|I: George Longmore and Launcelot Longstaff
In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the centre of commercial and cultural activity in Lower Canada gradually shifted from Quebec to Montreal. Increasingly prosperous and populous as a result of the growth in trade and emigration that reshaped the Canadas during and after the Napoleonic Wars, Montreal had by the second decade of the century several printers and book dealers, and three English-language newspapers (The Canadian Courant, The Montreal Gazette, and The Montreal Herald), all of which published poetry.1 By the early eighteen twenties, it had enough population and economic potential to convince several literary entrepreneurs—most notably David Chisholme and Samuel Hull Wilcocke—to found sophisticated periodicals that would compete with The North American Review, Blackwoods, and other imported British and American magazines. The Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository (Chisholme; June, 1823 - February, 1824)2 and The Scribbler (Wilcocke; June, 1821 - March, 1827) were relatively short-lived, as were two other Montreal periodicals (The Literary Miscellany [1822-1823] and The Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal [1824-1826]), but they nevertheless contributed to Montreal’s fame or notoriety as the home of "News-papers fill’d with nothing new, / Save ‘advertisements’ and ‘Domestic’ trash, / A blundering Magazine and ‘The Review’. . . ."3 Sometimes the editors of these periodicals looked beyond Montreal and Lower Canada for literary material; Wilcocke, for example, published some of Adam Hood Burwell’s poems in The Scribbler, and the February, 1826 issue of The Canadian Review contained a reprint of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Rising Village, which had been published the year before in England. But for the most part, Montreal’s competitive literary editors looked to their own city and its environs for material and talent. It was there that they found The Charivari; or Canadian Poetics: a Tale, after the Manner of Beppo, which was published in Montreal in April, 1824 as the work of one "Launcelot Longstaff." "It is with pleasure I hail a poem like this, of considerable merit," enthused Wilcocke; "although report gives it to a British military officer, yet, from its subject, its sentiments, and its scenery, [it] must be considered as a Canadian production."4
As Mary Lu MacDonald has firmly established,5 the author of The Charivari was also "a Canadian production." Born in Quebec in 1793, George Longmore was one of ten children whose parents were very much a part of the "colonial establishment."6 Their father, also George Longmore, was a Scottish-born physician and army officer who had settled in Lower Canada in 1783 and, from then until his death in 1811, held positions of increasing responsibility and prestige in Quebec. With his wife Christiana, the daughter of a lieutenant-governor of the Gaspé, Dr. Longmore "lived comfortably in the inner circle of . . . [British North American] society"7 and was able to send at least one of his ten children to be educated in Britain. After attending a military college in England, the younger George Longmore entered the Royal Staff Corps in 1809. Ten years later, with the rank of lieutenant, he returned to Lower Canada and an initial posting of a little over a year (October, 1819 - December, 1820) at Lachine, "where the Royal Staff Corps were building the Lachine Canal."8 Intensive research on MacDonald’s part has also revealed that Longmore spent a good deal of his time in 1821-1824 at Grenville and Chambly (where other canals were being built later), and that he was in Montreal, not only between January and April in both 1821 and 1822, but also during much of the winter preceding the publication of The Charivari in April, 1824. Within months of the appearance of his poem, Longmore sailed for England, thereafter holding a variety of posts in the British Isles, Mauritius, and the Cape Colony (South Africa), where he died in 1867, never having returned to Canada.
Although MacDonald has established that Longmore’s wife Elizabeth was probably the niece of one of his commanding officers, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, her researches have not, as yet, revealed the date of their marriage.9 But three facts suggest that the couple was already married in the 1820s when The Charivari was published and, presumably, written. The first is that one of their daughters died in August, 1840 at the age of twenty, and the second is that in The Scribbler for July 4, 1822 there is a transparent reference to Longmore as "Mr. Morelong" which makes mention of the misgivings of "poor Mrs. M." at the prospect of her "dear noodle-dum- dee" of a husband attending a masquerade in the "character of a knife-grinder."10 The third, and most important, is that when Longmore departed Lower Canada in late November, 1824 he had with him a wife and two children.11 It would thus appear that the character of the sententious "old bachelor" (1428),12 who narrates The Charivari is in marital status as well as age a persona, a mask behind which Longmore disappears in order to maintain the comfortable distance from the carnivalesque ribaldry and riotousness of the poem that his position as a "British military officer" required.13 Much the same logic probably dictated Longmore’s use of a pseudonym in connection with The Charivari. As well as concealing Longmore’s identity more fully than, say, "Morelong," "Launcelot Longstaff" points towards the Salmagundi Papers of Washington Irving and James Kirk Paulding, whose use of a variation of the same pseudonym ("Launcelot Langstaff") the Canadian poet would certainly have known, if only from the principal prose source of The Charivari, John Lambert’s Travels through Canada, and the United States of North America, in the Years 1806, 1807, and 1808.14
II: Charivaris and The Charivari
In her seminal "Introduction" to The Charivari in the Early Canadian Poetry Series of The Golden Dog Press, MacDonald locates the inspiration of Longmore’s poem in a particular and notorious charivari that raged for several days in Montreal in late May and early June, 1823. Most charivaris were obstreperous but non-violent serenades at the homes of newly-wed widows or widowers that lasted for no more than one or two evenings, but the one to which MacDonald refers lasted for one or two weeks and culminated in the destruction of a house and the death of an innocent bystander.15 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,"16 the charivari of May and June, 1823 provoked fears of insurrection in the Montreal establishment and led to suggestions that the Riot Act should be invoked to prevent further such occurrences.17 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 the charges brought against "various individuals" involved in the charivari, would be sufficient to dissuade "others from engaging in such lawless proceedings in the future."18 As MacDonald observes, "it is against the background of English-Irish disputation, murder tribunals, and demands for law and order that [Longmore’s] lighthearted tale of the charivari of Baptisto and Annette must be read. . . . To local readers [The Charivari] brought to mind the horrors of a real event of the very recent past."19 That these were, indeed, the associations of Longmore’s original readers is, as MacDonald again observes, corroborated by Chisholme’s comment in a review of The Charivari 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."20
To the very extent that it is a "lighthearted" treatment of an essentially "innocent" custom which the events of May and June, 1823 had transformed into a source of trepidation for many members of Lower Canada’s upper and middle classes, The Charivari is a restorative, reassuring, and conservative work. In the Appendix that follows the poem, Longmore notes correctly that in the recent past in Lower Canada the "amusements" of the charivari have been "render[ed] . . . subservient [to] useful purposes, . . . [and] employed to obtain money for charitable appropriations," and at the poem’s climax Baptisto gives the charivariers "Full thirty gallons of old rum, at least" (1368)—an act which not only secures their good "wishes" and "Humour" (1370, 1372) but also, as Tracy Ware astutely observes, "demonstrates exemplary common sense. . . ."21 Evidently, it was the angry refusal of one of the newlyweds, a Mr. Holt, to comply with the demands of the charivariers for "a sum of money . . . or an entertainment"22 that caused the infamous charivari of 1823 to turn sour and violent. Unlike Baptisto, who extends his bounty to the charivariers and endures their jokes, jeers, and ritual humiliation with a "patience which avail’d him / More than inflam’d resistance, or retort" (1373-1374), Holt had "violently opposed the claim [for pecuniary aid], as one not founded upon either law, or reason, but only sanctioned by a barbarous custom, which he thought should be abolished in a civilized community."23 At the heart of The Charivari, then, is an exemplary piece of advice to the "colonial establishment" to which Longmore belonged by both birth and profession: to prevent a recurrence of the violence of May and June, 1823, treat the charivari as what it had previously been: a harmless excuse for "amusement" and largesse.
The fact that The Charivari thus harkens back in a nostalgic and normative way to the non-violent charivaris of earlier years indicates that Longmore’s knowledge of the custom of which he treats was not restricted to the events of 1823. Very likely Longmore had recollections of charivaris from his youth in Quebec. But were there other charivaris in the Montreal area after his return to Canada in 1819 and, if so, would he have been cognizant of them? Unquestionably the most publicized charivari in Lower Canada between 1819 and 1823 took place in Montreal itself early in February, 1821 when, it will be recalled, Longmore was temporarily resident in the city. Occasioned by the marriage on February 1 of one "William Lunn, Esq. of the Naval Department, to [a] Mrs. Margaret Hutchinson,"24 the widow of a prominent Montreal merchant, this particular charivari lasted for three evenings, the second of which was a violent anticipation of the events of 1823. Blows were exchanged between the charivariers and the constabulary; several people were arrested; and the door of 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 by donating £50 . . . to the Female Benevolent Society. . . ."25 Could Longmore have witnessed the rambunctious charivari of February, 1821? Might he have been one of its "forty masqueraders, equipped as Turks, Persians, &c. exhibiting the usual proportion of nose and grotesqueness of profile . . ."? 26 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 Montreal’s second most notorious charivari in the issue of The Canadian Courant (February 10, 1821) from which these quotations are taken. Indeed, he may have had in mind the Courant’s opening reference to "the ancient custom of Charivari" when he began the Appendix to his poem with the words "THE CHARIVARI is an ancient custom, which . . . had its commencement in the Provinces of Old France."
Among the other reports of charivaris in the Montreal area in 1819-1823, two more deserve attention, if only for the details that they give of the "ludicrous . . . masks . . . dresses" and other accoutrements which, as Longmore says in his Appendix, "afford[ed] ample scope for the indulgence of whim, and the display of humour."27 The first of these took place on February 16, 1821 at Terrebonne, a village not far from Montreal. According to a report in The Montreal Herald the following week (February 24), its participants included "an officer with an enormous head . . . composed of paper and other combustibles and flimsy materials—and Midas, with an admirably accentuated pair of ass’s ears. . . . Antlers . . . , supposed not inappropriate to the occasion [as an emblem of cuckoldry], contributed to . . . the spectacle. . . ." Even more intriguing than the possibility that this report provided part of the inspiration for Longmore’s charivari, with its "masks, . . . [and] hypocritic toys," its "bray of asses" and "pair of horns, which in their towering height / Surpass’d most antlers" (1019,1022, 1043-1045) are the resonances between the poem and a report in the same issue of the Herald of a second charivari, this one in Chambly at the end of January, 1821. Longmore was not stationed in Chambly until the "winter of 1822-23,"28 but this does not entirely preclude the possibility that he was the "gentleman from Chambly" who reported the charivari there to the Herald. Certainly, there are marked similarities in tone between The Charivari and the report, which reads: "A widow and a batchelor (our virgins could petition the Legislature that widows shall be prohibited from espousing batchelors unless they have obtained a certificate from 10 spinsters . . . that they don’t care a fig for him), having entered the soft state of matrimony, their acquaintances resolved to express their satisfaction at the happy event, that very evening. The shortness of the notice not permitting much preparation, the visitors equipped themselves with horses and cows’ heads (horns, it appears, are a standing dish), and performed the usual salutations. By the aid, however, of two artists from the village, the next night they made a much more tasteful appearance not a little improved by two coffins [the equivalent of Father Time in The Charivari (1049-1056)] carried in stately procession and ornamented with appropriate devices. The sport was, nevertheless, interrupted by the spirited conduct of the bridegroom, who, offended by the inscription on one of them, and having been a military man, 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. This circumstance closed the scene; for the bridegroom was apprehended, to the great consternation of his gentle partner, who swooned away in the disastrous commencement of the Honey-moon. Our sympathetic readers will be rejoiced to hear that he was admitted to and gave bail." If Longmore did not write this, then he almost certainly read it for in the Appendix to his poem he observes that the custom of "the Charivari has been obnoxious to some" (emphasis added) and in the poem proper he has Baptisto’s bride, Annette, "swoon" (1135). Nor should it be overlooked that with the words "closed the scene" the report in the Herald either anticipates or, as the case may be, prompted Longmore’s use of dramatic metaphors and allusions in The Charivari, particularly at the poem’s conclusion, where Canada is described as the "stage" (1429) for a ritual which, even before the poem begins, is referred by epigraphs from Much Ado about Nothing and Bartholomew Fair to the context of Renaissance comedy and romance.
There is a danger in recovering and emphasizing the sources and resonances of Longmore’s poem in the charivaris in the Montreal area during the early eighteen twenties that two wider and perhaps more important social and political contexts for The Charivari will be overlooked. Both of these contexts are evoked explicitly towards the end of the poem when Longmore leaves Baptisto facing the charivariers in his nightshirt and digresses at length on contemporary political affairs in England and Canada. "[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" (1062-1064). 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, were still fresh in the minds of Britains 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 very 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 could not have doubted that, if such things could happen in England, they were also possible—even likely—in 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 take control of Lower Canada away 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 Canada29 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-determination 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 the growing threat of rebellion? Was there not—someone with a crystal ball might have asked—mounting evidence in the charivaris of the early ’twenties of the social and political unrest that would manifest itself before long in the Rebellions of 1837?
Only by its prescient nature would the last of these questions fail to negotiate the gap that Longmore opens in The Charivari for all the paranoic fears of his original audience. As Michael Cullen has pointed out, the enjambement that occurs between stanzas 127 and 128 of the poem, when Baptisto has woken to find the charivari below his bedroom window, creates a pause in which the possibility of rebellion is "activate[d]"30:
. . . Seizing an
old pistol, [Baptisto] held the trigger
marriage. . . .
As well as releasing, and then reigning in again, the nightmarish thought of rebellion, these lines show Baptisto on the brink of mimicing the behaviour of the "military man" at Chambly who fired on one of the coffins in the charivari and appeared set on doing worse. It was precisely because he knew full well the potential for violence and insurrection that attended charivaris in the Montreal area in the early eighteen twenties that in The Charivari Longmore cautions against reactionary panic and advocates through the example of Baptisto the exercise of restraint and goodwill. With his "evenness of temper" (1290), his lack of "petulance" (1291), his "mild and polite behaviour,"31 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 "Canute" (1300) in their "foolish" (1306) attempts to rebuff the potentially destructive and deadly energies of the charivari. As much as Thomas 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]"32 of Lower Canada that they will risk grave personal, social, and political consequences unless they exercise wisdom, humility, and generosity in dealing with those less fortunate than themselves. As Cary put it on the eve of the French Revolution:
Ye great, ye rich, by heart
this lesson learn,
III: Baptisto and Toussaint Pothier
Almost needless to say, the pages of Montreal’s newspapers in the early eighteen twenties were not entirely taken up by accounts of charivaris in the city and the surrounding area. Nor were they given over wholly to a combination of reports on charivaris and discussions of such weighty— and related—matters as the proposed union of Upper and Lower Canada and the stubborn refusal of the Legislative Assembly in Quebec to pass the supply bills required by the colonial government. There were notices of recent marriages, announcements of plays at the New-Market Theatre,34 excerpts from the correspondence of George Canning and Sir Francis Burdett,35 and other items that impinge even more closely on The Charivari— an announcement of the sale of a report on "the disputes between [the] Earl of Selkirk and the North West Company," for example, and accounts of the fines imposed by the Court of Weekly Sessions on businessmen who had failed to "cut down the cahots [ridges of snow]" in front of their shops or houses in the "city and suburbs of Montreal."36 A recurring feature of the Courant, Herald, and Gazette that obviously tickled the funny bones of the papers’ readers was announcements of May-December marriages in the Canadas and elsewhere. In what may be the prurient apogee of such announcements, the Courant reported five marriages of young women to very old men in September, 1824 and then—as if to top this feat— announced two months later the marriage of an eighty-four year old man to a twelve year old girl.37 It was very likely with the aim of tapping the same source of humour as these announcements that Longmore focused his poem, not simply on a batchelor and a widow (the typical object, by his own definition, of a Canadian charivari),38 but on "an old Batchelor and Widow fair" (69)—on the marriage of a man of "fifty" (354, 396) to a woman whose ostensible father is his "school-contemporary" (402). In Montreal in the eighteen twenties, this was clearly the stuff of "hilarity and mirth" (Appendix), and all the more so since, as Wilcocke says in his review of The Charivari, "the originals of each portrait [in the wedding-party] are to be found in Montreal."39 Who, then, were the "originals" of Baptisto and Annette?
At this distance, perhaps it is only possible "to guess"40 at the identities of the men and women who are lampooned in The Charivari. May-December marriages in Montreal in the early ’twenties were almost as common as the marriages of widows and widowers. The targets of the poem’s personal satire could be William Lunn and Margaret Hutchinson, or one or other of the two couples at the centre of the infamous charivari of May and June, 1823. Even Wilcocke himself might be considered a candidate for Baptisto, not least because in the July 26, 1821 issue of The Scribbler, he mentions his new wife (or bride-to-be),41 Anne, in a discussion of the custom of the charivari, and dedicates a poem "to her, and all the Annes, the Annas, the Nancys, the Annetts and the Nannetts, in town and country."42 Perhaps Longmore drew the name of the heroine of The Charivari from this Purdeyesque list. If so, then it was with the knowledge that the other French-Canadian custom discussed by Wilcocke in the preamble to his poem, the Festival of St. Anne, had made Anne and its cognates favourite names in French Canada and, as such, the female equivalents of Jean Baptiste, a name used to personify French-Canadian males since at least 1818.43 From this alone, it seems likely that the "originals" of Baptisto and Annette were not Montrealers of British descent like the Lunds and the Wilcockes but well-known members of the city’s French-Canadian community, a speculation supported by several stereotypical details in the poem, from Annette’s dark hair (71) to Baptisto’s association with "priest[s]" (187).
Of all the French-Canadian couples who were married in Montreal between Longmore’s return to Canada in 1819 and the publication of The Charivari in 1824, the most likely candidates for the "originals" of Baptisto and Annette are Toussaint Pothier (1771-1845)44 and Anne-Françoise Bruyères. Not only does the date of their marriage—January 10, 182045— place the event within Longmore’s stay in Canada but it also accords with the wintry setting of the wedding in The Charivari. Moreover, the Christian names of both the bride and groom are echoed in the poem’s Baptisto and Annette, for although Pothier apparently preferred to be know as Toussaint, he was baptized Jean-Baptiste Toussaint Pothier and, very likely, failed to transcend the supernumerary glory and stereotypical implications of his full baptismal name. Most telling of all is the fact that at the time of his marriage Pothier was a batchelor of forty-nine and, indeed, just three months short of the birthday (May 16, 1820) that would have made him the same age as Baptisto. Of Anne-Françoise Bruyères’ age and marital status there is less certainty, both in the poem and in real life. The "youngest"46 daughter of Ralph Henry Bruyères, who was married in 1790 and died in 1814,47 she was probably in her twenties and, hence, old enough to be a "Widow fair." There is no evidence that she had been previously married, however, let alone that her "first spouse . . . killed himself, from being too fond" (478-480) as the poem at one point suggests. Nor is the poem entirely consistent in urging Annette’s widowhood, for at another point she is referred to as "miss" and the future "Young Mrs. Thingum" (406-408). If Anne-Françoise Bruyères’ first marriage was not simply an invention— the necessary precondition, as it were, for the charivari that climaxes the poem—then perhaps a veil had been partially drawn over it by Montreal society as a result of the painful circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. Certainly, Longmore’s parenthetical comment that "what’s said [of her first spouse] is known / To be quite true" (478-479) hints at a truth kept alive by gossip. But if the "original" of Annette was a woman whose father had died in 1814, then what is to be made of the following description of her immediate family?
The wedding party met, and
there was seated
Altho’ not the most
pleasant,—then his son,
A possible key to these stanzas lies in Anne-Françoise Bruyères’ extended family as it devolved from her maternal grand-parents, Captain William D. Dunbar and Thérèse-Josèphe Fleury Deschambault, and their two daughters. One of these daughters—Janet Dunbar ("ma’")—married and, with her four children (two boys and two girls), survived Ralph Henry Bruyères. The other daughter—Marie Josèphe Dunbar (1766-1812)— married and predeceased a prominent Montreal physician and surgeon called George Selby, leaving him with one child, a son named William ("Bill"), who followed his father into the medical profession and, indeed, practiced with him in Montreal.48 Following the deaths in 1812 and 1814 of Marie-Josèphe Dunbar Selby and Ralph Henry Bruyères, the remaining members of the two families evidently gravitated towards each other to the extent that they came to resemble a single family. Thus, after Dr. William Selby married Marguerite Baby ("Ma’") in 1815, Anne-Françoise Bruyères’ sister Catherine Bruyères Kennelly (1797-1849), became a near relative or parent ("proche parent")49 of the couple’s five children, the first of whom—Jessie Selby (1818-1892)—was the namesake of Anne-Françoise and Toussaint Pothier’s only daughter and child, Jessy Louise (or Jessé-Louise). Since it was the custom in French-Canada for wedding-parties to assemble at the home of the bride’s father,50 there is some likelihood that the "original" for the setting of the wedding-party in The Charivari was the stone house of Anne-Françoise Bruyères’ own "proche parent," Dr. George Selby ("papa"), at 153, Rue Saint-Paul in Montreal.51
The conjectured identification of Baptisto and Annette as Toussaint Pothier and Anne-Françoise Bruyères does not render all of the caricatures in The Charivari transparent but it does allow for some educated guesses at the "originals" of several other members of the wedding-party. "Baptisto’s friend,—an honest chap / [who] act[s] his father upon [the] occasion" as, "(by mishap / Report made known,) his kind consideration, / Had done to others" (817-821)—was perhaps Dominique Rousseau (1755-1825), a business partner of Pothier’s who fathered five children in an extra-marital relationship between 1796 and 1811 and "was alleged to have fathered two other[s] . . . who were born of different mothers" and "baptized at Michilimackinac in 1821. . . ."52 And Annette’s "aunty Margaret,—lac’d and capp’d / with a rich satin, which had been in vogue . . . when . . . the Fronde, enwrapt / All France in it . . ." (897-900)—was perhaps Margaret Bruyères Burton, a great aunt of Anne-François Bruyères and the widow of a one-time lieutenant-governor of the Montreal district.53 Margaret Burton would have been a very elderly lady in 1820 and, as the descendant of a French Huguenot family, she might well have put Longmore in mind of the Fronde—that is, the opposition to Louis XIV, the French king responsible for the expulsion of the Huguenots. In proportion to their distance from the bride and groom, the other characters in the wedding party become more and more difficult to identify with any degree of certainty. From the sound of the name "Dibs," the "merchant" who attended the wedding with his wife and "daughter, a schoolmate of the bride" (825-826) may have been the prominent Montreal "merchant tailor"54 Benaiah Gibb (1755-1826). By the same token, "Beau Beamish," who makes an appearance with one of his "two sisters" (882), may have been Jacques-Philippe Saveuse de Beaujeu (1772-1882)55 an aristocratic seigneur to whom Pothier, who acquired two seigneuries in 1814, might well have extended a social-climber’s palm of friendship.56 As to the "originals" of other "portrait[s]"—most tantalizingly, the "great North-Wester, Sammy Grouse" (829)—prudence dictates that, until the advent of decisive information, speculation must rest content with very tentative guesses and plausible alternatives.57 Perhaps "Sammy Grouse" was Samuel Gerrard (1767-1857), whose firm held a large interest in the North West Company. Perhaps he was Alexander Henry (1739-1824), the senior North-Wester in Montreal in the eighteen twenties. Perhaps he was neither, or a combination of the two.
At least two useful purposes are served by the provisional identification of the "originals" behind the "portrait[s]" in the wedding-party in The Charivari. The first is to reinforce the poem’s exemplary and reconciliatory nature by revealing the possible presence at its heart of a family group that is nothing if not a model of French-English interconnectedness and interdependence. By grace of circumstances and mixed blood, Anne-Françoise Bruyères, "her sister [and] brother," and their cousin William Selby were members of an extended family which stood as proof of the ability of people of British and French extraction to live together in harmony in Lower Canada. A cacophonous charivari constitutes the climax of Longmore’s poem, but nearer to its structural centre lies a wedding and a feast, two age-old symbols of reconciliation, harmony, and a new order. Before the arrival of the "parson" (875) or "priest" (910)—and perhaps Longmore’s use of both words, the one Protestant and the other Catholic in its associations, is itself reconciliatory—the harmony of Annette and Baptisto’s wedding is briefly disrupted by an angry quarrel between Sammy Grouse and Lawyer Shark about the rights and wrongs of Lord Selkirk’s dispute with the North West Company, a legal case that caused much controversy and bad feeling in Montreal in the years prior to 1820. And after the wedding has been performed, the harmony of the festivities is again slightly threatened by "raillery’s tongue" (916) and the off-colour humour of Ireland’s flamboyant representative among the guests, a gold-clad Captain Casey who punningly asserts that "Baptisto ha[s] got in a net" (920). As if to confirm Lambert’s view of French-Canadian women as "‘cheerful . . . content’" and quite capable of "laugh[ing] at doubles entendres with a very good grace,"58 Annette takes no offence at such jokes,
But . . . took all
frolic in good part,
Like Baptisto’s "good sense," though in a different and, assuredly, less dangerous sphere (Captain Casey is no Captain Rock), Annette’s "good nature" heals rather than opens wounds. So, too, among sensible people, do time and familiarity, for as the narrator explains in his summation of the wedding and feast:
All had throughout been
merry, save the tart
To "common sense" and a "good heart" add a mature acceptance of differences and Lower Canada as a whole will be what it obviously already is in the circle surrounding the Selby-Bruyères family: a racially mixed and hierarchically stratified society which is yet stable, tolerant, and harmonious. Such is the message implicit in a poem which, as Ware says, "is not a didactic allegory [where] every event has a one-to-one correspondence with an abstract idea, but a dramatic figuring forth of a . . . situation" that is "richly suggestive"59 and laden with social and political overtones.
The second purpose that is served by the provisional identification of the individuals portrayed in The Charivari is that of establishing the possible grounds and extent of the personal satire in the poem. This is particularly so in the case of the most fully drawn and complex of Longmore’s caricatures, for while Baptisto is clearly a figure to be admired in his handling of the charivari, he is also the butt of numerous jokes which may rely for some of their effect on the reader’s knowledge of Toussaint Pothier and his position in Montreal society. For instance, the humour of the following description of Baptisto’s dandiacal obsession with the cut of his breeches ("small cloathes") clearly increases with the knowledge that Pothier was nicknamed "le beau Pothier à cause de son physique avantageux et de sa correction vestimentaire":60
. . . his cloaths
had fashion’d been of late,
Pothier’s obsession with his appearance may even add a dimension of humour to the presence at his wedding of a "merchant tailor" (Gibb)—a "merchant tailor" whose firm, in fact, owed its "prosperity . . . to his ability to respond to the demands of very special customers," including, as it happens, "Pothier . . . [and] Saveuse de Beaujeu."61 In a similar vein, Longmore’s depiction of Baptisto as "an Epicure, / [Who] lik[es] good living, such as soups, and sauces, / Ragouts and curries . . ." (425-427), and whose "foibles" include "a slight excess in punch or wine" (217-218), gains in humorous effect with the knowledge that Pothier was a "wealthy man"62 who lived extremely well ("vécût largement")63 off the proceeds of his seigneuries and businesses. It is because he is probably based on a real person and cast in a universal mold that Baptisto has at once density and currency, the two qualities essential for a comic character to avoid the twin pitfalls of the merely topical and the overly general.
The provisional identification of Pothier as the original of Baptisto holds one other notable advantage: it allows the satire of The Charivari and the stance of its author to be placed with some precision in relation to Montreal society in the early eighteen twenties. According to Edward Alan Talbot, who was himself married in Montreal in May, 1821,64 the upper echelons of the city’s society were divided into two "distinct classes: The FIRST . . . composed of the civil and military officers, the most respectable professional men in Law, Physic, and Divinity, and the several members of the North West Company:—[and] The SECOND of merchants of large fortune. . . ."65 That Pothier had worked his way from the lower to the higher of these two classes principally on the basis of his wealth made him in 1820 something of an arriviste in the group to which Longmore probably took for granted that he himself belonged, both by background and profession. As Fernand Ouellet writes in what is likely to remain for a long time the finest assessment of Pothier’s social position and political ideas: "Pothier nous apparaît comme un bourgeois devenu gentil-homme."66 In the first two decades of the century when he was amassing his fortune in the fur trade, writes Ouellet, Pothier may well have identified himself "totalement avec la classe des capitalistes," but by the late ’twenties he "s’identifie complètement avec la noblesse."67 From this it can be inferred that, at around the time of his courtship and marriage in 1820, Pothier was an assiduous (and, very likely, somewhat insecure) social-climber—a prime target for social satire as he hobnobbed with "respectable professional men . . . and . . . members of the North West Company" and, to impress his future bride, curtailed his "laughable queer habit . . . / Of twitching constantly his prim perruque [wig]" (279-280).
Yet, as was shown earlier, Pothier as Baptisto is not just a figure of fun in The Charivari; he is also, and finally, an admirable figure because, by responding sensibly and generously to the charivariers, he effectively defuses a phenomenon which, in real life, had been seen by many as a threat to civil and social order. Now, if the conjectured connection between Pothier and Baptisto extends into the portions of Longmore’s poem that deal with the charivari and, moreover, holds for the ideological implications of placating the "crowd" (1387) in order to prevent mayhem, preserve social stability, and, perhaps, forestall the possibility of violent insurrection, then the question naturally arises of whether Baptisto’s behaviour is consistent with what is known of Pothier’s political beliefs. The answer must be yes, for as Ouellet argues on the basis of the "Memorandum by the Honourable Toussaint Pothier" that was apparently submitted to the Governor-General, Sir James Kempt, in 1829, five years after its author was appointed to the Legislative Council of Lower Canada by Lord Dalhousie, Pothier was in his political beliefs "[p]rofondément conservateur" and "hanté par le phénomène de la montée des classes populaires."68 A monarchist whose sympathies lay with the aristocracy,69 Pothier attempts in his "Memorandum" to account for the ascendancy of Papineau’s "popular [Patriote or Canadien] Party" in Lower Canada and to suggest "measures that appear best adopted to allay the spirit of independence that is struggling for preponderance, and to counteract the evils that check the prosperity of the country."70 The sources of "discontent and disunion" in Lower Canada, he argues, are French-English jealousy, the revolutionary "‘Spirit of the Age,’" and the ascent to political power of a "lower set of Canadians" who are seeking "to obtain an ascendancy over the Executive and to fetter its independence by denying any permanent Bills of Supply. . . ."71 As solutions to Lower Canada’s social, economic, and political problems, Pothier advocates a variety of measures, including the "improvement of roads," the cessation of speculation in "Seigneurial Properties," and the retention of the French language, which, in any case, will eventually succumb to English (and all the better, too, for "friendly companionship").72 As even this brief sampling of his ideas indicates, Pothier did not share the feeling of alienation from the colonial establishment that prompted many of his compatriots to associate themselves with the drive for democracy and self- determination in Lower Canada. On the contrary, his social position and vested interests were such that a change in the status quo would have been, to say the least, socially and fiscally damaging. There can be little doubt that if Pothier’s beliefs and attitudes remained more-or-less consistent throughout the eighteen twenties he would have happily recognized himself in the Baptisto whose good sense and generosity permit the explosive potential of a charivari to be discharged into "harmless humour" (1392).
IV: The Charivari, Beppo, and Canadian Poetics
Of the many poems to which Longmore might have turned as a model for The Charivari, few would have been as fitting as Byron’s Beppo: A Venetian Story, which was first published anonymously in 1818. Not only does the subject-matter of Beppo—a pre-Lenten carnival of "fiddling, feasting, dancing, [and] masquing"73 that ends with the amicable resolution of a marital triangle—contain many of the same features as a charivari, but its amused and chatty tone is exactly what Longmore needed for the gossipy but detached Old Batchelor who recounts the events surrounding the wedding of Baptisto and Annette. Moreover, and precisely to the extent that it suits the subject-matter and tone of Beppo, the ottava rima stanza in which Byron cast his Venetian Tale (and, later, the Vision of Judgement and, of course, Don Juan) is entirely appropriate to The Charivari. By imitating and, in places, merely borrowing74 the outlandish and comical rhymes which give Byronic ottava rima much of its "quietly facetious"75 quality, Longmore ensures that his own poem will bring to the custom of the charivari a humour that is both appropriate and necessary. So well "suit[ed]" (19) is the "Manner of Beppo" to the carnivalesque matter of the charivari, that it is quite plausible to see Longmore’s poem as a thoroughly successful hybrid of form and content, the former imported from Italy through England and the latter "transplanted into Canada with the earliest settlers from [Old France]" (Appendix). As Klinck puts it: in The Charivari "Byron was . . . happily naturalised in Montreal by a man who could impart the flavour of this . . . English-French city."76
More than any other aspect of The Charivari with the possible exception of its plethora of dashes and parentheses,77 the feature of the poem that is most likely to test the patience of a reader today is it numerous "long digressions" (1225) "after the manner of Beppo" and Don Juan. As already intimated on several occasions, however, these digressions frequently contain material on such matters as British mobs and Canadian politics which are central rather than peripheral to the meaning and purpose of the poem. As Ware points out (quoting Leslie Marchand on the digressive technique of Beppo and Don Juan), the "meat" of these and similar poems does not so much lie in their stories as in their digressions.78 "[I]f the Prose Essayist carries us along with the truth in a direct and unbending course to his object," writes Longmore in the essay on "Lord Byron" that he published in 1826 in Tales of Chivalry and Romance, "the Poet . . . lead[s] us through the beautiful labyrinths of intellectual grace, and brilliant scenery . . . wafting us upon the wings of fancy through regions of his own bright creation, affords us on the way the most delightful amusement, and surrounds us with the most enchanting diversity and beauty."79 This is an aesthetic of "variety" (115) and "wandering" (1234) that permits the poet considerable latitude of focus and pace as he leads the reader along what earlier in his essay (and in a phrase that bespeaks a quite traditional sense of poetry’s subject-matter and purpose) Longmore figures forth as "the paths of Poesy." As well as licensing the pattern of excursion (digression) and return ("But to my tale . . ." ) that shapes The Charivari, it is an aesthetic that grants the poem’s narrator a near-epistolary80 freedom to express his opinions on a range of serious and amusing topics, some intimately and others tangentially related to his account of the smooth and bumpy course of Baptisto’s love for Annette. Almost inevitably, there is a Byronic digression on the attributes of women (297-336) which chivalrically adds Canada’s "daughters" to the list of those from other countries praised by the master. Just as predictably, there is a digression on sexual love (129-176) which wonders aloud, with numerous historical and mythological allusions, about the varieties, advantages, and shortcomings of that ubiquitous and central emotion. And, appropriately, there are also two digressions on Byron himself (489-552; 1225-1256), each paying tribute to different facets of his genius, including his unsparing (and, to Longmore, somewhat cold-blooded)81 application of satire’s lash and his enviable ability to sustain a long digression without becoming "Tiresome" (1228).
That the second of these two digressions ends by praising Byron for his efforts in support of the Greek fight for independence from the Ottoman Empire might appear to be at odds with the political stance struck elsewhere in The Charivari. A few moments’ reflection, however, will reveal that this is not so. Byron’s radicalism (if that is even the right word) was "noble,"82 heroic, and—like the far-sighted charity of Mrs. Jellyby in Dickens’ Bleak House—directed towards distant rather than local causes. To mention Byron in the same breath as Captain Rock would have been anathema, not least because, in contrast to the Ottoman Sultan—the "Grand Turk" (792) of The Charivari—Britannia was surely for Longmore, as earlier for Cary and Cornwall Bayley,83 the very guardian and champion of "Freedom," both at home and abroad. Indeed, in his "crusade for Liberty" in Greece, was Byron not merely seeking to extend to the benighted "offspring" (1254) of the classical Greeks the Freedom that they bequeathed to Britain? In his essay on "Lord Byron," Longmore is deeply and extensively troubled by the "want of nationalism" evinced by Byron’s jarring failure to respond with "patriotic . . . joy" to Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, but he is "confident" that "[h]ad the power of Napoleon extended itself so far, as at last to have invaded Britain with success, . . . no man would have lamented the fatality of such a circumstance more than his Lordship. . . ."84 Superficial appearances to the contrary, Byron was at heart a patriotic and freedom-loving Briton, a worthy model whose failure to express affection for "‘country’" and family Longmore regrets and— significantly—chose not to follow in The Charivari. Interleaving the two digressions on Byron in the poem are two others which, to an extent, turn Byron contra Byron: a digression expressing affection for "Canada" (97-128) and a digression expressing a son’s love for his mother (737-776).
While Byron is unquestionably the major poetic presence in The Charivari, he is by no means the only one. Behind Longmore’s expression of local pride in his digression on Canada, for example, lies Sir Walter Scott85 and in his digression on maternal love there is something of the Wordsworth of the ‘Intimations Ode.’ With its explicit reference to Byron, and its rhyme of "maxim" and "tax him" borrowed, as Cullen has observed,86 from Don Juan, III, 1622-1624, the following stanza might seem free of further debts except, of course, to the sceptical seventeenth-century writer whose "maxim" it quotes:
’Tis Rochefoucault, who
tells us in a maxim,—
Yet arguably—and as Ware has intimated87—the most important literary presences here, especially in terms of Longmore’s satirical norms and targets, are two writers whom the stanza does not name, Swift and Pope. Almost certainly, Longmore took Rochefoucauld’s famous "maxim," not from the original Réflexions, ou sentences et maximes morales, but from Swift’s "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.P.D.," where it appears as an epigraph ("In the adversity of our best friends, we find something that does not quite displease us") and serves as a point of departure ("As Rochefoucauld his maxims drew from nature, I believe ’em true . . .").88 Pope’s presence is more diffuse in the stanza, but, like Swift’s, it is evident here and elsewhere in The Charivari in Longmore’s inclination to look beyond "Man" to God, and to emphasize such markedly neo-classical values as balance, moderation, restraint, and right reason.89 In Ware’s words, "[a] recognition of man’s potentiality—the ability of the mind to adapt to heaven—combined with an awareness of man’s actual imperfection, provides Longmore with the orientation of the greatest satirists in [the] language,"90 particularly the Augustan satirists in whose values and techniques Byron’s roots also lie. Loud local echoes of Swift, Pope, and— to merely mention one other important influence on the poem’s satire—the Samuel Butler of Hudibras91 may be relatively rare in The Charivari, but they are present in sufficient numbers to indicate Longmore’s acquaintance and affinity with the Christian-humanist tradition that lay behind Byron and, for many nineteenth-century Canadian poets, provided a conservative and religious counterbalance to Byron’s scepticism and idiosyncrasy.
If there is another writer who looms almost as large as Byron in the local debts and large patterns of The Charivari, it is Shakespeare. No doubt at least in part because of the fondness for amateur dramatics in British garrisons, allusions to Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor,92 and even Timon of Athens, dot The Charivari like raisins in a spotted dick. An epigraph from the first scene of Much Ado About Nothing announces the poem’s concern with the marriage and anxieties of an elderly "bachelor," and an echo of Puck’s closing speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream brings down the curtain on Baptisto’s charivari and pushes home the point that, thanks to the good sense of a decidedly unsupernatural "‘Prince of goodfellows’" (1379), all is well that has ended well. As if to emphasize the potential for tragedy in what is happening, Longmore embeds allusions to Othello ("Chaos had come again") and Macbeth ("‘Give physic to the dogs’" ) in the stanzas between the alarming onset of the charivari and its happy resolution. In the poem as a whole, however, the allusions are more to Shakespeare’s comedies than to his tragedies, and, most frequently of all, to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, so frequent, and, as important, explicit, are Longmore’s allusions to this play that they ask The Charivari to be seen as a midwinter night’s dream—an excursion into the realm between dusk and dawn where nightmares and disasters can occur but, in the event, do not because the poem’s presiding goddess is "Thalïa" (4), the muse of comedy, whose specialities are "gaiety, briskness, . . . pleasantry"93 and, of course, happy endings.
Bound in with Shakespeare’s dramatic works between the covers of The Charivari are at least a couple of the comedies of Ben Jonson. A second epigraph for the poem, and an early indication that "Poetry" itself will be one of its subjects (more of which in a moment), comes from Bartholomew Fair, as, very likely, did the suggestion for the comparison of Baptisto with "a clown in England, at a fair" (387). From The Alchemist or Volpone (or both) perhaps came the inspiration for the likening of "Love . . . [to] a true alchymist" (369) and—with contributions from other sources such as Shakespeare and another Jonson play, Every Man in His Humour—the knowledge of the physiological theory of humours that Longmore uses at several points in the poem. The resonantly Jonsonian announcement that Baptisto’s "temper [is] phlegmatic" (211)—i.e., that he is ruled by the cold and moist humour of phlegm—is of special interest because it classifies him as a cool character, a calm and sluggish personality, who is not likely to be excited to violence by the provocations of the charivari. Had Baptisto been governed by either yellow bile (and, hence, choleric: obstinate and quick to anger) or black bile (and, hence, splenetic: melancholy and peevish), he might well have acted violently and ungenerously when confronted on his wedding night by
. . .
a hundred looks . . . dealing
A "humorous" man in both a general and a specific way, Baptisto has the lead role in a comedy of humours whose moral for Montreal’s establishment in the eighteen twenties was that more phlegm and less bile are needed in face of "all . . . curs’d promoters of the spleen" (1344), from "A lazy valet" (1338) to a rambunctious charivari.
Since Longmore’s literary models were selected from among the front ranks of British writers past and present, it should occasion no surprise that he begins The Charivari with a lengthy and scathing attack on the scribblers who have "sprung up" in "this [hemi] sphere" (30) to insult the classical Muses with their "ballad-verse" (16), their "plodding ode[s]," and their contemptible "sonnet[s]" (47). Quite likely inspired, at least in part, by Lambert’s observation in his Travels through Canada that the writers in various Lower Canadian newspapers were constantly engaged in "scribbling warfare" with "inky arms,"94 Longmore’s satirical attack on an "inky" (6), "motley" (33), and unspecified group of Canadian (and, perhaps, American)95 "scribblers" (31) is largely carried out with arms and ammunition seconded from Byron’s Hints from Horace and English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. For instance, Longmore’s opening salvo against the "rhyming pack" (7) redeploys the "rhyming tribe" of the former poem, and in similar fashion the "hackney’d horse"—"old Pegasus, th[e] jaded hack" (8-9)—upon which the Canadian poet mounts his "scribblers" is requisitioned from the same stable that supplied the "jaded Pegasus" of the latter.96 Like Byron, Longmore viewed the minor romantics 97 of his day as both affected and banal, as uninspired and pedestrian versifies who
. . .
This is Apollo flaying Marsyas for artistic pretension, and it combines ludicrous detail with classical allusion in an insulting and élitist way that echoes back, not merely to Byron on Southey and parts of Wordsworth, but also to Pope on his literary dunces and their vulgar muses. It also, of course, echoes forward in the Canadian continuity to F.R. Scott on the self-important "literati"98 of "The Canadian Authors Meet" and A.M. Klein on the egotistical bardlings of "Portrait of the Poet as Landscape."99 So vigorous and condescending is Longmore’s attack that it occasioned only a mild response from one of the "scribblers" whom he probably had in mind. "I would not here pretend to undertake / To write a satire on these Errant Knights, / Yclept old Bachelors . . . ,"100 wrote Levi Adams in Jean Baptiste, and little wonder: once flayed, twice shy.
The one large question that remains to be answered is that of how seriously to take the fact the Longmore entitled his poem The Charivari: OR Canadian Poetics (emphasis added). Is the alternative title merely an arrow pointing to the satirical attack on the "motley group of bards" that begins the poem, or is it an invitation to view the climactic charivari as a literary phenomenon and the poem as a whole as a kind of exemplary treatise on Canadian poetry? Both Ware and Cullen incline to the latter and larger view. "[T]he cacophonous charivari is in some ways the emblem of the state of Canadian poetry in 1824," writes Ware, who proceeds to argue that "[t]he poem’s events, especially the marriage and the charivari have their implied analogues in the literary . . . realm" and reveal Longmore’s alignment of himself with Baptisto against the related ineptitudes of bad poets and poor charivariers.101 Taking his cue from Ware, but placing his emphasis on context rather than allegory, Cullen sees The Charivari as a depiction of a distinctive Canadian culture and, hence, as a product of the same impetus from Lord Dalhousie that led to the establishment in 1824 of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. As Cullen notes, Chisholme’s review of The Charivari in The Canadian Review and Literary Historical Journal (whose very title, as MacDonald observes, echoes that of the Society)102 aligns the poem with Dalhousie’s aims of researching and preserving "points of history immediately connected with the Canadas"103and, indeed, expands this statement of the Society’s purpose to include the "domestic habits and social pastimes"104 chronicled by Longmore. In this view, the alternative title of The Charivari "applies . . . to the attempt on the part of the . . . people [of Canada] to create their own poetics."105 Neither mutually exclusive nor individually exhaustive, the approaches of Ware and Cullen each have considerable merit and, in concert, suggest a third way in which both The Charivari and the custom of which it treats are at least analogous to a Canadian Poetics.
Within a few stanzas of his magisterial castigation of the "scribblers," and in the middle of his preliminary introduction of Baptisto and Annette, Longmore expresses his affection for his native land in a brief but highly significant description of the country’s landscape:
I like thee Canada; I like
With its emphasis on the turbulence and plangency of Canada’s rivers and waterfalls and its reference, perhaps by way of Paradise Lost, to the Hesiodic notion of Chaos as the antecedent of the gods (or, in Milton’s case, ordered "Nature"),106 this stanza obviously foreshadows the "tuneful moods" and "rude revelry" of the charivariers who will make the street outside Baptisto’s house "so echo with the strain" of their rough music that "You would have thought; Chaos had come again" (1199-1200). As well as cementing the connection between a particular digression and the poem proper, the parallel between the landscape of Canada and the custom of the charivari suggests that there is an affinity between the orders of nature and man—that the presence of cacophony and seeming disorder in both the physical and the social landscape of Canada is not entirely fortuitous. In his Letters from an American Farmer, Crèvecoeur expresses a similar idea in terms of both climate and landscape: "[t]he inhabitants of Canada, Massachuset [sic] . . . [and other provinces in North America] will be as different as their landscape . . . . [I]t is with man as it is with the plants and animals that grow in the forests; they are entirely different from those that live in the plains."107 From such deterministic assumptions (which, if anything, gained in currency as a result of the Romantic movement), it is but a small step to crediting—or, as likely, endowing—poetry with characteristics resembling a particular landscape and its inhabitants. This correlation is, in fact, explicitly articulated by Scott in the influential Introduction to the third canto of Marmion, where the poet explains his own unrestrained poetics in terms of the wildness of his native landscape and its plant life.108 The suggestion, then, is that The Charivari is given the alternative title of Canadian Poetics partly because Longmore assumed a correlation, possibly even a consequential relationship, between landscape, social custom, and—given the operation of a mimetic aesthetic—poetic form. From this it would follow that Longmore is a good, Canadian poet from Chisholme’s perspective (Cullen) as well as from his own (Ware) for he not only records, preserves, and to a degree simulates a rough but fundamentally innocent local custom but also—and in a complex manner quite beyond the reach of the "scribblers"—uses poetry to reflect and exemplify the bringing of Canadian cacophony and potential chaos to order and peaceful harmony. Longmore’s is an answerable style, a Canadian Poetics, because in response to physical and social phenomena that both elicit affection and—from a conservative perspective—require restraint, The Charivari serves up local colour, colloquial vigour, and digressive waywardness aplenty, but always and finally, subordinated to established patterns of religious, social, and literary order.
Born in Quebec, educated in England, posted to Mauritius, and buried in Cape Town, George Longmore, was a true product and servant of British imperialism. Nevertheless, there will always be a Canadian claim to his work, and Canadian interest especially in the two long poems that he set in Canada, Tecumthé and The Charivari. Despite their topicality, and also as a result of it, these poems have remained fresh and pertinent because the subjects, both great and small, of which they treat have no more become mere history than they have ceased to be emotionally provocative, intellectually engaging, and socially relevant. So long as Canadians continue to wrestle with relationships among the racial groups and social classes that make up their country, it is unlikely that either Tecumthé and The Charivari: or Canadian Poetics: a Tale, After the Manner of Beppo will ever want for readers among those who know that there can be no understanding of the present without recourse to the past.
The impending publication of The Charivari was announced by an advertisement, variations of which appeared in The Montreal Gazette from March 27 to April 24, 1824:109
IN THE PRESS
AND SPEEDILY WILL BE PUBLISHED,
By JOSEPH NICKLESS, Bookseller, Notre Dame Street,
After the manner of Beppo ;
BY LAUNCELOT LONGSTAFF.
27th March 1824.
On April 28 and May 1, respectively, The Montreal Gazette and the Herald announced the publication of the poem in variations of the same advertisement:
THIS DAY IS PUBLISHED
And For Sale
By JOSEPH NICKLESS, Bookseller, Notre Dame Street,
After the manner of Beppo;
BY LAUNCELOT LONGSTAFF.
28th April, 1824.
This advertisement continued to appear in the Gazette until mid-July 1824, five months before Longmore sailed for England aboard the Ottawa in late November, 1824.110
From the advertisements, it is clear that, although "the press whence . . . [The Charivari was] issued . . . is not named in the title page," Longmore’s "little book"111 was either printed by or for Joseph Nickless, a Montreal bookseller. A part-owner for a period in 1824 of The Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository,112 Nickless was also the sometime operator of "a circulating library and reading room"113 in Montreal. To judge by the statement "Printed for the Publisher" on the title page of The Charivari, Nickless had the poem, like The Canadian Magazine, printed for him, probably on the newspaper press of Nahum Mower,114 the publisher of The Canadian Courant. In any event, the advertisements of The Charivari clearly indicate that Joseph Nickless both published the poem and sold it through his office in Montreal’s Notre Dame Street.
Measuring 9.7 x 16 cm. (33/4" x 61/4") and containing only 49 pages, The Charivari is, indeed, a "little book"—as unassuming in appearance as its author is modest when he describes his work as a mere "roundelay / To wile, perchance, an idle hour away" (1423-1424).115 In fact, the size of The Charivari is consistent with a duodecimo folding of half sheets of the royal-size (61x49cm.) paper that was in common use by newspaper printers in Longmore’s day for the reason that, when folded in two and trimmed, it was a convenient size for a newspaper. The printing of the poem on half sheets would explain why some copies of The Charivari carry a watermark—"WHATMAN 1822"—while others do not.116 The watermark is that of the Whatman papermills in England, which may also have produced the paper upon which Bayley’s Canada is printed.117
The present text of The Charivari is based on the first edition of the poem, several copies of which have been examined to ascertain that there are no variations among them. Except in cases of obvious error (such as misplaced apostrophes and parenthesis) and a very few instances of likely error (such as omitted or misplaced commas), Longmore’s punctuation has been retained as an integral part of the texture, rhythm, and meaning of the poem. Similarly, only obvious typographical errors have been corrected. These include one noted after the Appendix in the first edition ("for hollow read hallow" at line 83) and one corrected by Wilcocke in his review of The Charivari in The Scribbler ("Hook’s Pantheon" should read "Tooke’s Pantheon" in line 597).118
The present text has benefitted from an awareness of both the strengths and the weakness of the three previous editions of The Charivari: those of Mary Jane Edwards in The Evolution of Canadian Literature: Beginnings to 1867 (1973), and Michael Cullen in his University of Western Ontario M.A. Thesis (1989) and that in the Early Canadian Poetry Series of The Golden Dog Press, introduced by Mary Lu MacDonald (1977). More heavily emended than the texts edited by Edwards and introduced by MacDonald, the present edition is more sparsely emended than that of Cullen’s text, the aim being to correct rather than improve the first edition in which, as Wilcocke remarks at the close of his review in The Scribbler, "[t]he errors of the press are very few."119 All departures from the first edition of the present text are recorded in the list of Editorial Emendations that follows the poem.