Note: This is a summary of significant events and publications in Galt’s life. It does not purport to be exhaustive. Please see the bibliography pages for a more complete list of his publications and the various biographies (including his own) for more comprehensive accounts of his business and literary lives.
1779 – Born on 2 May at Irvine, Ayrshire, the son of a ship’s captain engaged in the West India trade.
1789 – Father becomes ship-owner and family move to Greenock
1796 – Begins work as a clerk with James Miller & Co., Greenock
1803 – Scots Magazine publishes some of Galt’s verses and, in April 1803 and January 1804, two extracts from his epic poem The Battle of Largs
1804 – Leaves Greenock for London; The Battle of Largs published in volume form but Galt tries to suppress it for fear that reputation as a poet will damage his business prospects
1805 – Forms business partnership with Hugh McLachlan
1807 – Article entitled ‘A Statistical Account of Upper Canada’ published in The Philosophical Magazine, drawn from conversations with his cousin William Gilkison, who was an explorer in that area
1808 – Partnership declared bankrupt but secures immediate discharge from creditors
1809 – Enters Lincoln’s Inn with a view to becoming a lawyer but leaves after a few months to begin travelling around the Mediterranean, where he meets Lord Byron
1811 – Returns to London
1812 – Publishes 2 volume book about his travels; becomes editor of Political Review; publishes The Life and Administration of Cardinal Wolsey; goes to Gibraltar to open branch office for Kirkman Finlay & Co. but Wellington’s Peninsular victories remove the need for an office there.
1813 – Publishes sequel to Mediterranean travels in Letters from the Levant; marries Elizabeth Tilloch
1814 – Editor of monthly periodical The New British Theatre
1815 – Relinquishes editorship to become secretary of the Royal Caledonian Asylum, a charity established by the Highland Society in London
1816 – Publishes The Life and Studies of Benjamin West, a biography of the American painter who became President of the Royal Academy
1818 – A tragedy, The Appeal, with a verse prologue by J G Lockhart and verse epilogue by Sir Walter Scott, staged in Edinburgh; moves to Greenock to work for Reid, Irving & Co. but the venture is aborted
1819 – Returns to London to begin lobbying Parliament for the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal Co.; the first attempt fails. Writes school text books under pseudonyms
1820 – Second attempt for a Canal Bill is successful and Galt is “handsomely” rewarded by the Company; The Ayrshire Legatees published in monthly parts in Blackwood’s Magazine from May to February 1821; engaged by gentlemen from Upper Canada to assist them to obtain compensation from the government for losses sustained in the War of 1812-14, on terms of no fee but 3% of any compensation obtained; continues to represent other clients on Parliamentary business over the next few years.
1821 – First instalment (of eight) of The Steam-Boat published in February issue of Blackwood’s; The Annals of the Parish published to enthusiastic reviews and healthy sales; book version of The Ayrshire Legatees published.
1822 – (January) Sir Andrew Wylie published; (May) The Provost published; ‘The Gathering of the West’ published in Blackwood’s (September); The Entail published (December).
1823 – Ringhan Gilhaize published (May); moves family from London to Edinburgh; The Spaewife published (December).
1824 – Galt is instrumental in forming the Canada Company and is appointed Secretary; Rothelan published (November).
1825 – Galt is one of the five commissioners sent to Canada by the government on fact-finding mission, departing in January and returning in June; receives freedom of Irvine from Baillie Fullarton, the original of Provost Pawkie (September).
1826 – The Omen published (February); The Last of the Lairds (published as amended and rewritten by Dr Moir in November but not published in form written wholly by Galt until the edition by Ian A Gordon in 1976); Canada Company granted Charter (August) and Galt appointed to be Superintendent of its activities in Canada; lands in New York in November; investigates activities of Pulteney and Holland land companies in upper New York State; reaches York (modern Toronto) in Upper Canada (modern Ontario) in December.
1827 – Establishes and names the towns of Guelph and Goderich; visits the settlement of Galt (now part of Cambridge, Ontario) which William Dickson had named in his honour.
1828 – The activities of Galt and the various other relevant actors during his time in Canada are too many and complex to reduce to a brief sentence or two. For more substantial reports of Galt’s time in Canada there are H B Timothy’s The Galts: A Canadian Odyssey (Toronto, McLelland & Stewart, 1977) and Robert C Lee’s The Canada Company and the Huron Tract (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 2004)
1829 – Recalled from Canada and reaches London in May, dismissed from Canada Company in June, committed to King’s Bench Prison for debt in July and discharged in November.
1830 – Lawrie Todd, Southennan and The Life of Lord Byron published; becomes editor of The Courier, a London evening newspaper, but resigns after two months when the proprietor suppresses one of his articles; health begins to decline.
1831 – Bogle Corbet published; instrumental in forming the British American Land Company (to do in Lower Canada what the Canada Company was doing in Upper Canada) and appointed secretary.
1832 – The Member and The Radical published; suffers first of a series of strokes; resigns from British American Land Company.
1833 – The Autobiography published.
1834 – Literary Life and Miscellanies published; retires to Greenock and continues to write articles, stories and poems.
1839 – Dies on 11th April.