Malcolm Ross (1911-2002)


Malcolm Ross died in Halifax on November 4, 2002 at the age of 91. A Memorial Mass was held at St George’s Church, Halifax on November 29.

Born in Fredericton on January 2, 1911, Malcolm Mackenzie Ross was educated at the University of New Brunswick, the University of Toronto, and Cornell University, from which he received a Ph.D. in English in 1941. After teaching briefly at the universities of Indiana and Manitoba, he was appointed Professor of English at Queen’s University, where he served as Head of the Department of English from 1957 to 1960 and held the James Cappon Professorship in English from 1960 to 1962. Thereafter he was first a Professor of English and then the Dean of Arts at the University of Toronto (1962-1968) and then a Professor and a Thomas McCulloch Professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax (1968-1982).

In the course of his highly distinguished teaching and administrative career, Malcolm published numerous scholarly articles and books that have altered forever the shape of Renaissance, Canadian, and Victorian studies, including Milton’s Royalism (1943), Poetry and Dogma (1954), Our Sense of Identity (1954), The Arts in Canada (1958), and The Impossible Sum of Our Traditions (1986). As the founding editor of the New Canadian Library, he prepared ground for the flowering of Canadian fiction that has now won international recognition. As the compiler of Poets of the Confederation (1960) and the author of seminal articles on Canadian poets, he gave impetus and momentum to the study of Canada’s early poetry. As the teacher, supervisor, and friend of generations of Canadian students, he exemplified and encouraged the very highest standards of academic endeavour in English studies in Canada. None of us who came into contact with him will ever forget the sparkle of his blue, appraising eyes or the shrewd criticism, kindly irony, and sage advice to which his assessments gave rise.

Malcolm was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and several prestigious awards, including the Lorne Pierce Medal of the Royal Society of Canada and the Northern Telecom International Award in Canadian Studies. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In 1938, Malcolm married Lois Natalie Hall, who blessed him with her love, her support, and their devoted daughter Julie, who survives them.

Malcolm Ross wrote and spoke from what one of his favourite Canadian poets called "a Place of Vision"—a site of illumination "on the verge of creation / In the sweep of the wheeling sun" where mysteries are clarified, [Page 5] disciplines learned, and directions charted. He was a brilliant scholar, a powerful teacher, and a great character. He lit and passed innumerable torches. He is sorely missed and gratefully remembered.

This number of Canadian Poetry, the Editorial Board of which Malcolm graced for over twenty-five years, is but a small indication of its editor’s gratitude, esteem, and affection. [Page 6]