The Poems of Thomas D’Arcy McGee

Collection Spotlight

The Poems of Thomas D’Arcy McGee

I’d rather turn one simple verse
True to the Gaelic ear,
Than classic odes I might rehearse
With senates list’ning near.

Excerpt from “The Emigrant at Home,” The Poems of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, 1869 (page 109)


Edited by Mary Anne Sadlier, The Poems of Thomas D’Arcy McGee is a collection of 309 poems published as a tribute after McGee’s death. Many of the poems were originally written for Irish and Irish-American newspapers.

Born in Ireland in 1825, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was a poet, journalist, author, Irish patriot, Canadian politician and Father of Confederation. Forced to flee the country of his birth, he immigrated to the United States in 1848, then settled in Montréal in 1857. He was originally a strong advocate for Irish rebellion against the British, but his stance changed over the years to pushing for peaceful reforms. McGee was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1857, where he became a vocal supporter of Confederation. He was assassinated on April 7, 1868, in Ottawa, and was given Canada’s first state funeral.

In her introduction to the poems, Sadlier described McGee’s poetry as “distinctively Irish,” expressing a “passionate love of country and of kin.” She arranged the volume in thematic categories: patriotic, Irish history and legends, general history, affections, miscellany, religion, and juvenile. She also included endnotes to help readers understand context and the meaning of lesser-known or historical terms.

Sadlier was a well-known author of novels and short stories. She wrote extensively on the Irish immigrant experience in North America. She was also a close friend of Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Born Mary Anne Madden in Ireland in 1820, she lived in Montréal from 1844 to 1860, then New York, and then Montréal again from 1869 until her death in 1903. Sadlier published this collection in 1869 with her husband’s firm, D. & J. Sadlier & Co.


  • The Library of Parliament’s copy measures 20 cm high by 12.5 cm wide by 5.5 cm thick, and contains 612 pages.
  • A digitized version of this book is available on Canadiana.
open book showing ink engraving of Thomas D'Arcy McGee on left and title page on right

An engraving of a portrait of Thomas D’Arcy McGee on the left and the title page on the right. Tissue paper separates the pages to prevent ink transfer.

pages of an old poetry book

“The Emigrant at Home” is an example of McGee’s patriotic poems.

closed book on an archival support

The copy is currently bound in blue cloth with gold lettering stamped on the spine. The original binding was likely replaced after the 1952 fire in the Library’s dome.