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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

A King's Who's Who Biographies

Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908)

Charles Norton, American scholar and educator, was a professor of art history at Harvard from 1873 to 1897. He was a cousin of Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard. The Encyclopedia Americana describes Norton as "one of the leading intellectuals in the United States in the 19th century."

When Mackenzie King went to Harvard, Goldwin Smith gave him a letter of introduction to Professor Norton. This was an extraordinary opportunity for King to meet a great scholar and socialize in his circle. King was a frequent visitor to the Norton home, called Shady Hill.

In the summer of 1898, the Nortons invited King to stay in their home while they were away in the country. "I felt this a very great honor," King wrote. (Diary, May 20, 1898) Later he wrote, "...Here I am in the home of the greatest man in America...." (Diary, June 23, 1898) He and another student stayed there for the summer, and King's diary entries reflect great happiness and pride.

Norton died in 1908 but his influence on King remained strong all through King's life. King used the name Shady Hill for one of his cottages in the Gatineau. As late as 1939, King mentions dreaming of Norton. (Diary, November 18, 1939)

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