SHANLY, CHARLES DAWSON, artist, poet, and creator of ballads; b. Dublin, Ireland, 9 March 1811, the eldest son of James Shanly, a member of the Irish bar, and Frances Elizabeth Mulvany; brother of Walter* and Francis*; d. 15 April 1875, Arlington, Fla.
When Charles Dawson Shanly was five, his family left Dublin to live at Stradbally, Queens County, and, in 1825, moved to Dunboyne, County Meath. He was educated at home under the family tutor, the Reverend Henry Carpenter, and at school in Waterford, Waterford County. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, but spent a year at Penzance, Cornwall, caring for his brother William, a promising young engineer who had developed tuberculosis. There the two men devoted much time to sketching. After William died in 1833, Charles returned to Trinity College and graduated with a ba in 1834. He later studied art at the Brocas Academy in Dublin.
The ready acceptance of his poetry by a literary agent in London led him to contemplate a career as a writer in England. Instead, he came with his family to Upper Canada in 1836 and settled near Fanshawe, where Hamilton Hartley Killaly, a Dublin friend of his father, lived. The Shanly family’s 600-acre estate, “Thorndale,” was only just established when the rebellion of 1837 broke out. Charles volunteered, received a commission, and served for one year.
He joined the Board of Public Works of Lower Canada as a clerk in 1840, serving under its chairman, Killaly, and remained with the board after the union of Upper and Lower Canada. However, Shanly continued writing and became editor, in 1849, of a comic magazine, Punch in Canada, to which he contributed poetry, satirical articles, and cartoons, all unsigned. This periodical followed the government when it was transferred from Montreal to Toronto and was published weekly until its end in 1850.
Shanly became assistant secretary to the board of works, but resigned and went to New York in 1857. He now made journalism a full-time occupation. He wrote for the Albion, New York Leader, and Atlantic Monthly, and assisted in founding Vanity Fair, a humorous weekly journal, admired for its wit and subtle cartoons. Shanly became its editor. His thoughtful poem, “Sword and plough,” published in the early days of the Civil War, was followed by a series of clever articles, entitled “Hardee made easy,” also published in Vanity Fair, which satirized General William J. Hardee’s textbook on military tactics.
“The lilac tree” illustrates the music of his verse, but the poem most frequently quoted is “The walker of the snow.” The monkey of Porto Bello was published in 1867, and two other witty monographs, A jolly bear and his friends and The truant chicken were apparently published in 1866. One of his close friends at this time was F. H. Bellew, the creator of “Uncle Sam.”
Suffering from lung trouble, Shanly went to Arlington, Florida, in February 1875 and died there, unmarried, two months later. He was buried in Arva, Ontario, near the family homestead. He was an ardent painter, and some of his sketches, along with his portrait, are preserved in the McCord Museum in Montreal.
MTCL, Publisher’s proofs of a number of C. D. Shanly’s poems. PAO, Francis Shanly papers, box 95, Walter Shanly, “The Canadian Shanlys. Whence they came and how they got to Thorndale.” Walter and Francis Shanly, Daylight through the mountain, letters and labours of civil engineers Walter and Francis Shanly, ed. F. N. Walker ([Toronto], 1957), 107, 140, 424. Appleton’s cyclopædia of American biography, ed. J. G. Wilson et al. (10v., New York, 1887–1924), V, 481. A catalogue of graduates who have proceeded to degrees in the University of Dublin . . . with supplements to December 16, 1868, ed. J. H. Todd (Dublin and London, 1869). F. N. Walker, Sketches of old Toronto (Toronto, 1965), 243–95.