William Fox : early colonial years, 1842-1848 (1969)
AuthorsPoff, Basil Johnshow all
This is a partial sketch of a man who, if he enters people's thoughts at all today, which mostly he doesn't, wafts insubstantially about, caught momentarily in blurred and unlikely postures of philanthropist, crank, or land-grabbing villain. Inconsistency, it would seem, was the most consistent thing about him; and, indeed, Fox contradicted himself in writings and speeches with such cavalier casualness that one suspects he did it without being aware of the fact; which does very little to help the historian, who has to rely a good deal on writings and speeches. So the original plan of this thesis to be a "political biography" of Fox quickly evaporated to the small grains contained here: an incomplete picture of a man during six years of a life that extended over eighty-one.
Except for the opening chapter on his English background, which consists mainly of a collection of possibilities, I approached Fox with three vaguely-defined assumptions: one, that there was no such thing as "political biography" distinguishable from "biography"; two, that in everybody outside a mental hospital there has to be at some level a consistent element; and three, that there was no such person as William Fox. The last may sound a little odd, but it meant only that I gave up trying to trace an outline on to which I could gradually apply colour and contour and worked instead to collect as many pieces as possible and fit them together into whatever pattern coherence seemed to dictate, and then step back and say, 'Ah, William Fox'. The encounter never actually took place; but that was the idea.