His contributions in this area include an essay on the three forms of The Prelude which has achieved an enduring place in the study of that poem.
Professor MacGillivray's spare, lucid and witty prose was also employed in many book reviews. For ten years he contributed the section on Canadian fiction to the annual issue of "Letters in Canada" in The University of Toronto Quarterly He relinquished this task in 1947 in order to become editor of the Quarterly a position he held for the next eight years. The journal flourished under his care, publishing distinguished essays in a wide range of disciplines.
As a teacher, Professor MacGillivray was particularly appreciated by senior students. He did not give the impression that his critical opinions came from above; rather his manner was unpretentious and friendly. Like his written work, his lectures involved a judicious marshalling of facts and opinions, and were illuminated by moments of sharp critical insight. The undergraduate courses which he taught included one on American literature, which in 1933 represented a new and bold innovation. His graduate course on John Keats was memorable for its combination of detailed scholarship and an overriding concept of Romanticism.
Professor MacGillivray undertook many tasks of service to his department, and held various administrative positions, including that of Acting Head. His good sense and restorative wit were much valued by his colleagues. Many still recall a troubled meeting on curriculum reform at which there was much talk about the need for a core program in English with core courses; at the end of the prolonged debate, Jim MacGillivray rose to say that he found much of the discussion incomprehensible, for surely the core is what you throw away after you have finished the apple! Considerate and firm, intelligent and humane, he made a sustaining contribution to the life of the academic community which is remembered with gratitude.
After retirement he and his wife Elinor enjoyed for many years the company of their friends and relatives, including a number of nephews and nieces, and Jim continued to take pleasure in tending the garden which his acquaintances remember as the setting for quiet and warm hospitality.
Jim MacGillivrary, as Department members affectionately call him, was the son of the Rev. A. J. MacGillivrary, one-time moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. In 1927 he worked as a laborer-instructor at Frontier College of Canada, School for Workers, Branch no. 63, at Arvida, Quebec. He and Elinor Maude Lane, M.A., married at "Strawberry Hill," Harwinton, Connecticutt, on September 30, 1930.
Jim MacGillivray first worked with Norman Endicott in 1938 to revise Vol. II of the sixth edition of Representative Poetry. In 1946 MacGillivray introduced minor changes into Vol. II when the Press was asked to reprint it. He reported to the Department on Sept. 17, 1962, on the successful negotiations for the publication of the new seventh edition. His editorial work, on Wordsworth and Keats, came out in Vol. II in 1963.
- Keats A Bibliography and Reference Guide, with an Essay on Keats' Reputation. Toronto University of Toronto Press, 1949. Z 8461 .M3 General Reference Robarts Library
SOURCES FOR CAREER
Hugh MacCallum. Personal letter. Jan. 17, 2001.
Clippings file, University Archives. A73-0026/269 (98).