A Treasured Stratford Novel, Committed to his Charge by Ellen Thomas

Committed to his Charge by Robina and Kathleen Lizars

In the continuing series, Treasures from Stratford-Perth Archives, comes this feature which features a very special copy of the novel, Committed to His Charge, by local authors Robina and Kathleen Lizars. Together, they wrote three books. The best known of them is "In the Days of the Canada Company:" The Story of the Settlement of the Huron Tract and a View of the Social Life of the Period 1825-1850, published in 1896.

In a 1944 article in the London Free Press, it was reported that Col. W. W. Macvicar had known the Lizars sisters when they were residing in Stratford. According to Mr. Macvicar: “They lived in the Albion Hotel and he often wondered what they were doing all the time, as they seemed busy all day up in their room. He was of the opinion that they were writing a book. … Mr. Macvicar could not fix the date but was (himself) inclined to believe that 1896 would correspond.”

Robina Lizars

Kathleen Lizars

An incredibly special copy of their only novel, Committed to His Charge, is a Stratford Archive's treasure. It is a story that, at its heart, is about love. Published in 1900, it was reviewed by a number of newspapers, magazines and journals. The praise was great, with the Toronto Globe stating: “It has abundant humour and fine character studies, while the story element is vivid and forcible.” Most reviews focused on their excellent artistic skill in character development, with one reviewer going as far as to compare them to Jane Austen.

The Stratford Herald, operated by William Dingman, (see Dingman Place) had neglected to review the novel by the famous Stratford sisters. In an effort to prompt him to do so, the copy which is now in the archives’ collection was presented to him by the sisters with a letter now glued to the front page. It reads: “May 24, 1901, Dear W. Dingman, As you have not sent us a review of ‘Committed,’ I conclude that you have not received a copy from the Canadian publishers. If you will accept one of the English edition, I hope you will keep the accompanying volume.

"Enclosed with it are some sheets from reviews sent us from time to time, which you may be interested to see as a record of opinions expressed to us by your fellow citizens. I am pleased to say that the good class journals have been very nice to us. I should like you to see what the Baltimore Sun says, but I think I must have sent the review back to the publisher. If we find favour in your eyes, send me three or four copies of what you say. If you don’t happen to like us, one copy will be enough – to paste in my book! Yours ever truly, K. M. Lizars.” On the last page of the novel, Kathleen had pasted more than a dozen reviews. The copy supplied to Dingman was generously donated to the archives many years later by his family.

Making this book even more special is that William Dingman speculated as to who the characters might be based upon. Prominent local citizens’ names paired with a character in the book are written in pencil on the last page. One character, Mrs. Stuart, was thought to be Robina herself.

If you would like to read a copy of the book , you can read it online or download it for free from Internet Archive . In the Days of the Canada Company is also available from Internet Archive. Source: Reflections: Stratford-Perth Archive, by Ellen Thomas

* See more about the Lizars and where they lived on Hamilton Street.