Ruly Practices/Unruly Elements in Canadian Space
In his account of his visit to Lower Canada in 1808, the English author and artist John Lambert laments the absence of "literature, the arts, and the sciences" in the Province, and characterizes Canada as a country seemingly more capable of supporting than creating genius" (1:318, 330). As an exception to these judgements, he cites the maps and drawings of Jean-Baptiste Duberger (1762-1821), a "native" of Canada, "a self-taught genius," "an officer in the corps of engineers and [a] military draughtsman" (1:331). As well as being responsible for the "only correct chart of Lower Canada," Duberger was the author of "several…large draughts of the country, and many other drawings, some of which were beautifully done, and are deposited in the Engineer’s office" (1:331). "But the most important of his labours," concludes Lambert,
A note to this passage in the third edition of Lambert’s Travels (1816) states that Duberger’s model of Quebec was indeed sent to England and, by 1813, placed in the Royal Military Repository at Woolwich.
genesis and provenance of the Quebec Model has attracted the attention
of several amateur and professional historians. In the nineteenth
century, the most important of these was a Quebec lawyer, H.H. Miles,
who provided a comprehensive and influential account of its history in
"Some Observations on Canadian Chorography and Topography, and on
the Meritorious Services of the Late Jean-Baptiste Duberger, Senr.,"
a paper read before the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in
1873. In particular, Miles substantiated Duberger’s authorship of the
Model against the rival claim of Captain—later Colonel—John By, who
participated in its assembly in 1806-1808, superintended its removal to
England in 1811, and received sole credit for its
"construction" in the first catalogue of the Woolwich Museum
(see Pothier, Quebec Model 24). Without endorsing the so-called
"Duberger legend"—the myth that By drove Duberger to an
early grave by taking credit for his work— Miles does suggest that
certain aspects of By’s character and circumstances in 1811—most
notably his "concern" that "the
British authorities" should
appreciate his work on the "Martello Towers on the west side of
Quebec"—are "not wholly incompatible with the idea of his
having dealt wrongfully by Duberger" (106-07). He also makes an
eloquent plea for the return of the Quebec Model to its "native
place": "[y]ear by year the visible memorials of old Quebec…are
passing away; but the restoration of this model would serve, for
generations to come, to exemplify native Canadian genius, to preserve a
useful link in the connection between the past, the present, and the
future of the famous city, and also as a lasting attraction to the
visitors who flock to it annually in quest of objects of historical
interest" (109-10). Despite Miles’s plea for its repatriation,
the Quebec Model was not "return[ed] to Canada as a gift to the
Dominion until 1908" (Pothier, Quebec Model 2). Thereafter
it was exhibited in Ottawa, first at the Dominion Archives (1910-1967)
and then at the Canadian War Museum (1967-1981), before being moved to
its present location at Artillery Park in Quebec City (Pothier, "Duberger"
The most important twentieth-century historian of the Quebec Model is Bernard Pothier, whose study of its "origins and construction, …the circumstances of its removal to England and its return to Canada, and…[its] integrity and credibility as a document of the early nineteenth-century topography of Quebec" (Quebec Model 65) was published in 1978 as Canadian War Museum Paper No. 9 in the National Museum of Man Mercury Series. Drawing on Lambert, Miles, and others, as well as on archival materials unavailable to earlier writers, Pothier adds a wealth of detail and interpretation to the history of the Quebec Model. Authorized by Isaac Brock, then the commander of the Quebec garrison, in October 1806, the model was begun in November of the same year and completed almost exactly two years later in November 1808 (Quebec Model 10-16). Although Duberger was supervised by By, the two worked on it "jointly" (Duberger’s word), building sections of it in Duberger’s residence and assembling them in By’s, where "four rooms…[were made] into one" to accommodate it. Duberger and By did not work in isolation, however, but "benefitted from the active support and advice of the senior officers of the Artillery and Engineer Corps: Brock and [Colonel Ralph Henry] Bruyeres," the commander of the Engineers at Quebec, "Colonel George Glasgow, Commanding the Royal Artillery, Major [William] Robe, R.A., and others" (12). That one of these advisors—Robe—also wrote a topographical poem entitled Quebec at about this time1 gives a preliminary hint of the intriguing literary parallels and cultural implications of the Quebec Model.
Pothier’s monograph contains two further pieces of information that add to the significance of the Quebec Model as a cultural artefact. The first is that during its construction the Model did not "enjoy…support from every quarter" of Quebec society but, on the contrary, generated "opposition from certain civilians" who may have perceived it as a means of identifying and curtailing their "incroachments" on Crown lands (13). As Duberger himself observed in a letter of February 16, 1807, "[n]o Body has had the sight of [the Model] as yet although it is much spoken of, except Colonels Brock, Glasgow, Vezey and Bruyeres, the business being too delicate for any others" (qtd. in Pothier, Quebec Model 67). It should be remembered, however, that the Model was constructed during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars when Britain had reason to fear, not only an invasion of Lower Canada by the United States, but also an insurgence of the French inhabitants of the Province. Perhaps more than at any time before or since, the garrisons at Quebec City and elsewhere in British North America were burdened during the Napoleonic period with the dual responsibility of defending and dominating Britain’s Canadian subjects and possessions. One thing is clear from the mixed purposes and emotions surrounding its construction and reception: the Quebec Model served as a condenser for the tension between the authorities and the residents of Lower Canada which, mutatis mutandis, continues to the present day.
The second piece of significant information provided by Pothier concerns the response of Governor General Sir James Craig to the Model after his arrival at Quebec in November 1807. "Though he pronounced himself ‘highly pleased with [its] correctness,’ [Craig]…suggested to By that its usefulness as a planning model would be significantly enhanced were it to include the high ground commanding the town from the Plains of Abraham"—a proposal that "doubl[ed] the size of the undertaking" and apparently necessitated the Model’s removal to the ball-room of the Governor’s residence, the Château St. Louis. "It was perhaps here," suggests Pothier, "that…John Lambert admired the model in May or June of 1808…. As it finally appeared, the model of Quebec was nearly double the length originally planned, extending into the Plains of Abraham, and beyond Saint John’s suburb (as it existed at that time) approximately to the present Avenue des Erables" (Quebec Model 14-16).2 As these facts about its reception and augmentation indicate, the Quebec Model reflected in miniature the panoptic and expansive aspects of the imperial authorities in Lower Canada after the Conquest.
It is tempting to proceed directly to these engaging issues, but before doing so a few moments may usefully be taken to discern the conception of art—the aesthetic—embodied in the Quebec Model and to ponder its relation to the ideological underpinnings of such poems as Robe’s Quebec. Clearly, Lambert’s ascription of artistic merit to the work of Duberger and his colleagues in the Artillery and Engineer Corps relies on the general and pre-Modern meaning of "art" as "skill" (Williams, Keywords 32-33). But was there a particular skill, or set of skills, operating in the design and execution of the Model? In his History of the Corps of Royal Engineers (1889), Whitworth Porter provides a broad definition of the tasks faced by a military engineer after a conquest: "[h]e was to make a general survey of the position, to estimate for the restoration of the fort, and to prepare designs for other necessary works, such as barracks, storehouses, and a residence for the Governor" (1:138; and see Legget, John By 9). To prepare engineers for these tasks, the training at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in the eighteenth century included "Mathematics…Fortifications…Arithmetic…Drawing for Landscape… [and] Figures," and modelling (F.J. Cattermode qtd. in Legget, John By 6-7). Thus the training of Royal Engineers included not only methods of calculation, but also techniques of representation in two and three dimensions—in short, accurate mimesis. When Lambert and Craig praised the Quebec Model for its "neatness" and "correctness" they were attesting to its creators’ precise workmanship: to the extent that it accurately replicated a military position, the Quebec Model was both "useful" and "beautiful"—a praiseworthy manifestation of the mimetic skill and aesthetic of the Corps of Royal Engineers.
In the terms developed by Henri Lefebvre for the critical "analysis and theoretical explication" of space in La production de l'espace, the Quebec Model belongs in the category of "representations of space"—that is, "the space of scientists, planners, urbanists, technocratic subdividers and social engineers, as of a certain type of artist with a scientific bent…. This is the dominant space in any society (or mode of production)…[and it is] shot through with…a mixture of understanding (connaissance) and ideology which is always relative and in the process of change" (38-39, 41). The aim of Lefebvre’s project is "to elucidate the…rise, …role, and…demise" of the "logic of visualization"—the "coded language" of "classical perspective and Euclidean space"—that permeated the "relationship between town, country, and political territory" in Western Europe "roughly from the sixteenth…to the nineteenth century" (17, 41). The relevance of such a line of enquiry to the Quebec Model is obvious and promising. An attempt to uncover the logic and idealogy of this and other productions by the Royal Engineers could well yield valuable insights into what Lefebvre calls "the social (spatial) practices" of the "users and inhabitants, …the authorities and…technicians" (18, 17) of colonial Canada.
As a skilful imitation of Quebec City and its environs, the Quebec Model has obvious parallels in the various topographical poems that were written in and about portions of Upper and Lower Canada around the turn of the nineteenth-century. In the Preface to Abram's Plains (1789), Thomas Cary endorses similar mimetic objectives and criteria when he "pronounce[s] descriptive poetry, that exhibits a picture of the real scenes of nature, to be the most difficult to excel in" and proceeds to assess Alexander Pope and James Thomson on the basis of their "comparative merits…in description" (1). So, too, does J. Mackay when he allows in the Preface to Quebec Hill (1797) that "the Poem might have been rendered…more poetical, if less attention had been paid to veracity" and adds that "to lovers of truth, no apology is necessary on this head, and to those of a contrary disposition, none is due" (5). Since Mackay’s aim is to dispel the illusion that the Canadas are fit for European habitation, he gives scant attention either to Wolfe’s victory or to the fortified city that it delivered into British hands. To him the Plains of Abraham evoke thoughts of the cruelty of war, the vanity of "Martial Fame," and the brevity of peace (1:187-206). Indeed, only marginally more lines are allotted in Quebec Hill to the spot where Wolfe "fought…bled…conquer’d, and…died" (1:184) than to a Thomsonian vignette of an "artful swain" shooting a covey of "trembling" birds on the otherwise desolate "Plain" (1:199-206).
Writing on the thirtieth anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and as a patriotic inhabitant of British North America, Cary’s aims and emphasis are very different. Not only does Wolfe’s self-sacrificing victory provide the title and centrepiece of Abram’s Plains, but the poem’s avowedly peace-loving muse devotes several passages to earlier and later British victories in North America: Sir William Johnson’s defeat of the French under Jean-Armand Dieskau in 1755 and Sir Guy Carleton’s rout of the Americans under Richard Montgomery in 1775-1776. That Montgomery’s campaign was aimed at Quebec is but one indication of the City’s continued importance as a strategic site in the years following the conquest. Until well into the nineteenth century, "the city founded on the rock that proudly holds the height of the hill" was seen as the "Queen of the West" (Moodie  14, 12), as "a translated Britannia asserting British tradition and might" (Sinclair xiii). Abram’s Plains is the product of an aspiring clerk and journalist rather than an engineer, an artilleryman, or a strategist, but it nevertheless parallels and, indeed, anticipates the Quebec Model in its detailed representation of the City and its surroundings, not least its extensive fortifications and adjacent battle-field.
In the extension of the Quebec Model to include Abraham’s Plains and, more capriciously, the subsequent "loss" of this addition can be read the tension between the centrifugal and centripetal forces that were active in Britain’s imperial endeavours. Both expansive and contractile, the British Empire dotted the world with nodes of a central authority—"translated Britannia[s]"—to which personnel and materials were regularly dispatched and, as the case might be, recalled (Colonel By) or extracted (the Quebec Model). Such nodes of authority were, in turn, staging-posts for further expansions and acquisitions, the preliminary agents of which were explorers, traders, soldiers, missionaries, and engineers. With the British Empire, as with the Quebec Model, the ultimate questions raised by the centrifugal urge to expansion were logistical: how far from the centre or the node to extend, and where to stop. In the global—which is to say, spherical—space of British imperial dreams and practices, there was theoretically no limit to expansion: the Empire would extend eastward and westward until it encircled the world. A manifestation of this conceptual monad can be found in Cornwall Bayley’s Canada. A Descriptive Poem, Written at Quebec, 1805 and published there some six months before Brock authorized the construction of the Quebec Model. "[H]alf the convex world intrudes between" Europe and North America, observes Bayley, but "British sons" are nevertheless successfully transporting British "peace…science," freedom, and civilization across "uncounted leagues" to "hemispheres" unknown "to Caesar’s eyes" (418-24). Almost as worthy of praise as Wolfe from Bayley’s Romantic-imperialist perspective is Alexander Mackenzie, the Montreal-based explorer whose "exalted mind…scan[ned] / Millions of regions undescribed by man [!]; / Circling the globe from wide Atlantic’s bound, / To where Pacific meets the joining round!" (427-30). As if replicating in small the centrifugal and centripetal vectors of British imperialism, Bayley concludes this portion of Canada by celebrating British expansion into Upper Canada and focusing on the Union Jack above Quebec City:
…Kingston tow’rs o’er vast
The "here" to which this last couplet refers is Cape Diamond, the "most elevated part" of the Quebec promontory and the location of the British garrison. "The Cape is strongly fortified," explains Isaac Weld in his Travels (1799), "and may be considered as the citadel of Quebec…. The evening and morning guns, and all salutes and signals, are fired from hence" (1:349). As what Benedict Anderson would call the "high centre" (25) of the British Empire in North America, Quebec City is both signalized and subordinated by the agents and emblems of imperial authority.
A variation of this hierarchy of exaltation can be seen at work in the Quebec Model. By its very nature as a miniature simulacrum mounted on a work-bench, the Model places its creators and viewers high above Quebec City and Abraham’s Plains in a position similar—indeed, superior—to the British garrison and flag, a position otherwise physically impossible prior to the invention of the passenger balloon and the aeroplane. In effect, the Model allowed the British authorities to "read" the City and its surroundings with "a solar Eye, [or]…like a God" (Certeau 92). The fact that the entire civic and military landscape of Quebec could now be scanned and assessed panoptically helps to explain both the suspicion and the secrecy that surrounded the Model during its construction. Thanks to the Quebec Model, it had become much easier to oversee and "rule…over" (Lefebvre 21; emphasis added) the layout and development of the colonial capital. The physical reality of the place had been captured both accurately and, as important, transportably. It would now be possible to study Quebec City not just in Colonel By’s house or in the governor general’s mansion, but also in Woolwich Barracks in the imperial capital; the Duke of Wellington or King George himself could assess the fortifications of Quebec and the Crown’s holdings in and around the City. A sense of the Model’s place in the surveillance network (Certeau 96)—the remote control system—of imperialism can be gained from the fact that when it was removed from the barracks to the Rotunda Museum at Woolwich in circa 1820 it "was joined by a model of Gibraltar" and "a further thirty-two such models—of fortifications and dockyards mostly—from the personal collection of George III" (Pothier, Quebec Model 23-24).
An obvious cognate of the panoptic and transportable overview provided by the Quebec Model is the celestial or angelic perspective adopted by several of Canada’s topographical poets. Near the beginning of Abram’s Plains, Cary surveys the entire Great-Lakes-St. Lawrence System as if following its outlines on a map (21-41) and near the end of Talbot Road (1818) Adam Hood Burwell, whose brother Mahlon had surveyed the region north of Lake Erie for Colonel Thomas Talbot in 1809-1811, invites the reader to "see, as on a single sheet, / The Talbot Road unbroken and complete" (485-89).3 More fancifully, Thomas Moore (who was a guest of various military and government officials, including Isaac Brock, during his visit to Canada in 1804 [see Moore, Poetical Works (1840) 2: xviii and Bentley, "Thomas Moore" vii-viii]) invites a Puckish Indian Spirit to describe a flight over the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Lakes in the central portion of "To the Lady Charlotte Rawdon from the Banks of the St. Lawrence." As obvious as the perspectival parallel between these topographical poems and the Quebec Model is the reliance of both genres on the maps of various Canadian regions and localities that were produced by explorers, surveyors, and engineers in the post-Conquest period. Both Cary and Moore knew the "New Map of North America" in Jonathan Carver’s Travels (1778); Burwell may also have known the map in Michael Smith’s Geographical View of the Province of Upper Canada (1813); and, of course, the Quebec Model was based on Duberger’s own maps and drawings of the area.
When not aspiring to quite such elevated and comprehensive overviews as Cary, Moore, and Burwell, most topographical poets ascended promontories like Cape Diamond in order to survey and describe Canada’s natural and human landscapes. A little less effectively than the Quebec Model, Cape Diamond afforded a view from the top which minified the objects and people below and, in doing so, permitted a recognition of the structure of the City and its surroundings. As Mackay repeatedly observes in Quebec Hill, distant prospects are composed of "waving orchards" and "varied foliage" rather than "crab…apples" and "pointed thistles" (1:269-98), large forms rather than minute particulars. A vivid sense of what is lost and what is gained by the adoption of an elevated perspective is provided by Bayley’s description of the view from Cape Diamond in the opening lines of Canada:
The tide-resisting wharf—the
The details of the Lower Town and the surrounding towns—lower-class and predominantly Canadien zones below and beside the "high centre"—become just indistinct enough to permit a recognition of Quebec’s mercantile and agricultural wealth—its busy port and warehouses, its fertile fields and abundant crops. No less than the creators of the Quebec Model, the authors of such poems as Canada cast themselves as giants in a drama of imperial superiority.
Nor was Cape Diamond the only promontory in Lower Canada that afforded Bayley and others a panoramic view of the Province’s riches. After enthusing about William Grant’s "industrious" development of his seigneury on the Île St. Hélène near Montreal, Bayley ascends Mount Royal to survey the "plenteous farm—the field— the buzy mill, /…the azure distant hill," and other "un-numbered beauties" of the "exhaustless view" (180-94). The precise spot chosen for this second poetic survey of Lower Canada’s richness and potential is a "romantic cave" on the lower slopes of Mount Royal: the "tomb on the mountain" that fulfilled the wish of the wealthy fur-trader Simon McTavish to be buried near the mansion that remained unfinished on his death in July 1804. As well as being used for poetic surveys and military installations, the "high centres" of Lower Canada were (and are) the sites of the status-charged homes and retreats of the commercial and administrative élites that dominated the province’s "social superstructures" (Lefebvre 85).4 In the early nineteenth century, McTavish’s mansion and the Château St. Louis repeatedly commanded the attention of travellers and poets. Of the former, Lambert observed that it was "[a] large handsome stone building…at the foot of the mountain, in a very conspicuous situation" (2:68). Of the latter (which was rebuilt in 1810-1811), John MacTaggart observed in 1826 that it was "placed in a very fine and lofty situation" (Three Years in Canada 1:33). Very obviously, both houses were carefully sited and landscaped so as to permit their inhabitants to look down on their surroundings and, by the same logic, to encourage the remainder of the population to look up at (and to) them. Less obvious is the care taken in Canada and elsewhere to associate the McTavish and governor’s mansions with domestic affection and physical health. By Bayley’s account, it was "widow’d love [that]…rais’d a husband’s grave" on "Montrèal’s mountain heighth" (283-86), and in Abram’s Plains Cary associates the "villa of fair Dorchester" (governor, 1786-1794) with domestic felicity—"the tender sweets of life / That in the mother centre and the wife"—and with the "breeze-inviting plains"—the airily healthy uplands (485-91). In Cary’s application of the rural retirement theme to Dorchester, the Château St. Louis is simultaneously an official residence and a modest retreat, both a substantial neo-classical edifice ("villa") and a quiet family home far from "parade…crowds" and "the glare of equipage" (social trappings). The implication is that the mansions of the wealthy and powerful in Lower Canada are not the seats of ostentation but the abodes of an overclass that is affectionate, stable, healthy, and, despite certain appearances, modest. Who could fail to look up to such people? Or as Cary puts it earlier in the poem, in an address to Canada’s "swains" that is unlikely to have reached many French-Canadian ears: "Grateful, ye peasants, own your mended state, / And bless, beneath a GEORGE, your better fate" (450-51).
the most imposing or "dominant" (Lefebvre 164) manifestation
of Georgian authority in Lower Canada was the star-shaped Citadel that
sits astride the upper plateau of Cape Diamond above the old section of
the City and the Plains of Abraham, and which now contains both the
headquarters of the Royal 22nd. Regiment and the Quebec residence of the
governor general. "The great fortification is on the highest
situation," enthused MacTaggart, adding that "of course, [it]
commands the whole town" (Three Years in Canada 1:33).
Although envisaged as early as 1762, a year before "British
military officials reserved…535 acres…for [its] construction" (Noppen
42-43; Ruddel 206), the Citadel was not in fact built until 1820-1830,
on the recommendation of the Duke of Richmond and the authority of the
Duke of Wellington. Almost certainly the selection of the final design
and precise location of the citadel was assisted by the Quebec Model (Legget,
John By 12), whose principal purpose, needless to say, was
"to assist the authorities in England in improving the defenses of
the City" (Pothier, Quebec Model 17).5
Between the proposal and construction of the Citadel, Quebec’s
defenses were continually being restored and augmented, most notably in
1797 with the addition of Prescott’s Gate near the entrance to the
Upper Town (Noppen 55). It may simply be a coincidence that in 1798-1799
Governor Robert Prescott’s secretary was none other than Thomas Cary.
But the possibility of it being something more is scarcely ruled out by
the numerous references to the "works," "bastions,"
and other fortifications of Quebec in Abram’s Plains, or by the
poet’s coy insistence that his muse "comes [as] no spy to draw
the secret plan" of the City’s defenses (454-69). At the
very least, Cary’s detailed knowledge of the existing and planned
fortifications of Quebec points once again to the overlapping interests
and attitudes of Lower Canada’s topographical poets and military
In considering these shared characteristics, it is important to remember that most of the defensive structures mentioned by Cary in Abram’s Plains belong to a broad category of built forms—walls— that the Royal Engineers regarded as a special area of expertise. Nowhere is this proprietary attitude to walls in general more apparent than in "The Engineer," an unfinished and as yet unpublished long poem6 by the same John MacTaggart who commented favourably on the locations of the Citadel and the governor’s mansion in his Three Years in Canada: an Account of the Actual State of the Country in 1826-7-8 (1829). Before coming to Canada in 1826 as By’s clerk of works on the Rideau Canal project, MacTaggart had published The Gallovidian Encyclopedia (1824), a compendium of antiquarian and folkloric materials pertaining to southern Scotland, and, more to the point, worked on the enormous breakwater that sheltered Plymouth Sound, a project designed by the innovative Scottish civil engineer John Rennie (Emmerson 481).7 "Our temples and our towns / Require strong walls flung round for their defence," proclaims MacTaggart in "The Engineer," for "Discord growls amongst Mankind / When scarce two nations think or act alike" (71).8 Whether as breakwaters, for defense, or around orchards,
Walls of themselves are wonderful
In MacTaggart’s analysis, walls maintain peace and maximize productivity by keeping animals, people, and the elements in their proper place; walls embody and protect the rational and moral order.9 Little wonder that MacTaggart envisages the creation of order out of chaos in Genesis 1 as God’s originary engineering project, and conceives of engineers as a caste uniquely entrusted with the ability to "mitigate" the effects of the Fall (87, 23). The heirs to the (masonic) knowledge that produced the pyramids, MacTaggart’s "Engineer" is nothing less than the agent of providential design.
A less prominent and, in central Canada, less utilized element in the technical repertoire of the Royal Engineers was road construction. "Good roads are glorious for they hasten haste" and thus provide numerous social benefits, particularly to aspects of "trade and commerce needing quick dispatch" (MacTaggart, "The Engineer" 79). "At least in Britain," MacTaggart continues, "paved and cambered roads have made "Ruts" and "mud" things of the past. That this was not the case in early nineteenth-century Canada is confirmed by numerous writers10 including William Robe at several points in Quebec. "Canadian roads! how much to be admired," Robe exclaims ironically,
Canadian laws much more! which
mend those roads,
The status of Quebec as the foremost British "Town" outside Britain makes the condition of Lower Canada’s roads especially reprehensible. A system of "good and solid roads" in the Province would reduce danger and confirm the presence of British law and order. As consistent with the ethos of imperial engineering as Robe’s comments on Canadian roads is his perception that "improvement" is already beginning to "extend…around the town"—outwards and downwards from the "high centre" of Quebec City.
Similarly consistent with the ethos of imperial engineering is Robe’s subsequent emphasis on the hierarchal structure and civic architecture of Quebec City. With the arrival of spring, the Lower Town begins to bustle with activity as vessels arrive from the West Indies, from "Greenock’s rising port, or [from] Liverpool" and "the shops display their earliest store / Of Britain’s fashions, and of Britain’s goods" (1:80-86). Meanwhile, in the Upper Town "The troops their gay attire again display" and
Quebec’s builders are not hailed as the agents of improvement, however, but as the practitioners of backward-looking and "dim-sighted" architectural prejudice who, despite "successive years" of devastating fires, continue to use traditional and dangerous designs in the construction of chimneys (1:97-106). Like his earlier suggestion that stricter laws might hasten the improvement of Canada’s roads and his later appeal to the British authorities to counteract the dissipation and poverty that he finds rampant in Lower Canada (2:116-201), Robe’s call for better building codes in the province rests on the imperialistic assumption that legal and practical remedies emanating from the "high centre" are crucial to the colony’s material and moral progress.
It is entirely consistent with Robe’s moralistic application of the engineering ethos that, before participating in the construction of the Quebec Model, he was the architect in charge of building the Church of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City, a "public edifice" modelled on St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields in London (with elements… drawn from the Colliseum and the Pantheon in Rome) and destined to be the first Anglican cathedral outside the British Isles (Wurtele 75-79). Robe must have been well-pleased with Alexander Spark’s pronouncement in the August 17, 1805 issue of Cary’s Quebec Mercury that the civic buildings recently completed in Lower Canada indicated the Province’s speedy ascent of the ladder of social development from "rude[ness] and barbarism" to "refinement" and "wealth" (262). "The gradual steps by which societ[ies] advance… may be traced, with tolerable accuracy, in the improvement of their buildings," proclaims Spark, "[a]nd…several Edifices…lately erected in this province, and various works of public utility which have been undertaken and executed, indicate a degree of public spirit highly auspicious to the state of the country, and…seem to promise a rapid progress of colonial Improvement." A sadly ironical coda to Robe’s career is contained in the fate of the other major architectural project of his design, a grandly Palladian circular market in the Upper Town. Begun at about the time of the writing of Quebec (which contains a brief description of Lower Canada’s produce markets [1:259-62], Robe’s highly "refined" market was neither built to his original designs nor popular with the townspeople, and in 1815 the Assembly passed a bill ordering its demolition on the pretext that its wooden dome constituted a fire risk (Noppen 55).
Of greater consequence for the construction of central Canada than any other component of the Royal Engineers’ technical repertoire was their mastery of the means of controlling and utilizing water. After describing the construction of a "quay" below Quebec City in the seventeen eighties, Cary anticipates MacTaggart in likening the power of "British spirits" over "the wave" to that of Moses or God:
At their command floods back their
The probable reference here is to the use of landfill below Quebec City to increase the number of wharves and warehouses—Bayley’s "tide-resisting wharf…and…crowded store"—along the shoreline of the St. Lawrence between the St. Charles River and Anse-des-Mères. As David T. Ruddel notes, the number of wharves in this area "increased from eleven in 1785, to twenty-one in 1804, and thirty-seven in 1829" (202). MacTaggart could be commenting on these developments when he asks his reader to behold the "Engineering Architect":
See how he plans the villages and
The ability of the Royal Engineers to build wharves, harbours, and docks, to create additional land for agricultural and commercial use, and, above all, to construct better and bigger canals such as the Rideau—in short, to manipulate fresh and salt water—enabled the British to adapt and "improve" Canada’s natural environment for their military and mercantile purposes. In the manipulation of Canada’s coastal and inland waters lay a crucial key to the future of both the country and the empire.
Apart from Cary’s brief reference to the building of a "quay" below Quebec City, there are no direct treatments of the manipulation of water in early topographical poems about Canada. Rivers, rapids, and waterfalls make frequent appearances in these poems, however, and often with metaphorical accretions that resonate with the attitudes and activities of the Royal Engineers. Abram’s Plains derives its very structure from what Donald Creighton once called the "Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence" (see Bentley, Introduction to Cary xiii-xiv), and early in the poem the "rude rocks" and loud "rushing" rapids (76) that would eventually be eliminated by a series of large canals are associated metaphorically with the rude cultures and social discords that had already given way to British refinement and the pax Britannica. No doubt Cary’s approval of the taming of the "savage soil" and the "savage mind" (54, 57) would have extended to the control of savage water. Looking down on the "rich meadows" beside the St. Charles, he draws a standard Augustan comparison between the waters of the river and the conduct of human life:
The slow meand’ring stream that
Like slow-moving rivers, people should control their passions, for by so doing they increase their productivity and prospects ("views"). In Quebec Hill, Mackay similarly counsels the rational control of human nature when, after describing the fate of "savage beasts" and "ev’n birds" that venture too close to Niagara Falls, he applies the lesson to "careless, roving men, devoid of thought" who become caught "in the rapids of their passions" (1:109-22). No more than "rapids" or "passions" are human nature and physical nature identical, but in an age obsessed with rational control they are so intimately interconnected as to be homologous.
Bayley introduces another level to the subjugation of Canadian water when, between celebrating Mackenzie’s "discoveries" and saluting "Albion’s signal," he identifies the waters of the St. Lawrence with the benefits that flow from the British monarch:
Hail…Majestic King of rivers,
Using the coronation of a new monarch as an analogy for the inauguration of a "golden reign" (435) in Canada, Bayley invests his "regal" river with the topographical equivalents of the orb, the sceptre, and the crown: a "placid-winding vale" suggesting peace, "ripen[ing]" waters productive of fertility, and the "swelling currents" of a power that is as "resistless" as it is enlightened. To reinforce his identification of the St. Lawrence with the British monarch, Bayley calls attention to the renaming of Toronto and Sorelle as York and William Henry in honour of the brother and son of George III, whose troubled reign (1760-1820) began shortly after the fall of Quebec and should have coincided with the inception of the new golden age in Canada’s history.
After such an elaborate conceit, it is almost disappointing to turn to Burwell’s Talbot Road where the perception of Upper Canada’s rivers and lakes is more practical than poetic. Less interested in elaborate metaphorical comparisons than in water-powered mills (499-502), Burwell looks to the day when the notorious "storms" that "often vex the bosom" of Lake Erie (444-45) will have been conquered by the presence of large vessels "deep laden…with wealth from India’s distant shores" (569-71). As they "plough the liquid plain" and "Stem the rude winds" of the Lake (179-81), the emigrants of the Talbot Settlement have already begun to master the water as well as the land of Upper Canada. By the time Burwell’s poem was published in 1818, their efforts had been well augmented by Talbot’s mill-wrights and road-builders. In 1829, the fulfillment of their mercantile ambitions came a huge step closer with the completion of the Welland Canal. The Falls that had prompted Mackay to expiate on the dangers of thoughtless passion lay beyond human control, but they had been bypassed to allow the quick and easy passage of vessels into the centre of the Great Lakes System.
The engineer most closely associated with the manipulation of Canadian water in the early nineteenth century was, of course, By. The son of at least two generations of Thames watermen who broke with family tradition when he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, By did his first tour of duty in Lower Canada when British canal-building in the Province was beginning to gain momentum. When he arrived in August 1802, work had just begun on "the reconstruction of the…small and crude canals in the Soulanges section of the St. Lawrence…[between] Lake St. Francis [and] Lake St. Louis," and by 1804-1805 he was himself in charge of the construction of "an entirely new canal at the Cascades" that would be "capable of holding six batteaux" (Legget, John By 10).11 But it was not until his return to Canada in May 1826, after a posting to the Peninsula War and several years in England, that By received his most important commission: the construction of the Rideau Canal between Kingston and what is now Ottawa. On July 13, 1826, By wrote a report to his superior, General Gother Mann, in London, that reveals his military and mercantile vision of the canal: "it appears self-evident that, by forming a steam boat navigation from the River St. Lawrence to the various Lakes [we] would at once deprive the Americans of the means of attacking Canada; and would make Great Britain mistress of the trade of that vast population on the borders of the Lakes, of which the Americans have so much boasted" (qtd. in Legget, John By 29). Some six years later, in May 1832, By had the pleasure of travelling the full length of the completed canal on a steam boat, and in June of the same year he reported to Lord Dalhousie that he had already witnessed as many as "35 cribs of Timber" pass through it in a single day (qtd. in Legget, John By 41-42).
But for a full—indeed, giddy—assessment of the implications of the St. Lawrence, Rideau, and more westerly Canadian canals, it is impossible to do better than By’s most literary and visionary clerk of works. Once the Welland Canal around Niagara Falls and the Grand Canadian Canal at Sault St. Marie are completed, MacTaggart suggests, "steam-boats may go up from Quebec to Lake Superior… ; from thence with little trouble, they will pass through the notch of the rocky mountains and be locked down…to the Pacific Ocean…. The town of Nootka [Vancouver] is likely yet to be as large as London, and ought to be laid out on an extensive plan, as the trade between it and the Orient world may become wonderfully great. Then when the steam-packet line is established between Quebec and London…we may come and go between China and Britain in about two months" (Three Years in Canada 1:169). MacTaggart’s "prophecy" is more "foolish" and less "practicable" than he suspected, but with the partial replacement of canals by railways it translates into the imperial dream that governed the development of Canada in the decades following Confederation.12
Less risible are MacTaggart's remarks on the engineering achievement and developmental importance of the Rideau and other western canals. Unlike "any other in the known world," he writes in Three Years in Canada, the Rideau Canal is "not ditched or cut out by the hand of man, [but] natural rivers and lakes are made use of…, and all that science or art ha[d] to do…is in the lockage of the rapids or waterfalls" (1:162). As well as being a means of "transporting stores safely, either in times of war or peace," the Rideau Canal "might also be the means of opening an important tract in the interior of Canada" (1:104). Although MacTaggart laments certain aspects of the development of what is now Ontario—the destruction of indigenous plants, the colonization of people "as good as ourselves," and the division of the Province into townships on the basis of concession lines "laid out artificially, without attending in any respect to the laws of nature" (1:92-94; 2:100-02)—he does not question the civilizing value of either canals or engineers around "the huge Canadian reservoirs":
Down from those Lakes in humid
In Abram’s Plains, the Great Lakes are scarcely more than distant cartographical forms. In Quebec Hill, the "foetid fens" of Upper Canada are the source of "fever and ague" (1:87 and n.). In Canada the preliminary signs of settlement can be seen on the shores of "wild Erie" (351-54). And in Talbot Road, the prophetic poet looks to the day when the Talbot Settlement will be fully integrated into the mercantile system of the British Empire. Looking back on these developments in "The Engineer," MacTaggart sees gloomy "wastes" transformed by the white magic of engineering into productive, peaceful, and even congenially temperate "lands" inhabited by happy British settlers.13
one public works project were to be chosen to sum up the contribution of
the Royal Engineers to the construction of central Canada, it could well
be the Union Bridge across the Ottawa River at Chaudière Falls.
"[A] Bridge from land to land…Connect[s] shores by easy
intercourse / Which distant lay and were to other strange" (76-77)
writes MacTaggart in "The Engineer," and in Three Years in
Canada he confirms that the Union Bridge was intended "to
connect Upper and Lower Canada" (1:326), a union not in fact
enacted until 1839. Begun in 1826 and completed in 1829, the Union
Bridge consisted of a wooden truss mounted on dry-stone pillars, a
design that seems to have been adapted from an illustration in the 1738
translation of Palladio's Four Books of Architecture (Legget,
"First Bridge" 53, 59). According to a letter in the Montreal Herald
on February 21, 1827, its "beautiful arch was suggested by
Lieutenant-Colonel By; planned by Mr. [John] MacTaggart; and executed
under the appropriate superintendance of Mr. [Thomas] MacKay, of
Montreal, [the] architect" and—MacTaggart adds—the master mason
who "built the locks on the Lachine Canal, from the plans of…the
engineer" (Three Years in Canada 1:344-47). At Lord
Dalhousie’s request, By had a model of the bridge made and sent to the
earl’s home in Scotland (Legget, John By 38). Given its wooden
frame and dry-stone construction, it was perhaps inevitable that the
Union Bridge would succumb to the rigours of the Canadian climate. This
it did in the winter of 1836, leaving the Rideau Canal as what By
had hoped would be "a
lasting monument of [his] perseverence" (qtd. in Legget, John By
42). The Union Bridge served its practical and symbolic purposes for
less than ten years, and By’s model of it has not survived. But in
John Burrows’ brown ink and watercolour sketch, now in the National
Archives of Canada in the city that once bore By’s name, it still
stands as a testament to the constructive arts of the Royal Corps of
The story of the Royal Engineers’ construction of Canada does not begin or end in Upper and Lower Canada in the period between the Conquest and Confederation. During the same period and earlier, they left their mark on several parts of Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces, and from 1858-1863 their Columbia detachment "compiled and printed at least 20 maps of parts of the new colony of British Columbia." On the west coast, adds William G. Dean, "[t]heir major tasks, besides military peacekeeping, were exploring, surveying, and road building…. They also made cadastral [land-ownership] surveys of 11 townsites, principally New Westminster and Sapperton" (166). Not least of their tasks in British Columbia was to locate and mark the boundary laid down by the Oregon Treaty of 1846. As George F.G. Stanley explains, this meant "ascertaining points" and erecting cairns at "convenient intervals on or near the boundary" and then "cutting a track" of at least "twenty feet in width" along the parallel on both sides of the markers (10). Thus the Royal Engineers demarcated the southwestern limits of the country that they had earlier helped to consolidate and extend.
When Andrew Spark averred in August 1805 that "several Edifices" recently erected in Lower Canada "seem[ed] to promise a rapid progress of colonial Improvement," he was probably referring not only to the Union Hall and the Church of the Holy Trinity (1800-1805) in Quebec City, but also to the Palladian courthouses that were built in Quebec and Montreal between 1799 and 1803. In the view of Quebec’s Church of Scotland minister and the Anglo-Scottish élite of which he was a part, Georgian civic, religious, and justiciary buildings were the physical embodiment of the Augustan values that would ensure Canada’s ascent from "rude[ness] and barbarism" to "refinement" and "wealth." It is an indication of the centrality of Spark’s prognostications to the Canadian continuity that the most famous phrase in the British North America Act (1867) appears in his account of the necessity of religion in Canada and A Sermon, Preached in the Presbyterian Chapel at Quebec, on Thursday, the 10th of January 1799: "[r]eligion corrects the irregular propensities of the heart—gives strength and stability to virtuous purposes, and cherishes those dispositions, and that temper of mind, which are most friendly to peace, order, and good government" (8).
When they encountered Spark’s speech on the laying of the foundation of the Union Hall in the August 17, 1805 issue of The Quebec Mercury, some readers would have remembered that a few months earlier, on January 19, 1805, Cary’s newspaper had reported that "at the last general meeting of the subscribers to the new Quebec Hotel, it was resolved to purchase Dr. Longmore’s lot between the parade and Buade street" and "to submit to the next general meeting…a proposal, that application be made to the Legislature…for the purpose in view." They might also have remembered that on the same page as this report there was a lengthy and pseudonymous letter by "a stranger in th[e] Province" that attested to the persistence in Lower Canada of a French custom that seemed dangerously antithetical to Georgian "refinement" and civil "order." "The other night, I was very much amused with a canadian wedding, or Charivari," "Jonathan Simpleton" (that is, a naïve American) had written from "Montreal, [in] December, 1804"; at
[a]bout 8 o’clock…I heard at a distance, a confused noise, something like human voices. Directing my view towards the quarter from whence it came, I observed hundreds of dim and glimmering lights dancing, as it were, towards me full speed. Presently I began to distinguish a multitude of glittering and gaudy figures, skipping and hopping along the street; holding lanterns of different sizes and descriptions, in different positions; some in their hands; some as caps on their heads; and others at the end of long poles, with curious emblems and sentiments, in legible characters, suitable, as I was told, to the occasion. They were all in disguise, even, to one another; and enjoyed liberty and equality to a very great extent.
If the Jacobinic phrase "liberty and equality" would have struck fear into the hearts of many of the letter’s readers, so too would its account of what occurred when the charivariers arrived at the "illuminated house, which seemed to be their rendez-vous or centre of attraction":
[h]ere they made a full stop, and played many wanton pranks. One of the figures, that was in the character of a female, approached a young girl of genteel appearance, who, like myself, was looking on, and in a rampant humour began stroking her—cheeks; by degrees lowering his caressing motions to her—petticoats, hupe, off he flies, like a vision; screaming out aloud, Charivari, Charivari!!14 A young gentleman who seemed to be the young lady’s friend, stepped forward, displeased and wished to take her part. Thousands of hideous figures instantly crowded around him, and jostled him across the street and back again. One in particular, who was dressed in a buffalo hide and brandishing a huge pair of horns on his head, came balancing along, all giving way before him and with a twirl of his panache gave him a hoist, and left him sprawling, head over heels, in the mud. At this dexterous performance the whole masquerade seemed in convulsions; and began to detach in straglers and small groupes, like so many caricatures, and feu folêts, in every direction. People of all kinds, either through curiosity or design lined the streets. Horns and Charivarie! resounded from all quarters. The place seemed in a riotous uproar; and women in certain situations were greatly alarmed!
Quite clearly the charivari that this letter describes contained a number of activities—cacophonous music, grotesque disguise, cross-dressing, sexual affront, social mockery, and raucous laughter—that qualify the event as a Bakhtinian carnival, a festive "reversal of the hierarchy of top and bottom" that "celebrates temporary liberation from…established order" through "the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions" (Bakhtin, Rabelais 81, 109 and Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics 106-37; and see Donaldson). As obviously, the political implications of the charivari are a plausible but not inevitable interpretation of the event that says more about the anxieties of its observer(s) than about the intentions of its participants. It is Jonathan Simpleton who discerns "liberty and equality" in the charivari and who then solicits and reports the commentary of "a respectable gentleman, of other times, who…looked big with indignation at the…commotions":
‘[a] few years ago, we had a ridiculous scene of this kind that annoyed us for fifteen nights successively; we had another since, which created a good deal of disturbance; and last spring one of our most useful magistrates, was abused in this manner. In former times it was not so: improper matches, only, were made objects of ridicule: but now a days there is no discrimination: any young fop may kick up such a dust as you see, at the expense of any one he pleases, and disturb the peace and quiet of the town, as long, and as often as he likes with impunity. I would not be surprised, some of these days, if some strange rascals would step in, and in the shape of a Charivari, set fire to the place.’
According to the analysis of Jonathan Simpleton and his "respectable gentleman," a ritual once used by young men to demonstrate disapproval of marriages that they judged to be "improper" (usually because of the age differences of the partners) has become debased, indiscriminate, and potentially destructive. Worst of all, the ritual might be appropriated by "strange rascals"—perhaps French or American subversives—and turned to genuinely revolutionary purposes. Little wonder that in his commentary on the letter in The Quebec Mercury, Cary preempts Simpleton’s call for "a further explanation" of charivaris and expresses the hope that "the province [will] refine into…abolition…an amusement savouring so much of barbarism, unless it be on very particular occasions indeed." Cary’s response is couched in the language of the four stages theory (the charivari is a residue of barbaric times that is amenable to Georgian refinement), but his foreclosure of discussion is surely a reflection of the less theoretical context invoked by Simpleton’s letter: in the aftermath of the Reign of Terror and in the glory days of the Napoleonic Empire (the Battle of Trafalgar was still nine months away), an unruly French ritual involving "liberty…equality" and "riotous uproar" was to be recognized for what it had and might become rather than opened up to discussion and possible validation as an expression of communal values and folk culture.
It is well within the bounds of possibility that among the readers of the January 19, 1805 issue of The Quebec Mercury was one of the sons of the Dr. Longmore whose property was subsequently purchased as a site for the "new Quebec Hotel" or Union Hall. In 1805, George Longmore (1793-1867) was eleven or twelve years old and, very likely, literate and curious enough to read the pseudonymous letter and editorial commentary on charivaris that followed the announcement about his father’s lot. If so, then perhaps the letter and commentary laid part of the foundation for one of colonial Canada’s most accomplished and entertaining long poems, The Charivari; or Canadian Poetics: a Tale, after the Manner of Beppo, which Longmore published pseudonymously in Montreal in April 1824, five years after he had returned from a decade of military training and service in Britain in October 1819 and seven months before his permanent departure from Canada in November 1824.
But there were other charivaris that Longmore could have encountered either directly or in print during the period from 1819 to 1824 when he almost certainly wrote his poem. The most publicized of these took place in Montreal early in February 1821 after the marriage of "one William Lunn, Esq. of the Naval Department, to [a] Mrs. Margaret Hutchinson," the widow of a prominent Montreal merchant (Montreal Gazette February 7, 1821). On the second of the three evenings occupied by this charivari, events occurred that almost justify the fears of the "respectable gentleman" of Simpleton’s letter: blows were exchanged between the charivariers and the constabulary; several people were arrested; and the police "watch-house" was "reduced to splinters" by their liberators. "The next day a special session of the Magistrates was held, and a proclamation issued prohibiting a recurrence of the charivari and inviting all well-disposed persons to unite with the municipality in its suppression, if attempted." This proved to be of no avail, however, and matters would have gone from bad to worse "had not the bridegroom [that evening] flung open a window and capitulated" to the charivariers’ demand for a donation to a local charity (Canadian Courant February 10, 1821; and see Talbot 2: 299-304). Could Longmore have witnessed this rambunctious charivari of February 1821? Might he have been one of its "forty masqueraders, equipped as Turks, Persians, etc. exhibiting the usual proportion of nose and grotesqueness of profile"?15
Neither possibility is far-fetched since the charivari was in this instance initiated by "friends and acquaintances" of the newlyweds and consisted "principally…of mercantile and professional men…afterwards augmented by other persons attracted by the novelty of the spectacle and the desire for amusement." Present or not, Longmore is almost certain to have read about the February 1821 charivari in the article in The Canadian Courant (Montreal) from which these quotations are taken. Indeed, he may have had in mind the article’s opening reference to "the ancient custom of Charivari" when he began the Appendix to his poem with the statement that "THE CHARIVARI is an ancient custom, which…had its commencement in the Provinces of Old France; and from them spread over the whole Kingdom; from thence it was transplanted into Canada with the earliest settlers from that country, and has been kept up ever since" (67). In the remainder of his Appendix, Longmore describes the devolution of the charivari from a custom focused on "persons in the higher ranks of life" to an "amusement" enjoyed by the "lower classes…whenever one of the parties [to a marriage] had been married before." "With the encreasing desire to render … amusements subservient for useful purposes," he concludes, "it has been employed to obtain money for charitable appropriations; and to those whose feelings did not beat responsive to this virtue, the Charivari has been obnoxious. The chief features in it are the ludicrousness of the masks and dresses which are assumed, whose diversity afford ample scope for the indulgence of whim, and the display of humour."
The reports of three other charivaris in the Montreal area in the early eighteen twenties—the first in Terrebonne in mid-February 1821, the second in Chambly in late January of the same year, and the third in Montreal itself in late May and early June 1823—repay attention both as possible sources of Longmore’s poem (see Bentley, "Introduction," The Charivari xiii-xviii) and for the detailed information that they provide about Canadian charivaris in the early eighteen twenties. Especially notable in the reports is an increase in the violence prophesied by the "respectable gentleman" in December 1804 and already apparent in the charivari of early February 1821. At Chambly in mid-February of that year, the bridegroom was so offended by an inscription on a coffin carried by the charivariers that he "fired a ball with great precision through the obnoxious allusion, put the whole band to precipitate flight, and even (it is said…) was going to fire at two of the party" (Montreal Herald, February 24, 1821). He was subsequently arrested and released on bail. In Montreal in May and June 1823 the charivari lasted for one or two weeks, and culminated in the destruction of a house and the death of a bystander after the bridegroom, a Mr. Holt, had refused to comply with the charivariers’ demand for "a sum of money…or entertainment" (Canadian Courant June 4, 1823). In part because it was led by a man who styled himself "Captain Rock" after the "commander of one of the most cruel and blood-thirsty banditti that ever disgraced Ireland" (Montreal Gazette June 7, 1823), this third charivari provoked fears of insurrection in the Montreal establishment and led to suggestions that the Riot Act should be invoked to prevent further such occurrences (see Canadian Courant June 11, 1823 and Montreal Gazette September 6, 1823). After considering this and other alternatives in the summer of 1823, a specially convened Grand Jury judged that the enforcement of existing laws, coupled with the deterrent effect of charges brought against "various individuals" involved in the charivari, would be sufficient to dissuade "others from engaging in such lawless proceedings in the future" (Montreal Gazette September 13, 1823). That Longmore’s poem must be read against this background of "English-Irish disputation, murder tribunals, and demands for law and order" (Mary Lu MacDonald, Introduction 9-10) is confirmed by a contemporary review of The Charivari in which David Chisholme remarks that the poem is a timely depiction of an "innocent" custom recently "snatched" from the "natives" of Lower Canada and exploited for the purposes of "riot and crime" by "strangers and foreigners" (187). The resemblance between these remarks and those of the "respected gentleman" attest less to the prophetic nature of the latter than to the continued anxiety of the British élite in Lower Canada about the revolutionary potential of the charivari.
To the extent that it is a "lighthearted" treatment of an increasingly violent custom (Mary Lu MacDonald, Introduction 10), The Charivari is a restorative, reassuring, and conservative poem that advises the colonial establishment to which Longmore belonged by both birth and profession to treat the charivari as a source of amusement and an excuse for largesse. Unlike Holt, who had "violently opposed the claim [for money or entertainment], as one not founded upon either law, or reason, but only sanctioned by a barbarous custom, which…should be abolished in a civilized community" (Canadian Courant June 4, 1823), Longmore’s bridegroom Baptisto not only endures the jokes, jeers, and ritual humiliations of the charivariers with a "patience which avail’d him / More than inflam’d resistence or retort" (1373-74), but he also gives them "Full thirty gallons of old rum, at least" (1368)—an act that both secures their good "wishes" and "Humour" (1370-72) and, as Tracy Ware observes, "demonstrates exemplary common sense" ("George Longmore" 214). Before common sense prevails, however, Baptisto seems bent on mimicking the behaviour of the gun-toting bridegroom at Chambly, an option that, if exercised, might well have produced serious personal and political consequences. As Michael Cullen has pointed out (45), the enjambement between stanzas 127 and 128 of The Charivari both releases and retracts the possibility of rebellion:
With his "evenness of temper," his lack of "petulance" (1290-91), and his sensible and placatory generosity, Baptisto provides a model of behaviour for the "rich…[and] great" (1305) of Montreal who had more than once too often in the recent past resembled King Canute (1300-06) in their foolish attempts to rebuff the exuberant, destructive, and potentially rebellious energies of the charivari.
When towards the end of The Charivari Longmore leaves Baptisto facing the crowd in his nightshirt and digresses at Byronic length on political affairs in Britain and Canada, he provides a glimpse of the wider contexts surrounding the fear of rebellion in the poem. "[S]uch a crowd in Canada’s a rarity," begins the digression, but not so in "England,—where your mob’s a measure / For people to declare their ‘Freedom’s’ pleasure" (1062-64). In the six stanzas that follow, references to "‘Independence’" and "‘Reformation,’" to the British "Constitution" and to the "decapitation" of Charles I, climax in a ringing denunciation of several prominent British radicals—James Watson, William Cobbett, Joseph Hume, and Sir Francis Burdett as "fools" and members of the "ranting set" (1065-1104). As the direction and tone of these and other comments make clear, Longmore viewed with dismay the agitation for political reform and republican government that lay behind three events which, in 1824, would still have been fresh in the minds of Britons and British North Americans alike: the Spa Field Riot of 1816, the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, and the Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820. Longmore’s readers would have known Watson as one of those charged with high treason after the earliest of these events, and would have recognized the "Hunt" of a previous line (1071) as the "Orator" Hunt who presided over the huge and disastrous meeting of reformers at Peter’s Field. They would also have had fresh in their memory the attempt of the few extreme radicals of the Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate members of the British Cabinet and establish a provisional government in London. And surely they would not have doubted that, if such things could happen in England, they were also possible—even likely—in Lower Canada. In the obstinate refusal of a Legislative Assembly dominated by French Canadians to grant the "supplies, or…finances" (1116) necessary to maintain the colonial government was there not a radical and republican urge to wrest control of the Province from the governor and his appointed councillors? In the vehement resistance of Louis-Joseph Papineau and his followers—Longmore’s "‘soi-disant’ patriots" (1127)—to the union with Upper Canada that had been proposed by British merchants in 1822 was there not a reactionary and nationalistic urge to take Lower Canada along the same road to self-government that had been followed by the Americans and, more recently, by the Serbs? And in the increasingly unruly, violent, and political charivaris that had begun to proliferate in the Montreal area in 1821 was there not a growing threat of rebellion? Was there not—a prophetic descendant of that "respectable gentleman" might have asked—considerable and mounting evidence in the charivaris of the early ’twenties of the social and political discontent that would manifest itself before long in the Rebellions of 1837? As much as Cary’s Abram’s Plains thirty-five years earlier, The Charivari is a conservative’s warning to "The soldier[s], statesm[e]n, and merchant[s]" of Lower Canada (Cary 530) that they will risk grave personal, social, and political consequences unless they respond to those less fortunate than themselves with wisdom, humility, and generosity.
A similar message emerges from the sketch entitled "The Charivari" in Roughing It in the Bush (1852) where Susanna Moodie uses a charivari that took place near Cobourg in "the summer of 1833" ( 151) as the pretext for a discussion of the origin and significance of the custom. "‘The charivari is a custom that the [Upper] Canadians got from the French, in the Lower Province,’" explains one of Moodie’s neighbours; "‘I have known many fatal accidents arise out of an imprudent refusal to satisfy the demands of the assailants. People have even lost their lives in the fray; and I think the government should interfere, and put down these riotous meetings’" ( 152; and see also Robert Gourlay’s earlier  observation that "chereverreeing" is "a kind of riotous frolic derived from the French of Lower Canada" [2: 254]). Moodie’s initial response to her neighbour’s account of the charivari is one of "indignation at such a lawless infringement upon the rights" of people to marry whom they choose, but after hearing about three other charivaris that had recently occurred in the area—again, with escalating degrees of violence—she comes to understand that more than righteous "indignation" is required. "‘A charivari would seldom be attended with bad consequences if people would take it as a joke, and join in the spree…and ’tis better to give up a little pride than endanger the lives of our fellow-creatures," advises her neighbour before telling the exemplary "‘story of a lady in the Lower Province’" who dissipated the potentially destructive energy of a "mob" of charivariers by first "‘let[ting] them have their own way’" and then—after being besieged in "her strong stone house…[n]ight after night, during the whole winter’"—by exercising her "charm" on their leader, "a young lawyer from [Upper Canada], a sad mischievous fellow" ( 156). The neighbour concludes her remarks by assuring Moodie "‘that the charivari often deters old people from making disgraceful marriages, so…it is not wholly without its use’" ( 155-56).
The sketch does not end there, however, but continues with a discussion between Moodie and another neighbour, "a very respectable old [American] lady," on the propriety of eating at the same table with servants. After defending herself against the charge of "pride" for not eating with her Irish "servant-girl," Moodie catches her accuser in the racist hypocrisy of refusing to admit her "dirty black" servant to her "‘table with the other helps’" because the "‘African race’" are "‘the children of the devil’" and the cursed "descendents of Ham" ( 156-57). "Alas, for our fallen nature!" concludes Moodie; "[w]hich is more subversive of peace and Christian fellowship—ignorance of our own characters or of the characters of others?" ( 157-58). While the proximate target of this rhetorical question is Moodie’s American neighbour, it is also directed at one of the violent charivaris described earlier in the sketch, a charivari that had resulted in the death of a "runaway" slave named Tom Smith whose offense against propriety was marriage to an "Irishwoman" ( 154). In Roughing It in the Bush the Upper Canadian charivaris of 1833 and earlier are thus seen as a threat to three of Moodie’s most cherished objects of belief: British law, the British class system, and the British philanthropic tradition. It is no more fortuitous that earlier in the sketch Moodie refers to Sir Edward Coke’s famous dictum that "a man’s house is his castle" (162) than it is that several passages of the sketch echo John Millar’s Origin of the Distinction of Ranks (1771). Nor is it coincidental that 1833 was the year in which the British Parliament enacted the Bill that completely abolished slavery. Whatever its uses in her neighbour’s eyes, the charivari was invaluable to Moodie as a pretext for expounding upon the essential components of a "refined community" ( 143) and the manifold threats to the establishment of such a community in the Upper Canadian bush.
What, then, was the cultural function of the charivari in early nineteenth-century Upper and Lower Canada? For their participants—young men of various social and racial backgrounds—charivaris must have been the expression of a range of ideas and feelings, from simple exuberance, through truculent aggression and xenophobia, to political outrage. To judge by the fact that most charivaris took place during the winter months, they were partly a product of the boredom that, as Mackay observes in Quebec Hill, provided a "wide…field" for individual and collective mischief, particularly when large quantities of strong alcohol were involved (2: 145-54). For their anglophone observers and commentators—residents, emigrants, and visitors of the middle and upper classes—they were a disturbance, an annoyance, a source of alarm, and a cause for dark thoughts about the possibility of insurrection and the need for law and order. They were also the inspiration of a good deal of nervous but constructive thinking about the appropriate conduct and social responsibility of the overclasses in British North America.
In his well-known essay on the uncanny, "Das Unheimlich," Freud attempts to uncover the psychological sources of the complex and, he claims, contradictory sensation associated with the German word that translates literally as "unhomely."16 Concentrating on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s "The Sandman" and various dictionary definitions of unheimlich, Freud argues tortuously and suggestively that a deep affinity exists between the "heimlich" and the "unheimlich": by a process of repression, something that was once homely—cosy, familiar, and comforting—becomes the opposite—strange, mysterious, and disconcerting. As several post-Saussurean commentators have demonstrated, Freud’s concept of the (un)heimlich can be applied to portions of numerous literary works, particularly those that inscribe the angst of alienation or deploy the techniques of defamiliarization.17 Almost inevitably, therefore, most applications of the Freudian uncanny, including Freud’s own, treat of works written during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a period of increasing comfort and anxiety for the urban middle classes of Western Europe and North America. "As the visible world is measured, mapped, tested, weighed," wrote Andrew Lang in 1905, readers increasingly turn to literature to feel "the stirring of ancient dread in their veins" (qtd. in Lears 172). Like the ghost stories and horror movies in which it often occurs, the uncanny reveals what T.J. Jackson Lears calls "a longing for intense feeling," a craving for relief from "the spiritual blandness diffused by liberal Protestant culture" (173). Much the same longings and cravings seem to have been satisfied by traveller and explorer writings about Canada. Even today, a book about the Canadian hinterland offers most readers an opportunity to experience the unhomely within the home, to enjoy vicariously and in comfort discomfiting encounters with the strange and unfamiliar.
As a means of illuminating certain passages of early writing about Canada that emphasize the country’s strangeness and unfamiliarity, Freud’s notion of the uncanny is less anachronistic than it might first seem, for one of the precursors of the sensation analysed in "Das Unheimliche" is the eighteenth-century aesthetic of the "new or uncommon." As defined by Joseph Addison in the June 23, 1712 number of The Spectator (412), the "new or uncommon" is that which "raises a Pleasure in the Imagination, because it fills the Soul with an agreeable Surprise, gratifies its Curiosity, and gives it an Idea of which it was not before possest" (280). Conceding that the pleasure derived from "Novelty" may be mixed with "Horrour or Loathsomeness," Addison emphasizes the "Delight" rather than the "Disgust" generated by the "new or uncommon" (279). An unusual or abnormal "Object," he argues, "contributes a little to vary human Life, and to divert our Minds, for a while, with the Strangeness of its Appearance: It serves us for a kind of Refreshment, and takes off from that Satiety which we are apt to complain of in our usual and Ordinary Entertainments. It is this that bestows Charms on a Monster, and makes even the Imperfections of Nature please us. It is this that recommends variety, where the Mind is every Instant called off to something new" (280). Thus Addison expands the Longinian conception of the "extraordinary" (Tuveson 100) into an aesthetic that is obviously germane to the writing and reading of travel accounts of the New World. Both the writers and the readers of such accounts of Canada after the Conquest were in search of the "new or uncommon" and were prepared to find a measure of the "terrible or offensive" mixed in with their "Delight" in "Strangeness" (279-80).
When Addison proceeds to catalogue the sources of the "new or uncommon" his examples can easily be referred to the changeable climate and water scenery of Canada. "Groves, Fields, and Meadows, are at any Season of the Year pleasant to look upon, but never so much as in the opening of Spring, when they are all new and fresh, with their first Gloss upon them, and not yet too much accustomed and familiar to the Eye. For this Reason there is nothing that more enlivens a Prospect than Rivers, Jetteaus, or Falls of Water, where the Scene is perpetually shifting, and entertaining the Sight every Moment with something that is new. We…find our Thoughts a little agitated and relieved at the Sight of such Objects as are in Motion, and sliding away from beneath the Eye of the Beholder" (280). As well as emphasizing "fresh[ness]" and "Motion" as salient characteristics of phenomena that generate an aesthetic pleasure in the "new or uncommon," this passage links that pleasure with entertainment, excitation, relief, and, in Ernest Lee Tuveson’s phrase "a need for novelties to cure ennui" (110). This portion of Addison’s analysis has a decidedly "modern ring" (Tuveson 110) not merely because it smacks of self-centredness and self-cultivation, but also because it aligns the "new or uncommon" with the aims and activities of the therapeutic culture which has dominated the industrialized West since the late nineteenth century. By advancing "Novelty" as an antidote to monotony, Addison sounds a note with many later reverberations: the sensuous aestheticism of Walter Pater certainly comes to mind (Tuveson 95) as does the gothic sensationalism of a host of authors and auteurs from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen Spielberg.
Addison’s world is not Poe’s or Spielberg’s or Walter Pater’s, however, but Alexander Pope’s, and Richard Steele’s, and Jonathan Swift’s. In his second essay on aesthetics in The Spectator for June 24, 1712 (413), he firmly attaches the "Pleasures of the Imagination" to the Christian-humanist tradition by providing them with a teleological explanation grounded in the design argument. To "give us greater Occasion of admiring [his] Goodness and Wisdom…the first Contriver" "annexed a secret Pleasure to the Idea of any thing that is new or uncommon, that he might encourage us in the Pursuit after Knowledge, and engage us to search into the Wonders of his Creation; for every new Idea brings such a Pleasure along with it, as rewards any Pains we have taken in its Acquisition, and consequently serves as a Motive to put us upon fresh Discoveries" (282-83). This is the argument from design that provides the providential underpinning for much traveller and explorer writing in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Canada: the pleasure to be derived from encountering the "new or uncommon" is intended by God to encourage the search for "new sensations and unfamiliar scenes" (Tuveson 109), not for their own sake, but as instances of divine benevolence and order. As he encounters and ponders strange phenomena in unfamiliar places, the traveller or explorer is a scientific pilgrim, a seeker after knowledge of new worlds and "Final Causes" (Addison 282). To understand "new or uncommon" objects correctly—to pass beyond surprise to explanation—is to move closer to God, who has contrived the "pleasing Shows…Apparitions," and "Delusion[s]" of the natural world to ensure our engagement with "his Creation" and, hence, our admiration of his "Goodness and Wisdom" (282-83). Little wonder that instances of the "new or uncommon" in early writing about Canada tend to occur in works by such authors as David Thompson and J. Mackay who combine strong scientific interests with equally strong religious convictions.
Although Thompson seems to have studied primarily "the literature of science and natural history," he was also widely read in "the Bible [and] seventeenth and eighteenth-century prose" (Hopwood 21). Moreover, he was well enough acquainted with eighteenth-century landscape aesthetics to draw upon the vocabulary of the "Great" to describe the "stupendous Works of Nature" that he encountered during his explorations of the Canadian North and West between 1784 and 1812 (Addison 279, and see MacLaren, "David Thompson"). In his account of his journey from Hudson Bay to Lake Athabasca in 1795-1797, for example, he describes Manito Falls on Black River as "grand and awful" (115) and in describing his approach to the Rocky Mountains in 1800 he characterizes "the view as grand in a high degree" (Travels 223).18 As I.S. MacLaren observes, "[t]he parlance of the British landscape tradition…is not central" to Thompson’s travel narratives but, rather, occurs at moments of heightened scientific and spiritual awareness as part of an attempt to contextualize the radically unfamiliar ("David Thompson" 92).
Thompson’s account of his journey to Lake Athabasca furnishes one of the most striking examples of the uncannily uncommon in early writing about Canada. Arriving at Lake Manito—now Wollaston Lake—in the summer of 1796, Thompson encountered a very strange object indeed: a large body of water "sending out two Rivers, each in a different direction" (111), the reason, of course, being that it straddles the continental divide. At first the "great lake" impressed the explorer as sublime: "as far as the eye could see, were bold shores, the land rising several hundred feet in bold swells, all crowned with Forests of Pines; in the Lake were several fine Isles of a rude, conical form, equally well clothed with Woods. I was highly pleased with this grand scenery" (111-12). Before long, however, Thompson’s first impression of Lake Manito yielded to a sense of the uncanny: "I…soon found the apparent pine forests to be an illusion; they were only dwarf Pines growing on the rocks, and held together by their roots being twisted with each other" (112). As predicted by Addison’s analysis of the uncommon, the "illusion" created by the "dwarf Pines" prompts Thompson to further enquiry:
With its emphasis on a strange and illusory phenomenon that diverts the mind and engenders curiosity, this is a classic example of the Addisonian uncommon in Canada. As "amuse[d]" as he is by what he has found, Thompson scarcely loses sight of the scientific aspects of the "dwarf Pines," but records the extraordinary strength of their roots and the density, colour, and dimensions of the moss that covers them. In the midst of a mysterious lake, a strange trompe l’oeil yields "Surprise," "Entertainment," and new "Knowledge."
In the paragraph that follows, Thompson moves beyond pleasurable diversion and scientific description to ponder the full implications of the "dwarf Pines" of Lake Manito. "The mould…under the…pines" on the conical island is "very black…rich, [and]…perhaps the produce of centuries," but it is so "scant, that had the area of four hundred [square] feet been clean swept, it would not have filled a bushel measure" (112). The rock laid bare by the removal of the "dwarf Pines" is "as smooth as a file, and no where rougher than a rasp; and had it been bare it would have been difficult of ascent" (112). The island itself is "about two miles from other land." "[T]hen how came these pines to grow upon it," Thompson wonders; "they bare no cones nor seeds, and no birds feed upon them. These wild northern countries produce questions, difficult to answer" (112). After surprise, amusement, and curiosity comes the larger puzzlement which, in Addison’s words, "encourage[s]… the Pursuit after Knowledge, and…serves as a Motive…[for] fresh Discoveries." Thompson does not attribute the presence of perplexing phenomena in the Canadian wilderness to "the Great Creator" (147) because this is implicit in the very name of the lake and, later, falls that he is describing. Wollaston Lake is aptly named "Manito (supernatural) from its sending out two Rivers" and Manito Falls is "well named" because of its awe-inspiring scenery (115). In explaining the beliefs of the Nahathaway Indians regarding "Keeche Keeche Manito (The Great, Great Spirit)" earlier in his narrative, Thompson also places on view his own conception of God: "they appear to derive their belief from tradition, and [believe] that the visible world, with all its inhabitants, must have been made by some powerful being, but have not the same idea of his constant omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence that we have…" (75). After describing another perplexing phenomenon—a "Mirage" on Landing Lake in present-day Manitoba19—he records that the Nahathaways regard it as "the work of a Manito; and [that] with this argument they account for every thing that is uncommon"(401). Thompson’s beliefs did not entirely accord with those of the Indians but there can be no doubt that, like them, he attributed the uncanny phenomena that he encountered in the Northwest to "the Great Creator."
Mackay’s Quebec Hill was published in London in February, 1797, about two months after Thompson, disgusted with the failure of the Hudson’s Bay Company to explore the "extensive countries" under its control (114), transferred his allegiance to the North West Company. Largely "written in Canada, where the writer…spent a considerable portion of…time" (Mackay 5), probably in about 1793, Quebec Hill presents Lower Canada as a province "abound[ing] with prospects in a high degree delightful to such as have a relish for romantic scenery" (7 n.) but deficient in agricultural and commercial opportunities for British emigrants. "Delight" repeatedly gives way to "Disgust" as Mackay shows one aspect after another of Canada’s physical and social landscape to be dismayingly deceptive. "Tho’ gay the scene… / And, view’d from far, in richer verdure glows: / More near, is seen the harvest-choaking tare… And greedy locusts blast the springing corn" (1:289-94). Drawing on Peter Kalm, and, perhaps, Thomas James, Mackay depicts the Canadian winter as a horrifyingly unhomely phenomenon:
Earlier in the poem Mackay offers scientific explanations for the way in which the northern winds freeze deep water and kill unwary travellers (2: 81-108), but here he subordinates rational explanation to a "stranger’s" unpleasant "surprise" at the uncanny ability of the "frigid gales" to transform bedroom walls into "fields of ice." As manifestations of God’s "wisdom and goodness," such phenomena suggest that Canada is barely fit for human habitation and encourage the "wise man [to] soar…on Hope’s celestial wing, / Towards the regions of eternal spring" (2: 181-82). In the meantime, having exhausted "The novelty of lonely wilds and woods," Mackay will return to "Britain…where temp’rate years their empire hold, / Free from the extremes of ardent heat or cold" (2: 209, 186-88).
Less productive of "Horrour or Loathsomeness" than most of the things that Mackay describes, the novel effect of light on the mountains north of the St. Lawrence nevertheless reveals Canada once again to be a place of "Shows and Apparitions" where appearance has a deceptive relation to reality:
The lofty hills, that, onward, rise
In Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986), Barry Lopez discusses some of the tricks and changes in perception that occur in northern regions as a result of reflection and other light effects. Some of the most uncanny of these are in the area addressed by Mackay’s description (and, indeed, Thompson’s accounts of mirages): a spectator’s means of assessing distances under certain atmospheric conditions. Writing from direct or indirect knowledge of Newton’s Opticks (1704), Mackay knew that distance causes a perceived degradation in distinctness ("from far, the intervening space, / Th’ unequal swellings of their sides deface"). He also knew that on a clear day the break up of sunlight into prismatic colours ("colours of the air") by the surface of the mountains would make them seem greater in magnitude ("Increas’d in size") than they actually were. Add to this the fact that in northern latitudes refraction had been observed by Thomas James and others to make distant objects seem closer on an overcast day or during fog and farther away ("more remote")20 on days that were sunny and clear, and it is not difficult to understand the strange phenomenon that Mackay describes: under certain conditions in Canada, mountains can defy the rules of perspective by appearing to be both bigger and farther away than they actually are. Perhaps Mackay expected as much in a country in which "frigid gales" could put ice fields on bedroom walls.
Another early example of the treatment of Canada as uncanny— as unCannyda—can be discussed here without fear of redundancy. The centrepiece of Thomas Moore’s "To the Lady Charlotte Rawdon from the Banks of the St. Lawrence" (1806) purports to be the song of an "Indian Spirit," a Puckish figure who conducts the reader on an aerial tour of the natural and supernatural world of Canada’s native peoples. A footnote to the song quotes extensively from Jonathan Carver’s description of the uncannily clear waters of Lake Superior: "‘[w]hen it was calm," [Carver] says, and the sun shone bright, I could sit in my canoe, where the depth was upwards of six fathoms, and plainly see huge piles of stone at the bottom, of different shapes, some of which appeared as if they had been hewn; the water was at this time as pure and transparent as air, and my canoe seemed as if it hung suspended in that element. It was impossible to look attentively through this limpid medium, at the rocks below, without finding, before many minutes were elapsed, your head swim and your eyes no longer able to behold the dazzling scene’" (Moore, Poetical Works 126 n.). This passage provides the basis for the Indian Spirit’s description of his flight
Whereas to Carver the effect of "look[ing] attentively" into the "limpid medium" of Lake Superior is likened metaphorically to drowning ("your head swim[s]") and blindness ("your eyes [are] no longer able to behold the dazzling scene"), Moore’s Indian Spirit experiences no such unpleasant sensations, but merely observes the "lucid lake" and "floating" canoe in passing. This difference is worth remarking because, whether consciously intended by Moore or not, it highlights the European nature of the surprise, curiosity, and mode of ratiocination provoked by phenomena that were apparently less uncanny, or, at least, uncanny in a different way, to Canada’s Native peoples. It is difficult to imagine a Huron Indian reacting in the same way as Mackay to the presence of ice on the inner wall of a long-house. And Thompson’s Native companions, it will be recalled, told him that his excursion to the island on Lake Manito was "lost time." Since familiarity transforms strangeness to commonplace, a strange land can only be less strange to natives than to strangers.
The confusion of air and water that commands the attention of both Carver and Moore also recalls the perceptual illusions described by Thompson and Mackay. What makes Canada uncanny at certain times and places is the transgression or dissolution of (European) spatial categories: small seems large, far appears near, outside comes inside, above resembles below. Moore seems to have been especially struck by this last sensation, for in the induction to the song of the Indian Spirit he goes beyond another of his acknowledge sources of inspiration—Thomas Anburey’s comparison of the "luminous appearance" of "porpoises" in the St. Lawrence to "beautiful fire works in the water" (1:29) in his Travels through the Interior Parts of America (1789)21—to liken a "gleaming porpoise" to "a watery star" (Poetical Works  126). That Moore also prepares the way for his flight of "Fancy" by claiming to have seen "the dim moonlight through [the] scaly," "brittle and transparent" body of a "glass-snake" is as consistent as the twilight setting of the poem with his attempt to undermine the distinctions between the real world of the St. Lawrence and the spirit world of the Native peoples. In "To the Lady Charlotte Rawdon" the observations of Carver, Anburey, and others become a source for the "visionary" fancies of the most accomplished Romantic poet to visit Canada.
As the boat upon which Moore sailed down the St. Lawrence passed by the "leafy shore" of Lower Canada, it became in his mind a "mystic bark" piloted by an "angel" along the "dim shores of another world" (Poetical Works  128)—the world of Dante’s Purgatorio. Thus suspended in Moore’s geographical cosmology between the Hell of the United States from which he had come and the Heaven of Great Britain to which he was returning, Canada was both more and less the "home…inshrin’d" in the poet’s heart (Poetical Works  131). At once "strange" and "new" (Poetical Works  128) and friendly and familiar, it was a place conducive to the blurring of distinctions, the mediation of extremes, the apprehension of the (un)heimlich. During a "thirteen day" voyage from Quebec to Halifax, Moore apparently composed only one poem, "Written on Passing Deadman’s Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Late in the Evening, September, 1804." "This is one of the Magdalen Islands, and, singularly enough, is the property of Sir Isaac Coffin," he explains in a note, adding that the poem was "suggested by [the] superstition [of]…‘the flying Dutchman’" (Poetical Works  129n.). Of the remainder of the journey, he writes that "[t]he weather…was pleasant; and the scenery along the river delightful. Our passage through the Gut of Canso, with a bright sky and a fair wind, was particularly striking and romantic." As a site of the (un)heimlich, Canada was already far behind Moore when he sailed for England in October, 1804, but, for his British readers, induction into the Canadian uncanny had to await the publication of "Poems Relating to America" in Epistles, Odes, and Other Poems in 1806. "Other," indeed.
The idea of Canada as a site of uncommon and uncanny experiences for the traveller persisted well into the nineteenth century and, thanks in part to stimuli from surrealism and magic realism, remains active in twentieth-century Canadian writing. One nineteenth-century writer who was especially attuned by temperament and training to recognize and rationalize the strangenesses of Canada was By’s Clerk of Works to the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1828, who characterizes himself in the opening pages of his Three Years in Canada as a practitioner of "[r]ummaging"—that is, "the art of exploring whatever lies in a state of nature" (1:44), with special attention to phenomena that excite curiousity and invite explanation. "Where any matter is known, curiosity ends," MacTaggart asserts; "but while doubt and mystery cloud the lovely face of Nature, there is employment for the rummager" (1:58). A good example of MacTaggart’s "rummaging" at work appears in his account of the bizarre optical effects that are "seen to much perfection on the St. Lawrence and the great lakes" during hazy weather:
MacTaggart attributes these and similar phenomena to refraction or what he calls the "grand speculum" and suggests that this may also provide the physical basis for the legend of the Flying Dutchman. He also concedes, however, that the "grand speculum" produces "more variations than [he] can altogether account for" and defers to "more able observers" for explanations that might "dispel superstition" (2:109-10). Some of the mysteries of unCannyda have been solved but others remain to provoke curiosity and explanation.22 What, it may be wondered, would MacTaggart have made of the French Canadian legend of the flying canoe?
Of the many twentieth-century Canadian writers who in one way or another have made the "doubt and mystery" of the uncommon and the uncanny an effective part of their repertoire, none comes more readily to mind than Margaret Atwood. In "Journey to the Interior" (1968), "the hills / which the eyes make flat as a wall, welded / together, open… / to let [the traveller] through" (30); in "A Bus Along St. Clair: December" (1970), the ghost of Susanna Moodie enjoins the reader to "look down: / there is no city; / this is the centre of a forest" (91); in "Daybooks I" (1978) the "rocks" hauled by a long-dead pioneer "will stay / where they are put, for the time / being" (208); and in "A Blazed Trail" (1984) the speaker comes to a "rocky point" at close of day to discover "water [that] still holds light / and gives it out, like fumes / or like fire" and a place "where a sound should be / and is not…which is darker / and more solitary, / which approaches" (318). But perhaps Atwood’s most eerie treatment of the Canadian environment as uncanny is in "Death by Landscape," a short story published first in Saturday Night in July 1989 and then in Wilderness Tips (1991).
When the story opens, the protagonist, Lois, has recently moved into an apartment near the (Toronto?) waterfront where she has surrounded herself with a collection of paintings by the Group of Seven and David Milne that she has bought for "something that was in them, although she could not have said at the time what is was. It was not the peace: she does not find them peaceful in the least. Looking at them fills her with a wordless unease. Despite the fact that there are no people in them or even animals, it’s as if there is something, or someone, looking back out" (102). As the story unfolds, the uncanny appeal of the paintings turns out to be the product of a mysterious event that occurred when Lois was thirteen years old and on a canoe trip from summer camp. Lois recalls that the "[t]he canoe route [was] clearly marked, that they had gone over it on a map, and there [were] prepared campsites with names which [were] used year after year," but that she nevertheless felt apprehensive about the trip: she could "feel the water stretching out, with the shores twisting away on either side, immense and a little frightening" (110). These apprehensions are fully borne out by what happens on the second day of the trip. Precisely at noon,23 Lois and her friend Lucy leave the other campers and climb to a lookout that affords them a "long view of the water" from the top of a "sheer cliff" (114-15). While waiting discreetly out of sight while Lucy "has a pee," Lois hears a shout—"[n]ot a scream. More like a cry of surprise, cut off too soon. Short, like a dog’s bark" (116)—and rushes back to look for her friend. Lucy is nowhere to be found, however, and, after further searches by the campers and the police, the conclusion is drawn that she has "simply vanished" without trace or explanation (119). "Was there anything important, anything that would provide some sort of reason or clue to what happened," Lois continues to wonder years later, but the answer is always no: "[she] can remember everything, every detail; but it does her no good" (112).
In the absence of new insight, all that remains to Lois are fanciful speculations about Lucy’s whereabouts that canvass both the material and the animistic possibilities:
• • •
Thus the paintings in Lois’s apartment have acquired a special significance for her as mementos of the past, portraits of her lost friend, representations of unCannyda:
Like Lois’s paintings, literary texts in which Canada figures as a site of the uncommon and uncanny are both "doors" and "holes"— artefacts that simultaneously subject the disconcerting aspects of the environment to rational control and open the reader to unnerving puzzles and mysteries. A need to control the environment has been fundamental to European civilization in Canada, but so, too, has been a desire to encounter and celebrate the country’s northern strangenesses. Not without reason does Homi K. Bhabha relate the "narratives and discourses that signify a sense of ‘nationness’" to both "the heimlich pleasures of the hearth [and] the unheimlich terror of the space or race of the Other" (2). Where these two contradictory but complementary urges meet in works from Thompson to Atwood, doors open inwards to admit intimations of a reality— unCannyda—which helps us to recognize the rational order that Canadians call home as an absolutely essential but frequently pervious boundary between the known and the unknown, the comfortable and the discomfiting.