Antoine Gérin-Lajoie National Historic Person (1824-1882)

Antoine Gérin-Lajoie (1824-1882) was designated a national historic person in 1939.

Historical importance: Journalist, lawyer, wrote "Un Canadien Errant" (1842).

Commemorative plaque: no plaque installedFootnote 1

Antoine Guérin-Lajoie (1824-1882)

Antoine Gérin-Lajoie was a poet, novelist, and historian who actively contributed to the birth of 19th-century French-Canadian literature. His song, Un Canadien errant, composed in 1842, is among French Canada’s most well-known ballads. Over time, it has evolved to evoke in many a feeling of loss following the uprisings of 1837–1838. At a time of massive emigration to the United States, his novel, Jean Rivard, advocated for settlement and expansion at home as a means of ensuring the economic growth of the French-Canadian nation. His works remain classics of French-Canadian literature.

Drawing of the portrait of a man
Illustration of Antoine Gérin-Lajoie, 
© Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec/No. 2584/public domain


Gérin-Lajoie was born in 1824 in Yamachiche, Lower Canada (now Quebec). The son of a farmer, he studied at the seminary in Nicolet, where he founded a literary and debating society and served as one of the editors of Le Moniteur de Nicolet. At 18 years old, he composed Un Canadien errant; then in 1844, he wrote Le Jeune Latour, one of the earliest tragedies in French-Canadian theatre.

After a short sojourn in the United States in 1845, he returned to Canada and started working at La Minerve, a French-language newspaper. Two years later, he left journalism to focus on the study of law, becoming a lawyer in 1848. The next year, he accepted a post in the public service, and served in a number of roles, including as assistant librarian at the Library of Parliament. In 1861, he co-founded a literary journal, Les Soirées canadiennes, together with several other notable political and literary figures. This journal was followed by another, called Le Foyer canadien, which ran from 1863 to 1866. It was during this time that Gérin-Lajoie wrote his 2-part novel, Jean Rivard, le défricheur canadien (1862) and Jean Rivard, économiste (1864), which struck a chord with his contemporaries and brought Gérin-Lajoie widespread fame. In the 1870s, Gérin-Lajoie turned his attention to history and began writing Dix ans au Canada, de 1840 à 1850 : histoire de l’établissement du gouvernement responsable. It would not be published until 1888, six years after his death.

Backgrounder last update: 2022-03-17

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