CLOSELY connected with
the subject of education, is that of
GENERAL LITERATURE, AND THE ARTS, which both alike tend to develop the
higher elements of our being. Literary proficiency, such as makes
authors, men, in the phrase of Lord Bacon, of full reading, was
certainly not to have been expected in the first settlers of this
County. Theirs was, for the more part, a hard life of daily toil, and a
constant struggle for bread. And an examination of early records will
convince the most sceptical that whilst shrewdness and ability were
abundantly exemplified, Caligraphy and Orthography were comparatively
lost arts to the majority, and but dimly perceived by the few. The
monuments that have been left are at once few and uninviting, unless it
were for such purposes as that in which we are now engaged. A marked
exception in favour of the Eev. Jonathan Scott, must however he made.
His very brief record of social and church matters, was written in a
good round hand, itself indicative of a careful, painstaking man. The
PRINTED LITERARY REMAINS of an early date of any interest have already
been referred to as fully as necessary. Mr. Alline’s work published in
1781, and Mr. Scott’s in 1784 have become very scarce, and are but
rarely met with. Their effects alone remain. When we come down to a
period of fifty years after the first settlement, we have some poetical
remains of Mrs. Fletcher, daughter of Captain Ranald McKinnon of Argyle.
She was naturally a talented woman; who had cultivated the habit of
writing, and the productions of her pen, published and unpublished,
discover uncommon ability and imagination. This lady is more than once
referred to and quoted in Murdoch’s History of Nova Scotia; and of one
of her earliest productions,— “To an absent husband” — the Dublin
Literary Gazette says “it is worthy of the pen of Goldsmith; and its
simple, natural and exquisite ideas strongly remind us of the
compositions of that charming Poet.” As I believe it has never been
published in this County, I append it in this place :—
TO AN ABSENT HUSBAND.
Say, ye, whose breasts each softer feeling know,—
Whose hearts with love can throb, with friendship glow,—
Has language power ideas to convey
Of half the force of Joy’s oppressive sway?
Say in what terms the emotions are expressed,
When sudden joy overcomes the throbbing breast,
When from the fading cheek the roses fly,
And light and luetre quit the languid eye?
Such were the feelings which my bosom knew,
When first thy welcome letter met my view;
The glow of transport fired my thrilling breast,
And lavish tears expressed that transport beet—
Emphatic tears, which eloquently speak,
When every power of language is too weak!
How have I chid the tardy hours away
Through many a lengthened night and lingering day,
Which, as their leaden flight they slowly wing,
To me no joy, from thee no tidings bring!
Ah, friend beloved! while thy hard fate conveys
Where suns solstitial dart their fiery rays,
Where countless deaths each horrid form assume,
And War’s dire terrors add a deeper gloom;—
Ah! what avails it, that for me the gale,
Pregnant with health, soft breathes along the vale?
Health has for me no charms, while, far away,
You sink unnerved ’neath Phoebus’ burning ray,
Tired of my thoughts to books for aid I fly:
That comfort once they gave, they now deny.
The plaintive tale of well-feigned woe X read,
But sigh to find my sorrows those exceed,
For works of stern philosophy X quit
The rose-strewed paths of poetry and wit;
Oft mark, with Locke, how young ideas grow,
Or with Linn a:' is range all nature through;
Divide, in classes, all the Summer’s bloom,
Or, doubtful, puzzle with the sceptic Hume,
Alas ! not long can these my thoughts engage:
Attention wanders from the tiresome page;
To distant climes Imagination flies,
While Memory brings thy form before my eyes.
Yet not thy form in Memory’s eye alone:
I view, I mark it in thy blooming son;
His looks to thine such strong resemblance bear,
Even in his voice I hear his father there;
With what increased delight each day I view
Health tinge hie cheek with her own rosy hue;
See sprightly vigor all his limbs supply,
See sweet good nature laughing in his eye;
Mark dawning reason’s bright, expanding ray,
Beam on his infant mind, like opening day!
Oh! while within my arms I hold him pressed,
Or clasp him fondly to my throbbing breast,
While on his looks I oft with rapture gaze,
Then sportive Fancy points out happier days—
Those days, alas! oft seen in Fancy’s eye,
Which yet the cruel Fates to me deny!
O haste, ye lingering hours ! fly swiftly round!
And come, fair Peace, with olive-chaplet crowned!
The war-tried world shall feel thy joyous reign,
The Fury, Discord, quit th’ ensanguined plain—
The plain no more with horrid corses strewed,
With slaughter covered, and with blood imbrued;
But white-robed Ceres shall resume her reign,
And arts and commerce flourish once again;
And thou, 0 friend endeared by every tie!
Shalt hail a purer clime, a healthier sky:
No more the fever’s wasting flame shalt dread,
With agues’ chill recline thy languid head,
Nor jaundice pale shall spread its sickly hue,
But health shall string thy slackened nerves anew;
And, if these feelings yet have power to move,—
If thy heart vibrate to the voice of love,—
Then shall thy bosom feel the raptured glow,
A father’s love, a husband’s fondness know!
Oh, when on that dear breast shall I recline,
To part no more, and hold thee ever mine!
Notwithstanding its length, I have felt unwilling to give part only of
this effusion. The whole; or none.
The late Dr. H. Gr. Farish was in the fore-front of solid literary
attainments in his day; and his monograph “Recollections of Yarmouth”
will always be highly valued as a correct statement of facts, and a good
example of English composition.
THE HISTORY OF THE FOURTH ESTATE is not yet to be written, further than
to briefly trace its rise and progress. The intelligent reader is as
well able to form his own opinions of what the press now is, and what it
may yet be, as the author. The first attempt to establish a paper in
Yarmouth was made by a Mr. Young, husband of Saint John, in June, 1827.
But it died in the bud. The next was the more determined effort of
Jackson & L’Estrange in 1831. They issued a Prospectus of great promise,
and commenced business ; their paper being called the “Yarmouth
Telegraph.” It was a spirited attempt, the times considered, and in all
probability had the field been larger, and all the circumstances more
favourable, the result might have been different. The first piece of
printing of any kind that was done in Yarmouth was a handbill by
Jackson, and excellent as the state of this department in the art now
is, we seldom see a more beautiful piece of work of the kind.
In July, 1833, the Prospectus of the “Yarmouth Herald” was issued by the
present enterprising proprietor, Mr. Alexander Lawson; and from that
time till now, the “Herald has continued, with some change of
proprietorship, to be issued weekly."
In August, 1839, the Prospectus and first number of tbe “Conservative”
was issued by Mr. Richard Huntington. Its principles were implied in its
title, and explained in its motto, “The Queen, the Laws, and the
People.” In 1855 he established and still continues to publish, the
“Tribune.” Mr. Huntington has the honour of having started the first
semi-weekly paper in this Province. The spirit of the age, and the
progress of the place, are alike illustrated in the fact that since June
the 20th, 1867, the Herald has been printed by steam.
In addition to those newspaper ventures, there have been several others,
more or less ephemeral. Two well worth naming are the “Courier” and the
“Temperance Gazette.” The former was commenced by Mr. John G. Bingay in
the fall of 1843, and it continued to he issued by him till 1848, when
he sold out the establishment to Mr. Handley C. Flint, the publisher of
the Temperance Gazette. The Courier is, I believe, remembered for its
Conservative principles, by all who took part in the contest of 1847,
when the seats were contested by the late E. W. B. Moody and John
Saunders on the Conservative, against the late Herbert Huntington and
Thomas Killam, on the Liberal side.
It has been said that the sight of the first horse in Yarmouth, excited
as much curiosity and wonder as an elephant or a rhinoceros would in our
day. Some similar wonder must have prevailed in the community, when the
late Col. J. Norman Bond introduced
THE FIRST PIANO, OR RATHER SPINET,
about the year 1799. It would be almost impossible, unless a census were
taken for the purpose, to say how many of that, and of that kind of
instrument there are in the County. Musical societies of all kinds are
notoriously variable; nor, are they remarkable for longevity. Many have
existed in the County; many have ceased to exist, and many will probably
exist again. The Yarmouth Choral Union has, however, exceeded the
allotted span, and has safely reached its first climacteric. The general
work of that society consists of the practice of the productions of the
best composers; whose works from time to time they present to their
friends, their honorary members, and the public.
Whilst speaking of literary matters, it is an honour which Yarmouth
claims, that she established
THE FIRST PUBLIC LIBRARY IN THE PROVINCE,
that at Milton having been formed in January, 1822—nearly three years
before the one in Halifax. The late Mr. John Moody Was the first
President, aU office which he held for many years. This gentleman, so
long and so well known to all the older inhabitants in the County, and
especially the French, with whom he was a great favourite, was born in
New York in 1779. After the evacuation of that city, his family went to
Halifax where his father was well and honourably known, and where, till
the close of the American war,
he was himself engaged as an extensive merchant and auctioneer. In 1819,
he came to Yarmouth, and again entered into business, in which he
continued till about the year 1823, when he took charge of what was
called the Madras School. From him many of the most prominent of the now
senior generation received the elements of their education. On August
20th, 1868, at the laying of the Episcopal Church foundation stone, he
acted as Grand Chaplain; being then the oldest man, the oldest mason,
and the oldest churchman in the County. He died in 1872 in the
ninety-third year of his age.
Books, paintings, and engravings, the very sight of which have a certain
educating effect, were not the most common, or the most conspicuous
objects in those primitive homes, set down in the rude clearings of the
forest. In 1775 a tracer lent a customer a book, which he entered in his
ledger against him, thus :—
July 19. To book lent Titled Heaven upon Earth ye best friend &c. In
carefully detailed inventories of deceased settlers of good property,
there is no sign of books. And in the case of one known in his time as
“a gentleman and a scholar,” his minutely detailed effects include as
his whole library:—
One Family Bible.............................£0 12a. 6.
Josephus’ Works, 4 vols...................... 14 0
Stlrne’s Works, 7 vols........................ 14 6 and
Every man his own Lawyer.................. 0 5 0
£3 6s. 0d.
In 1816 an institution worthy of note in this connection, as tending to
increase the number of copies, and extend the circulation of the word of
God, was established in the County, namely—the “Yarmouth and Argyle (now
the Yarmouth) Branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society;” which,
since its institution, has been the means of circulating among us
thousands of copies of the whole or parts of the Scriptures. It was
formed at the house of Mr. Bartlett Gardner at Chebogue, on the 23rd
January, 1816. The first officers were :—
President—James Lent, Senr.
Vice-Presidents—Rev. Harris Harding, Rev. Enoch Towner, Richard
Fletcher, Jacob Tedford.
Assistant-Secretary— Zachariah Chipman.
And a Committee of forty-six persons. A donation of £10 at one time, or
20s. annually, constituted a member of the Society.
In no part of the County now, is there any lack of reading matter: and
every facility is offered for obtaining more. A good work has been
initiated, by the foundation in the year 1872 of A FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY
AND MUSEUM by Mr. L. E. Baker; but it may fairly be doubted whether the
institution has, as yet, made an impression, commensurate with its
Another Institution, notable and influential in its day, was the
“Yarmouth Literary Society,” which was formed in 1834. Like the “Book
Society” it was, I believe, the first of its kind in the Province.
During the first five years there were sixty lectures delivered by
various members, many of them evincing great thoughtfulness, dose
observation, and no inconsiderable reading. The chief promoters and
supporters of this society were the Hon. Stayley Brown and Mr. John
Murray, the latter of whom was for many years its President. The former
gentleman is well known as a member of the Legislative Council and of
the Executive Council of which he is President. He also holds the office
of Treasurer of the Province.