French Canadian, 1878–1967
A pioneer in many fields—historian, professor, lecturer, orator, preacher, storyteller, novelist, journalist, polemicist, essayist—Father (l’Abbé), later Canon, Lionel Groulx was the most influential, controversial French Canadian intellectual in the first half, if not two-thirds, of the 20th century. As Susan Trofimenkoff explains (1973), “He developed François-Xavier Garneau’s view of the Conquest as a disaster and his idea of history as a struggle by examining the post-Conquest period.” Thirty years after his death, books and articles are still published about his conception of State, Church, history, language and culture, and politics. Was he a racist because he wrote the novel L’Appel de la race (1922; The Iron Wedge)? Was he a Quebec separatist or a French Canadian nationalist? A democrat, monarchist, or fascist? Everyone knows his or her own particular Groulx, whose name has been given to a mountain, a subway station, streets, colleges, and other institutions. He had a large audience (of both friends and opponents); his folk sketches and souvenirs of “old days, old ways,” Les Rapaillages (1916; Haycocks), was a bestseller.
There is no doubt that he was a conservative, traditional, right-wing citizen and historian. But he was also a dynamic, youthful, imaginative man and writer, and above all, a freelance scholar, a free-spoken lecturer, an independent priest, and a committed man of action. Groulx was never a pure theoretician or researcher, but a well-documented erudite and popularizer of knowledge. Beginning with his first book, Une croisade d’adolescents (1912; A crusade of adolescents), he launched generations of young people on moral, spiritual, political, and patriotic crusades. Among his best-known disciples are Jean Drapeau, Montreal’s longtime mayor, and André Laurendeau, Bloc Populaire’s leader, Le Devoir (The duty) editor, and royal commissioner (on bilinguism and biculturalism in Canada, 1962).
A few of Groulx’s students or readers became respected scholars. Michel Brunet, Guy Frégault, and Maurice Séguin built with and without their master a modern and complete history department at the University of Montreal. They were laymen, more scientific, methodical, and critical than Groulx. His devotion to religion, language, and culture is balanced by their interest in economics and social classes. This so-called Montreal School (in opposition to quiet Quebec City as well as to Ottawa or Toronto) was more radical and systematic than Groulx in political and national matters. If Groulx is the ancestor, this trio is the triple grandfather of the new nationalism that aims at Quebec sovereignty in or out of Canadian Federation.
Contrary to his reluctant followers, Groulx is more a generalist than a specialist (of modern French Canadian history). If not a true novelist—L’Appel de la race and Au Cap Blomidon (1932; At Cape Blomidon) are more propaganda than fiction—he is a vivid raconteur, a picturesque sketcher when he evokes old-timers, draws children, grandmothers, farmers, and craftsmen as well as explorers, missionaries, pioneers, and heroes. For him, time is closely knit to both individual and collective memory. The past is neither driver nor owner (men are not slaves); the past is not God, but one of His prophets. It is from this perspective that one should read Chez nos ancêtres (1920; Among our ancestors) and other ethnological essays, Notre maître, le passé (1924–44; Our master, the past) and other collections of portraits and edifying examples, La Découverte du Canada (1934; The discovery of Canada) and other epic poems in prose.
Lionel Groulx himself is now passé, a part of history rather than an historian, but he is still living (in a kind of purgatory) as an essayist.
Lionel Adolphe Groulx. Born 13 January 1878 in Vaudreuil, Quebec. Studied classics at the seminary of Sainte-Thérèse-de-Blainville; theology in Montreal and Rome, D.Th., 1908; philosophy, literature, and history at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, 1908–09. Ordained priest, 1903. Taught humanities at the Collège de Valleyfield, 1901– 06, 1909–15; first chair in Canadian history, University of Montreal, 1915–49. Elected to the Royal Society of Canada, 1918. Lecturer or visiting professor at the Sorbonne and the Institut Catholique, Paris, and at schools in Lyons and Lille, 1931. Founding editor, L’Action Française, 1920–28; founder, the Institute of the History of French America, 1946, and editor of its journal Revue d’Histoire de l’Amérique Française, 1948–67;
contributor to Le Devoir and L’Action Nationale. Awards: French Academy Prize, 1931;
Tyrrell Medal, 1948; Duvernay Prize, 1952, Léo-Parizeau Medal, 1963; honorary degrees from four universities. Died in Montreal, 23 May 1967.
Essays and Related Prose
Une croisade d’adolescents, 1912
Les Rapaillages (vieilles choses, vieilles gens), 1916
La Naissance d’une race, 1919
Chez nos ancêtres, 1920
Notre maître, le passé, 3 vols., 1924–44
Le Français au Canada, 1932
La Découverte du Canada: Jacques Cartier, 1934
Pourquoi nous sommes divisés: Une réponse du chanoine Lionel Groulx, 1943; as Why We Are Divided: A Reply from Canon Lionel Groulx, translated by Gordon O.Rothney, 1943
L’Indépendance du Canada, 1949
Constantes de vie, 1967
Lionel Groulx (selections), edited by Benoît Lacroix, 1967
Abbé Groulx: Variations on a Nationalist Theme, edited by Susan Trofimenkoff, translated by Joanne L’Heureux, 1973
Other writings: two novels (L’Appel de la race [The Iron Wedge], 1922; Au Cap Blomidon, 1932), four volumes of Mémoires, several volumes of diaries, speeches, lectures, portraits, biographies, and letters, and important historical studies (including Nos luttes constitutionnelles, 1915–16; La Confédération canadienne, 1918; La Naissance
d’une race, 1919; Lendemains de conquête, 1920; Vers l’émancipation, 1921; Histoire du Canada français depuis la découverte, 4 vols., 1950–52; Notre grande aventure: L’Empire français en Amérique du Nord, (1535–1760), 1958).
Hamel, Reginald, John Hare, and Paul Wyczynski, Dictionnaire des auteurs de langue française en Amérique du Nord, Montreal: Fides, 1989
Lemire, Maurice, editor, Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec, Montreal: Fides, 6 vols., 1978–94
L’Action Nationale issue on Groulx, 57, no. 10 (June 1968): 929–1115
Asselin, Olivar, L’OEuvre de l’abbé Groulx, Montreal: Bibliothèque de l’Action Française, 1923
Delisle, Esther, Le Traître et le Juif, Montreal: l’Étincelle, 1992
Éthier-Blais, Jean, Le Siècle de l’abbé Groulx, Montreal: Leméac, 1993
Filion, Maurice, editor, Hommage à Lionel Groulx, Montreal: Leméac, 1978
Frégault, Guy, Lionel Groulx tel qu’en lui-même, Montreal: Leméac, 1978
Gaboury, Jean-Pierre, Le Nationalisme de Lionel Groulx: Aspects idéologiques, Ottawa: Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa, 1970
Ricard, François, “Lionel Groulx/Action française/État français,” Voix et Images 9 (1975):11–33
Trofimenkoff, Susan, Introduction to Abbé Groulx: Variations on a Nationalist Theme by Groulx, edited and translated by Joanne L’Heureux and Trofimenkoff, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal: Copp Clark, 1973
Voix et Images issue on Groulx, 19 (Autumn 1993)
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