Julia Catherine (Beckwith) Hart is credited as being the first Canadian novelist. She was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, on 10 March 1796 to Nehemiah Beckwith, a United Empire Loyalist, and his second wife, Julie-Louise Le Brun de Duplessis. Her father's tragic death by drowning in 1815 left Julie-Louise solely responsible for the family’s welfare, making it necessary for Julia and her siblings to seek occupations that would enable independence from their widowed mother. Though Julia Beckwith was well-schooled in reading and writing, very little is known of her education. She traveled to Kingston, Upper Canada, in 1820 to live with her aunt, “probably in order to lessen the burden on her mother” (Bailey). There she instituted a bilingual (French/English) boarding school for girls, which she continued to run for two years after her marriage to George Henry Hart, an English bookbinder, on 3 January 1822. Julia Beckwith’s first novel, St. Ursula’s Convent, or, The Nun of Canada: Containing Scenes from Real Life (1824),Although at least 200 copies were printed, only four are known to have survived. Hart and her husband moved to Rochester, New York in 1824, where she published her second novel, Tonnewonte, or, The Adopted Son of America: A Tale Containing Scenes from Real Life (1824). In 1831 Beckwith, along with her husband and six children, moved back to Fredericton, where she would write her third novel in manuscript Edith (or The Doom) that was never published. In 1831 she returned to Fredericton, New Brunswick. On November 28, 1867, Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart died in Fredericton, New Brunswick at the age of 71. However, she was not recognized until at the end of the century when Canadian writing became of interest. She is buried in Old Burial Grounds Fredericton, NB .
Courtesy: Plaque in University of New Brunswick building
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