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An Abridged History of Canada
History of Canadian Literature By G. Mercer Adam


The founders of a province- soon pass away, but inwrought with the edifice which they have built up will be found the characteristics that have distinguished them. In the case of Upper Canada, what the characteristics were of its sturdy and far-seeing founders, the condition of Ontario to-day, and its well-assured future, indicate. In the busy material affairs of the early settlers and colonists, little leisure was left them to give to literature, either creative or recreative. But they were not wholly indifferent to the intellectual life, for in the larger cities, at any rate, the lamp of learning, however feeble at times its flame, was at least kept burning. Even in the most prosaic era, there were, here and there, a few cultivated people who gave tone to society, and despite the distractions of politics, did something to promote culture and to extend the area of its sway. Far back in the history of Upper Canada the intelligence and public spirit of the people made substantial provision for education: and with the growth of the Province the school system has continued to receive generous and ever-increasing aid. Few facts in the past life of the colony are more creditable to it than this; and though as a young community we are apt unduly to boast of our achievements, the school system of the province is deserving of praise, and the sacrifices made in the interest of education are worthy of the people. Equally creditable has been the provision made for higher education, and for the founding and maintenance in the various sections of the Dominion of denominational colleges and national seats of learning. The influence of the latter has, for the most part, been manifested in other professions than that of literature. Happily, however, there are now signs—and "The 'Varsity Book," issued by the graduates and undergraduates of University College, Toronto, is one of them—that the profession of letters is at length attracting the product of University, training. Already the stream of journalism is being enriched from that source, and the newspaper world of Canada is fast coming under the influence, in tone as well as in thought, of higher and better instructed minds. Though in the English-speaking Provinces we have not been able to maintain a first-class magazine—if we except the well-conducted Canadian Methodist Magazine, which is in the main supported by a denomination—the periodical press of Canada has made gratifying progress, and its future is not without promise.

With Confederation Canadian literature burst into blossom, but the fruit, it must be said, has not quite borne out its spring-time promise. For a time literary enterprise felt the glow of national aspiration and the quickening of a new birth. But the flush on its face ere long passed off, and mental activity once more engrossed itself with material affairs. In the past twenty years, native literature, however, has made some gains, though the nation itself, it is to feared, has not gone very far in the settled path of progress. We are still discussing narrow provincial issues, and the problems of the country's destiny, it would appear, are far from being solved. At times the clouds seem to rise over the national horizon, and a perceptible impulse is then given to the forces of the native intellect. It is at these periods that the country has been enriched by works of permanent value. As yet literature is far from reaping great harvests, but the soil already yields fairly, and by improved culture will doubtless bring forth more abundantly. If we have not to record great literary feats, we have at any rate improved on the days of ecclesiastical brochures and political pamphlets. It is to be remembered, moreover, that the literary work done by Canadians has been achieved, for the most part, through corroding care and amid the tumult of alien noises. May the coming writers have the aid of a more favourable environment!

Among Canadian authors who took part in public affairs in the ushering in of Confederation, the names of two Parliamentary orators are conspicuous—the Hon. Joseph Howe and the Hon. Thomas D'Arcy McGee. Both have finished their career: one, unhappily, was cruelly snatched from it; and his untimely death was a keen blow to literature. The chief literary interest in their work lies in the field of oratory, and in Howe's "Speeches and Public Letters" (Boston, 1858), and in McGee's "Speeches and Addresses, chiefly on the Subject of British American Union" (London, 1865), we have a collection of patriotic public utterances peculiarly interesting to the Canadian reader. Of much native interest, also, is Mr. McGee's collected volume of "Canadian Ballads and Occasional Verse," though the latter is perhaps too heavily burdened with the plaint of "Irish Wrong." The citation of Howe, the Nova Scotian orator, reminds us that we have no space, we regret, to deal with the local literature of the Maritime Provinces, not a little of which deserves well at our hands. In history it is particularly strong, as the historical writings attest of Judge Haliburton (Sam Slick), Beamish Murdoch, Duncan Campbell, and James Hannay. The "History of Acadia," by the latter, and Haliburton's "Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia," are especially to be commended for their impartiality, accuracy, and spirit. Though Haliburton's fame rests mainly on the raciness and humour of "Sam Slick," he is no less worthy to be read as an historian and moralist.

Of general histories, we have already spoken of Garneau's work, translated by Bell, and have made mention of the contemporary writers, MacMullen, Dent, Archer, Bryce, Kingsford, and Withrow. MacMullen's "History of Canada" (London and Brockville, 1808), after the appearing of the translation of Garneau, was the first comprehensive work in English dealing with the country's history. It covers the period from the earliest discoveries to Confederation, and is a sober, painstaking narrative, with a manifest Liberal bias. His work, we fear, is a standing crib for those writers who have no genius for drudgery and are unwilling to go to the prime sources of information. Dr. Withrow's "History of the Dominion of Canada" (Toronto, 1878 and 1887), is essentially a popular narrative, covering the whole ground of the national annals, with a necessarily brief but intelligible outline of the history of each separate Province. The work is deserving of its success, to which the author's pleasant style of narration contributes something ; and it bids fair to retain a firm hold upon public favour as a lively and faithful narrative of Canadian history. In Dr. Bryce's "Short History of the Canadian People," the author has given a new setting, though lacking the quality of pictur-esqueness, to the main facts of the country's history. Mr. J. C. Dent's "The Last Forty Years," deals with the annals of Upper Canada from the Union of the Provinces in 1841. The period covered being a contemporary one, the work possesses an interest which remote events usually fail to awaken, though the writer has the drawback of having to contend with judgments already formed and with a criticism which is more or less influenced by the predilections of the reader. In spite of this, the author has acquitted himself well of his work, and he comments with judicious fairness on the events which have taken place within the memory of the present generation. The plan of the book is in itself attractive, viz., that of grouping facts and events into chapters, which typify and illustrate the formative periods of the country's growth, rather than the setting forth in minute detail of the history from year to year.

To students of the national life and character the early volumes, particularly, of the "Scot in British North America," by the late Mr. W. J. Rattray, B.A., will be sure to commend themselves. They contain a mass of information respecting the political, material, social, religious and intellectual life of- the country, as these features of its development have been influenced and operated upon by Scotchmen. No more vital inquiry could well have been taken up than this one of the national character: what its ingredients are, how they have come together, and in what manner they have fused or are fusing themselves into the national life of the people, are never failing questions of interest. To the consideration of these themes Mr. Rattray brought eminent talents, an intimate acquaintance with the national history, and a power of graphic writing which impart special charm to the author's work. "The Irishman in Canada," by Nicholas Flood Davin, M.P. (Toronto, 1877), is a kindred work, full of interesting facts respecting the men of Irish descent who have figured prominently in Canadian history. The story is told with the dash and vigour of a clever, sprightly, and practised writer. Mr. H. J. Morgan's "Sketches of Celebrated Canadians," Notman's "Portraits of British Americans," edited by Fennings Taylor, Mr. J. C. Dent's "Canadian Portrait Gallery," and "The Cyclopaedia of Canadian Biography," edited by Mr. G. McLean Rose, should not be omitted from this category.

Among contemporary authors who have enriched special periods of the national history by their pen, mention must be made of Dr. George Stewart, F.R.S.C., of Quebec, and Mr. J. Edmund Collins, author of "The Life of Sir John A. Macdonald," to which we have already referred. Mr. Collins, besides the biography of the Dominion Premier, and a collection of Canadian sketches and tales, has written an account of the "Administration in Canada of Lord Lorne" (1878-1882), which, like all this writer's work, is thoughtful and vigorous. Occasionally Mr. Collins offends by his outspokenness and a hasty, wayward judgment; but there is merit in his independence, and his cleverness atones for his faults. He has a poet's sympathy with nature, and a painter's skill in describing the scenes he introduces to the reader. Dr. Stewart is one of our well-known and industrious authors, an accomplished man of letters, and an enthusiastic Canadian. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Historical and Literary Society of Quebec, to the Proceedings of which he is a frequent contributor, and a writer in the new (ninth) edition of the Encyclopcedia Britannica. He is also the author of the article on "Frontenac," in Justin Winsor's "Narrative and Critical History of America;" though he is perhaps best known as the historian of "Canada under the Administration of Lord Dufferin " (Toronto, 1878). Dr. Stewart is a fervent and sympathetic writer, and his work is distinguished by industry, care, and conscientiousness. Mr. Win. Leggo has also written a history of the "Administration of the Earl of Dufferin in Canada" (Montreal, 1878). This work shows a wide knowledge of Canadian history on the part of the writer, and minutely and graphically illustrates the regime of Canada's most popular Governor-General.

Of writers in the department of Belles Lettres and the field of the Essay, Canada may be said to be unusually rich. Their names will be familiar to the readers of such critical journals as The Week, the deceased Nation, Arcturus, Canadian Spectator, and the suspended national review, the Canadian Monthly. Of the number, including those who treat of public affairs and topics of general interest, it will not be invidious to mention such gifted writers as Prof. Goldwin Smith, President Daniel Wilson, Rev. Principal Grant, Rev. Prof. Wm. Clark, Mr. W. D. Le Sueur, Prof. Clark Murray, Dr. Bourinot, Dr.Withrow, Mr. J. H.Menzies, Prof. K. L. Jones, Dr. Dewart, Mr. Martin J. Griffin, Mr. F. A. Dixon, Mr. J. Howard Hunter, Mr. John Seath, Mr. T. A. Haultain, Mr. J. E. Bryant, Prof. J. E. Wells, Mr. AY. H. C. Kerr, Mr. R. W. Boodle, Dr. E. A. Meredith, Mr. S. E. Dawson, Mr. Edward Farrer, Dr. J. G. Hodgins, Mr. Geo. A. MacKenzie, Mr. E. Douglas Armour, Mr. W. A. Foster, Q.C., Dr. Geo. Murray, Mr. 0. A. Howland, Mr. D. Fowler, Mr. Walter Townsend, Mr. A. Stevenson, Mr. A. W. Gundry, Mr. F. B. Hodgins, Dr. Daniel Clarke, Rev. Dr. Scadding, Mr. Chas. Lindsey, Mr. John King, Mr. J. Macdonald Oxley, Mr. W. H. Cross, Mr. A. H. Morrison and Mr. J. O. Miller. To these names have to be added those of a goodly company of women, who have made delightful excursions into the realm of the essay, and given us pictures of life, in nature and humanity, and vivid glimpses into things, with the power of penetration and deft literary skill which characterize women of brains and culture. Among the literary sisterhood should be mentioned Louisa Murray, Agnes M. Machar, Sara Jeannette Duncan, "Seranus" (Mrs. J. W. F. Harrison), Agnes Ethelwyn Wetherald, Mrs. Francis Rye, Mrs. Arthur Spragge, Mrs. Forsyth Grant, "Esperance" (Miss Ardagh), Mrs. S. A. Curzon, Mrs. Anna Roth-well, Mrs. Edgar Jarvis, Miss Lewis, Miss Morgan, Miss Pauliue Johnson, Mrs. K. Seymour McLean, with other anonymous writers, romancers, and makers of verse.

We must all hail the work of these cultured women in Canadian literature, for it has given piquancy to our critical journals of late, taught us to see, understand, and enjoy many things which the less penetrative and non-sensitive masculine mind has failed to teach us, while it has brought the reader more closely under the spell of the literary art. What a reinforcement of freshness, and what has been called "the naivete of self-expression," has come with the contributions, with which most readers of The Week must be familiar, of Miss Duncan, Mrs. Harrison, and Miss Wetherald—to cite but three of our literary women of to-day, all of whom, we are sure, will leave an abiding record, in both prose and verse, in Canadian literature. To the other names we have mentioned we also look hopefully for continued good work, and for undertakings of a more ambitious and less ephemeral nature, which will serve the cause of native letters, perpetuate their memories, and increase the number of those who are living the higher life and keeping company with truth, goodness, and beauty. We look also with hope, and feel that we shall not be disappointed, to the many young men and women who are now receiving a university education, and who will, doubtless, ere long give to Canadian literature some original and creative work. As specimens of the " Essay mood," and of scholarly, appreciative criticism, we may here fitly refer to two or three native books of belles lettres, in the department of which we might find many more and profitable workers than we do. "A Study of Tennyson's Princess, with Critical and Explanatory Notes," by Mr. S. E. Dawson (Montreal, 1884), is a book which received commendation from Lord Tennyson himself, and is a delightful and sympathetic bit of criticism, and a fine interpretation of the poet's mind in the work. "Walt Whitman," by Dr. R. M. Bucke, of London, Ont., is another study of character, the clever and sympathetic delineation of which is creditable to native taste and scholarship. "The Art Gallery of the English Language," by Mr. A. H. Morrison, shows an intimate acquaintance with English Literature and a keen appreciation of its beauties. The volume of "Lectures and Addresses," on literary and historical subjects, by the late Dr. Morley Punshon, though perhaps not wholly written, was first published, in Canada, and won for its eloquent author a large circle of readers, and, it may be added, the honorarium of $2,500 from his

Toronto publishers! "The Ballads and Songs of Scotland, in view of their Influence on the Character of the People," by the Rev. Prof. J. Clark Murray, of Montreal, is a work the merits of which call for notice in this section.

This department would be singularly incomplete without some notice, however inadequate, of the literary labours of Prof. Goldwin Smith, whose pen, for a length of years, has been of infinite service to Canada, and to whom, most of all, we are indebted for fighting the battle of freedom of speech in this country, at a time when there was less tolerance of opinion, religious and political, than we happily enjoy to-day. Mr. Goldwin Smith's "Life of Cowper," in the "English Men of Letters Series," though published in England, may properly be chronicled here, as the work was written in Canada, and a special edition was placed on the Canadian market. Prof. Goldwin Smith had an exceptionally delicate task entrusted to him in preparing a history of the poor, faded, melancholy life of the poet Cowper. The memoir, however, is admirably written, with a thorough appreciation of the gentle life and fine literary work of the poet, and a reverent treatment of the incidents of his career which called for considerate yet discriminating comment. The book is invested with all the charm of style characteristic of Prof. Smith's writings. Not less valuable to the student of literature is the collected volume of Mr. Goldwin Smith's "Lectures and Essays," which, though printed for private circulation, well deserves to be recorded among the issues of the Canadian press. The work consists, in the main, of contributions to Canadian literature, embracing papers on historical, social, and literary topics, which, for the most part, appeared in the pages of the Canadian Monthly. The volume shows Mr. Goldwin Smith at his best, not only as a master of English style, but as a profound thinker, and a man of scholarly acquirements and rare intellectual gifts.  To the literary work on these two volumes, besides a whole library of contributions to the press, both of the old and the new world, we have to record the great service Mr. Goldwin Smith has rendered as a Canadian publicist, in the publication of The Bystander, in political forecasts and reviews of "Current Events," Canadian and general, contributed during many years to The Nation, the Canadian Monthly, The Week, and the daily press of

Toronto. Rarely, if ever, have passing events in any country been discussed with greater ability than have the topics of the time been treated of by this brilliant writer in these various periodicals and journals. Their publication has made a unique and well-nigh priceless contribution to the intellectual resources of Canada.

In Fiction our Canadian writers have not done all they might have done, considering the rich materials at hand in the political, religious, industrial, and social life of Canada, in the history and legends of the past, in the varied national life of the people, and in the ample scope the novelist has for descriptive word-painting in the natural beauties of the country. Our rapidly contracting space necessitates the briefest mention of a few names only in this department. To the early tales of Major Richardson we have already referred, and to the important works of Miss Machar, Mr. Wm. Kirby, and Mr. John Lesperance. Of Mrs. Moodie and her sister Mrs. Trail, we have also spoken, and we have made allusion to the joint work of Miss Wetherald and the present writer—"An Algonquin Maiden"—an historical romance, which has been received with much favour and has had the honpur of being issued not only in Montreal and Toronto, but in London and New York.

Two writers in Montreal, Mrs. Leprohon and Mrs. Ross, have issued several volumes of tales of some interest, the best of which, perhaps, is "Ida Beresford," by Mrs. Leprohon, a novel which first appeared in the Literary Garland. Miss Louisa Murray, of Stamford, perhaps the ablest of Canadian literary women, wrote for the British American Magazine "The Cited Curate;" for the Canadian Monthly "Carmina" and "Little Dorinn;" and for Once-a-Week "The Settlers,of Long Arrow." All these tales evince a high order of talent and undoubted skill in the writing of fiction. They are, to-day, well worthy of reproduction. " Honor Edge worth," by Vera, an Ottawa lady, who prefers anonymity, is a rather clever study of social life in the Dominion capital. Watson Griffin's "Twok" presents, with power and sympathy, some phases in the life-drama of a Canadian waif, with many thoughtful reflections and admirable moral lessons. "Crowded Out," by Seranus (Mrs. Harrison), is a collection of graphic and vivid sketches of life and character in the Quebec Province, done with inimitable art, and full of the spirit of French-Canadian nationality. Like all her work, it is marked by poetic beauty, incisive thought, and the play and movement of genius, or something closely akin to it. Mrs. Anna Roth-well, and Prof. K. L. Jones, of Kingston, Mr. E. W. Thomson, of the Toronto Globe staff, and Miss A. E. Wetherald ("Bel Thistlethwaite" of the Globe), have all done good work in fiction, which deserves preservation in some more permanent form than is afforded by the daily or weekly press.

The list is an extensive one which embraces writers of books on special subjects, and whose work, had we space at command, well deserves notice here. Of these the following, by way of example, may be cited, though, we regret, merely by their titles : The late Dr. McCaul's "Britanno-Roman Inscriptions," Dr. Withrow's "The Catacombs of Rome, and their Testimony Relative to Christianity," Mr. Charles Lindsey's "Rome in Canada," Dr. F. R. Beattie's "Examination of the Utilitarian Theory of Morals," Prof. John Watson's "Kant: a Critique," Rev. Prof. Gregg's " History of Presbyterianism in Canada," and Col. Deni-son's Russian-prize "History of Cavalry." President Daniel Wilson's learned works on Archaeology and Ethnological Science; Sir William Dawson's interesting treatise on Acadian Geology, and his many works on the relations of Science and Theology; and the late Sir William Logan's instructive Reports contributed to the Geological Survey of Canada, with Prof. Harrington's Life of Sir William, may also be cited as valuable products of Canadian thought, but of which, unfortunately, our limited space will not permit us to speak. We must pass on to the less abstruse subject of poetry, and, with its brief mention, bring our hasty and imperfect sketch to a close.

With some aspects of the national culture a large class of the Canadian people, it is to be feared, has little sympathy. Of these aspects, Poetry may be said to be one, and the most alien to the popular taste, unless, perhaps, it presents itself in the form of a commonplace bit of verse or a more or less coarse political lampoon. Nor is this quite to be wondered at, if we consider how engrossing are the material interests of the bulk of our people, and how few have been their opportunities for cultivating a taste for letters or for paying court to the Muses. Despite the lack of appreciation of good verse, it is surprising to note how much of it has been written in Canada, and how many are the names whose work, in regard both to literary form and sentiment, does honour to this department of the national literature. The first work of our Anglo-Canadian writers of verse to attract attention was the drama, entitled "Saul," which appeared in Montreal in 1857, and bore upon the title-page the name of Charles Heavysege. Heavysege was but an humble Montreal journalist, familiar with his Bible and with Shakespeare ; yet his drama was acknowledged by the press of the motherland to be one of the most remarkable English poems ever written out of Great Britain. In 1865 he published another long poem on a biblical subject, entitled "Jephthah's Daughter," which was also well received. "Saul" is a fine psychological study, treated with rare poetic power, and "Jephthah's Daughter," though it is deficient in the vigour of the former work, has more imagination and feeling. "Voices from the Hearth," by Isidore G. Ascher, a Montreal barrister, is another collection of verse which was warmly commended by the American and Old Country press. The volume is characterized by pleasant fancy and a tender feeling, occasionally crossed by the gusts of deep emotion and a warm but restrained passion. "The Prophecy of Merlin and other Poems," by John Reade, is the work of another Montrealer, a Canadian poet of the first rank, an able journalist, and a scholarly and accomplished writer. In Mr. Reade's work his classical tastes reveal themselves, not only in his translations, but in the Tennysonian theme of the poem which gives the title to the volume. But Mr. Reade is no mere imitator : he strikes his own lyre; and in his sonnets, lyrics, and, particularly, in the poems which illustrate Canadian scenery and history, he is not only original but thoroughly national. Occasionally we have a fine outburst of patriotic song; while his work, as a whole, if not always stirring and animated, pleases by its delicate feeling and refinement of thought.

The senior place in Canadian song belongs, by right of the people at any rate, to Charles Sangster, of Ottawa. He has published two collections of verse, entitled "The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay," and "Hesperus and other Poems." Mr. Sangster's work is chiefly lyrical, and he draws his inspiration, in the main, from Canadian scenery and the incidents of the national history. He is wanting in the art and in the scholarship which characterize the work of Reade and Roberts; but his verse is aglow with patriotism, and has a lilt and melody which remind one of running streams and trickling water. His sympathies are wide and human, and many of his poems, dealing with the domestic affections, appeal tenderly to the home and the fireside. In the characteristics of his genius, Mr. Charles G. D. Roberts, of Fredericton, is more akin to .John Reade. His verse is largely cast in the classical mould, and bears the impress of modern poetic art. All too rarely has he allowed himself to deal with native themes, and when he has done so, as in his "Ode to the Dominion" and "A National Hymn," he has struck a tender chord in the Canadian heart. His two volumes are entitled respectively, "Orion, and other Poems," and "In Divers Tones." The leading poem in the former is founded on a touching incident in the old mythical story of Orion, and in some passages the author rises to the loftiest heights of song. We like him however better in his later volume, which has many poems of the highest order and quality of verse, with a sweetness and music that sing their way into the heart. Another essentially Canadian volume is "Marguerite," by George Martin, of Montreal, a work which takes its title from the heroine in a romantic legend of New France. It contains many fine passages which reveal the true poet. The author's sonnets will, perhaps, be most admired, however, by lovers of the poetic art; while many will doubtless be attracted by the poems on Canadian subjects, and chiefly those on winter sports.

A deservedly high place should be assigned to the late Charles Pelham Mulvany, M.A., for his work in the volume entitled "Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets." His range is wide, combining both the drama and the lyric, with some fine examples of lighter verse, witty and pathetic. His knowledge of the structure of verse and command of its various forms, though he is sometimes careless in his work, are extraordinary. Mrs. K. Seymour McLean's "The Coming of the Princess" is a collection of thoughtful, tender verse. Miss Valancey Crawford's "Old Spookses' Pass and other Poems," chiefly drawn from Old World sources, display much of the higher qualities of the poet. " Poems by Phillips Stewart," a Toronto University graduate, are full of deep, subjective thought and tender feeling. Mr. George A. Mackenzie's "Malcolm" is a fine ethical study, manifesting taste and culture. "Poems and Songs," by Alexander McLachlan, "the- Canadian Burns," as he is called, show high powers of versification set to homely themes. Mr. Imrie's themes are also those of the home and the fireside, and his heart is warm and his sympathies are wide. Mr. Kirby's "Canadian Idylls" deal with national subjects and are full of the spirit of the past. This writer's Muse lacks the stimulous either of ambition or of greater encouragement to place him in the front rank of our native poets. Col. Hunter-Duvar, in "The Enamorado," a Spanish tale in dramatic form, has given us one good volume, and from his Prince Edward Island home is, we believe, about to give us another. Its subject, we understand, is "Roberval and his Acadian Colony." Mr. S. J. Watson's "Legend of the Roses," Mr. T. O'Hagan's "A Gate of Flowers," Miss Mountcastle's "The Mission of Love," and Mr. A. MacAl-pine Taylor's "Boyhood Hours," all display, in more or. less measure, not only the technical qualities of the poet,' but a rich imagination and a true feeling. To those who have not at command the separate works of the poets we have mentioned, we would commend the study of the excellent, though now scarce, anthology of Dr. Dewart, " Selections from Canadian Poets," and Seranus's recently issued "Canadian Birthday Book, with Poetical Selections for Every Day in the Year,"—a delightful posy from the French-Canadian and Anglo-Canadian poets.

We are far from having exhausted our material, but we are at the end of our space. Many authors, we regret, must remain unnoticed, and with them the record we had hoped to append of writers of fugitive verse. We must also forego our chronicle of the writers in science, and those in the professions of theology, law, medicine, and education. At some other time, and in a more expanded form, we hope to deal with these omissions. All we have here aimed at is a modest outline of the subject—a simple and cursory sketch.

The End

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