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Bissell, Claude.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1986. 361pp, cloth, $27.50, ISBN 0-8020-5656-3. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by John Harkness

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

The Imperial Canadian begins in 1935, where the author concluded the first volume of his biography of Vincent Massey. In the first book, The Young Vincent Massey (University of Toronto Press), Bissell, former president of the University of Toronto, followed Massey's life and career to his appointment as Canada's High Commissioner to London. In this second book, the author begins with Massey's arrival in London to take up his new post and ends with his death in 1967. The intervening years were some of the most important in Massey's long career as aristocrat, democrat, cultural advocate, anglophile and fiercely proud Canadian.

The two major periods of Massey's career that Bissell describes in this finely crafted book are the years in London to 1946 and his years as Canada's first Canadian-born Governor General from 1952-1959. In between these two major positions, Massey really longed for a political role as a cabinet minister, but was thwarted by Mackenzie King. King and Massey rarely got on together and seemed to despise each other. Massey never forgot a tongue-lashing King gave him in June 1937. Their mutual antipathy was covered up during the war years, however.

Instead, Massey involved himself in education (he became Chancellor of the University of Toronto in 1947) and the arts. In this latter area, Bissell describes his role as chairman of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. The report of the Massey Commission was instrumental in paving the way for the creation of the Canada Council in 1956.

All in all a very enlightening and readable book, it presents Massey with great sympathy and generally lets the material speak for itself. Thus readers can draw their own conclusions about this eminent Canadian. Twenty-four pages of photographs introduce us to the Masseys, and thirty pages of footnotes, followed by an index, help round out a finely produced book.

John Harkness, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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