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British North America
A Short Review of Canadian Literature


By Sir J. G. BOURINOT, K.C.M.G., LL.D., D.C.L., Lit.D.
(Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of Canada; Honorary Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute, ibc.; Author of the “Story of Canada" (Nations Series), “Parliamentary Procedure and Government in Canada" and other works on the History and Constitution of the Dominion)

The five millions of people of two nationalities who own Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, arc displaying a mental activity commensurate with their expansion of territory and accumulation of wealth. If it were possible, within the compass of this article, to give a complete list of the many histories, poems, essays, and pamphlets that have appeared from the Canadian press, during the thirty years that the Dominion of Canada has been in existence, the number would astonish all who have not followed our intellectual progress. In fact, all the scientific, historical, and poetical contributions of three decades, whether good, bad, or indifferent in character, make up a quite pretentious library, which shows the growth of what may be called Canadian literature, since it deals with, subjects essentially of Canadian interests.

The attention that is now devoted to the study and writing of history, and the collection of historical documents relating to the Dominion, proves clearly the national or thoroughly Canadian spirit that is already animating the educated and cultured class of the people.

I have now before me a list of over a hundred books, from the portly quarto to the unpretentious duodecimo, which have been printed during a decadc of years in Canada or other countries, and all of them dealing with the general on local history of the Dominion and its divisions, or giving the biography of some of the famous men who have written their names indelibly in the annals of the country.

It was the American historian, Francis Parkman, who first lifted Canadian history from its low level of dulness, on which few readers even in Canada itself ventured. This history is even older than that of New England; contemporaneous rather with that of Virginia, since Champlain landed on the heights of Quebec, and laid the foundation of the ancient capital, only a year after the English adventurers of the days of King James stepped on the banks of the river named after the sovereign, and commenced the old town which has long since disappeared before the tides of the ocean that stretches away beyond the shores of the “ Old Dominion.” Indeed, even before this time, a little band of Frenchmen attempted a settlement by the beautiful basin of Annapolis in Acadia, that land of song and story. Canadian history recalls some of the most striking incidents in the annals of America, and of the ever-memorable contest between England and France for the supremacy on the continent. Even since the days of the French explorers and missionaries, who were the first to reveal the secrets of the mysterious west, and of the Mississippi—even since the close of the great war of seven years for dominion—that conflict which ended practically with the conquest of Quebec and the fall of Wolfe and Montcalm, “ united in death and fame,” the history of Canada as an English dependency is distinguished by many episodes of deep interest to the statesman and publicist, whether he belongs to the American or Canadian federation.

The coming of the United Empire Loyalists, the patriotism and self-sacrifice of Canadians during the war of 1812—15, the struggle for popular rights which culminated in the rising of 1837—38, the history of fur-traders and explorers in the North-West, the concession and results of responsible government, and its logical sequence—a free, self-governing confederation extending from ocean to ocean—all these are matters which have more than an ordinary interest when broadly and artistically limned on the pages of history. It is easy, then, to understand why so many historical writers have within a few years taken up, successfully in a few cases and unsuccessfully in many more, the various epochs of Canadian development, from the days of Cartier, the discoverer of the St. Lawrence, and of Champlain, the founder of Quebec and New France, down to the risings of the halfbreeds or Metis, in the prairie province of Manitoba, and on the banks of the North Saskatchewan, and the execution of their leader, Louis Riel, on the scaffold at Regina, the humble capital of that north-western region, the greater part of which is still an unbroken expanse of prairie land, where wild flowers and grasses grow in rich profusion, but which eventually must become the principal wheat granary of the continent.

Previous to the confederation of 1867, the only history of undoubted merit was that of the French Canadian Garneau, which was distinguished for its clearness of style, industry and research, and scholarly management of the subject. Now that the political passion that so long convulsed the public mind in Canada has disappeared with the causes that gave it birth, one is hardly prepared to make a hero of the demagogue Papineau, who led the French-Canadian rebellion of 1837, as Garneau has attempted in his able work, while the foundation of a now Dominion and the commencement of an era of larger political life has probably given a somewhat sectional character to such an historical effort. Still, despite its intense French-Canadian spirit, the history written by Mr. Garncau, as well as one by the Abbe Ferland of Laval University, notably illustrate the literary instinct and intellectual strength which have been distinguishing features of the best productions of the able and even brilliant men who have devoted themselves to literature with marked success among their French-Canadian countrymen, who are wont to pay a deeper homage to such literary efforts than the colder, less impulsive English-Canadian temperament has ever shown itself disposed to give to those who have been equally worthy of recognition in the English-speaking provinces.

Since 1867 only two works require special mention among the many which take up so much space on my library shelves. One of these is the history of the days of Montcalm and Levi's—the two most distinguished men in the closing days of the French regime in Canada. It is written by the Abbe Casgrain, who illustrates the studious and literary character of the professors of that great university which bears the name of the first bishop of Canada, Monseigneur Laval, and is one of the most interesting features of the ancient capital of Quebec, on whose heights it stands so conspicuous and dignified a structure. This work is distinguished by all that fervour of the French Canadian which shows itself when it is a question of their illustrious past, and sometimes warps their judgment and reason. The venerable Abbe is one of the ablest members of the Royal Society of Canada, a literary and scientific society, containing members of both nationalities, and illustrating remarkably the literary activity of both since its foundation by the Marquis of Lorne seventeen years ago, and has made many other valuable contributions to the historical literature of the country, notably one on “The Land of Evangeline,” which was deservedly crowned by the French Academy as an admirable example of literary style. A more pretentious general history of Canada is that by an able English Canadian, Dr. lvingsford, also a member of the same society, whose book reached ten octavo volumes before his death. Whilst it shows much industry and conscientiousness on the part of the author, it fails too often to evoke our interest, even when it deals with the striking and picturesque story of the French regime, since the author seems to consider it his duty to be sober and prosaic when Parkman is bright and eloquent. However, the work has undoubted merits—especially the account of the war of 1812—since it throws new light on many controverted points in our history, and assuredly it was never likely to mislead us by a too highly-coloured and imaginative version of the most famous incidents in our annals.

Perhaps the best estimate of the progress of literary culture in Canada can be formed from a careful perusal of the poems of Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, Professor Roberts, Wilfred Campbell, and Frederick George Scott, whose poetic efforts have frequently appeared in the leading American and Canadian magazines, and, more rarely, in English periodicals. I mention these names particularly, because from the finish of their verse and their freshness of thought they arc confessedly superior to all other Canadian poets, and may fairly claim a place alongside those who now stand foremost amongst American poets since Longfellow, Emerson, Whittier, Bryant, and Lowell have disappeared. Pauline Johnson, who has Indian blood in her veins, the scholarly Archbishop O’Brien of Halifax, Mr. Duncan Campbell Scott, who has also written some admirable short stories in Scribners and other periodicals, Ethelwyn Wutherald, Charles Mair, Sir James Edgar, and several others might be named to prove that poetry is not a lost art in Canada. In French Canada, two poets of high merit have been produced. The verses of Crdmazie, who died in poverty, showed much power and imagination as well as artistic skill. They were imbued with a truly Canadian spirit, with a love for Canada, its scenery, its history, and its traditions, which entitle them to a larger audience than they probably ever had in old France, or even in Canada itself, Mr. Louis Frechette is a worthy successor of Cremazie, and has won the distinction of having his best work crowned by the French Academy. These two men can fairly claim the highest place in the literature of French Canada.

It would be interesting as well as instructive if some competent critic, with the analytical faculty and the poetic instinct of Matthew Arnold or Saint-Beuve, were to study the English and French Canadian poets, and show whether they are mere imitators of the best models of French and English literature, or whether their work contains within itself those germs which give promise of original fruition in the future. It will be remembered that the French critic, though a poet of merit himself, has spoken of what he calls “the radical inadequacy of French poetry.” In his opinion, whatever talent the French poets have for strophe and line, their work as a rule is “ too slight, too soon read, too poor in ideas, to influence a serious mind for any length of time.” No doubt many others think that, in comparison with the best conceptions of Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Emerson, Browning, and Tennyson, French poetry is, generally speaking, inadequate for the expression of the most sublime thoughts, of the strongest passions, or of the most powerful imagination, and although it must always please us by its easy rhythm and lucidity of style, it fails to make that vivid impression on the mind and senses, which is the best test of that true poetic genius which influences generations and ever lives in the hearts of the people. It represents in some respects the lightness and vivacity of the French intellectual temperament under ordinary conditions, and not the strength of the national character, whose depths are only revealed at some crisis which evokes a deep sentiment of patriotism. “Partant pour la Syrie,” so often heard in the days of the last Bonaparte regime, probably illustrated this lighter tendency of the French mind, just as the “Marseillaise,” the noblest and most impressive of popular poetic outbursts, illustrated national passion evoked by abnormal conditions.

French-Canadian poetry has been purely imitative of French models, like Musset and Gauthier, both in style and sentiment, and consequently lacks strength and originality. It might be thought that in a new country poets would be inspired by original conceptions—that the intellectual fruition would be fresh and vigorous, like some natural products that grow so luxuriantly on the virginal soil of the new Dominion, not like those which "row on land which is renewed and enriched by artificial means after centuries of growth. Perhaps the literature of a colonial dependency, or a relatively new country, must necessarily in its first stages be imitative, and it is only now and then that an original mind bursts the fetters of intellectual subordination. In the United States, Emerson and Hawthorne probably best represented the original thought and imagination of that comparatively new country, just as Aldrich and Howells represent in the first case, English culture in poetry, and in the other the sublimated essence of realism. Walt Whitman’s poems certainly show at times much power and originality of conception; but after all they are simply the creations of an eccentric genius, and illustrate a phase of that realism towards which fiction even in America has been tending of late, and which has been already degraded in France to a naturalism which is positively offensive. He has not influenced to any perceptible extent the intellect of his generation, or elevated the thoughts of his countrymen like the two great minds I have just named. Yet even Whitman’s success, relatively small as it was in his own country, arose chiefly from the fact that he attempted to be an American poet, representing the pristine vigour and natural freedom of a new land.

It is when French-Canadian poets become thoroughly Canadian, by the very force of the inspiration of some Canadian subject they have chosen, that we can see them at their best. Frechette has all the finish of the French poets, and while it cannot be said that he has yet originated great thoughts which are likely to live among even the people whom he has so often instructed and delighted, yet he has given us poems like that on the discovery of the Mississippi, which proves that he is capable of even better things if he would always seek inspiration from the sources of the deeply interesting history of his own country, or enter into the inner mysteries or social relations of his own people, rather than dwell on the lighter shades and incidents of their lives. After all, the poetry that lives is the poetry of human life and human sympathy, of joy and sorrow— the Psalms of David or the "rand verse of Dante and Goethe—rather than verses on mountains, rivers, and lakes, or sweetly-worded sonnets to Madame B. or Mademoiselle C. When we compare the English with the French-Canadian poets, we can see what an influence the more picturesque and interesting history of French Canada exercises on the imagination of its writers. The poets that claim Ontario for their home give us rhythmical and pleasing descriptions of the lake and river scenery, of which the varied aspects and moods might well captivate the eye of the poet as well as of the painter. It is very much painting in both cases; the poet should be an artist by temperament equally with the painter who puts his thoughts on canvas and not in words. Such descriptions as Mr. Wilfred Campbell has given of scenes which one often witnesses on a beautiful summer day whilst resting on the banks of one of the great lakes of Canada, is certainly as effective as any sketch in oil or watercolours could be:—

“A glimmer of bird-like boats that loom from the far horizon,
That scud and tack and dip under the grey and the blue;
A single gull that floats and skims the waters, and flies on
Till she is lost like a dream in the haze of the distance too.

A steamer that rises a smoke, then after, a tall dark funnel,
That moves like a shadow across your water and sky’s grey edge;
A dull hard beat of a wave that diggeth itself a tunnel,
Down in the crevices dark under my limestone ledge.”

Or we may follow Bliss Carman to the historic meadows of the Grand Pre in the “Sweet Acadian Land” :—

“Was it a year or lives ago
We took the grasses in our hands,
And caught the summer flying low
Over the waving meadow lands,

And held it there between our hands?
The while the river at our feet
A drowsy inland meadow stream,
At set of sun the after heat
Made running gold, and in the gleam

We freed our birch upon the stream.
There down along the elms at dusk
We lifted dripping blade to drift,
Through twilight scented fine like musk,
Where night and gloom awhile uplift,

Nor sunder soul and soul adrift.
The night has fallen and the tide
Now and again comes drifting home,
Across those aching barrens wide,
A sigh like driven wind or foam,
In grief the flood is bursting home.”

Yet it may be said that descriptions of our meadows, prairies, and forests, with their wealth of herbage and foliage, or artistic sketches of pretty bits of lake scenery, have their limitations as respects their influence on the people. Great thoughts or deeds are not bred by scenery; the American poem that has captured the world is not any one of Bryant’s delightful sketches of the varied landscape of his native land, but Longfellow’s “ Evangeline,” which is a story of the affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient. Dollard, and the lady of Fort La Tour, are themes which we do not find in prosaic Ontario, whose history is only a century old—a history of stern materialism as a rule, rarely picturesque or romantic, and hardly ever heroic except in some episode of the war of 1812-15, in which Canadians, women as well as men, did their duty faithfully to king find country.

Mr. Lampman touched a chord of human interest in one of his poems, “ Between the Rapids,” which has been more frequently quoted than perhaps any other by this gifted Canadian. The scene of the poem may be either on the Ottawa or St. Lawrence Rivers, so famous for their rapids, but what gives it a real charm is that touch of sentiment which makes the whole world kin:—

“The point is turned; the twilight shadow fills
The wheeling stream, the soft receding shore;
And on our ears from deed among the hills,
Breaks now the rapids’ sudden quickening roar,
Ah, yet the same, or have they changed their face?
The fair green fields, and can it still be seen,
The white log cottage near the mountain’s base,
So bright and quiet, so home-like and serene?
Ah, well I question, for, as five years go,
How many blessings fall, and how much woe?

The shore, the fields, the cottage just the same,
But how with them whose memory makes them sweet?
Or if I call them, hailing name by name,
Will the same lips, the same old shouts, repeat?
Have the rough years, so big with death and ill,
Gone lightly by and left them smiling yet?
While black-eyed Jeanne whose tongue was never still,
Old wrinkled Picaud, Pierre, and pale Lisette,
The homely hearts that never cared to range,
While life’s wild fields were filled with rush and change.

And where is Jacques, and where is Verginie?
I cannot tell, the fields are all a blur,
The lowing cows in shapes I scarcely see,
Oh, do they wait, and do they call for her!
And is she changed, or is her heart still clear
As wind or morning, light as river foam?
Or have life’s changes borne her far from here,
And far from rest, and far from help and home!
Ah, comrades, soft, and let us rest awhile,
For arms grow tired with paddling many a«mile.

Oh, does she still remember? is the dream
Now dead, or has she found another mate?
So near, so dear; and ah, so swift the stream,
Even now, perhaps, it were not yet too late.
But oh, what matter; for before the night
Has reached its middle, we have far to go;
Bend to your paddles, comrades; see, the light
Ebbs off apace ; we must not linger so.
Ay, thus it is, heaven gleams and then is gone,
Once, twice, it smiles, and still we wander on.”

Of all the poems so far written by Canadians, none have evoked more praise from the critical journals than that by Frederick George Scott, describing in powerful verse, as the following extract shows, the agony of the imprisoned Samson:—

“Plunged in night I sit alone,
Eyeless on this dungeon stone,
Naked, shaggy, and unkempt,
Dreaming dreams no soul has dreamt.
Israel’s God, come down and see,
All my fierce captivity;
Let Thy sineAvs feel my pains,
With Thy fingers lift my chains.
Then with thunder loud and wild,
Comfort Thou Thy rebel child,
And with lightning split in twain,
Loveless heart and sightless brain.
Give me splendour in my death,
Not this sickening dungeon breath,
Creeping down my blood like slime,
Till it wastes me in my prime.
Give me back for one blind hour,
Half my former rage and power,
And some giant crisis send,
Meet to prove a hero’s end.”

Mr. Wilfred Campbell has been called with truth the “Poet of the Lakes,” but his best work is yet to be done in poems of human life and passion, as we may well judge from the one, remarkable in its conception and execution, which was printed some time ago in Harpers Monthly, and in which the great love of a mother for her child is described as forcing her from her grave to seek it:—

“My babe was asleep on a stranger’s arm,
0 baby, my baby, the grave is so warm,
Though dark and so deep, for mother is there;
Oh come with me from the pain and care,
Where the pillow is soft and the rest is long,
And mother will croon you a slumber song,
A slumber song that will charm your eyes
To a sleep that never in earth’s song lies.

The loves of earth your being can spare,
But never the grave, for mother is there.
1 nestled him soft to my throbbing breast,
And stole me back to my long long rest.
And here I lie with him under the stars,
Dead to earth, its peace and its wars;
Dead to its hates, its hopes, and its harms,
So long as he cradles up soft in my arms;
And heaven may open its shimmering doors,
And saints make music on pearly doors,
And hell may yawn to its infinite sea,
But they never can take my baby from me;

For so much a part of my soul he hath grown,
That God doth know of it high on His throne.
And here I lie with him under the flowers,
That sun-winds rock through the billowy hours,
With the night airs that steal from the murmuring sea,
Bringing sweet peace to my baby and me.”

The life of the French-Canadian habitants has been admirably described in verse by Dr. Drummond, who has always lived among that class of the Canadian people, and been a close observer of their national and personal characteristics. He is the only writer who has succeeded in giving a striking and truthful portraiture of life in the cabin, in the “shanty” (chantier), or on the river, where the French habitant, forester, and canoe-man can be best seen to advantage. The poet makes each character tell his story in the broken and peculiar English of the French settlements, and in doing so never becomes vulgar or tiresome, but is always spirited and true to nature. His poems are specially intended for recitation by one who knows the people like the author, and can give the words their proper emphasis and swing. Here is a tribute from a humble Canadian, “Canayen” as he calls himself, to Albani, who is a native of the French-Canadian town of Chambly :—

“Dat song I will never forget me, !t was of de little bird,
W’en he’s fly from its lies’ on de tree-top fore res’ of de worl’ get stirred.
Madam she was tole us about it, den start off so quiet an’ low,
An’ sing lak’ de bird 011 de morning, de poor leetle small oiseau.

I ’member wan tam’ I be sleepin’, joos’ onder some beeg pine tree,
An’ song of de robin wak’ me, but robin he don’t see me.
Der’es not’ing for searin’ dat bird dere, lie’s feel all alone on de worl’,
Wall, Ma-dam she mus lissen lak’ dat too, w’en she was de ChanibK Girl.

Cos how could she sing dat nice chanson, de sam’ as if de bird I was hear,
Till I see it de maple an’ pine tree, an’ Richelieu ronnin’ near.
Again I’m de little feller, lak’ young colt upon de spring,
Dat’s jus on de way I was feel me, w’en Madam All-banee is sing.

An’ after de song it is finish, an’ croud is mak’ noise wit’ its han’,
I s’pose dey be t’inkin’ I’m crazy, dat meybe I don’t understan’.
Cos I’m set on de chair very quiet, mesef and poor Jeremie,
An I see dat his eye it was cry too, jus sam’ way it go wit’ me.

Dere’s rosebush outside on our garden, every spring it has got noo nes’,
But only wan blue-bird is build dere, I nos her from all de res’.
An’ no matter de far she be flyin’ away on de winter tam’,
Back to her own little rosebush, she’s cornin’ dere jus de sam’.

AYe’er not be beeg plas on our Canton, mebbe cole on de winter tam’ too,
But de heart’s ‘ Canayen ’ on our body, an’ dat’s warm enough for true.
An’ wan All-ba-nee was got lonesome, for travel al’ roim’ de worl’,
I hope she’ll come home lak’ de blue-bird, an’ again be the Chambly Girl.”

But if Canada can point to some creditable achievement of recent years in history, poetry, and essay writing—for 1 think if one looks from time to time’ at the leading magazines and reviews of the two continents, he will find that Canada is fairly well represented in their pages—there is one respect in which Canadians had never won any marked success until Mr. Gilbert Parker appeared, and that is in the novel of romance. “Wacousta, or the Prophecy; a Tale of the Canadas,” was written sixty years ago by Major John Richardson, a native Canadian; but it was at the bost a spirited imitation of Cooper, and has not retained the interest it attracted at a time when the American novelist had created a taste for exaggerated pictures of Indian life and forest scenery. Of course attempts have been made time and again by other English Canadians to describe episodes of our history, and portray some of our national and social characteristics, but with the single exception of “ The Golden Dog,” written a few years ago by Mr. William Kirby of Niagara, and still reprinted from time to time—an evidence of intrinsic merit—1 cannot point to one which shows much imaginative or literary skill. Even Mr. Kirby’s single romance, which recalls the closing days of the French regime—the days of the infamous Intendant Bigot, who fattened on Canadian misery—does not show the finished art of the skilled novelist, but it has a certain crude vigour of its own which has enabled it to live whilst so many other Canadian books have died. French Canada is even weak in this particular; and this is the more surprising because there is abundance of material for the novelist or the writer of romance in her peculiar society and institutions, and in her historic annals and traditions. But as yet neither a Cooper, nor an Irving, nor a Hawthorne has appeared to delight Canadians in the fruitful field of fiction that their country offers to the pen of imaginative genius. It is true that we have a work by De Gaspd, and Ancicns Canadicns, which has been translated by Professor Roberts and one or two others, but it has rather the value of historical annals than the spirit and form of true romance. It is the very poverty of our production, in what ought to be a rich source of our literary inspiration, French-Canadian life and history, that has given currency to a work whose signal merit is its simplicity of style and adherence to historical fact. As- Par km an many years ago first commenced to illumine the too often dull pages of Canadian history, so other American writers have also ventured in the still fresh field of literary effort that romance offers to the industrious, inventive brain. In the romance of “ Dollard, Tonty, and the Lady of Fort St. John,” Mrs. Mary Hartwell Catherwood has recalled most interesting episodes of our past annals with admirable literary taste, and a deep enthusiasm for Canadian history in its romantic and picturesque aspects. It must not be imagined, however, from our failure for so many years to cultivate successfully the same popular branch of letters, that Canadians are wanting in the inventive and imaginative faculty. The romances of Mr. M'Lelan, Mr. Lighthall, Mr. Marquis, and Mrs. Harrison are, like Mr. Parker’s books, evidence of our intellectual development in this respect.

Mr. Gilbert Parker, now a resident in London, but a Canadian by birth, education, and sympathies, is animated by a laudable ambition of giving form and vitality to the abundant materials that exist in the Dominion, among the inhabitants on the old scigncurics of the French Province, in that historic past of which the ruins still remain in Montreal and Quebec; in the North-West, with its quarrels of adventurers, in the fur-trade, and in the many other sources of inspiration that exist in this country for the true story-teller who can invent a plot and give his creations a touch of reality, and not that doll-like, sawdust appearance that the vapid characters of some Canadian stories assume from the very poverty of the imagination that has originated them.

Mr. Parker’s book, “The Seats of the Mighty,” the scenes of which are laid also in that old city whose rocks recall such a deeply interesting past, shows that he possesses that inventive faculty, that power to construct and carry out a skilful plot, that deep insight into human motives, that power to conceive original characters—such as Doltaire, a strange compound of cynic, conspirator, philosopher, “master-devil”—which are nccessary to the author of romance if his work is ever to have more than an evanescent fame. While “The Seats of the Mighty” is probably the more popular novel, his previous story, “When Valmond came to Pontiac,” is even more artistic in its treatment of a difficult subject, and in one respect more original in its conception. His sketches of the conditions of life in a little French-Canadian community, where mystery and doubt surround a stranger who claims to be a son of the great Napoleon, and who awakens the simple, credulous people from their normal sluggishness into mental activity and a positive whirl of excitement, are worked out with a rare fertility of invention and delicacy of touch.

Take, for instance, this simple yet truthful description of an old French-Canadian hamlet:—

“This all happened on a Tuesday, and on Wednesday, and for several days, Valmond went about making friends. It was easy to do this, for his pockets were always full of pennies and silver pieces, and he gave them liberally' to the children and to the poor, though, indeed, there were few suffering poor in Pontiac. All had food enough to keep them from misery, though often it got no further than sour milk and bread, with a dash of sugar in it on Sundays. As for homes, every man and woman had a house of a kind, with its low, projecting roof and dormer windows, according to the ability and prosperity of the owner. These homes were whitewashed or painted white, and had double glass in winter, according to the same measure. There was no question of warmth, for in snow-time every house was banked up with earth above the foundations; the cracks and intersections of windows and doors were filled with cloth from the village looms, and wood was for the chopping far and near. Within these air-tight cubes the simple folk baked, and were happy, content if now and then the housewife opened the one pane of glass, which hung on a hinge, or the slit in the sash, to let in the cold air. The occasional opening of the outer door to admit some one, as a rule, sufficed, for out rushed the hot blast and in came the dry, frosty air to brace to their tasks the story-teller and singer.

“In summer the little fields were broken with wooden ploughs, and there was a limb of a tree for a harrow, the sickle and scythe and flail to do their office in due course; and if the man were well-to-do, he swung the cradle in his rye and wheat, rejoicing in the sweep of the knife and the fulness of the swathe. Then, too, there was the driving of the rivers, when the young men ran the logs from the backwoods to the great mills near and far—red-shirted, sashed, knee-booted, with rings in their ears, and wide hats on their heads, and a song in their mouths, breaking a jam, or steering a crib or raft down the rapids. And the voyageur also, who brought furs out of the north down the streat lakes, came home  to Pontiac,

in his patois:—

‘Nous avons passe le bois Nous sommes a la rive.’

Or, as he went forth:—

‘Le clieu du jour s’avance;
Amis, les vents sont doux;
Berces par I’esperance,
Partons, embarquons-nous A-a-a-a-a-a-a.’

And, as we know, it was summer when Vahnond came to Pontiac. The river drivers were just beginning to return, and by-and-by the flax-swingeing would commence in the little secluded valley by the river, and one would see the bright sickle flashing across the gold and green area, and all the pleasant furniture of in o summer set forth in pride by the Mother of the House whom we call Nature.”

Canada has only one “Sam Slick,” that strong original character in American humour, which was conceived sixty years ago by a Nova Scotian judge who wrote also other works of merit, though the Clockmaker’s “Sayings and Doings” are now alone remembered. That imagination and humour have still some existence in the Canadian mind—though one sees little of those qualities in the press or in the public speeches, or in Parliamentary debates—we can well believe when we read “The Dodge Club Abroad”—which first appeared in Harper s Monthly—by Professor De Mille, who was cut off in the prime of his intellectual strength, or “A Social Departure,” by Sara Jeannette Duncan (Mrs. Coates), who, as a sequence of a trip around the world, has given us not a dry book of travels but a story with touches of genial humour and bright descriptions of life and nature, and who has followed up that excellent literary effort by promising sketches of East Indian life. A story which attracted some attention not long since for originality of conception, and ran through several editions, “Beggars All,” is written by a Miss L. Dougall, a member of a Montreal family, originally hailing from Paisley, and although this book does not deal with incidents of Canadian life, it illustrates that fertility of invention which is latent among our people and only requires a favourable opportunity to develop itself. The best literature of this kind is like that of France, which has the most intimate correspondence with the social life and development of the people of the country. “The excellence of a romance,” writes Chevalier Bunsen in his critical preface to Gustav Freytag’s “ Debit and Credit,” “like that of an epic or a drama, lies in the apprehension and truthful exhibition of the course of human things ... a faithful mirror of the present.” With us all efforts in this direction have been most commonplace—hardly above the average of “Social Notes” in the columns of newspapers.

I think, on the whole, there have been through good poems, histories, and essays written and published in Canada for the last four or five decades to prove that there has been a steady intellectual growth on the part of our people, and that it has kept pace at all events with the mental growth in the pulpit, or in the legislative halls, where of late years a keen practical debating style has taken place of the more rhetorical and studied oratory of old times. I believe the intellectual faculties of Canadians only require larger opportunities for their exercise to bring forth a rich fruition. I believe the progress in the years to come will be far greater than that we have yet shown, and that necessarily so, with the wider distribution of wealth, the dissemination of a higher culture, and a greater confidence in our own mental strength, and in the resources that this country offers to pen and pencil.

I must frankly admit that there is far too much hasty and slovenly work done in Canadian literature. The literary canon which a writer should have ever in his mind has been stated by no less an authority than Sainte-Beuve: “Devoted to my profession as a critic, I have tried to be more and more a food and if possible an able workman.” A good style means artistic workmanship. It is too soon for us in this country to look for a Matthew Arnold or a Sainte-Beuve— such great critics are generally the results and not the forerunners of a great literature ; but at least if we could have in the present state of our intellectual development, a criticism in the press which would be intelligent, truthful, and just, the essential characteristics of the two authors I have named, the effect would be probably in the direction of encouraging promising writers, and weeding out some literary dabblers. H What I have wished,” said the French critic, “is to say not a word more than I thought, to stop even a little short of what I believed in certain cases, in order that my words might acquire more weight as historical testimony.”

We all know that the literary temperament is naturally sensitive to anything like indifference, and is too apt, perhaps, to exaggerate the importance of its calling in the prosaic world in which it is exercised. The pecuniary rewards are so few, relatively, in this country, that the man of imaginative mind—the purely literary worker—naturally thinks that he can at least ask for generous appreciation. No doubt he thinks, to quote a passage from a clever Australian novel, “The Australian Girl,” “Genius has never been truly acclimatised by the world. The Philistines always long to put out the eyes of poets and make them grind corn in Gaza.” But it is well always to remember that a great deal of rough work has to be done in a country like Canada before its Augustan age can come. No doubt literary stimulus must be more or less wanting in a colony where there is too obviously, at times, an absence of self-confidence in ourselves and in our institutions, arising from that sense of dependency and habit of imitation and borrowing from others that is a necessity of a colonial condition. The tendency of the absence of sufficient self-assertion is to cramp intellectual exertion and make us believe that success in literature can only be achieved in the old countries of Europe.

A spirit of all-surrounding materialism must always exercise a certain sinister influence in this way—an influence largely exerted in Ontario—but despite all this we see that even among our neighbours it has not prevented the growth of a literary class famous for its intellectual successes in varied fields of literature. It is for Canadian writers to liave always before them a high ideal, and to remember that literature does its best duty, to quote the eloquent words of Ruskin, “in raising our fancy to the height of what may be noble, honest, and felicitous in actual life; in giving us, though we may be ourselves poor and unknown, the companionship of the wisest spirits of every age and country, and in aiding the communication of clear thoughts and faithful purposes among distant nations.”

The development of culture of a high grade in a relatively new country like this, with so many urgent material needs, must largely depend on the educational machinery of the country. Chiefly, if not entirely, owing to the expansion of our common school system —good in Ontario and Nova Scotia, but defective in Quebec—and the influence of our universities and colleges, the average intelligence of the people of this country is much higher than it was a very few years ago; but no doubt it is with us as with our neighbours, to quote the words of an eminent public speaker whose brilliancy and humour sometimes lead one to forget his higher criticism—I refer to Dr. Chauncey Depew— “speed is the virtue and vice of our generation. We demand that morning glories and century plants shall submit to the same conditions and flower with equal frequency.” Even some of our universities, from which we naturally expect so much, seem disposed from time to time to lower their standard and yield too readily to the demand for purely practical education, when, after all, the great reason of all education is to draw forth the best qualities of the young man, elevate his intelligence, and stimulate his highest intellectual forces.

The animating principle with the majority of people is to make a }roung man a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or teach him some other vocation as soon as possible, and the tendency is to consider any education that does not immediately effect this result superfluous. Whilst every institution of learning must necessarily yield something to this pervading spirit of immediate utility, it would be a mistake to sacrifice all the methods and traditions of the past, when sound scholars at least were made, and the world had so many men famous in learning, in poetry, in romance, and in history. For one I range myself among those who, like James Russell Lowell and Matthew Arnold, still consider the conscientious and intelligent study of the ancient classics—the “humanities” as they are called—as best adapted to create cultured men and women, and as the noblest basis on which to build up even a practical education with which to earn bread and capture the world.

We are, as respects the higher education of this country, in that very period which Arnold saw ahead for America—a period of unsettlement and confusion and false tendency—a tendency to crowd into education too many matters; and it is for this reason I venture to hope that letters will not be allowed to yield entirely to the necessity for practical science, the importance of which I fully admit, while deprecating its being made the dominant principle in our universities. If we are to come down to the lower grades of our educational system, I might also doubt whether, despite all its decided advantages for the masses, its admirable machinery and apparatus, its comfortable school-houses, its varied systematic studies from form to form and year to year, its well-managed model and normal schools, its excellent teachers, there are not also signs of superficiality. The tendency of the age is to become rich fast, to get as much knowledge as possible within a short time, and the consequence of this is to spread far too much knowledge over a limited ground—to give a child too many subjects, and to teach him a little of everything. These are the days of many cyclopaedias, historical, scientific digests, reviews of reviews, French in a few lessons, and interest tables. All is digested and made easy to the student, consequently not a little of the production of our schools, and some of our colleges, may be compared to a veneer of knowledge, which easily wears off in the activity of life and leaves the roughness of the original and cheaper material very perceptible. One may well believe that the largely mechanical system and materialistic tendency of our education have some effect in checking the development of a really original and imaginative literature among us. Much of our daily literature—indeed the chief literary aliment of large classes of our best population—is the newspaper press, which illustrates in many ways the haste and pressure of this life of ours in a country of practical needs like Canada. Canadian journals, however, have not yet descended to those depths of degraded sensationalism for which some New York papers have become so notorious.

In the course of a few decades Canada will probably have determined her position among the communities of the world, and, for one, I have no doubt the results will be far more gratifying to our national pride than the results of even the past thirty years, during which we have been laying broad and deep the foundations of our present system of government. We have reason to believe that the material success of the confederation will be fully equalled by the intellectual efforts of a people who have sprung from nations whose not least enduring fame has been the fact that they have given to the world of letters so many famous names that represent the best literary genius of the English and French races. All the evidence before us now goes to prove that the French language will continue into an indefinite future to be the language of a la Are and influential section of the population of Canada, and that it must consequently exercise a decided influence on the culture and intellect of the Dominion. It has been within the last four decades that the best intellectual work, both in literature and statesmanship, has been produced both in French and English Canada, and the signs of intellectual activity in the same direction do not lessen with the expansion of the Dominion. In all probability the two nationalities will remain side by side for an unknown period, to illustrate on the northern half of the Continent of America the culture and genius of the two strongest and brightest powers of civilisation. As both of these nationalities have vied with each other in the past to build up this confederation on a large and generous basis of national strength and greatness, and have risen, time and again, superior to those racial antagonisms created by differences of opinion at great crises of our history—antagonisms happily dispelled by the common sense, reason, and patriotism of men of both races—so we should in the future hope for that friendly rivalry on the part of the best minds among French and English Canadians which will best stimulate the genius of their people in art, history, poetry, and romance. In the meantime, while the confederation is lighting its way out of its political difficulties, and resolving wealth and refinement from the original and rugged elements of a new country, it is for the respective nationalities not to stand aloof from one another, but to unite in every way possible for common intellectual improvement, and give sympathetic encouragement to the study of the two languages, and to the mental efforts of each other. It was on this enlightened principle of sympathetic interest that the Royal Society was founded by the Marquis of Lorne, and on which alone it can expect to obtain any permanent measure of success. If the English and French always endeavour to meet each other on this friendly basis in all the communities where they live side by side, as well as on all occasions that demand common thought and action, and cultivate that social and intellectual intercourse which may, at all events, weld them both as one in spirit and aspiration, however different they may continue in language and temperament, many prejudices must be removed, social life must gain in charm, and intellect must be developed by finding strength where it is weak, and grace where it is needed, in the mental efforts of the two races. If, in addition to this widening of the sympathies of our two national elements, wc can see in the Dominion generally less of that provincialism which means a narrowness of mental vision on the part of our literary aspirants, and prevents Canadian authors reaching a larger audience in other countries, then we shall rise superior to those weaknesses of our intellectual character which now impede our mental development, and shall be able to give larger scope to whatever original and imaginative genius may exist among our people.


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