The Ballad of The Quest

by Virna Sheard First published in 1922
ISBN: 978-1-77081-208-6 pages: 59 size: 6.5 by 9 inches paper

Virna Sheard (1862-1943), born Virna Stanton, was the daughter of an United Empire Loyalist family. She attended school first in Cobourg and later in Toronto where she would live for more than half a century. In 1884 she married Dr. Charles Sheard (1857-1929), a surgeon whose career would include appointment as Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer (1893-1910) and, from 1917-1925, election as Toronto South’s Member of Parliament. Thanks to having inherited real estate from Charles’s father, former Toronto mayor Joseph Sheard, the Sheard family lived in comfort, dividing their time between their house on Jarvis Street and their cottage on Hanlan’s Point. In the early years of motherhood, during her late twenties, Virna began to write, sending her first poem to the famous American children’s magazine, St. Nicholas. With the encouragement of the editor of the latter she became a regular contributor of poems and short stories to The Globe, Saturday Night and Mail and Empire as well as to prominent American magazines. Her first novel, Trevelyan’s Little Daughters (1898), displays her sensitivity to the perspective of children. As each of her four sons began to enroll at Upper Canada College, Virna began to write for a more mature audience. Her stories and novels demonstrate an interest in reconstructed pasts (Tudor/Stuart England) and melodrama. The first of her five volumes of poetry, The Miracle and Other Poems (1913), was dedicated to her younger brother, the victim of a tragic accident at Niagara Falls in 1912. Unfortunately, Charles Sheard did little to support his wife’s literary success and detested the publicity she received. Nevertheless, by the time of her death in 1943, Virna Sheard had become a well-known Canadian poet and novelist.


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