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Honoré Beaugrand Fonds (P675)

Letter written by Julie De la Gimodière Riel to Honoré Beaugrand (1848-1906) (detail), 1897. Gift of Dr. William Beaugrand Donohue, Honoré Beaugrand Fonds P675, M2005. © McCord Museum

Louis Riel's son

"He will be 15 years old on May 9. He has a strong personality, and is remarkably determined, but you understand that he is still a child, for he has no experience of the world."

The execution of Louis Riel, the charismatic leader of the Métis rebellions in the Prairies, was one of Canada's most controversial historical events in the last quarter of the 19th century. Sometimes portrayed as a hero and symbol of Métis resistance, and sometimes as a traitor and half insane religious fanatic, Louis Riel enjoyed the support of Quebec liberals, who considered him a French-Canadian martyr.

One of his most eloquent defenders was actually Honoré Beaugrand, a notorious anti-cleric and liberal, editor of the newspaper La Patrie and mayor of Montreal from 1885 to 1887. Initially opposed to the Métis armed rebellion, he was deeply shocked by Riel's guilty verdict and subsequent execution. Along with public figures like journalist Alfred Pelland and politician Honoré Mercier, Beaugrand decided to help support Louis Riel's son, born in 1882, who was seen as the Métis liberator's successor. Jean-Louis Riel's education is the subject of this touching letter written to Honoré Beaugrand by Julie De la Gimodière Riel, in 1897. "He is very intelligent, serious for his age, interested in politics and current events," wrote the 14-year-old's grandmother to his benefactor, from whom she hoped to get funds to hire a French teacher.

The man on whom so many hopes were pinned died prematurely in 1908, at the age of 26, without having accomplished the mission for which he was destined.

P675 Honoré Beaugrand Fonds. - 1593-1959. - 39.1 cm of textual records. - 61 iconographic documents.

Biographical Sketch

Honoré Beaugrand (1848-1906) was a leading figure in the politics, economy and culture of late 19th-century Quebec. For this freethinker known primarily as an anti-cleric, politics, journalism and literature were major channels for transmitting his liberal ideas.

The son of a sailor named Louis Beaugrand, dit Champagne, and Marie-Josephte Marion, Honoré Beaugrand was born in Saint-Joseph-de-Lanoraie on March 24, 1848. Shortly after his 17th birthday, he left Canada, heading first to Mexico, where he fought in the army of Emperor Maximilian. His travels then led him to France, the United States and back to Mexico.

During the 1870s, a decade spent largely in the United States, Honoré Beaugrand established himself as an increasingly radical liberal. He founded numerous newspapers with liberal, republican and patriotic leanings in the Northeastern United States and then in Canada, after returning in 1878. The most well known was La Patrie, a daily founded in 1879 that he owned and managed until 1897.

Honoré Beaugrand launched his political career when he returned to Canada. Marked by his strong liberal and progressive convictions, his political career peaked when he was elected mayor of Montreal (1885-1887). He was also a prolific author, publishing numerous essays and stories, including La Chasse-Galerie, and Other Canadian Stories. Very involved in the cultural community, Honoré Beaugrand was a member of various associations like the Alliance française, the Société des traditions populaires and the Canadian Folklore Society.

He spent the last years of his life travelling the world, trying to improve the health of his fragile lungs, but also out of cultural interest. He wrote various papers on the places he visited and published several accounts of his travels. Honoré Beaugrand died October 7, 1906, in Montreal, at the age of 58.

In 1873, Honoré Beaugrand married a young American woman named Eliza Walker. The couple moved to Montreal in 1878, living first on Sherbrooke St., then on Metcalfe in Westmount. They also owned a summer home in North Hatley, in the Eastern Townships. Eliza Walker died April 8, 1934, at the age of 80.

The Beaugrands had one child, Estelle (1881-1918), who left her family in 1915 to pursue a career as an actress in New York City. Her 1902 marriage to Arthur Vaillancourt produced three children: Marcelle (died about 1977), Renée (1905-1979) and Beaugrand (died about 1999).

Scope and Content

The fonds chronicles the lives of Honoré Beaugrand, his wife Eliza Beaugrand (née Walker) and their daughter Estelle, painting a picture of a liberal middle-class Montreal family at the turn of the 20th century with information about their personal property and real estate as well as their social and cultural activities.

The fonds also focusses on the literary and journalistic output of Honoré Beaugrand, the awards and honours he received, and the collection of historical records he created. Among other things, it documents his relationships with famous political, business and artistic figures such as former Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, former Governor General of Canada the Marquess of Lansdowne, former President of the United States Rutherford B. Hayes, and authors Louis Herbette, Benjamin Sulte and Mark Twain. The lives of Honoré Beaugrand's ancestors and numerous descendants, including his grand-daughters Renée Vaillancourt and Marcelle Beaugrand-Vaillancourt (children of Estelle Beaugrand) are also documented. The archives refer to many countries, including Canada, the United States, France, Algeria, Tunisia and China.

The fonds is composed primarily of textual records, many of which are letters, both sent and received, some of which are assembled into books. It contains unpublished texts by Honoré Beaugrand, deeds, invitations to a variety of events, press clippings, booklets, a scrapbook, along with genealogical notes and a collection of historical records about several family ancestors. There are also photographs.

Physical condition: Some documents are damaged, dog-eared or folded; several fragile printed items have been copied for reference purposes.
Language: The documents are in French, English, German and Japanese, but primarily in French.

The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries and files:

  • P675/A Genealogy and Family

  • P675/B Activities of Honoré Beaugrand and His Family
    • P675/B1 Social and artistic activities
    • P675/B2 Professional activities

  • P675/C Personal and Professional Correspondence of Honoré Beaugrand and His Family
    • P675/C1 Correspondence sent by Honoré Beaugrand
    • P675/C2 Correspondence received by Honoré Beaugrand and Eliza Walker
      • P675/C2,1 Correspondence received by Honoré Beaugrand and Eliza Walker (1880-1890)
      • P675/C2,2 Correspondence received by Honoré Beaugrand and Eliza Walker (1891-1907). - 1891-1907. - 4 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

      • Scope and Content: This file consists of correspondence, dated 1891 to 1907, between Honoré Beaugrand and his family, various friends, and acquaintances in the artistic, political and economic spheres of Canada and abroad. It is comprised of handwritten and typescript letters, one photocopy, letters of acknowledgment, postcards, greeting cards and one annotated publication.

      • Its contents illustrate his close relations with federal and provincial parliamentarians like Wilfrid Laurier, who wrote to him several times, and Lomer Gouin. The file also documents Beaugrand's numerous relationships with members of the French judiciary, notably in warm letters sent by Jules Maillet, chief prosecutor of the Dijon court of appeal, that reflect the longstanding friendship between their respective families. In addition, the file chronicles Honoré Beaugrand's professional activities as the editor of La Patrie newspaper and as an author, as well as his ties with Canadian, French and American literary figures, such as Benjamin Sulte, Charles Gill and Albert Ferland. There is a letter from the Montreal Archdiocese calling Beaugrand to task after La Patrie announced it was going to publish the novel The Count of Monte Cristo, because the works of Alexandre Dumas had been added to the Catholic Index of Forbidden Books. The file also contains a letter from Camille Flammarion of the French astronomical society, who was seeking a Canadian publisher for the English version of his novel La fin du monde (Omega: The Last Days of the World), which came out in France in 1893. After publishing an article about the Dreyfus Affair, Honoré Beaugrand received some thank-you letters that reflect the emotions raised by this case in Canada and the United States. He also received several letters following the publication of his books La Chasse-Galerie, and Other Canadian Stories (1900) and New Studies in Canadian Folklore (1904), notably from Wilfrid Laurier, Félix-Gabriel Merchant and G. M. Fairchild, Jr.

      • The file chronicles Honoré Beaugrand's personal friendships, including those with numerous friends abroad, such as sculptor F. A. Bartholdi and Roland Napoleon Bonaparte. As such, it contains numerous personal letters and requests of various kinds. Several missives reveal the concerns of his friends and family with regard to his asthma-related health issues. In addition, the correspondence reveals the courteous, at times affectionate, relationships that the Beaugrands maintained with their extended family. There are also several letters documenting the assistance that Honoré Beaugrand provided to Julie De la Gimodière Riel for the education of her grandson Jean-Louis Riel, the son of Louis Riel. Finally, there are a few letters addressed to his wife Eliza Walker, including one from Julia Drummond, along with several condolence letters sent following Beaugrand's death in 1906.

      • Language: The documents are in French and English.

      • P675/C2.3 Collections of correspondence
      • P675/C2.4 Undated correspondence
    • P675/C3 Correspondence Received by Other Family Members

  • P675/D Writings About Honoré Beaugrand and His Family

  • P675/E Writings by Honoré Beaugrand
    • P675/E,1 First drafts and notes. - n.d. - 1 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file documents the drafts of several literary and historical works by Honoré Beaugrand, created throughout his life. It chronicles not only the wide variety of topics addressed in his work but his creative writing process as well. It contains rough copies of literary, historical and biographical works, notably an annotated typescript about South American civilizations and a manuscript about European history, along with drafts of personal notes and letters.

    • Dates of creation: All the documents are undated.

    • Language: The documents are in French.

    • P675/E,2 Publications

  • P675/F Beaugrand Family Library and Collection

  • P675/G Photographs


Last update: February 13, 2019