Alexander, W. J. (William John)

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Alexander, W. J. (William John)

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1855-1944

History

William John Alexander was born of Scottish parents in Hamilton, Canada West, in 1855. He was educated in Hamilton and at the University of Toronto where he won a scholarship which enabled him to study English at the University of Wales College in Charlottetown for two years. He obtained a PhD in Greek And Philology at the newly constituted Johns Hopkins University in 1833, and spent a further year studying modern languages in Heidelberg. Dr. Alexander was appointed professor of English language and literature at Dalhousie University in 1884. Attracted by Alexander's reputation as a scholar and teacher, the University of Toronto hired him as Professor of English in 1889. He occupied the chair of English at University College until his retirement in 1927, enriching the lives of several generations of students by his knowledge and enthusiasm. He worked with the Department of Education in improving English text books for public schools and high schools. He edited Shorter Poems and Short Stories and Essays for use in Ontario high schools. His selection of poems is especially interesting, covering the entire range of English literature from the early ballads (one of his great loves) to the free verse of his century. He died in 1944 while visiting his daughter, Mrs. Carleton Stanley, in Halifax.

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Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

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