To those who are familiar with the area of modern Ontario touched by the War of 1812, the name "Tecumseh" is well-known. A town and a township in different counties are called after the famous chief, as are numerous streets and at least one school. Tecumseh’s name also appears on many of the War of 1812 monuments that stand in the southwestern part of the province. Even without knowing much about early nineteenth-century Canadian history, a casual observer today forms the impression that Tecumseh was an important person and an admirable man. In the years following his death at the battle of Moraviantown on October 5, 1813 he was a mythic figure, one of the pantheon of heroes and heroines—Brock, Tecumseh, Laura Secord, the Canadian militia—who were perceived by Upper Canadians1 to have saved Canada from the Americans.
The historical Tecumseh was a Shawnee2 chief, born about 1768, probably near present-day Springfield, Ohio.3 He grew up in a region increasingly invaded by white settlers from the eastern United States who were determined to drive the Indians from their lands, whether by cession, purchase or force. As a young man he participated in some of the battles between Indians and whites. In American records for the period 1799-1805 his name appears as a Shawnee chief attempting to keep peace between the races.
The Americans had always dealt with the tribes separately and had profited by this "divide and conquer" policy. About 1807 Tecumseh became convinced that it was necessary to bring all the western tribes together in order to defend their lands. However, it was in the interests of both the British and the Americans, as well as many of the village chiefs, to prevent the formation of an Indian confederacy, with the result that Tecumseh’s efforts were largely unsuccessful. After the Americans destroyed the Indian community at Tippecanoe in November 1811, Tecumseh turned to the British for arms and assistance. His subsequent alliance with the British in the War of 1812 was motivated by his determination to stop the Americans, not by any loyalty to the Crown. Tecumseh’s Indian warriors and the British regular army needed each other’s support, but they were fighting against the Americans for very different reasons. After Tecumseh’s death in October 1813, with no strong leader to replace him, the Shawnees and other tribes in the region were gradually pushed westward, leaving Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan open to white settlement.
Tecumseh, the Canadian mythic hero, is enshrined in two nineteenth-century long poems and one verse drama. The first was George Longmore’s "Tecumthé," initially published in the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal in December 1824, and subsequently included in Tales of Chivalry and Romance, a collection of poems and one prose essay, published in Edinburgh in 1826. The second was John Richardson’s Tecumseh, or the Warrior of the West (London, 1828). Both poems were initially published anonymously, although Richardson’s was stated to be "by an English Officer." The improbable fact that there were two long poems about Tecumseh, written by two different, Canadian-born, British officers within four years in the 1820s resulted in scholarly confusion in the century following their publication. For example, Ray Palmer Baker, in his pioneering work on pre-Confederation Canadian literature, implied that Richardson’s Tecumseh had first appeared in the Canadian Review.4 Baker was probably confused by Richardson’s claim, in his Preface, to have written the poem five years earlier. It seems likely that this claim had more to do with Richardson’s desire to have his work predate Longmore’s than it had with the actual time sequence, since Richardson generally published all his work as soon as it was finished. In addition, in later discussions surrounding the publication of Richardson’s War of 1812, First Series, Containing a Full and Detailed Narrative of the Operations of the Right Division, of the Canadian Army (Brockville, 1842) it is evident that Richardson considered that subject to be "his territory." It would have been easy for him to persuade himself that an idea he had had in the back of his mind for some years was equivalent to having already completed the poem.
The third of the nineteenth-century works in which Tecumseh serves as the focus and title character is Charles Mair’s verse drama Tecumseh (Toronto, 1886). The differences between the three show the manner in which Canadian mythic history was adapted to the needs of society. All three authors were devoted to what they perceived as the best interests of their native land. Mair, however, used Tecumseh as a symbolic figure from the past whose pro-British, anti-American position illuminated the ideals of the Canada First movement in which Mair was a leader. Richardson, born on the American border and taken prisoner at Moraviantown, reflects the anti-Americanism that dominated political thought in the Canadas at the end of the War of 1812, and, although he sees Tecumseh as a hero, he is, like many of his compatriots, somewhat ambivalent about native peoples. Longmore, emotionally more distant than Richardson from the specific events because he had been fighting in Europe rather than in North America, illustrates the idea of "Indian as ally" which prevailed in the Canadas in the first half of the nineteenth century, and also the idea of the "noble savage" who needs only Christian education to make him a perfect being.
George Longmore, the author of Tecumthe, was born in Quebec City in 1793.5 His literary education would have been limited, since he entered the Royal Military College at Great Marlowe in England at about the age of twelve and graduated into full-time military life just before his sixteenth birthday. In Quebec he may have been privately tutored by one of the resident Church of England clergymen or have attended one of the many private elementary schools, of which there were at least ten between the years 1798 and 1804.6 At the end of the eighteenth century the army did not provide schooling in the garrison for officers’ children. There is the further possibility that Dr. George Longmore,7 the poet’s father, as a graduate of both Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities, supervised his son’s education himself. Whoever his teachers may have been, any literary education young George received would have been directed towards Latin and Greek classics, not to contemporary writing in the vernacular. His admiration for the literary productions of Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, evident in "Tecumthé," The Charivari, "The Fall of Constantinople" and other poems, both long and short, which were published in Montreal in the early 1820s, probably developed from reading done on his own. Although a long distance from metropolitan centres, the Quebec in which George Longmore grew up was not an intellectual wasteland. He would have had many opportunities to read and learn, and would have been expected to do so. His father, as an educated man with scientific interests, would have had his own personal library; there were at least two English-language bookstores in the city; and the Quebec Library Association’s shelves contained the complete works of Swift, Addison, Fielding, Thompson, Johnson, Milton, Gray, Goldsmith, Rousseau and Voltaire, among others, as early as 1785.8
Longmore entered the Royal Staff Corps, a military engineering unit, as an ensign, the lowest commissioned rank, in 1809. All his promotions, right up to Major, were achieved on seniority and merit rather than by purchase, which was most unusual for the time, and indicates a high degree of intelligence and competence on his part. He served in those parts of the Napoleonic Wars, collectively known as the Peninsular War, which were fought in Spain, Portugal and southern France. The Peninsula Medal he was awarded had clasps which indicated that he had been present at the battles of Badajoz, Nive, Nivelle and Toulouse. In March and April 1812, at the time of the British army’s triumph at Badajoz, one of the bloodiest battles of that war and one in which military engineers played an important role in storming the supposedly impregnable cliff-top fortress, he was not yet nineteen. He did not participate in any actions in what Canadians call "the War of 1812," which was the North American extension of the Napoleonic Wars. His anti-war sentiments, so evident in Tecumthe, were developed in Europe in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the campaigns against Napoleon.
After the defeat of Napoleon, Longmore was principally based at Hythe, the headquarters of the Royal Staff Corps, on the south coast of England, until the summer of 1819 when he was posted to Canada. The Royal Staff Corps was engaged in supervising the construction of the Lachine, Chambly and Ottawa River canals. Until November 1824, when he returned to England, Longmore was stationed either in Montreal or at one of the canal sites.9 All his Canadian works, The Charivari, "Tecumthé" and miscellaneous prose and poetry, were either separately published or printed in Montreal periodicals during that five year period. In 1825 and 1826 he was based in Scotland on a recruiting assignment. His next two books, Tales of Chivalry and Romance and The War of the Isles were published, respectively, in Edinburgh and London in 1826. After a year back at Hythe he was sent to Mauritius in April 1827. Longmore was acting Surveyor-General of Mauritius for the last three of the five years he spent there. When the Royal Staff Corps was disbanded in 1832 he was placed on half-pay, a status he shared with John Richardson and many other veterans of the Napoleonic Wars who were to make their mark in Canada and other colonies. In 1834 he secured an appointment as a magistrate in Cape Colony, where he remained, occupying a number of posts, until his death in 1867. Longmore continued to write throughout his years at the Cape and is considered in modern South Africa to be a prominent South African English writer of the colonial period.10
Longmore’s publications are divided into two distinct periods: 1823-1827 and 1837-1860. Although he may well have been writing since childhood, as he hints in the Introductory Stanzas of Tecumthe (55), and as a very young man (the Preface to The War of the Isles implies that it was written in 1816), as far as we know, his works did not appear in print until they began to be published in two Montreal literary magazines, the Canadian Review and, its competitor, the Canadian Magazine, in 1823 and 1824. We are not certain when the first ones appeared because they were all published anonymously, and only those he subsequently acknowledged in other contexts can be identified and dated. The two literary journals may contain many unacknowledged poems and articles by George Longmore.
In the context of his own body of works, Tecumthe is closest to The War of the Isles, which is a verse account of the Peninsular War that runs to over two hundred and fifty pages. Although Tecumthe was published first, Longmore’s prefatory statement in 1826 that The War of the Isles had been written ten years earlier, would indicate that the longer poem was written first, immediately after the final defeat of Napoleon. Both poems, although they praise individual heroism, are strongly anti-war. Although Longmore was a combattant in the Peninsula, with the exception of a few stanzas, he distances himself from the activities he describes as much in The War of the Isles as in Tecumthe. His authorial stance allows him to comment and philosophize, but not to write of his own experiences or emotions.
The War of 1812 pitted Britain against the United States, which had entered the Napoleonic Wars on the side of its old ally, France. Although problems had simmered for years between Britain and her former colonies, the precipitating cause of the American declaration of war was the right of neutral trade. Britain, in enforcing its counter-blockade of Napoleon’s closure of all European ports to British shipping, had imposed restrictions on neutral American shipping and had impressed11 seamen from American ships. Within the United States, a majority in the northeast supported the British cause, while in the interior states sympathy was generally with France. Successive governments had tried to remain neutral in the conflict. However, late in 1811, a new Congress, dominated by western "War Hawks" was elected. This group, hostile to Britain and claiming that Britain was encouraging her Indian allies to frustrate American efforts to expand settlement westward, saw an opportunity to put an end to both the British and the Indian threat by wiping out the scattered, poorly-defended settlements in Upper Canada, many of which were inhabited by recent immigrants from the United States. Since British forces were busy fighting Napoleon in Europe, it was "only a matter of marching." There was little hostile activity in the northeast because the Atlantic colonies were protected by the British navy, and also because they continued throughout the war to trade with New England. Other than Montreal and its hinterland, most of Quebec was defended by fortifications which discouraged attack, so the principal battleground was to be Upper Canada.
In theory, the "War Hawks" were correct in their assumption that Upper Canada could be easily conquered. In the event, they were wrong. Perhaps the major factor in their defeat was the initial Canadian success under the leadership of Sir Isaac Brock,12 administrator of Upper Canada and commander of the forces. His small force was supplemented by militia and Indian allies. Brigadier-General William Hull attacked Canada, but was driven back to Detroit, which he surrendered in August 1812. Although the Canadians ultimately won the Battle of Queenston Heights on the Niagara frontier in October of that same year, Brock was, of course, killed in the engagement. The Battle of Moraviantown, at which Tecumseh was killed, took place on October 5, 1813. Despite the loss of Brock, who was both their civil and military leader, the early successes in 1812 stiffened Canadian resolve and demonstrated to residents that they could indeed turn back American invaders. In the next two years the advantage see-sawed back and forth, so that when the Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814 it was easy to return to the pre-war boundaries. It is generally considered by historians that the successful defence of Upper Canada contributed to a sense of cohesion and patriotism among the residents of the colony, as well as to an ingrained antipathy towards the United States.13 The heroes of that defence—Brock and Tecumseh in Upper Canada, de Salaberry in Lower Canada—became a permanent part of the Canadian historical consciousness.
George Longmore’s notes (61, 62) indicate that he had talked with "persons who were on the spot, when the circumstances (mentioned in the poem) occurred. . . . ," but the idea of Tecumthe, and the attitudes and ideas expressed in the poem, have their origin in his personal background and interests. His family, his early years in Quebec City, and his Peninsular War experiences, combined with his professional life in the Montreal area in the early 1820s, where he would have had military friends and colleagues who had been part of the recent battles, all contributed to affect what he wrote about Indians, about war, about nature, and about moral order.
By the standards of British North America at the end of the eighteenth century, Longmore’s childhood in Quebec was a privileged one. The city itself was small, probably about ten thousand people; the English population was only about twenty-eight percent of the total; and the civil, military, business and ecclesiastical elites were an even smaller percentage of that group.14 Consequently, "everybody knew everybody else." His maternal grandfather, Nicholas Coxe,15 was a minor official, and his own father, as a military surgeon and then as Apothecary to the Forces, had access to the highest levels of British administration. The administrative class was a small one, made up of those holding civil and/or military appointments. With rare exceptions, the Governor General was also Commander of the Forces and others held similar double appointments.16 The civil and military elite worked together at the Chateau St. Louis,17 and met socially on an on-going basis. That Longmore’s family were part of this elite is evidenced by the fact that his sister Maria married an aide-de-camp to the Governor General18 and that it was the Duke of Kent who was responsible for young George attending the Royal Military Academy at Great Marlowe.19
One individual who was also part of this class in the period when George Longmore was growing up, was George Heriot. A Scottish-born artist who came to Canada in 1792 as a minor office-holder under the Board of Ordnance, Heriot became deputy postmaster-general of British North America in 1799 and held this post until 1816. His biographer states that he was in contact with the military and administrative elite of Lower Canada.20 He had travelled widely before coming to Canada, and continued to do so as part of his position as postmaster-general. These journeys, and his reading in the history of Canada, led him to produce Travels through the Canadas, which was published in London in 1807. Heriot is best known today for the drawings and watercolours that he produced in Canada, many of which served as illustrations for his book. Young George Longmore almost certainly knew George Heriot personally. His father and Heriot were almost the same age, were Scottish by birth, had shared scientific interests, and were part of the same group, with ties to both the military and civil elite, that remained in Lower Canada regardless of who was the current governor, or of which military regiment was in the garrison. There are echoes of Heriot’s Travels throughout Tecumthe. Longmore would have heard Heriot describe his travels in person, and later probably read the book that his family’s friend had published.
One of the tasks which involved both civilian and military administrators was responsibility for management of the Indian Department. Because management of the Indians was a necessity in the defence of British North America, it had initially been a military responsibility. However, the distribution of annual "gifts" and general administrative tasks became overwhelming, so in 1796 responsibility for Indians passed to the Lieutenant-Governor in Upper Canada, and the Governor General, who was always resident in Quebec, assumed authority for Lower Canada in 1800. In 1816, after the War of 1812, jurisdiction reverted to the Commander of the Forces. That the Governor General and the Commander of the Forces were frequently one and the same person meant that the administrative circles in which Dr. Longmore and George Heriot moved were generally well-informed about Indian matters and that they met and talked with Indian superintendents and agents both professionally and socially. Everyone in Quebec City was familiar with the Hurons who lived at nearby Lorette, and who were often seen in the city.21 In addition to the Hurons, young George Longmore would have heard much from his father’s acquaintances about the other tribes that inhabited British North America.
Another strand in young George’s upbringing which would have reinforced his knowledge of Indians and Indian life was the Church of England, the denomination to which the Longmore family belonged. Indeed, his father’s brother was an Anglican priest in England. The ecclesiastical elite was also part of the governing elite in Quebec City. Missionaries from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel working in Upper and Lower Canada were responsible to the Bishop of Quebec after that bishopric was established in 1793. The missionaries, who reported visits to the Indians in their letters to the Bishop, also either visited Quebec City or were visited by the Bishop. There can be little doubt that information known to the Bishop and the clergy soon circulated throughout the elite community. Thus, in his religious as well as in his secular life, young George Longmore was well-placed to know about Indian culture.
In later years, after his return to Lower Canada, George Longmore had many opportunities to discuss both the War of 1812 and Indian life with those he met. Although none of the regiments that had fought in the war were still present, many individuals who had participated were still in the Canadas. These were men who, like Longmore’s father,22 were attached to the Ordnance, the Commissariat, the Medical Service, and similar support branches of the army, who often remained in one country for their entire adult lives. In addition, there were officers and men who had decided to settle in the colony and who had either deserted, resigned, gone on half-pay, or "exchanged" with an officer of a regiment that was coming to, or remaining in, Canada. One particular example of the latter process is relevant to George Longmore and the writing of Tecumthe.
One of those who arranged to stay in Canada was Lieutenant George Hopper of the 89th. Regiment, who fought at the battle of Crysler’s Farm and at Lundy’s Lane, where he was wounded and had his horse shot out from under him. He had also been seriously wounded fighting in Spain in 1810. In 1817, when the 89th. was leaving Canada, apparently living at Prescott, U.C., Hopper applied, and was granted permission, to exchange with a lieutenant of the Nova Scotia Fencibles. Subsequently, his application for a pension because of disabilities incurred in military service was disallowed, although a medical board had reported in his favour, because he had not actually lost a limb and therefore did not meet the requirements for a pension. Hopper’s 1821 application for a grant of land in the Ottawa District (the area along the Upper Canadian side of the Ottawa River, between Hawkesbury and the Lower Canada border) was, however, successful. A further application for some form of government employment, since he was physically unable to farm, resulted in his appointment as Storekeeper and Clerk of Works on the Grenville Canal in 1824. (Grenville is across the river from Hawkesbury.) Since Hopper was a half-pay officer and resident in the area when Longmore was working on the canal, it is very likely that the two men knew each other and would have discussed their war experiences, thus providing Longmore with an insight into some aspects of the War of 1812.23 In his various postings in the Montreal district, Longmore would almost certainly have known other military men, both active and retired, who furnished him with specific accounts of Canadian battles.
Longmore had many opportunities to know Indians personally. The canal sites were all at or near Indian communities. Lachine, where he spent the period from October 1819 to December 1820, was the depot for the forwarding of goods destined for the Indians, and a favourite gathering spot for the tribes of the region.24 Caughnawaga was nearby. Chambly was another Indian settlement, as was Two Mountains, near Grenville.25
Longmore’s principal source of information about Tecumseh is the prose text used as the Argument to Tecumthe. When the poem was first published, no indication was given that the author of the Argument was other than the author of Tecumthe. However, as the poet states in the final paragraph of the Argument (221-25) when it was printed in the second published text, the prose material is actually taken from a book, The Lucubrations of Humphrey Ravelin (London, 1823). The author of this anonymous work of partly-fictional military reminiscences is unknown. The British Library lists the book as written by "G. Procter, novelist." Carl F. Klinck investigated all the possible G. Procters without finding one who was likely to have been possessed of all the information known to the author of the book.26 Nor does Longmore meet this criterion. However, a ravelin is a military fortification of the kind a member of the Royal Staff Corps might have been engaged in building and is thus an appropriate pseudonym for such a person. One of the other chapters of The Lucubrations appeared in the Canadian Magazine in August 1824, which is an indication that the author was probably resident in Canada at that time. While Longmore is probably not the author of the book, since he does not seem to have acknowledged it at a later date as he did The Charivari and Tales of Chivalry and Romance, the author was certainly a person known to him—probably a fellow Staff Corps officer with whose permission he versified the chapter "Indian Warfare," and with whom he had discussed its specific contents.27 The attribution made in the Edinburgh edition, with its ambiguous reference to previous periodical publication, seems to have been deliberately worded in such a way as to lead to confusion. To confuse readers, present and future, as to authorship would have been a source of amusement to gentleman amateurs in the early nineteenth century.
All this is background for Longmore, the poet. The form in which he chose to express his ideas and information when he wrote Tecumthe was that used by Sir Walter Scott in his long, metrical, narrative romances. Although Longmore’s Tales of Chivalry and Romance, which contains the second version of Tecumthe, ends with an essay on "Lord Byron" and contains an "Elegy, On the Death of Lord Byron," it begins with a poem "To the Author of Waverley."28 Byron’s influence on The Charivari is all-important, but Scott’s influence is primary in Tecumthe. "To the Author of Waverley" praises Scott for bringing to light the treasures of romance to be found in Scottish history, pays homage to the "Taste," "Wit, Grace, and Beauty" (15) of his work, and refers repeatedly to his genius. The opening lines are characteristic:
Not only do these lines recognize both "Truth" and "Fiction" as components of Scott’s poetry but, in doing so, they indicate Longmore’s own intentions in Tecumthe. Just as Scott wrote about Robert the Bruce in The Lord of the Isles, and about other real people in other metrical romances, combining legend, fact, historical imagination and poetic licence, so Longmore indicates to the readers of Tales of Chivalry and Romance that he has done the same thing in "The Fall of Constantinople" and Tecumthe, the two long poems which follow "To the Author of Waverley." Just as Scott appended pages of prose notes to each of his romances, so Longmore appended pages of prose notes to "Constantinople" and Tecumthe, and begins Tecumthe with a long prose Argument. And just as Scott sought to produce narratives that would appeal to Scottish pride in those parts of the country’s history which might be deemed glorious, and thus to make other nations envious, so Longmore attempted to produce a Canadian work, about a Canadian hero and Canadian history, that would have the same effect in Canada.
Throughout his life, Longmore regarded Scott as his greatest literary hero. A decade after the publication of Tales of Chivalry and Romance, in The Spirit of the Age; A Satire, Longmore’s first work to be published in Cape Town,29 the poet praised Scott as the model for authors in both prose and poetry, and as a writer whose moral lessons benefited all humanity. His general thesis in the poem is that the contemporary world has deteriorated considerably over previous decades. However, Scott had offered a solution:
The praise continues for another twenty-two lines.30
Many years later, in 1855, when "The Fall of Constantinople" was published in a revised version as Byzantium, George Longmore included in an Appendix copies of two letters from Sir Walter Scott.31 The prefatory note to the Appendix reads:
ALTER SCOTT at Edinburgh, in the year 1826, through a mutual friend, the late Sir DAVID ERSKINE, of Dryburgh Abbey, which property, now inherited by the Earl of Buchan, adjoins Abbotsford.
Longmore received the following acknowledgment from Scott, unfortunately undated:
Since Longmore’s note in the Dedication of Byzantium to a Cape Town friend refers only to the letters and does not mention meeting Scott personally, we must assume that the breakfast meeting never took place, probably because Longmore had returned to Hythe. The second letter from Scott, dated January 17, 1827, acknowledges receipt of a copy of The War of the Isles, and comments favourably upon it.
Since Longmore’s father was born and educated in Scotland, young George had both family and emotional ties to that country, which would have made him receptive to Scott’s romantic view of Scottish history. The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, Rokeby, and The Lord of the Isles were all published between 1805 and 1815, and thus available to catch the imagination of the young poet. If Canada could not provide him with a theme from its ancient history, it could at least provide him with one of heroism, a definable historical event, and a remarkable central character, who would be of interest both to outsiders and to future generations. At the beginning of the Argument to Tecumthe the Prophet is said to have "possessed what in Scotland would have been termed second-sight" (6, 7), and Indian chiefs and tribes are connected with Scottish chiefs and clans: "If it be recollected that the Indian chiefs are almost always old men, and that the spirit of clanship is as strong among them as ever it could be in the Highlands of Scotland . . . " (25-28). Moreover, at several points in the poem Tecumseh is referred to using the Scottish word chieftain. Scott makes occasional references to North America and to Indians, as in Marmion (III, ix) where the reference is to "heart-sick exiles" from Scotland, living in Kentucky or Ontario and Rokeby (III, ii) when Risingham, attempting to elude pursuers, is compared in a stanza to an Indian doing the same thing.
In the metrical romances, Scott alternates descriptions of action with descriptions of settings or characters. He moves from the general to the specific, and regularly narrows his focus to concentrate on the words or deeds of a single individual. These are all methods used by Longmore. Scott does not use any classical allusions, since he was, in a sense, developing his own mythological structures, but he makes frequent use of minstrels, their lyres, and their songs, as Longmore does in his Introductory Stanzas (38, 84, 90), to produce an extended metaphor of the poet as minstrel.
As his notes indicate, Scott drew on many sources for the metrical romances. Similarly, Longmore drew on Anglican missionary accounts of Indian life, on information about the Upper Canadian battles in the War of 1812 as recounted by participants, and on his own experience, both of war and of a Quebec City childhood. Longmore’s personal and authorial reticence did not allow him to claim publicly that he was attempting to create a Canadian poem after the manner of Scott, with all that such an endeavour would imply about Canadian identity and mythology. This was, however, what he was doing.
Tecumtheis, in the words of its subtitle, "A Poetical Tale. In Three Cantos." To know precisely what the "Tale" is about, one need only read the prefatory Argument. The narrative line of the poem follows this argument closely. The first canto, a poetic chapter, sets the scene and introduces the major native protagonists; the second, contrasting the superstitious behaviour of the Prophet32 with Tecumseh’s reliance on reason, shows them at war and defeated by white invaders; and the third deals with events in the first year of that part of the war between Britain and America which was fought on Canadian soil. Longmore’s treatment of the Tecumseh story is not grand and heroic in the way that Richardson’s is. Although always praising the heroism of those caught up in battles, Longmore is essentially too opposed to war to think of events as large-scale and epical in the Homeric sense.33 Tecumthe in an epic only in the sense that Scott’s poems are epics, which is to say that it is made up of episodes contributing to the formation of a nation and of a moral order, while focusing on a central character who is at the same time heroic and fallibly human. The descriptive nature of the poem relates it to earlier Canadian poetry of the topographical variety34 and its narrative elements make it one of the precursors of the modern Canadian documentary poem.35 However, in the history of Canadian literature Tecumthe is unique, both in its objective and in the means chosen to achieve it. It could only have been written by a Canadian with strong feeling for his native land.
Tecumthe is, however, more than mere stylized praise for a Canadian hero. Throughout, Longmore, who appears to have been a devout, practising Christian all his adult life, places a serious and complex moral intention at the forefront of all his description and commentary. What are the qualities of a good person? What are the qualities of a good society? Four words are keys to his moral views: reason, instinct, civilization, and nature. Longmore believed that, in human beings, reason (including Christian education and understanding) is the highest good. Instinct is to be mistrusted. Nature and civilization have the potential to be either good or bad. Civilization, in its use of reason and education, is good, but, in its love of luxury and its crowded cities, it is bad. There is an idyllic view of nature in the Introductory Stanzas. The young boy growing up in the enjoyment of nature, comes to equate his native Canada with the natural world (19-24). To Longmore, nature, as God created it, is good, but natural behaviour can be either good or bad. Nature is a creation of God, but separate from Him, as Creator and creation are separate. Consequently, since human beings often behave instinctively, reason must always battle for ascendance. However, "feeling," a word which as noun or verb appears frequently in Tecumthe, was almost the opposite of instinct, since it referred to the cultivated emotion of an educated and cultured person. Neither "feeling" nor "sentiment" had unmanly or pejorative connotations in Longmore’s day.
The initial twenty-seven lines of the first Canto prepare us for some of these themes. The "foaming cataract" (I, 1) and the "wild woods" (I, 5) were planned and created by the "Godhead" (I, 9) from whose hand came "light, and life, and reason" (I, 11), all of these elements being good because they were divinely created. The stanza ends with another idea, common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, namely the concept of Christianity as a divine gift sent to remove the "veil of night" (I, 24) and ignorance from those lands to which the Word had not yet come. The natural world of North America was God-given, but its inhabitants, wrapped in "oblivion’s shroud" (I, 18), lacked the "light, and life, and reason" (I, 11) of Christianity until God sent European explorers and missionaries.
In Longmore’s day, European philosophers and theologians were divided on their answers to the questions of humanity’s nature and purpose, but underlying most views was an ethnocentric assumption that Western European Christian civilization was divinely ordained to be the highest form of civilized life. According to one theory, aboriginal peoples were remnants of an early, imperfect stage of human development. They were considered to be incapable of improvement and thus destined to yield to the higher, white, form of humanity. A competing theory held that all humans were created by God, who could do no wrong, and thus, through education and conversion, everyone could become as civilized as Europeans. Another aspect of this Enlightenment belief in the essential humanity of all peoples was the idea, held by some who disapproved of much of Western European civilization, that there were purer and more natural forms of society in some "uncivilized" countries. This latter idea led to the idealized concept of the "noble savage," a person whose simple way of life, in tune with nature and natural wisdom, was a reproach to decadent Europeans. This symbolic figure was frequently used by writers such as Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire as a means of criticizing the society in which they lived. The most famous example of the literary "noble savage," an imaginative representation of peoples most Europeans had never actually enountered, is the character Chactas in Chateaubriand’s Atala (1801).
In the Canadas, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many writers were influenced by the idea of the noble savage, although none of them adopted it in its entirety. Most depicted Indians as a mixture of what were perceived to be good and bad characteristics.36 In addition to Longmore’s 1824 work, there are positive depictions of Tecumseh in John Richardson’s Tecumseh, of Skenandow and Tecumseh in Adam Kidd’s The Huron Chief (1830) and of Piscaret in W.F. Hawley’s The Unknown, or Lays of the Forest (1831). These men are all chiefs, and are all brave, naturally wise men who are of assistance to whites. All of them share some characteristics with the white "romantic hero." Piscaret and Skenandow also participate in the European tradition of both implied and overt criticism of white society.
When Longmore’s "Tecumthé" was first published, its real-life hero had been dead for only eleven years, and there were many people alive who had known the chief personally. He could not, therefore, be treated entirely as an abstract symbol. In Longmore’s portrayal, Tecumseh exhibits some characteristics of the noble savage, particularly in his personal dignity and "natural superiority of genius" (Argument, 11). He is not, however, as some Europeans would have had it, a person whose attitudes and behaviour, simpler and in tune with nature, should be emulated in all respects in order to bring about a "new golden age" in European society. Longmore keeps insisting that education and Christianity would have been necessary before Tecumseh could have realized his full potential as a human being—that is, he would have had to unite the best of European and native society, and the mysteries of nature, which were part of his life experience, would be tamed and organized by Christianity. Tecumseh’s behaviour, as presented in the Argument, was too instinctive to meet with Longmore’s approval; he was "untutor’d nature’s child" (III, 171), although his bravery and the fact that he was "Mark’d from the herd of weaker minds" (III, 163), and thus could understand reasoned strategy and analyze events, were both points in his favour. With the exception of the flaws occasioned by his lack of education and his non-Christian beliefs, Tecumseh is described very positively. He represents physical perfection (I, 173-89); he arouses awe in other Indians (I, 161-66, 199-202); he is brave (II, 255-70); he is energetic (III, 153-54); and he is a leader (II, 265-70, 375-92).
When contrasted with his brother, the Prophet, Tecumseh is superior in all regards. The Prophet is always described with negative adjectives and adverbs. He is never characterized physically, but he is depicted in terms of reliance on dreams, omens and superstition (see, for example, I, 117-32). "Superstition" and "superstitious," are generally associated with his person or his activities. He is often called, using a resonantly Christian term, a "false Prophet" (II, 295). The adjectives "rude" (I, 119) and "untutor’d" (I, 265) are frequently applied both to him and to his followers. He is instinctive (I, 124), and hungry for power and control. Despite his sympathy for the native cause, Longmore gives no positive weight to the Prophet’s role in the history of Indian resistance to white encroachment. As a spiritual leader, receiving instruction directly from the Great Spirit, the historic Prophet had a large following among the tribes of the mid-west. He taught his people that they must return to a way of life from which all white influence had been removed. When they had once again become pure, the Great Spirit would save them from the whites. For more than a century, the Church of England had been sending missionaries to convert the North American Indians to Christianity.37 Raised in this tradition, Longmore would have been unable to see much value in native religion, and certainly not in one that was essentially anti-white and anti-civilization. As he is depicted in the poem, the Prophet’s only redeeming characteristic is that he is brave in battle and has the sense, according to white values, to ask his brother for forgiveness (II, 321-24). Tecumseh is almost the complete reverse. As a leader he is interested in the general good of his people, not in personal power; his actions are determined by the evidence of his eyes and ears, not by superstition; he is capable of tender feeling, as in his forgiveness of the Prophet; and his physical perfection and valour are described at length. The remaining natives are depicted as without feeling, rude and vengeful, but also brave (II, 220-46) and hospitable (II, 506-13).
Few of the white men in Tecumthe can be considered as examples of the superiority of white civilization. There are the American marauders in Canto II, attacking innocent natives who had done them no harm; there are the nameless combatants of Canto III, participants in a war repeatedly described as stupid, cruel and unjust; and there are various British military leaders, although Brock is the only one of these mentioned by name. Brock is described in terms of abstractions: "brave, gallant," "hero," "Honour" (III, 1-18); he is a symbol rather than a person. The unnamed military "chiefs," equally symbolic, are wise, brave and judicious. The absence of women of any race in Tecumthe leaves unclear their place in Longmore’s moral scheme.
Longmore obviously did not believe that Western European civilization, as it existed in his day, was without flaws. It appears that his definition of a civilized man implies Christian education, the use of reason, a cultivated sensibility that replaced instinct with "feeling," and a value system that regarded honesty and simplicity as virtues, while rejecting luxury, war, and power-for-its-own-sake. Evidently, he found some of these qualities in aboriginal peoples and many of them lacking in Europeans. A natural man relied on instinct, rather than reason and cultivated feeling; he understood natural rhythms and did not try to control nature. Because of his reliance on unreflective instinct he was prone to violence, but, on the other hand, because of his close relationship to nature he understood his own world and lived simply and without ostentation. To Longmore’s way of thinking, if all the good qualities of a natural man could be combined with Christian morality and education, the perfect man might, indeed, be the product.
Many of the characteristics that Longmore ascribed to Tecumseh, the Prophet, and their fellow tribesmen would now be considered stereotypical, although they were not seen as such in his day. Much of the description of Tecumseh in the Argument is patronizing in tone, particularly when his social behaviour and principled refusal to drink alcohol are mentioned (103-12). However, as previously noted, Longmore is probably not the author of the Argument. Longmore himself would almost certainly have denied that he was making stock characters of the Indians. In the case of Tecumseh this is generally true, but in the case of the Prophet, Longmore’s description reflects the early nineteenth-century white misunderstanding of native spirituality, as well as the Christian assumption of the superiority of their God above all others. There is no doubt that the mass of tribesmen—"rude," "savage," "wild" men—are stereotypes.
In English poetry, before the middle of the nineteenth century, the most common metrical form was iambic, and the most common line lengths were tetrameter and pentameter. Allusions to classical mythology were common and understood by all, since the study of Greek and Latin was the norm for educated individuals. Longmore’s meter and verse forms are similar to those used by Sir Walter Scott in his narrative poems. Generally, Scott writes in rhymed couplets, although other rhyme schemes are integrated into all the poems, and most of Scott’s lines are written in iambic tetrameter, with occasional variations of meter to indicate changes of mood, rapid action, or an individual’s speech. Longmore wrote most of his "poetical tale" in iambic tetrameter, varying the rhyme from couplets (aa, bb, . . . ) to cross-rhymes (abab, cdcd, . . . ), although the latter form is the most common. Occasionally he uses pentameter, and switches from iambic to other metric forms to provide variety and to mark changes in atmosphere. The narrative and descriptive stanzas vary in length. The eleven introductory stanzas, personal and autobiographical, are written in Spenserian stanzas rhyming ababbcbcc. The only major variation in form in the body of the poem, the "Indians’ War Chant" (II, 99-134), as it was called when it was reprinted in the Literary Garland in July 1840 (365), is an attempt to reproduce the sound and feeling of the Indians as they sang and danced around the fire. Metrically it appears to be Longmore’s own invention, rather than a defined form. It mixes single strong beats with two and three-beat measures in a manner that continually interrupts the flow of the song—as if the dancers were moving jerkily. The short, heavy lines are no doubt meant to represent drum beats. Since it represents a type of ritual, the form is repeated in each of three stanzas.
In the first version of "Tecumthé" that was published in Montreal in 1824, many of the lines are not end-stopped as they are in the 1826 Edinburgh edition and as they are in almost all of Scott’s metrical romances. The effect of ending every line with some form of punctuation is to bring the reader’s eye and mind to a brief halt at that point. In the earlier version, where the break is often at the caesura, in the middle of the line, the ideas flow more smoothly. In some instances, the regrouping of clauses through changes in punctuation has slightly altered the meaning. The changes of punctuation and wording between the 1824 and 1826 editions of Tecumthe are listed in the Historical Collation that concludes the present edition.
The terms in which Longmore describes North American scenery owe much to the aesthetic conventions of the sublime and the picturesque. The "foaming cataract" (I, 1), the vast panorama (I, 6), and the "Savage grandeur [which] awes the soul" (I, 2) are all sights that produce the combination of pleasure and fear associated with the sublime. A principal characteristic of picturesque scenery was variety, and the feeling that it evoked was more one of pleasure than one of awe. Many of the extended descriptions, such as the one of autumn at the beginning of Canto II, move on from the prescribed attitudes to what is obviously first-hand observation. The glories of an eastern Canadian autumn can only be fully described by a writer who has seen it.
No critical comments on Tecumthe from the 1820s have yet been found, either in Canada or in the United Kingdom.38 Books were by no means always reviewed in Longmore’s day. In addition, the work was published anonymously on both occasions, and on both occasions the poet left the country either before, or just after publication39 so there was no great need for his friends to ensure a positive critical reception. As part of a particular number of the Canadian Review, "Tecumthé" participated in the generalized praise accorded to the periodical by its supporters, but since the editor of the Review, David Chisholm, was a controversial figure40 anything associated with him was also likely to be condemned, ignored, or, at best, damned with faint praise by a considerable portion of the community.
However, Tecumthe was never "lost" to the process of Canadian literary history, anymore than The Rising Village and Jean Baptiste, which also appeared in the Canadian Review, were lost. Because the identity of the author was unknown until fairly recently, literary historians tended to focus on Richardson’s Tecumseh, where they could be certain about the author and his relation to the subject. A modern reprint of the Richardson poem was available before the 1992 Canadian Poetry Press edition was published but the present edition of Tecumthe is the first to make Longmore’s poem available for study. Longmore, throughout his life, maintained a self-effacing, "gentlemanly" attitude toward his literary productions; Richardson both attracted and sought publicity, with the result that his publications were among the first to have achieved "canonical" status in Canada. All these factors have prevented Longmore’s Tecumthe from taking its rightful place in our literary history.
Both the description and the narration in Tecumthe are part of the process of naming, and thus coming to see as one’s own, the new land in which Canadians lived. It is a trans-cultural process which has been undergone by immigrants and their first-generation children in many countries and many eras. The poem has a dual function and a dual context. In Tecumthe, George Longmore brought European attitudes and models to bear on Canadian people, events and scenery. When he published "Tecumthé" in Montreal in 1824 he was conferring status on all these things, and encouraging his fellow Canadians to regard them as a basis for nation-building, but when he published it in Edinburgh in 1826, he was describing them for non-Canadians. In the first case he was presenting the people, events and scenery of his native land as something of which all Canadians should be proud; in the second, he was encouraging outsiders to appreciate these Canadian things, and also satisfying their curiosity about exotic places and people.
"Tecumthé" was first published in the December, 1824 issue of the Montreal periodical the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal. Although, as was customary with the literary productions of amateur writers in the early nineteenth century, the author’s name was not appended, an editorial note (396) gives a broad hint which would probably have identified Longmore to most of the Canadian Review’s readers:
UPHROSYNE," and several other prose and poetical pieces, which appeared in our last number, as well as of that animating production "THE CHARIVARI," to which we endeavoured to do justice in a Review in the same number; and of another production called "The Fall of Constantinople," which we had the pleasure of introducing to public notice while editing another periodical publication. - EDITOR.
The typesetter erred in paginating the portion of the Canadian Review that contained "Tecumthé." The text begins on page 396 and continues to page 400, (the five pages containing the Argument), then goes back to 391, continuing to 398 (printed as 938), and then jumps to 409. From 409 onward the pages continue in their proper sequence. The Montreal text contains typographical errors which were corrected in the Edinburgh printing, although new typographical errors entered the text there (see the list of Editorial Emendations that follows the poem in the present edition).
In the Montreal text, Tecumseh’s name is spelled Tecumthé, with an acute e, when the text is in lower case, and without the accent when it is printed in capitals. Presumably the type font available to the printer did not contain a capital E acute. In the Edinburgh version, printed in Tales of Chivalry and Romance (1826), no acute e is used in either upper or lower case.
In the Canadian Review, many nouns are capitalized which appear in lower case in the Edinburgh text. Dashes are also much more common. In the first version many lines are punctuated at the caesura break, rather than at the end of the line. In the second, almost every line has a punctuation mark of some sort at the end, which has the effect of placing heavy emphasis on the rhyme and which tends to slow down the narrative flow. For example, in Canto II, 169-85 eleven of these lines are stopped with commas in the Edinburgh text, but only three have commas in the Montreal version. In some instances the punctuation of the Edinburgh text is a definite improvement, but in others it makes it difficult to follow the author’s thought. In later publications Longmore returned to his original style, making frequent use of dashes and often placing punctuation at the caesura, rather than having the lines end-stopped.
Although punctuation changes are numerous, there are few changes in the actual wording of the second version. In some instances changes seem to have been made because terms or ideas were probably not familiar to British readers. Thus, for example, the blue flame which often appears when resin is burned was changed to a more conventional colour (Canto II, 159-60). In other instances the change of a word has necessitated a change in the previous or following line in order to restore the rhyme.
The text of this edition is based on the one published in Tales of Chivalry and Romance in 1826, which is the last of the two that appeared in Longmore’s lifetime. Copies exist in the South African Library, Cape Town, of both The Spirit of the Age (Cape Town, 1837) and Don Juan, A Sequel, (Cape Town, 1850) with emendations in Longmore’s own handwriting. He also revised "Euphrosyne" as part of Florio: or the Muse and the Maid (Cape Town, 1851), and Byzantium (Cape Town, 1855) is based on "The Fall of Constantinople," but it does not seem that an amended version of Tecumthe is extant today in any public library in South Africa. The British Library holds two copies of Tales of Chivalry and Romance, and the National Library of Scotland holds two, but none of them have Longmore’s characteristic hand-written emendations. We do not know whether either printing was done under his supervision, but, lacking specific evidence with regard to Longmore’s preferred text, we must accept the second, Edinburgh version as more likely to correspond to the author’s final intention. The present text contains some corrections of evident typographical errors in the Edinburgh printing. These are contained in the list of Editorial Emendations that follows the poem.
For ease of reference, the heading "Introductory Stanzas," which appeared in the 1824 Montreal printing but not in the 1826 Edinburgh one, has been reintroduced in Explanatory Notes in the present edition.