De Mille, James, 1833–1880

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De Mille, James, 1833–1880

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  • DeMill, James

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Author and educator James De Mille was born 23 August 1833 in Saint John, New Brunswick, the third child born to Loyalists Nathan Smith DeMill and Elizabeth Budd. (The family name was DeMill, but James wrote under De Mille, and used this name after 1865.)

De Mille was educated at the Saint John Grammar School, Horton Academy and Acadia College. During 1850-1851 De Mille toured Europe and Britain with his brother, Elisha. He received an MA from Brown University, Rhode Island, in 1854. In 1858 he married Elizabeth Ann Pryor, daughter of Dr. John Pryor, first president of Acadia College. Together they had three sons and one daughter.

De Mille worked briefly in Cincinnati before returning to Saint John. From 1856-1860 he and a partner ran a bookstore there, a venture that left De Mille in debt; shortly thereafter he began teaching classics at Acadia College. In 1865 he moved to Halifax, where he taught history and rhetoric at Dalhousie University and became well known for his love of Latin and the outdoors. He remained at Dalhousie until he died of pneumonia in 1880.

De Mille was a prolific and popular writer in the later nineteenth century. He began writing for magazines and journals while studying at Brown. Many of his books were published serially in American magazines such as Harper’s, before being published as monographs. His humorous historical romances, adventures and mysteries often reflected his early travels abroad, as did his first book, Martyrs of the catacombs, published in 1864. He also wrote a series of adventure stories for boys set in the Annapolis Valley, which drew heavily on his experiences at Horton Academy, a textbook entitled The elements of rhetoric, and the spiritually-themed poem Behind the veil, which was published posthumously.


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Burpee, Lawrence Johnstone, 1873-1946 (1873-1946)

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Lawrence Johnstone Burpee was the nephew of James De Mille.

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Dalhousie University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (1988 -)

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James De Mille taught history and rhetoric at Dalhousie College from 1865-1880. De Mille was the first Professor of Rhetoric.

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International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, 2nd Edition



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  • English



Minerva Tracy, “DE MILLE, JAMES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 18, 2017,

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