Authors: John Galt

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

Scottish novelist

May 2, 1779

Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland

April 11, 1839

Greenock, Scotland


John Galt (gawlt) was the son of a Scottish sea captain. He received his education through private tutors and irregular attendance at various schools, and upon finishing school he entered the British customs service at Greenock, Scotland. A few years later he left the customs service to become a clerical employee of a private business house. In 1804 he left Scotland and went to London, where, shortly after his arrival, he published and then immediately suppressed an epic poem titled The Battle of Largs. He found employment in business, but when his firm failed he began to study law at Lincoln’s Inn. That study ended within a few months, however, and Galt began a three-year tour that took him as far from England as Greece and Turkey. {$I[AN]9810000193} {$I[A]Galt, John} {$I[geo]SCOTLAND;Galt, John} {$I[tim]1779;Galt, John}

Bust of John Galt.

By Alethe, CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Upon his return to London in 1811 he became editor of the Political Review. In 1912 he began writing and published two books, The Life and Administration of Cardinal Wolsey and a volume relating his adventures abroad. He married Elizabeth Tilloch, daughter of a fellow editor, in 1813, and they had three sons, all born between 1814 and 1817. This family Galt supported by his editorship, by writing articles for Lives of the British Admirals, and by some writing of fiction. He began to be known as an author in 1820, when Blackwood’s Magazine began publishing his novel, The Ayrshire Legatees. Annals of the Parish gave that fame a secure foundation. After that Galt continued as a professional writer, but none of his later work attained the popularity or the critical acclaim of that book. Most of his stories and novels, like Annals of the Parish, have a Scottish background; during his lifetime he saw published sixty books, twelve plays, and an uncounted number of articles.

In the history of the novel Galt is regarded as something of a pioneer realist, but critical judgment has not granted him what he claimed for himself, a rating equal to that of Sir Walter Scott. In addition to his career as a writer, Galt served his government as secretary to a commission sent to Canada to investigate land claims. After 1828 he wrote furiously in an effort to keep out of debtor’s prison. He died after suffering a series of strokes.

Author Works Long Fiction: The Majolo, 1816 The Earthquake: A Tale, 1820 Glenfell: Or, Macdonalds and Campbells, 1820 The Ayrshire Legatees, 1821; 1823 (republished with The Gathering of the West) Annals of the Parish, 1821 Sir Andrew Wylie, 1822 The Provost, 1822 Ringan Gilhaize; or, The Times of the Convenanters, 1823? The Spaewife, 1823 The Entail, 1823 Rothelan, 1824 The Bachelor’s Wife, 1824 The Omen, 1825 The Last of the Lairds, 1826 Lawrie Todd, 1830 Southennan, 1830 Bogle Corbet, or the Emigrants, 1831 The Member, 1832 The Radical, 1832 Stanley Buxton, or The Schoolfellows, 1832 Eben Erskine, or The Traveller, 1833 The Stolen Child Short Fiction: The Ouranoulogos, or, The Celestial Volume, 1833 Stories of the Study, 1833 Poetry: The Battle of Largs, 1804 The Crusade, 1816 Poems, 1833 A Contribution to the Greenock Calamity Fund, 1834 Efforts. By an Invalid, 1835 The Demon of Destiny, and Other Poems, 1839 Nonfiction: The Life and Administration of Cardinal Wolsey, 1812 Cursory Reflections on Political and Commercial Topics as Connected with the Regent’s Accession to the Royal Authority, 1812 The Tragedies of Maddelen, Agamemnon, Lady Macbeth, Antonia and Clytemnestra, 1812 Voyages and Travels in the Years 1809, 1810, and 1811, 1813 Letters from the Levant, 1813 The Life and Studies of Benjamin West, 1816, 1820 Pictures, Historical and Biographical, Drawn from English, Scottish, and Irish History in Two Volumes, 1824 The Life of Lord Byron, 1830 Lives of the Players, 1831 Autobiography, 1833 The Literary Life and Miscellanies, 1834 Drama: The Mermaid, 1814–15 The Appeal, 1818 Children’s/Young Adult Fiction: The History of Gog and Magog: The Champions of London, 1819 The Wandering Jew, 1820 Bibliography Aberdein, Jennie Watson. John Galt. London: Oxford University Press, 1936. A biography of the author; includes portraits and a bibliography. Aldrich, Ruth I. John Galt. Boston: Twayne, 1978. A biography of the author; part of Twayne’s English authors series. Gordon, Ian Alistair. John Galt: The Life of a Writer. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1972. A literary biography of the author. Lyell, Frank Hallam. A Study of the Novels of John Galt. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1942. Princeton studies in English 28. Presents a critical study of Galt’s novels. Parker, W. M. Susan Ferrier and John Galt. London: Longmans, Green, 1965. Writers and their work 183. British Council and the National Book League pamphlet presenting information about Ferrier and Galt, two Scottish novelists. Includes portraits. Scott, P. H. John Galt. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1985. A biography of the author. Waterson, Elizabeth. John Galt: Reappraisals. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph, 1985. Conference publication presenting a critical reappraisal of Galt and his works.

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