Mary Lu MacDonald. Literature and Society in the Canadas 1817- 1850. Lewiston,
N.Y., Queenston, Ont., Lampeter, U.K.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. viii + 360 pp.
Beginning with a set of statements that many researchers and critics will find
provocative, Mary Lu MacDonald furnishes findings based on archival research and alerting
claims about them in terms of the social production of literature in the Canadas. This is
a two-part project. To detail the latter but more important part first: an apparently
comprehensive reference tool for the study of literature and society in Upper and Lower
Canada/Canada West and Canada East from 1817 to 1850 takes shape in the form of four
appendices and a bibliography. These appendices include the chronologically-ordered titles
of monographs and periodicals seen by MacDonald and a list of such titles not seen by her;
biographical and bibliographical sketches of 105 of the 108 authors whose literature she
has found; biographical summaries of 108 authors in tabular form, including their
political and religious affiliations; sample prices of newspapers, of subscription rates
for periodicals, and of books; and tabular breakdowns of the sources of the literary
content in English-language periodicals, in French-language newspapers, and, by seven
regions, in English-language newspapers. The bibliography breaks down the primary sources
into six sections: books, pamphlets, and broadsides; manuscripts; literary society bylaws;
periodicals; religious periodicals; and newspapers. Secondary sources are listed in groups
as well: books; articles; manuscripts; and unpublished theses.
In the first part of this study eight chapters, bracketed by
two others of introduction and conclusion, interpret and flesh out, often very thinly, the
data laid out in the second part. They do so in the categories of "Writers and the
Literary Life," "Distribution of Literature," "Social Expectations of
Literature," "Confronting the Verities," "A Consciousness of
Nationality," "Present Politics and Past History," "Literature and
Landscape," and "Social Relationships"; these are self-explanatory except
perhaps "Confronting the Verities," which is a catch-all chapter that discusses
attitudes to everything from God, good and evil, and mortality to material progress,
temperance, and the need for education. The discussion is carried out as a survey, in
counter-distinction to methodology that has enjoyed widespread practice in social studies
ever since Carl Berger's study of imperialism. Rather than interpreting either the
literature or the thinking of a few individuals as the thinking of the entire age,
MacDonald has amassed many voices for consideration, intentionally making room no more for
one than for another. Her approach saves her from erecting false scenarios of social
crises; thereby, she has avoided the chief pitfall encountered by studies that adopt
In principle it is a refreshing approach, especially for those
with misgivings about sending students forth into further studies with the impression that
works by Moodie, Haliburton, and Richardson adequately represent nineteenth-century
English-Canadian society and thinking, or that the writings of Aubert de Gaspé fils
and Garneau do the same for French-Canadian society and thinking. Of course, MacDonald is
no solitary pioneer in taking this direction; the editorial projects ongoing at
universities in Sherbrooke, Montréal, Ottawa, and London, at the Canadian Institute for
Historical Microreproductions (CIHM), and at the National Library all direct themselves to
a greater or lesser extent to increasing specificity in our understanding of early Canada.
Indeed, if MacDonald is to be faulted for her approach, it is only in her study's failure
adequately to situate her own contribution in terms of the other scholarly activity of our
day; she exhibits a distressing inclination to formulate and confidently voice absolute
statements about these thirty-four years of life in the Canadas while dismissing without
addressing the work of others to whom she regularly alludes amorphously as "some
critics," of which more in due course.
As to recognizing and acknowledging where her work fits into
and bears on others', MacDonald describes her methodology in a fashion that does and does
not render it distinctive: "The approach here is essentially historical: searching
for general attitudes, rather than the unique vision of one individual; considering each
writer as having definable political, social and economic relations to the society in
which he or she lived; and buttressing conclusions with reference to archival and other
historical sources" (2). The approach of Berger and many practitioners of
intellectual history who have followed him is also essentially historical, yet he infers
general attitudes from individual visions, visions which he considers representative of
society; and he buttresses his conclusions---which scholars do not?---with reference to
archival and other historical sources. The point that readers of Canadian Poetry
will need to keep in mind is that MacDonald examines literature for what it can tell us
about the society in which its authors live: "qualitative `literary' judgments must
be set aside and each literary work be seen as having equal value. The ideas, not the
excellence of their presentation, are the focus of this monograph" (4). Being a
survey of ideas, this approach does not call for detailed discussions of single works.
Apart from occasional evaluations of individual works as good, bad, or otherwise---she
considers the anonymous Mysteries of Montreal "the most unbelievable of all
works written in Canada in this period" (77)---MacDonald remains loyal to her
One is forcibly struck by the contrast between, on the one
hand, the manner of part two, which draws attention to the specificity of her data about
the literature, and, on the other hand, the generalized interpretive pronouncements in
part one concerning the society that produced the literature. The generalizations begin in
the first pages where she paints with a very broad brush and in opaque oils: "[O]nly
with a few exceptions" (which the exceptions are is left to the reader to surmise) we
read early Canadian literature and dismiss it "without making any effort to
understand the time and place, or the personal viewpoint of those who did the
writing" (1). Similarly, and in contrast to any other recently published work on the
early nineteenth century, the titular "Society" is painted broadly and
unproblematically as "the aggregate environment of the people of Upper and
Lower Canada" (2; emphasis added). However, MacDonald's remarks regularly offer
illustrations that amount to counter-claims against "aggregate environment,"
such as the following: "If the Literary Garland did not review Belinda
or The Spirit of Love, it was not the result of a conspiracy against Western
Ontario reformers; the Garlands's editor would have been completely unaware of the
books' existence" (84). One is regularly given pause to reconsider MacDonald's claim.
Almost needless to say, the Act of Union (1840), a constitutional yoking with violence
together such as only a newcomer like Lord Durham could have proposed, hardly suggests
that those brought into union shared much more than the stalemate in which this act
issued. Moreover, MacDonald's reference to "[a] genuine debate . . . being carried on
as to who should exercise power in the colony" (6), and her recalling plagues of
pestilence and fire in parts of the Canadas during the 1830s and 1840s, and widespread
economic recession at least once each decade strongly qualify, if they do not disqualify,
claims of an homogenized social milieu. When one goes on to recall the upheaval
experienced from massive immigration through the port of Quebec in the
mid-1830s---"[i]n 1832 a total of 51,746 immigrants landed at Quebec, a figure that
was not exceeded until the great Irish emigration of 1847 when 84,000 arrived"
(Johnston 9)---and from the rebellions in both Upper and Lower Canada, it begins to seem
that the period under study might accurately be described as exemplifying more than normal
(for Canada) instability and difference.
Then too, must one not be wary of the synthetic impulses
inherent in surveys? MacDonald claims to exercise no "specific hypothesis" (3),
but choosing a survey as her methodology inevitably determines one for her. That she later
speaks of a single "Canadian identity" (158) begs the question, and begs it all
the more insistently because she chooses throughout to treat the literature in terms of
four groups of authors: native-born English-speaking; native-born French-speaking;
immigrant English-speaking; and immigrant French-speaking. That the writing, taken all in
all, implicitly argues for there being just one identity in the Canadas, or that
all "the Canadian writers of the period are good, grey Canadians" (31) appears
to distinguish the literature as much more homogenous than other aspects of the societies,
especially the religious and linguistic. Still, it may be that the writers jointly saw it
as their purpose to effect a cohering impulse. In her conclusion, MacDonald grants the
exceptions of "a few eccentrics" (250), presumably Adam Kidd, John Richardson,
William Lyon Mackenzie, Stephen Randal, and Maximilien Bibaud among them, but remains
steadfastly synthetic: "Generally, they were sober, hardworking, family-oriented,
church-going men and women who believed that the imagination must be kept under control,
and who saw it as their duty to produce literature in which sound moral instruction, not
light-hearted amusement, was the priority" (250). Without doubt, an Adam Kidd
perceived a monolithic social order against which to defend himself, poetically if not
otherwise, but the alternatives that he proposes to that mountainous status quo
hardly come out of thin air, to which the plethora of satiric literary works from the
period's newspapers attest; nor would a homogeneous society seem to be the accurate model
judging by the Protestant and Anglican social and political jockeyings for position
ongoing in Upper Canada in the first half of the nineteenth century (Westfall). It was one
thing for John Beverley Robinson to anchor his ideal society for Upper Canada in the sober
yeoman, and to bequeath him contentment and refinement, not American happiness,
as his life's pursuits (see Cook 93); it seems to have been another to live out one's life
within Robinson's design. That much of the literature proves to adhere to Robinson's
design, is no wonder, but that it all did would be very surprising, especially if satire
prevailed to the extent that MacDonald suggests it did. It should be remembered that this
view pertains chiefly to English-speaking Protestants and Anglicans, yet a glance farther
afield seems not to demonstrate greater homogeneity generally. Chapter Six, "A
Consciousness of Nationality," does not indicate that English-language writers wrote
of French Canada regularly; it even states that "English Canadians . . . ignor[ed]
their Francophone contemporaries" (157-58).
The justification of the period chosen for study remains
unconvincing. Why, from a literary point of view, it should start at 1817 is not
explained, and the one social reason given for that date---the resumption of social
stability upon the conclusion of the War of 1812-1815 (3)---is not shown to be so
influential on the literature as to render what was written after the war distinct in form
or content from what was written before and during it.
Further qualification is required generally, for example, in
the observation that "[p]erhaps the most prevalent form which religion took in
literature was the assumption that all nature came from God" (112). There is no
quarrel with the statement but given that wilderness appeared as much more sinister to a
Methodist than to a Roman Catholic or Anglican, it is important to anatomize the subject
matter closely. (One profitable point of departure could have been a title not mentioned
by MacDonald, William Westfall's Two Worlds.) Were Northrop Frye not raised chiefly
by Methodist grandparents of the circuit-riding era, it is doubtful that the garrison
mentality would ever have been so foundational an aspect of his psyche or so strong a
light on his view of Canada. Thus, the claim, "[o]nly in Adam Kidd's The Huron
Chief do we meet with a different response to nature" (113) is too sweeping even
if it is pointed in the right direction; not only do works that MacDonald for one reason
or another does not consider at length or at all, like Richardson's Wacousta,
Traill's The Backwoods of Canada and Canadian Crusoes, and Mackay's Quebec
Hill, come to mind right away, but so too do Richardson's The Canadian Brothers
and his other works of the period under discussion, Holmes's Belinda, Longmore's The
Charivari, either for the competing view of nature that they present or for the fact
that nature is not a chief concern.
Almost always in her study, MacDonald sounds more comfortable
as an authority on literature than on society. But in both cases, her references to
scholarly and critical work are often outdated; why, for example, a literary-critical
study like Carole Gerson's Purer Taste goes unmentioned while her thesis is cited,
remains a puzzle. The same holds for books and theses by Fred Armstrong (354) and Elinor
Senior (355), while more recent work than their theses should have been listed for Carl
Ballstadt, Mary Jane Edwards, and Charles Steele. In other cases, the references remain
unavailingly unspecified. Quite simply, some of MacDonald's blanket statements lack the
critical context that scholarship in the 1990s requires of them. Not only the extensively
introduced editions of prose published by the Centre for the Editing of Early Canadian
Texts, and of poetry published by the Canadian Poetry Press, but, no doubt sparked in part
by MacDonald's own contributions to periodicals, a variety of studies in more than one
discipline relating to the three decades on which her work focuses can reasonably be
expected to receive discussion during the course of this study. However, disciplinary
discussions and "an interdisciplinary point-of-view" (3) of the period, all of
which are well under way now, are not advanced by this work. This absence also serves to
deny MacDonald's research the context it deserves; so it remains unhelpfully
unincorporated into or undistinguished from the body of research known to her readers,
whose collective "failure [of] . . . understanding" (1) her book aims to
This is not to say that the rewards of the overview or survey
are not in evidence. Each of the following observations seems to me just what a survey
alone is disposed to find. "Regardless of their background, no one wrote of Canada as
a frontier" (138). Apparently, expansionist-minded Canada West was a creation of the
1850s, as Owram's study, not mentioned by MacDonald, suggests. Perhaps this observation
connects with one of my own: that this study could be completed without more than
infrequent mention of the fur trade. Clearly, the romance of it along the lines of caesars
of the wilderness awaited other decades. Another inference by an absence of evidence is
that poetry seldom took the tone and form of elegy; the term is not mentioned by
MacDonald. To continue with her observations: "While the native-born English show
little interest in a particular Canadian identity, the French seem to have a much stronger
sense of who they are" (144). Plus ça change. . . . Although MacDonald does
not make a connection between this discrepancy and her observation that neither United
Empire Loyalists nor the theme of them are present in the literature (183), it awaits
making. "French-Canadian authors of this period did not write much about the natural
world. [The prose concentrates on humans.] In their poetry, nature is used to support
human emotion" (199-200). The picturesque truly seems an aesthetic, perhaps even a mentalité,
derived exclusively from English culture. "In a country whose economy was so bound up
with agriculture the absence of poems celebrating autumnal harvests is most striking"
(205). "There is no evidence in literature that anyone, other than Mrs. Moodie,
thought education was an important factor in determining the social hierarchy" (226).
On the other hand, not all such observations can rest
unchallenged. Following is a sampling of interesting insights that, because they amount to
blanket statements based on evaluation and unsupported by documentation, cannot yet make
salutary or convincing contributions to the field. The circulation of periodicals
"was limited and few paid their contributors, so there was little to recommend them
over newspapers as a publishing medium" (22). Where are some data to illustrate this?
"The significance of American writing appearing in Canada is in the indication as to
the source of reading for Canadians, not in thematic or stylistic influence" (56).
This is a value judgment; as such it must be buttressed with reference to archival and
other historical sources. "At the beginning of the period under study Byron would
probably have been the British poet whose works were most frequently reprinted in English
in the Canadas" (56). Given MacDonald's emphatic observation of the insistence
throughout the period on moral correctness (67ff.), the popularity of Byron, whose poetry
and life hardly seem epitomes of moral rectitude, requires explanation. Next, Adam Hood
Burwell is considered "better known today as the best of the early Canadian lyric
poets" (59). "Customs rolls show that large quantities of novels were
imported" (82). "Local newspapers generally printed their subscribers'
contributions, provided they met minimum standards of form and content" (84). These
statements demand substantiation.
As to particular gaps in MacDonald's interpretations, the
extremely brief discussion of gender (82) occurs without reference to and discussion of
Gerson's Purer Taste. Generally in this fourth chapter, "Social Expectations
of Literature," Gerson's arguments about society and reading practices ought to have
been contended with at length. Moreover, any discussion of societies' debates over the
moral correctness of fiction written during this period must grapple with the points
raised by Susanna Moodie's "Word for the Novel Writers," a fine distillation of
the debate, which appeared in the Literary Garland in August 1851, and which is
perhaps better known today in its reprinted form in the "revised" (and neither
the first  nor the third ) edition of Canadian Anthology (Klinck and
Watters 58-63). Next, on the national subject matter in French-language literature
(98-99), MacDonald does not draw on a very wide body of other criticism. Certainly
Trofimenkoff's brief history, still the best in the English language, touches on most of
the points that MacDonald raises and links them to a wider body of social phenomena than
MacDonald offers her reader. Her argument, often unsubstantiated, would have benefited
measurably by reference to this historian's work. Science and progress are noted as themes
(124), but no mention is made of Zeller's comprehensive treatment of this topic. In a
study that is both avowedly and resolutely uninterested in remaining within the discipline
of literary criticism, every expectation is raised that a broad set of references will
emerge. If, on the other hand, treating literature from the point of view of thirty-four
years of history is MacDonald's modest aim finally, she has misled readers and given rise
to misplaced expectations in calling hers an "interdisciplinary point-of-view"
Within the literature that she does treat there are
connections to be made that would have leant more cohesion to her survey. I am grateful to
her for learning of Maximilien Bibaud's amateur ethnohistory. Learning as well that there
is a modern microcard reprint of it available would have helped, as would the information,
found in the entry for him in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB)
(Morel and Lamonde 70), that one of the middle names he added for himself later in life
was Uncas, taken directly, one supposes, from Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales; this
idiosyncrasy helps to indicate the extent of his interest in noble savage versions of
Indians (were he alive today, he would probably be German). But all this is incidental
when compared to learning of his book's stated aim, not mentioned by MacDonald, to do in
prose what fellow Montrealer Adam Kidd had done in verse:
Le sort déplorable qui semble réservé à la plupart des tribus, prête à cette
histoire un intérêt d'un autre genre: aussi longtems [sic] qu'il en restera une seule
sur ce vaste continent, elle sera méprisée et pourchassée; mais la dernière famille
n'aura pas plutôt disparu, que les sentimens [sic] des hommes seront changés. Le
philosophe regrettera de ne pouvoir converser avec une race d'hommes qu'il jugera la plus
intéressante du globe; et le dessinateur, de ne pouvoir nous retracer des traits qui se
seront effacés dans l'oubli. Adam Kidd a chanté en vers "le Chef Huron." On
offre maintenant une histoire; mais la nature l'a faite riche de la poésie des choses.
(Extrait du Prospectus ix)
One statement that is supported by examples seems to me to be defeated by them:
"The use of accents and dialects to denote social status was not uncommon in literary
works" (228). To substantiate this `litotesic' claim, MacDonald cites only the works
of Richardson and J.W.D. Moodie. How representative are these two writers, especially in a
study that takes pains to discriminate not only between native-born and immigrant writers,
but also against any work not published in the Canadas for Canadian readers?
In terms of individual works, other gaps amount to missed
opportunities or careless oversights. For example, in her only and entire mention of the
poem, MacDonald states that "[a]mong Canadian writers in English, we find J.H.
Willis' `Canadian Boat Song' in six publications" (56): in which six publications and
in which issues of them did it appear, and how does that poem relate, if no more than
titularly, to the one that has been attributed to at least eight other authors, including
Sir Walter Scott, and to the poem by Thomas Moore from 1805? If only to distinguish it
from its namesakes, the discussion ought to have cited D.M.R. Bentley et al.
Despite Willis' place of birth being unknown, MacDonald lists him as Canadian-born (278);
if this poem's content resembles its famous namesake, Willis' authorship would be a most
interesting matter, and not only from the point of view of literary criticism. One recalls
a related observation made much later in her book: " . . . most immigrant writers,
when they described their life `at home', wrote, not of the hardships which forced them to
leave, but of the family, friends, and childhood scenes which they had left" (224).
How does Willis' poem bear on this observation, one wonders. Next, "Alexander
M'Lachlan, who found Canada a land of freedom, also called it a cold and lonely
place" (148). Where did he express this view? "When Brock's monument at
Queenston was destroyed in 1840, Canadian poets rushed into print with poems in his
praise" (155). Where were these poems published and who wrote them? In one case at
least, even less information is provided: a poem by "F. Cinq-Mars" (presumably,
François Cinq-Mars, as named in the DCB [Audet, 75]), editor of "L'Aurore
des Canadas," is quoted in part, but MacDonald does not provide the title of the
poem (116), and if his name appears elsewhere in the book, it is not in the index. No
further information is provided about either The Canadian Temperance Minstrel or The
Canadian Son of Temperance than that they were notable (128), apparently not notable
enough to be included in the index, the bibliography, or any of the appendices. Whether
they are monographs or periodicals also will remain a mystery until one consults other
Omissions abound. The reader learns that Standish O'Grady's
"intense dislike of French Canadians . . . is just as noticeable as his hatred of the
environment, but is never mentioned by any of the critics who take his word as gospel on
the hardships of settlement" (210). Who are these critics? Do they, in MacDonald's
view, include Brian Trehearne, whose article on O'Grady she cites 175 pages earlier (35),
but whose edition of The Emigrant (O'Grady) she does not? One is left similarly
perplexed after hearing the following, potentially important, contribution:
If one examines the publishing rhythm it is easy to believe those theorists who see
French Canada turning its back on revolution and developing a national consciousness
expressed in non-violent ways. The publishing rhythm is more independent of economics and
more closely related to political events than that of the English.
For both the names of the theorists and examples of those close relations between
politics and publishing, one looks down the page for a helpful note and finds none.
Stumped at this, the end of the paragraph, the reader presses on in hopes of an expansion
on either of these points, but the topic has switched to the lack of Canadian content in
"French[-language]" periodicals. Yet, MacDonald is unpredictable. When she
states that there is some question as to whether or not George Copway wrote The Ojibway
Conquest, she opens a note of explanation (143), and cites the critic---Donald
Smith---with whom she disagrees. When she advances the view that Alexander M'Lachlan is
"generally considered the most class conscious of our early writers," she opens
a note to cite E.M. Fulton's work as, one presumes from its date, the origin of that view
It is seldom the case, however, that her notes provide full
bibliographical information. On occasion (40, note 4) they are full and correct; at other
times (105, note 84; 113, note 15) they come close, but generally they do not satisfy
normal scholarly expectation, lacking one item or another (eg. 15, note 4; 41, note 5).
Printers' and publishers' names, which often appear in the bibliography, are usually not
given in the footnotes (there are exceptions); why not? Page numbers to newspapers and
periodicals are seldom given; bracketed numbers for unpaginated publications ought to have
been provided as a matter of course and of courtesy. At least once, partial citations
begin to turn up in the text rather than in notes; for example, "Fred Landon's Western
Ontario and the American Frontier (Toronto, 1941)" (63); "Trifles from my
Port-Folio [sic] (Quebec 1839)" (168). As with this last example, italics are
occasionally not used for titles (244); in one case, the lack of italics in the title of
Charles Durand's "Reminiscences" (183) suggests that it is a manuscript rather
than a monograph. In a different case, concerning Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau's novel,
italics are used for only a portion of the title: "Charles Guérin"
(199). Lack of consistency in this regard causes untold problems with newspapers, as will
be seen momentarily. Underlining is substituted for italics at random points (32, 286-87).
The acronym for the National Archives of Canada is unhelpfully given as both the
"PAC" (32), where MacDonald does not state what the letters stand for, and the
"NAC" (40). "The Patriot" is alphabetically ordered by definite
article and in the midst of titles beginning "Toronto" in the
bibliography (345). The specificity that one expects of a scholarly work simply is lacking
much of the time. In a work that clearly aims to be a reference resource for other
scholars, such a desultory effort guarantees to make splenetic Wilcockeses out of those
who read and certainly those who consult it.
Such blemishes occur less often in the style, but they occur.
MacDonald discusses the literature inspired by the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 in Upper
and Lower Canada before the literature pertaining to the War of 1812. The adverb
"next," which initiates the move from the rebellions to the War of 1812,
suggests a succession when the discussion obviously aims to regress chronologically. The
resultant figure is nonsensical: "However, when we come to the War of 1812, the
balance shifts . . . " (174-75). As in the following, a few errors cannot be
resolved: "The decade in unimportant" (79); "in" was perhaps meant to
be "is," but the correction, while it satisfies the grammar, renders the meaning
unfathomable. Typographical errors are only slightly more common than usual:
"probably" for probable (43), "than" for then (50),
"Faction" for Fiction (75), "then" for than (144), "Sadleir"
for Sadlier (314). Carl Klinck does not escape unscathed: he is "C.F. Klinck"
most often (eg. 301, 347), but becomes "C.F. Kinck" (351), and is credited with
publishing an article in "(1854)" (321).
Other sorts of frustrations occur and recur in this
user-unfriendly book. Two examples must suffice. "With one exception," MacDonald
writes, "the English-Canadian critics were immigrants" (88). Who the exception
was, one does not learn, and cannot find out in any obvious place in her book. It happens
that patience is repaid thirteen pages later (still in the same chapter) with the name of
Mary Graddon Gosselin (101). But thirteen pages are as nothing compared to the case of Matilda,
which appears first as a one-word title without footnote (88). Sixty-seven pages later
(155) it surfaces again, still referred to only as Matilda, with some page numbers
offered in a footnote explaining that both its hero and villain are British officers.
Nearly one hundred pages after the title's first sighting, the name of its author, James
Russell, as well as its place (Three Rivers) and date (1833) of publication turn up in a
footnote (186). Almost sixty pages later again, the first of the work's subtitles, or
the Indians' Captive, is revealed, and the reader can, as a result, probably make the
first good guess at the genre of this work, and that it is not poetry, though the entire
title, Matilda or the Indians' Captive; A Canadian Tale founded on Fact, something
one never learns from MacDonald's book, would have helped to eliminate doubt. Because
nothing is known of Russell, no entry appears on him in Appendix D, but a final
detail---the fact that George Stubbs printed the book for its author---is given in the
bibliography (333), the page number of which, like the second reference, is not listed in
the index, which has a listing for the novel by title but no listing for its author.
Meanwhile, two details that were offered when the novel was
first mentioned---that a complete copy of it is "held in the United States," and
that it was seen by MacDonald (88)---receive no further elaboration. Nor does MacDonald
seem to consider worthy of mention three other bibliographical facts, all of them useful:
that Garland Publishers of New York published a facsimile reprint edition of this novel
(Russell) in 1977 as number 51 of its Garland Library of Narratives of North American
Indian Captivities; that in the reprint alone one learns that a complete copy, the one
from which the reprint was made, is held by the Houghton Library at Harvard University
(this is probably the copy to which MacDonald alludes but which she does not cite); and
that the copy at the library of the Seminaire du Québec, the one that MacDonald points
out is incomplete, was reproduced by the CIHM (no. 52391) in 1986. Once all these facts
are known, one wonders what help MacDonald's partial and scattered information could be to
a fellow tiller in the field who might be interested in tracking down and reading the
complete copy. Her Introduction's statement, that "[t]his historical study is
intended to correct some of our misunderstandings about our early literature and, by
placing it in its context, to spark further consideration and re-evaluation" (1-2)
haunts her readers through their necessarily labyrinthine and seemingly subterranean
Finally with regard to Matilda and MacDonald's
argument, the copy made by the CIHM goes the extra yard and furnishes
"photoreproductions" of the missing pages in order to produce a full text
(regrettably, which copy was used for these photoreproductions is not clarified on the
fiche). Examination of the contents of the pages goes some way towards confirming her view
about censorship: "Pages 69 and 70 are missing from the book. Neatly removed just at
a point when the author seems to be suggesting that not all British officers are
gentlemen" (88). Yet, doubts linger: if the motivation were censorship, why would
page 71 not have been removed as well? On it is printed the completion of the suggestive
(rather, declarative) paragraph, including the following transparent statement, as
vitriolic as any in the omitted portion, lacking a subject perhaps but one that can be
pretty readily inferred: " . . . obtain a commission through some rotten interest or
for money perhaps but indifferently obtained, act according to their origin, and only
disgrace their profession, and make the unthinking throw odious reflections on their more
noble comrades in arms."
A detailed reading of one of the chapters in part one of
MacDonald's study is all that can be offered here. In chapter eight, "Literature and
Landscape," it is clear from her definition and subsequent preliminary remarks on the
sublime (192) that MacDonald has fallen into the trap of not discriminating between the
awe with which unsettled nature inspired nineteenth-century writers, and the agreeable
pleasure by which, with tedious regularity, they encoded settled and cultivated
landscapes. By means of their widespread use of "sublime" as the stock adjective
to fill out stock descriptions of landscape that rather please, divert, or enchant than
enthral the observer, these writers, like their counterparts in Britain, managed so to
blur the distinctions among the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime, which British
theorists such as Uvedale Price, William Gilpin, and Richard Payne Knight attempted to
draw, that the categories became at times almost indistinguishable. But in the Canadas,
where wilderness hinterland forest was being relentlessly converted into baseland
settlements and fields, the distinctions serve telling purposes vis à vis
conceptions of society, and ought to be remarked with care where occasionally they are
drawn. However, overdetermining her quoted sources, MacDonald sees only examples that fit
her constrained expectation. Thus, she topples her argument for the ubiquity of the
sublime by quoting from Adam Hood Burwell's Talbot Road at the precise juncture
where the industrious pioneer, "Whose hands would soon transform the rugged wilds /
To fruitful fields, and bid tam'd nature smile," dreams the quintessential
picturesque dream of reining in sublime nature with domesticity, order, productivity---in
short, cultivation (196).
A comprehensive corrective to this argument, and one that
pertains specifically to the literature of the Canadas, is offered by D.M.R. Bentley
(297). And while MacDonald helpfully directs her reader to Dow's standard bibliography on
Niagara Falls from early in this century (212), an important recent critical study
apparently was not consulted. Among many other contributions, McKinsey offers salient
distinctions among the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime as they pertain to
Niagara, notably the following:
The source of the imaginative appeal of nature as an improvable resource is its promise
of fruitful industry and progress for human society. Similarly the beautiful and
picturesque aesthetics are essentially social in nature, based on human hospitality and
interest. But the power of the sublime lies in its isolation---indeed, in its potential
for destructiveness and terrible aspect. As the explorers at Niagara discovered for
themselves and as Burke and Kant articulated in their theories, it was the ungovernable or
unknowable element that made it at the same time delightful and compelling. And it is
precisely this uncontrollable or mysterious side of the sublime that sets it forever and
necessarily apart from the picturesque or improvable.
Elsewhere, MacDonald mistakenly argues that "[f]or them [Canadian writers], there
was no conflict between the aesthetic rules for beauty and what they saw when they visited
Niagara" (213), the epitome of the sublime, not the beautiful. And she
mistakenly quotes a quintessentially picturesque word-picture to exemplify the sublime
even though the passage obviously distinguishes itself from the sort of nature that
overwhelms the mind. The quoted passage, from William Benjamin Wells's story, "Deer
Stalking on the South Branch," ends thus:
We did not waken for a length of time from the revery into which we were thrown by the
exquisite charm of this winter landscape---yes, this unapproachable scenic effect of our
forests in winter, will amply repay the beholder for the absence of those mountain
prospects regretted by many accustomed to countries more broken and wildly sublime than
our river-countries can pretend to be.
This is the stuff of Christmas greeting cards, the quintessence of picturesque schlock.
Furthermore in this chapter, the brevity of aesthetic commentary on Longmore's
"Tecumthé" and Richardson's Wacousta (196-97), especially in view of all
the attention that has been paid to the latter in the past fifteen years, makes no advance
on criticism. And the failure to connect to Paleyite philosophy the literary convention of
associating landscape and God limits the usefulness of any points raised on that score.
* * *
When one moves to reviewing the merit of the second part of this study, matters worsen.
The glaring case in point is the index. Surveys characteristically do not offer sustained
discussions of individual works; rather, titles appear in the text at various points, once
when the handling of landscape is the point of discussion, again when the political
dimensions of literature are being examined, and so on. It is perhaps especially important
in a survey, then, that the scholarly book's infrastructure be thorough; error- and
omission-free is the ideal at which one aims, of course. And the chief component of that
infrastructure is the index. MacDonald's is not only badly incomplete; it is occasionally
inaccurate, at least once alphabetically deranged (L'Ecuyer), and laid out in a format
that precludes quick consultation because no indentation has been used in multi-line
entries. No places or events, such as the Annexation Movement (165) and the Rebellion
Losses Bill (166), receive an entry in the index. Excluded are even some of the
nineteenth-century writers---Byron (56), Haliburton (65), the Cary family of Quebec (61),
Anne Langton (110), Charles Powell, Mrs. Hemans, Caroline Bowles, Thomas Moore, T.H.
Bayly, and Francis Goring (111), Cinq-Mars (116), Mrs. H. Bayley (118; when the preceding
name---Walter Henry---in the same sentence is indexed, though no reference to page 118
appears under it), Keefer (125), Hippolyte Minier (128), Darwin (132), and Miss H.B.
MacDonald (241). Most of the nineteenth-century clergy, editors, and politicians mentioned
in the text are not indexed, including Colin Ferrie and Allan McNab (128), Bishop Strachan
and Sir Charles Bagot (130), Governor Thomson, later Lord Sydenham (156), William Sibbald,
editor of the Canadian Magazine (156), William Lyon Mackenzie (162, 253), and
Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine (331), both of whom have publications listed under their names
in the bibliography, neither of whom is listed as an author in the tables of Appendix C,
or receives a biographical sketch in Appendix D; Louis-Joseph Papineau (162), Egerton
Ryerson (187), and Lord Durham. There is no inclusion of the names of scholars
contemporary with MacDonald, including Jan Errington (55), Carole Gerson (75), L.S. Fallis
Jr., Alison Prentice, Katz and Mattingly, and Allan Smith (130), Jacques Monet, and W.L.
Morton's edition, The Shield of Achilles (165), David Mills, and Dennis Duffy
(184), S.F. Wise (185), Northrop Frye (191), Margot Northey (196), Carl Ballstadt (209),
Leslie Monkman (239), and so forth. These examples are indicative, not exhaustive. Yet,
frustratingly, some names from each of these categories are indexed. The index
offers a listing for "Brock as hero" but fails to index the following:
"General Brock was probably the greatest hero of the day to English-speaking
Canadians and he makes frequent appearances in English-Canadian literature" (155).
Such oversights occur with a regularity that dispirits the eager reader. Meanwhile, there
is a corollary: no mention is made in the text or its footnotes of a great many of the
titles that turn up in the secondary sources listed in the bibliography, so there is no
certainty that, had readers the time, patience, and commitment, they would be rewarded by
a search for a particular title in the chapters themselves.
The first three appendices and the bibliography are not
indexed. As to the fourth appendix, Appendix D (297-326), the surnames of all 105 authors
whom MacDonald has sketched biographically and bibliographically can be found in the
index. (One hundred and eight authors are included in the study, but three of these are
excluded from this appendix due to an absence of information. Who are they? MacDonald
makes no reply. They are James Keogh, John Newton, and James Russell; the name of only the
second of these three is indexed.) In so far as the alphabetical listing of Appendix D
makes the surnames the easiest information to find, the index ought to have proceeded to
cover the host of other material, sources, and titles, mentioned in the biographical
sketches of this appendix.
The entry in the index for a dozen of these surnames bears
only the page number for the corresponding sketch in Appendix D. This is the case for the
name of Patrice Lacombe; the index lists neither of the appearances of his name in the
text (199, 222), although both these page numbers await the resourceful hunter farther
along in the index, beside La terre paternelle (360), the title of Lacombe's novel.
Since titles are by no means usually indexed, only the
undiscouraged or wayward reader is likely to encounter these. Entries appear for novels
and poems such as John Richardson's The Canadian Brothers, F.B. Ryan's The
Spirit's Lament, and John Newton's The Emigrant and other Poems (given as The
Emigrant and other Pieces in the bibliography , a regrettable discrepancy in view
of the fact that the usually reliable CIHM appears to have missed this title in its first
stage of work), but not for Abraham Holmes's Belinda (84), the anonymous Reminiscences
of a Soldier (155) and The Victims of Tyranny (160), John Howard Willis' Scraps
and Sketches of a Literary Lounger (53), Alexander McLachlan's The Spirit of Love
(84, 223), and Standish O'Grady's The Emigrant (147). Neither have contemporary
periodicals, such as this one, Canadian Poetry (35, 48, 52, 303, 309, 313, 317,
325), qualified, but nor have some, but not all, nineteenth-century periodicals, such as L'Aurore
des Canadas (116). Some newspapers, such as "Le Télégraphe" (117), 1
are excluded; others, such as the "Western Herald," are not (360). The
"Bathurst Courier" is mentioned first at page 17; this appearance is not
indexed. Only by reading the entire "Primary Sources---Newspapers" section of
the bibliography, by guessing that further information about the paper will come when the
title next appears and looking for it, or by waiting seventy-seven pages for that next
appearance can ignorant readers like me learn that the "Bathurst Courier"
was published in Perth, Upper Canada (94). This dimension of the index's unreliability
beleaguers readers in yet another way: it precludes learning whether or not a title that
appears in MacDonald's unindexed bibliography---the "Upper Canada Herald"
(Kingston), for example (341)---is mentioned anywhere in the text. In the lights of the
deficiencies, readers are counselled to draw up a working index of their own, at which
point the thought of libraries and non-reviewers remitting the full $US79.95 for this book
begins to wither the courage of even the most resolute proponents of the published
dissemination of scholarship at any price.
Meanwhile, one comes to worry that MacDonald has not consulted
as wide a run of this last-named newspaper, of the "Montreal Herald," and
perhaps of others, as are extant, since the dates she gives for the run of the "Upper
Canada Herald"---"May 20, 1826 to December 22, 1847" (341)---do not
extend back as far as the issues containing advertisements for and the announcement of the
publication of the first Canadian novel, Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart's St. Ursula's
Convent, or The Nun of Canada, containing Scenes from real Life (1824), issues of the
Kingston paper from 1822 to 1824 which appear to be in the National Library of Canada, and
which are quoted and cited in the introduction to the recent edition of the novel for
Carleton University's Centre for Editing Early Canadian Texts (Lochhead xxi-xxiii), which
probably appeared too late for MacDonald's consultation, though her Acknowledgements are
dated April 1992. (By the way, it should be noted that other information provided by
Lochhead---that the novel was written when Hart was still a resident of New
Brunswick---implicitly calls into question MacDonald's decision to include this novel in
her rigorously delimited study, which does not concern itself at all with the literature
of the Maritime colonies during the same period, perhaps mentioning Haliburton once, but
never drawing parallels or distinctions between writing in the Canadas and that in the
In reverting to Appendix A, "Books and Periodicals
Published in Upper and Lower Canada 1817-1850 Which Have Not Been Located" (265-67),
one wonders why newspapers were not listed as well? But one is wrong to infer that there
are none to list: MacDonald states in a note to her text that the "Woodstock Gazette
. . . has not survived" (220), and there are a not inconsiderable number of others.
Meanwhile, two unlocated titles that are listed may be found in as accessible a
source as the CIHM. One is her anonymous "Cubber [sic] Burr, or a
tree of many trunks" (265), which is probably Adam Thom's Cubbeer Burr; The
Tree of Many Trunks, a thirty-three-page essay, which was printed in Montreal by James
Starke and Company in 1841; in 1982, the copy held by the Public (now National) Archives
of Canada was reproduced by the CIHM (no. 37382). Four years later, the CIHM made
available a microfiche version of the copy of To Whom are We to Belong? (no. 62398)
that is held by the Legislature du Québec. This is a fifteen-page-essay printed as a
pamphlet by C. Flanagan in Quebec in 1846. MacDonald attributes this to John Richardson,
presumably because his name is given in the advertisement for it that she states appeared
in the "Quebec Mercury" on 9 July 1846 (266); the author's name is
concealed in the full title by the moniker, "Canadian Protectionist." One other
item in Appendix A's list of works not located is intriguing. MacDonald lists The Miser
Outwitted as a one-act farce, the title of which appears in newspapers in Chatham and
Perth in 1841 (266), and she attributes it, presumably based on information accompanying
the title, to John Richardson. Might Richardson have reworked He Must be Married; or
the Miser Outwitted: an Operatical Piece. In three Acts, the libretto of which has,
for uncertain reasons, been attributed to John Galt, and which appeared first in England
in 1815, a quarter century earlier (New British Theatre, IV, -26; Nicoll and
Freedley, box 9)?2
A sub-section of Appendix B, titled "Chronological
list of separately-published books, plays, pamphlets and broadsides, published by
residents of Upper and Lower Canada between 1817 and 1850, mentioned in the text"
(269-72), does not include Richardson's Tecumseh. The other sub-section of Appendix
B, "Chronological list of periodicals mentioned in the text" (272-74),
apparently lacks four titles---Roseharp, The Colonial Magazine, Le
Magasin du Bas-Canada, and Montreal Museum---and apparently repeats one:
"1818: L'Abeille Canadienne - 1818-19," "1833: L'Abeille Canadienne -
1833-4" and "1843: L'abeille canadienne" (272-73). However, a check of
"Primary Sources---Periodicals" in the bibliography reveals that if the
omissions are not warranted, the repetition is, for the latter represents three
publications of the same name, published at different times, two in Montréal and the
second in Québec. Matters are made no clearer by the bibliography's capitalization and
italicization of all three of these names (336); none is presented these ways in Appendix
B. Finally on this title, one is left to guess which of the three titles is meant by the
index's single and incomplete entry for "Abeille Canadienne, L'."
As to Appendix C, discrepancies often arise between the forms
which titles take in this appendix and the forms they take elsewhere. For example, the
reader of the text (117) is not told that "Le Télégraphe" is the same
newspaper referred to in the tables of Appendix C as the differently-named and
unitalicized "Quebec Telegraph" (285), and it remains unclear which name would
be more expeditious to follow if one were interested in reading extant issues; the
bibliography gives a further, italicized, option: "The Telegraph/Le Télégraphe"
(343). Similarly, the "St. Catherines Journal" of Appendix C (295) appears as
both the "St. Catharines Journal" and the "St. Catherines Journal"
on the same page (128) in the text, and as the "St. Catharines Journal"
in the bibliography (343); the paper appears under none of these spellings or forms in the
index. Likewise, a "Peoples Magazine" appears in the text (52) and,
unitalicized, in Appendix D, but "People's Magazine" also appears in the
text (132, 227), in the index (which omits a listing for page 132), and, unitalicized, in
the seventh table of Appendix C (286); finally, the bibliography's nearest candidate is
"The People's Magazine" (338). Names undergo a similar fate. The
"William Gillespy" of Appendix C (279) is apparently the same man as the
alphabetically out of order "William Gillesby" of Appendix D (307), and the
alphabetically in order "William Gillesby" of the bibliography (330) and the
index. The author R.J. Macgeorge of the text (24, 119), Appendix D (313), and the index is
"R.J. McGeorge" of Appendix C (279), which alphabetically orders surnames
beginning M'C, Mac, or McC differently than do the Appendix D and the index, which also
differ from one another in this respect. That an author named MacDonald could err in this
respect is surprising. While it is a relief to encounter no errors of such magnitude as
the attribution of The Charivari to Levi Adams, which is to be found in another
recent critical study (Kamboureli 19-20), startling errors of form and content are
In Appendix D, there is no clear reason why entries are not
offered for some writers, Henry Scadding (23) and W. Gresley (118), for example. As with
people, so with details: some information given in the text is not provided in the
appendix, such as Burwell's being the only UEL descendant among the 108 authors studied
(183), Richardson's having edited a newspaper (181), and Garneau's having published poetry
in Album littéraire et musical de la Revue canadienne (233). However, much of the
information offered is new and welcome; the frustrations of fitting the appendices'
information to the bibliography's, the index's, and the text's cannot be exaggerated, but
should not blind one to the bibliographical and biographical nuggets made available, in
many cases for the first time.
If MacDonald is as concerned about our general neglect of the
nineteenth-century as her strident and uncompromising introduction suggests, it is odd
that her references are as unforthcoming as they often are. Initially, it is heartening to
find that she has cross-referenced her biographical and bibliographical sketches in
Appendix D to entries in the DCB, but she ought to have been as enterprising and
helpful in other respects; for example, a separate appendix could have been opened to cite
the corresponding numbers in the fiches prepared by the CIHM, or these numbers might have
been appended to the bibliographical entries; furthermore and expanding on this idea,
listings ought always to have been given to indicate if titles of monographs, periodicals,
or newspapers are otherwise available on microfilm or microfiche, for example, through the
Canadian Library Association's series, or that of la Société canadienne du microfilm.
Equally, an appendix showing which of the works under discussion had received modern
editions up to, say, 1991 ought to have been included. This information is given very
sporadically, if at all. For example, in the case of Abraham Holmes's Belinda; or, the
Rivals (1843), the bibliography provides a full citation only of the edition published
in 1970 in Vancouver by the Alcuin Society. Full particulars of the first edition are not
given, and there is no mention of the edition published in 1975 in Toronto by Anansi. To
return to a treatment discussed once already, a full citation is given for St. Ursula's
Convent, but neither the 1981 nor the 1991 editions are listed, and only in Appendix D
(308) is mention made of the edition published in Sackville in 1978. (The text's first
citation of this title  is not to be found in the index's entries for either Hart or
the novel's title.)
Another appendix certainly should have alphabetically listed
authors and their contributions to periodicals and newspapers; one has to roam the text to
assemble these for oneself, and is left with little confidence of having managed a
thorough job. In a separate or an existing appendix, clear delineations of lacunae in
newspaper runs and issues of periodicals should have been provided. In combination with
this, a comprehensive list indicating where each publication was consulted and in what
form would have assisted greatly, not least because apparent mistakes, to which all
research, however carefully carried out, is prone, might be confirmed or quickly
Moreover, a certain horizon of expectation is engendered in a
reader when the author does provide source material. At the start of Appendix D,
MacDonald states that "[r]eferences are given to information already in print, and
that information is not generally repeated here" (297). It is in this connection that
she cross-references entries in the DCB. However, it appears that she does so for
fewer than half of the fifty-one names for which an entry in the DCB is available.
The twenty-eight missing ones may as well be listed here to save readers the labour of
tracking them down, even if such a list hardly goes far towards allaying readers'
lingering doubts about how fully the contents of the other eight reference works listed by
MacDonald (297) were cross-referenced (disagreements in names are shown, but in dates are
Angers, François-Réal (VIII 16-17)
Barthe, Joseph-Guillaume (XII 65-68); MacDonald: "-Guillaune" (299)
Bibaud, Michel (VIII 87-89)
Burwell, Adam Hood (VII 124-25)
Cawdell, James Martin (VII 161-63)
Chisolme, David (VII 179-81)
Fletcher, Edward Taylor (XII 320-21)
Friel, Henry James (IX 287-88); MacDonald: "Henry John" (306)
Hagarty, John Hawkins (XII 399-400)
Haskins, James (VII 389-90)
Hawley, William Fitz (VIII 386); MacDonald: "Williams F." (309)
Henry, Walter (VIII 391-93)
Lévesque, Charles-François (VIII 502-03);MacDonald:"Charles" only (312)
Lévesque, Guillaume (VIII 503-05)
McLachlan, Alexander (XII 660-64); MacDonald: "M'Lachlan" (315)
McQueen, Thomas (IX 528-29); MacDonald: "Macqueen" (331)
Menzies, George (VII 600-01)
Mézière, Henry-Antoine (V 590-91); MacDonald: "Henry" only (315)
O'Grady, Standish (VII 659-61)
Petitclair, Pierre (VIII 701-02)
Randal, Stephen (VII 733-34); MacDonald (318) does not mention that Katharine Greenfield's
entry on Randal includes the facts that he was a friend of George Hamilton, founder of
Hamilton, that he began two short-lived periodicals, Voyageur (Hamilton) and Randal's
Magazine (Hallowell [Picton]), or that, according to Charles Morrison Durand, he
"`prided himself on walking and looking like Lord Byron, in whose day he lived. He
and Byron had club feet and curly hair and a look of genius'" (VII, 734).
Richardson, John (VIII 743-48)
Rubidge, Frederick Preston (XII 930-31)
Smyth, John (VIII 829-30)
Soulard, Auguste (VIII 834-35)
Sullivan, Robert Baldwin (VIII 845-50)
Tessier, Ulric-Joseph (XII 1032-33)
Traill, Catherine Parr (XII 995-99)
Searching in the bibliography for any references to perhaps the most notorious
newspaper in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mac-kenzie's Colonial Advocate, one finds only the
"Canadian Advocate" (344), alphabetically out of order under Toronto in
the "Primary Sources---Newspapers" section (there is no separate listing for
York). The added information shows that this publication commenced in the same year, 1824,
as Mackenzie's paper, but apparently differs from it. However, the bibliography does not
list Mackenzie's paper in the Toronto section (there is no section for Queenston), and
neither its name nor his appear in the index. It is difficult to remember if they were
encountered anywhere in the text or appendices. Since the "Canadian Advocate"
also receives no listing in the index, a mistaken conclusion remains an easy possibility.
Like most libraries, I presume, the one at the University of Alberta holds the microfilm
copy of Mackenzie's Colonial Advocate, issues beginning at 18 May 1824 and continuing,
with interruptions, until 18 November 1834, with the name reduced to Advocate in December
1833. All this information resembles without quite matching that given by MacDonald for
her "Canadian Advocate." Complicating the problem of this title, however,
is the fact that the name of Mackenzie's paper does appear in "Sample Prices
of Canadian Newspapers" (284), the sixth table of Appendix C, and again in
"Source of Literary Content in English Newspapers---Toronto" (294), the
fifteenth table of the same appendix. That the name "Canadian Advocate"
makes no appearance in these tables cannot be cited as proof that an error has been
committed, since, as their titles indicate, these tables are, however impressively
informative in other respects, samplers only.
Is the study of early Canada the richer for this contribution,
one is bound to ask. The answer is undoubtedly affirmative, but more muted than the
affirmative answer to the subsequent question: could this work have, with more attention
and care, been offered in a manner more accessible and more informative?
And more complete, or so it appears once one begins to
habituate oneself to not just the discrepancies but also the omissions in the second part
of the study. At the outset, MacDonald's readers are told that the literature under
discussion is that "intended for Canadian readers" (4). Apparently, this does
not include travel literature (212); nor does it include publications of the period by
Canadians that were issued in Britain or France only, although some of these, Wacousta,
for example, are mentioned more than once; and all "[s]hort, rhyming enigmas and
riddles . . . less than one column long in a newspaper, or one page long in a periodical,
[were] also eliminated" (275). The justifications are only implied but at least the
statements are clearly given. The definition of what remains for consideration is
In the nineteenth century, literature was a very general term applied to everything in
print and most of what was spoken or sung. The definition here is not that inclusive, but
it will be broader than is common today, including works in both prose and poetry which
were essentially political, critical, or didactic.
The overwhelming impression by book's end is that MacDonald has stayed very close to
only poetry and fiction; she mentions numerous titles of a political orientation but pays
little attention to them. Certainly, although they are mentioned, one has no sense that
the writings of Mackenzie, Papineau, or La Fontaine have been any more than fleetingly
regarded. Thus, the claim of broader than normal coverage, if it does not ring hollow,
results in nothing remarkable.
Similarly, the introduction promises the reader an exhaustive
study: "The methodology used was to assemble all the extant literary works
whether published in book, periodical, or newspaper format" (4; emphasis added).
Clearly, MacDonald aims at an encyclopedic treatment. But does the resultant book assemble
all the extant literary works? The impression of a complete survey is consolidated
particularly by Appendix A, which, it will be remembered, lists titles known to MacDonald
from elsewhere in her research but which she was not able to locate for study. Surely it
is appropriate to infer from this that what she could locate is all that there is. Yet,
given the wording of the titles of the various appendices, one is unsure. It seems that
all 108 authors whom MacDonald has been able to identify are mentioned somewhere in her
book, but Appendix B lists only those "separately-published books, plays,
pamphlets[,] and broadsides," as well as "periodicals" that are "mentioned
in the text" (269, 272; emphasis added). Are there others? Nothing even this
vague is offered concerning the newspapers, the implication being that all have been
examined that are extant; or so one infers from the description of the tables of Appendix
C as "dealing with the source of literary content in the periodicals and newspapers
of Upper and Lower Canada between 1817 and 1850" (275). Nowhere does one encounter a
clear statement that this survey arises out of only a sampling of the literature. This
point is important obviously because surveys derive their authority less from their depth
than from their breadth.
In view of the foregoing, MacDonald's readers are left
wondering about those titles of monographs, periodicals, and newspapers that turn up in
reference sources but not in her book; has she overlooked them in her effort to assemble
them all, or are they left unmentioned because they contain, by her definition, no
literature? One example is L'Argus; journal électorique, begun by Ludger Duvernay in
Trois-Rivières in August 1826 and moved by him to Montréal four months later, continuing
through mid-March 1828. Given that the source for this information (Henry 4) is not listed
in MacDonald's bibliography, one cannot be sure whether this newspaper was examined or
not; at the same time, its subtitle, by suggesting that the paper might not have published
literature, encourages the inference that the paper did not qualify for inclusion in this
study. Only a trip to a distant archive or, if it is available in a microreproduction, to
one's local interlibrary loans desk could, in time, yield a definite answer.
Were this an odd exception, the scales would tip in favour of
disqualification of this particular title. However, a most baffling experience occurs when
one consults the first edition of the Union List of Canadian Newspapers (ULCN),
the one certainly available when MacDonald was researching the literature, but not listed
in her bibliography by any of its editions. It appears that more than one hundred other
newspapers, not mentioned by MacDonald's text or bibliography, are available for at least
one issue in at least one of the thirty-four years (some of them for a great many more)
studied by her.3 Beyond pointing out that these titles number more than
MacDonald's bibliography of newspapers includes, and that her study excludes from
consideration the only Gaelic and all three German-language newspapers of the
period---perhaps, it must be remembered, because they contain no
"literature"---one notes that the ULCN also indicates that, as was seen
regarding advertisements for St. Ursula's Convent in Kingston and Montreal papers,
some of the dates given in MacDonald's bibliography do not cover all the issues that are
extant. From a considerable number of others, one might take just the Kingston papers as a
case study. MacDonald gives a date of 6 Jan. 1846 for the commencement of "The
Argus"; this accords with the date given in the ULCN (164) for the Argus.
Her later date is, as it invariably is, the date of the last available issue before 1851,
the cut-off date for her study, although some terminal dates seem to be for the last issue
of 1849. Therefore, the later date seldom correlates with the one given in the ULCN;
that is, her reader must remember that the later date given does not represent when a
newspaper ceased publishing, only when MacDonald ceased consulting it.
MacDonald dates the next Kingston paper, the British Whig,
from "February 3, 1836" (341), whereas the ULCN lists as available a run
of issues on microfilm positive copy at Queen's University dating 1 Feb. 1834 - 26 Jan.
1836 (164); similarly, Queen's can also provide issues of the Upper Canada Herald in the
same format dating from 28 Dec. 1819 (165), much earlier than MacDonald's starting date of
"May 20, 1826" (341). Her later date for the short-lived Canadian Loyalist and
Spirit of 1812 agrees with the entry in the ULCN (164), but it shows an issue dated
18 May 1843 as available in the original at Queen's, whereas MacDonald's starting date is
"June 29, 1843" (341).
MacDonald's dates for the "Kingston Chronicle.
January 1, 1819 to December 31. 1845" accord with those in the ULCN (166), but
she shows the paper's change of name to the "Chronicle and Gazette" as
occurring for the years "1834-45." According to the ULCN, this is not
quite accurate on two counts: the name changed on 29 June 1833 to the Chronicle and
Gazette, and Weekly Commercial Advertiser. And it changed again, on 7 Jan. 1835, to the
Chronicle and Gazette and Kingston Commercial Advertiser (166). Finally concerning this
title but still within MacDonald's study period, a merger occurred in late 1847 with the
News, which issued in the "Chronicle and News" (ULCN 166). Next,
MacDonald's "Kingston Spectator" begins on "January 9, 1834,"
but, according to the ULCN (166), original copies of incomplete holdings beginning
with the issue of 21 May 1833 are available at the National Library in Ottawa.
According to MacDonald, "The News" runs from
"November 2, 1843 to October 31, 1844" (341), but a run of issues dating from 20
Jan. 1842 to 5 Nov. 1846 is available on microfilm positive copy at the Sir George
Williams campus of Concordia University (ULCN 165). Finally, the ULCN (165)
lists as available original and microfilm copies of the Upper Canada Herald/Upper Canada
Herald, a Political, Agricultural, and Commercial Journal/Kingston Herald in single issues
with dates as early as 28 Dec. 1819, whereas MacDonald's run begins at "May 20,
1826" (341). All this is not to say or imply that where the ULCN differs from
or exceeds (by two titles) MacDonald's information the former must be right and the latter
must be wrong; however, in terms of bibliographical precedence, it behooves the subsequent
publication to acknowledge the information made available in the former, and to clarify
corrections for the reader when discrepancies occur, as they do in nearly every case
regarding the newspapers of Kingston and environs.
Furthermore, neglect leaves MacDonald's reader confused about
the connections among newspapers and periodicals that replaced and were replaced by others
at some point. No effort is rendered in the bibliography to explain, for example, the
relation between Spectateur canadien, and Aurore, the latter having been absorbed by the
former in 1819, and between the former and Canadian Spectator; that the dates MacDonald
provides for the run of this last title are either wrong ("October 89 [sic],
1822") or at variance with standard reference sources makes one hesitate to depend
upon hers. Another example is her bibliographical entry for the "Toronto Herald.
December 30, 1841 to June 22, 1848" (344): according to the ULCN (228), this
name applied to the paper only in the years 1841-1846; before 1841, beginning on 28 June
1837, it was known as the Commercial Herald, and after 1846 it was known simply as the
Herald; neither name turns up in MacDonald's bibliography. Another example of disagreement
between MacDonald's information and a standard reference source, a different one, is the
following. Her bibliography lists, among others, the following two entries under
newspapers published in Montreal (342):
The Gazette. January 7, 1818 to June 30, 1850.
La Gazette Canadienne. August 14, 1822 to July 9, 1823.
How, one is left to wonder, do these entries relate to the information, given in a
reference source that is listed in MacDonald's bibliography (345), for a Montreal
Gazette, published between 1824 and 1867, and La Gazette de Montréal/The Montreal
Gazette, published between 1785 and 1824 (Beaulieu and Hamelin 4)? But this source seems
less dependable than the ULCN (293), which makes an effort to sort out the host of
different titles for the same publication that MacDonald simply calls "The Gazette."
Meanwhile, it is a relief to discover that the dates she gives for her second title,
"La Gazette Canadienne," accord with those given in the ULCN for
the Gazette canadienne (294), but this is just an anomaly: one finds that MacDonald's
cavalierly simple title, "The Herald" (342), comprehends the four
different titles for this Montreal paper, none of which appears in her bibliography, none
of which exactly matches the name she provides for a newspaper that began publication in
1811 (ULCN 296), not, as the date she provides suggests, in 1832. A similar case of
over-simplification occurs with her "The Pilot" (342). Of distinct
advantage to any reader intent upon consulting her work as a reference would have been
information concerning where and in what form (original or microfilm/microfiche) MacDonald
consulted the sources on which she bases her survey.
Another oversight leaves MacDonald's reader uncertain as to
how she has categorized various titles. For example, more than a few of the titles that
she lists as periodicals appear in the ULCN, having qualified under that
publication's relatively clear definition: "A newspaper is printed and distributed
daily, semi-weekly, weekly or at some other regular and short interval. It consists of
news, editorials, features, advertising and other matters of current interest"
(xiii). MacDonald offers her readers no such guideline. Fifteen titles that appear in the ULCN
are listed in MacDonald's appendices and bibliography as periodicals (336-38) or, in a
separate section for some reason, as religious periodicals (339). This discrepancy does
not automatically render the former correct and the latter incorrect, but, again, it is
incumbent upon MacDonald, by virtue of being the subsequent compiler, to explain
discrepancies. The fifteen titles that MacDonald lists as periodicals are as follows,
asterisks representing discrepancies in dates between the ULCN and MacDonald:
Abeille canadienne (1 Aug. 1818 - 15 Jan. 1819), semi-monthly (ULCN 281); Abeille
canadienne (4-11 Aug. 1843, only two issues published), daily (ULCN 281); Ami de la
Religion et de la Patrie (18 Dec. 1847 - 20 March 1850), daily, later thrice-weekly (ULCN
319); Artisan (10 Oct. 1842 - 26 Sept. 1844), semi-weekly (ULCN 320); Banner (18
Aug. 1843 - 23 June 1848*), weekly (ULCN 216); Berean (4 Apr. 1844 - 22 March
1849*), weekly (ULCN 320); Canadian Watchman (13 Aug. 1830* - 18 Oct. 1832, which
had been the Kingston Gazette and Religious Advocate, and would become the Kingston
Spectator, two titles not listed in any form by MacDonald), weekly (ULCN 165);
Castor (7 Nov. 1843 - 23 June 1845*), semi-weekly (ULCN 321); Charivari canadien
(10 May - 3 Oct. 1844), semi-weekly (ULCN 286); Diable bleu (8 Nov. - 28 Dec.
1843), daily (ULCN 291); Glaneur (Dec. 1836 - Sept. 1837), monthly (ULCN
335); Mélanges religieux (14 Dec. 1840* - 6 July 1852*), daily, later semi-weekly (ULCN
299); Register (5 Jan. 1842 - 25 July 1849), semi-monthly, later weekly (ULCN 310);
Revue canadienne (4 Jan. 1845 - 3 Oct. 1848), daily, later semi-weekly (ULCN 310);
and Witness/Montreal Weekly Witness/Montreal Weekly Witness and Canadian Homestead (5 Jan.
1846 - 1938), weekly, later semi-weekly (ULCN 316).
This review only scratches the surface of the work that
readers will need to do in order to make this study useful to their or their students' own
work. Without doubt, nuggets of information and insight await discovery in Literature
and Society in The Canadas 1817-1850, but the number unearthed will vary with readers'
thresholds of frustration.
1 Quotation marks are used with the italicized titles of newspapers to denote as
clearly as possible that these newspapers have their titles italicized in the work under
review. Because the names of newspapers are not italicized when not being quoted, the
reviewer apologizes for the consequently inconsistent format.
2 Although Nicoll and Freedley attribute this play to Galt, it is not included in the
list prepared by Aldrich (25-26) of eleven plays by Galt that were published, all
anonymously, in The New British Theatre.
3 Readers interested in a list of these titles are welcome to contact the reviewer at
the Canadian Studies Program, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB T6G 2E1.
Aldrich, Ruth I. John Galt. Twayne English Authors Series 231. Boston:
Armstrong, Frederick H. A City in the Making: Progress, People and Perils in
Victorian Toronto. Toronto: Dundurn, 1988.
Audet, Louis-Philippe. "Boucher-Belleville, Jean-Baptiste." Dictionary of
Canadian Biography. Vol. X. Gen. ed. Francess G. Halpenny and Jean Hamelin. Toronto,
Buffalo, London: UTP, 1972. X, 75-76.
Beaulieu, André and Jean Hamelin. La Presse Québécoise: Des Origines à nos
Jours. Tome premier, 1764-1859. Québec: P de l'U Laval, 1973.
Bentley, D.M.R. "Afterword." In Catharine Parr Traill, The Backwoods of
Canada (1836). Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1989, 291-301.
------, et al. "`The Canadian Boat Song': A Mosaic." Canadian
Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews 6 (Spring/Summer 1980): 69-79.
Berger, Carl. The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism,
1867-1914. Toronto: UTP, 1971.
Bibaud, François [Marie Uncas] Maximilien. Biographie des sagamos illustres de
l'Amérique Septentrionale. Précédé d'un index de l'histoire fabuleuse de ce continent.
Montréal: Imprimerie de Lovell et Gibson, 1848. Facs. rpt. in Selected Americana
(Mircrocard), no. 165. Louisville: Lost Cause P, 1969.
Cook, Terry. "John Beverley Robinson and the Conservative Blueprint for the Upper
Canadian Community." Ontario History LXIV (1972): 79-94.
Dow, C.M. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. 2 vols. Albany: Sate of
New York, 1921.
Gerson, Carole. A Purer Taste: The Writing and Reading of Fiction in English in
Nineteenth-Century Canada. Toronto, Buffalo, London: UTP, 1989.
Henry, Ginette. Répertoire des Périodiques Québécois 1ère Partie.
Gouvernement du Québec, Ministère des Affaires Culturelles. Québec: Bibliothèque
nationale du Québec, 1974.
Johnston, H.J.M. "British Immigration to British North America 1815-1860."
Ser. 1 of Canada's Visual History. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, National
Film Board of Canada, 1974. vol. 8.
Kamboureli, Smaro. On the Edge of Genre: The Contemporary Long Poem in Canada.
Toronto: UTP, 1991.
Klinck, Carl F. and Reginald E. Watters, eds. Canadian Anthology (1955). Rev.
ed. Toronto: W.J. Gage, 1966.
Lochhead, Douglas G., ed. St. Ursula's Convent, or The Nun of Canada, containing
Scenes from real Life (1824). By Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart. Ottawa: Carleton UP,
McKinsey, Elizabeth R. Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime. Cambridge:
Morel, André and Yvan Lamonde. "Bibaud, François-Maximilien." Dictionary
of Canadian Biography. Vol. XI. Gen. ed. Francess G. Halpenny and Jean Hamelin.
Toronto, Buffalo, London: UTP, 1982. XI, 70-71.
The New British Theatre. A Selection of Original Dramas . . . .4 vols. London:
Henry Colburn; Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute; Dublin: J. Cumming, 1815. Facs. rpt. in
Nicoll and Freedley, Box 9.
Nicoll, Allardyce and George Freedley, eds. English and American Drama of the
Nineteenth-Century---English, 1801-1900. Microprint. New York: Readex Microprint,
O'Grady, Standish. The Emigrant (1841). Ed. by Brian Trehearne. London, Ont.:
Canadian Poetry Press, 1989.
Owram, Doug. Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the
West, 1856-1900. Toronto, Buffalo, London: UTP, 1980.
Russell, James. Matilda or the Indians' Captive; A Canadian Tale founded on Fact
(1833). Facs. rpt. Garland Library of Narratives of North American Indian Captivities 51.
New York: Garland, 1977.
Senior, Elinor Kyte. British Regulars in Montreal: An Imperial Garrison, 1832-1854.
Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's UP, 1981.
Trehearne, Brian. "Preliminaries for a Life of Standish O'Grady." Canadian
Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews 21 (Fall/Winter 1987): 81-92.
Trofimenkoff, Susan Mann. The Dream of Nation: A Social and Intellectual History of
Quebec. Toronto: Gage, 1983.
Union List of Canadian Newspapers held by Canadian Libraries. Comp. by
Newspapers Section, Serials Division, Public Services Branch, National Library of Canada.
Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services, 1977. Updated in microfiche form, 1988, 1991.
Westfall, William. Two Worlds: The Protestant Culture of Nineteenth Century Ontario.
Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's UP, 1989.
Zeller, Suzanne. Inventing Canada: Early Victorian Science and the Idea of a
Transcontinental Nation. Toronto, Buffalo, London: UTP, 1987.