The Clockmaker
  • Publication Date: March 21, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781554811212 / 155481121X
  • 312 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Clockmaker

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2014
  • ISBN: 9781554811212 / 155481121X
  • 312 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The serial publication of The Clockmaker in 1835-36 launched Canadian judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton to literary fame. A broad satire with a garrulous, deceitful American clock-seller, Sam Slick, as its central character, the book was embraced by reviewers and readers internationally. Some Canadian reviewers were often less enthusiastic, however, with one calling Slick’s comical American slang “low, mean, miserable, and witless.” Almost two centuries later The Clockmaker is still central to Canadian literary history—and still highly controversial, particularly for its treatment of women and black Canadians.

Richard A. Davies provides a nuanced and illuminating discussion of the controversies about The Clockmaker from 1835 to the present, and of the complex historical and political factors that led to its mixed reception. Historical documents include other writings and speeches by Haliburton, earlier satires of Canadian and American culture, and contemporary reviews.


“In the 1830s, Thomas Chandler Haliburton gave us the figure of Sam Slick, a wily Yankee clock-pedlar of incomparable vigour and voice. Immediately, Slick leapt off the page, and he continues to do so in this new edition of The Clockmaker, carefully prepared by Richard A. Davies. Davies has done Haliburton a great service by reintroducing his series of sketches to a new audience of readers. One of Canada’s earliest and most significant writers, Haliburton once rivalled Dickens in popularity. Today he is known for ‘sayings and doings’ that are controversial but nonetheless invoke the temper of his times. This accessible edition will return Sam Slick to the reading room and the classroom, where he is guaranteed to spark fierce debate—the mark of his spirited and enduring character.” — Ruth Panofsky, Ryerson University

Thomas Chandler Haliburton: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Clockmaker, First Series


Appendix A: Pre-The Clockmaker Texts

  1. From Thomas Chandler Haliburton, A General Description of Nova Scotia (1823)
  2. From Haliburton’s Legislative Speeches (1827-28)
  3. From “The Club” Papers, Novascotian (21 May 1829)
  4. From Thomas Chandler Haliburton, An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia (1829)

Appendix B: Precursors

  1. From Thomas McCulloch, The Mephibosheth Stepsure Letters (1821-22)
  2. From Seba Smith, The Life and Writings of Major Jack Downing, of Downingville (1833)
  3. From Charles Augustus Davis, Letters of J. Downing, Major, Downingville Militia, Second Brigade (1834)
  4. From Matthew St. Clair Clarke, Sketches and Eccentricities
    of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee
  5. From John Howison, Sketches of Upper Canada (1821)

Appendix C: Comment by Thomas Chandler Haliburton on The Clockmaker, First Series

  • From a “DINNER TO THOMAS C. HALIBURTON,” Novascotian (12 June 1839)

Appendix D: Contemporary Reviews

  1. “Julian” [Alexander Stewart], Acadian Recorder (10 June 1837)
  2. From Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1837)

Appendix E: Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville

  1. From Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
  2. From Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)

Select Bibliography

Richard A. Davies is Professor Emeritus of English and Theatre at Acadia University.