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Hear about the real Judge Begbie

Hear about the real Judge Begbie

Chief Justice Matthew Baillie Begbie, has been notoriously and erroneously known as The Hanging Judge.

British Columbia’s  first Chief Justice, Matthew Baillie Begbie, is the colourful subject of author and editor Marlyn Horsdal’s historical novel,  The Judge and the Lady. Horsdal will read from this and other work 8pm, May 4, at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt.  This event is sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts and the SC Arts Council. Admission is free.

Notoriously and erroneously known after his death as  e Hanging Judge, Begbie is the victim of what writer and archivist Ron Young calls, “one part man, one part myth and an equal part legend.”  Thanks to posthumous slurs, his gruesome nickname has prevailed. By way of ordering another perspective, Horsdal promises via her reading and remarks to present “The Real Judge Begbie and the uses of historical  fiction.”

Before choosing Begbie as one of her novel’s characters, Horsdal had edited a biography of the Judge, and says that in her novel, “I have portrayed the real Judge Begbie as accurately as I can.” She adds, “Much of what he says in the novel is actual quotes, or drawn from his Bench Books, letters, and other writings.”  The Judge and the Lady also provides a sharp, detailed  fictional portrait of Victoria and interior BC before the British colony joined Confederation.

Horsdal’s  first novel, Sweetness from Ashes was named one of the best  fiction titles of 2010 by January Magazine. Set partially in Vancouver, partially on a farm in rural Ontario and partially in West Africa, the novel is about family in its various forms. 

The author was born in Ottawa and educated at Queens University in Kingston and the London School of Economics. She taught in Ghana for four years before moving to Salt Spring Island, where she still lives. In 1984, she co-founded Horsdal & Schubart Publishers with her husband, Michael Schubart, and ran the company until it was sold in 2002.


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