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The Intellectual Development of the Canadian People Chapter IV. - Native Literature

Lord Durham wrote, over fifty [Errata: (from final page) for fifty read forty.] years ago, of the French Canadians: 'They are a people without a history and a literature.' He was very ignorant, assuredly, of the deep interest that attaches to the historic past of the first pioneers in Canada, and had he lived to the present day, he would have blotted out the first part of the statement. But he was right enough when he added that the French Canadians had, at that time, no literature of their own. During the two centuries and more that Canada remained a French Colony, books were neither read nor written; they were only to be seen in the educational establishments, or in a very few private houses, in the later days of the colony. [Footnote: The priests appear to have only encouraged books of devotion. La Hontan mentions an incident of a priest coming into his room and tearing up a book; but the library of that gay gentleman was hardly very select and proper.] An intellectual torpor was the prevailing feature of the French regime. Only now and then do we meet in the history of those early times with the name of a man residing in the colony with some reputation for his literary or scientific attainments. The genial, chatty L'Escarbot has left us a pleasant volume of the early days of Acadie, when De Monts and De Poutrincourt were struggling to establish Port Royal. The works of the Jesuits Lafitau and Charlevoix are well known to all students of the historic past of Canada. The Marquis de la Galissoniere was the only man of culture among the functionaries of the French dominion. Parkman tells us that the physician Sarrazin, whose name still clings to the pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea) was for years the only real medical man in Canada, and was chiefly dependent for his support on the miserable pittance of three hundred francs yearly, given him by the king. Yet it would be a mistake to suppose there was no cultivated society in Canada. The navigator Bougainville tells us, that, though education was so defective, the Canadians were naturally very intelligent, and their accent was as good as that of the Parisians. Another well-informed writer says 'there was a select little society in Quebec, which wants nothing to make it agreeable. In the salons of the wives of the Governor and Intendant one finds circles as brilliant as in other countries. Science and the Fine Arts have their turn, and conversation does not flag. The Canadians breathe from their birth an air of liberty, which makes them very pleasant in the intercourse of life, and our language is nowhere more purely spoken.' But the people outside of the little coterie, of which this writer speaks so flatteringly, had no opportunities whatever of following the progress of new ideas in the parent state. What learning there was could only be found among the priests, to whom we owe 'Les Relations des Jesuites,' among other less notable productions. The Roman Catholic Church, being everywhere a democracy, the humblest habitant might enter its ranks and aspire to its highest dignities. Consequently we find the pioneers of that Church, at the very outset, affording the Canadian an opportunity, irrespective of birth or wealth, of entering within its pale. But apart from this class, there was no inducement offered to Canadian intellect in those times.

The Conquest robbed the country of a large proportion of the best class of the Canadian noblesse, and many years elapsed before the people awoke from their mental slumber. The press alone illustrated the literary capacity of the best intellects for very many years after the fall of Quebec. We have already read how many political writers of eminence were born with the endowment of the Canadian with political rights, which aroused him from his torpor and gave his mental faculties a new impulse. The only works, however, of national importance which issued from the press, from the Conquest to the Union of 1840, were Mr. Joseph Bouchette's topographical descriptions of British North America, which had to be published in England at a great expense; but these books, creditable as they were to the ability and industry of the author, and useful as they certainly were to the whole country, could never enter into general circulation. They must always remain, however, the most creditable specimens of works of that class ever published in any country. The first volume of poetry, written by a French Canadian, was published in 1830, by M. Michel Bibaud, who was also the editor of the 'Bibliotheque Canadienne,' and 'Le Magazin du Bas Canada,' periodicals very short lived, though somewhat promising.

From the year 1840, commenced a new era in French Canadian letters, as we can see by reference to the pages of several periodical publications, which were issued subsequently. 'Le Repertoire National,' published from 1848 to 1850, contained the first efforts of those writers who could fairly lay claim to be the pioneers of French Canadian Literature. This useful publication was followed by the 'Soirees Canadiennes,' and 'Le Foyer Canadien,' which also gave a new impulse to native talent, and those who wish to study the productions of the early days of French Canadian literature will find much interest and profit in the pages of these characteristic publications, as well as in the 'Revue Canadienne,' of these later times. From the moment the intellect of the French Canadian was stimulated by a patriotic love for the past history and traditions of his country, volumes of prose and poetry of more or less merit commenced to flow regularly from the press. Two histories of undoubted value have been written by French Canadians, and these are the works of Garneau and Ferland. The former is the history of the French Canadian race, from its earliest days to the Union of 1840. It is written with much fervour, from the point of view of a French Canadian, imbued with a strong sense of patriotism, and is the best monument ever raised to Papineau; for that brilliant man is M. Garneau's hero, to whose political virtues he is always kind, and to whose political follies he is too often insensible. Old France, too, is to him something more than a memory; he would fix her history and traditions deep in the hearts of his countrymen; but great as is his love for her, he does not fail to show, even while pointing out the blunders of British Ministries, that Canada, after all, must be happier under the new, than under the old, regime. The 'Cours d'Histoire du Canada' was unfortunately never completed by the Abbe Ferland, who was Professor of the Faculty of Arts in the Laval University. Yet the portion that he was able to finish before his death displays much patient research and narrative skill, and justly entitles him to a first place among French Canadian historians.

In romance, several attempts have been made by French Canadians, but without any marked success, except in two instances. M. de Gaspe, when in his seventieth year, described in simple, natural language, in 'Les Anciens Canadiens,' the old life of his compatriots. M. Gerin Lajoie attempted, in 'Jean Rivard,' to portray the trials and difficulties of the Canadian pioneer in the backwoods. M. Lajoie is a pleasing writer, and discharged his task with much fidelity to nature. It is somewhat noteworthy that the author, for many years assistant librarian of the library of Parliament, should have selected for his theme the struggles of a man of action in a new country; for no subject could apparently be more foreign to the tastes of the genial, scholarly man of letters, who, seemingly overcome by the torpor of official life in a small city, or the slight encouragement given to Canadian books, never brought to full fruition the intellectual powers which his early efforts so clearly showed him to possess.

In poetry, the French Canadian has won a more brilliant success than in the sister art of romance. Four names are best known in Quebec for the smoothness of the versification, the purity of style, and the poetic genius which some of their works illustrate. These are, MM. Le May, Cremazie, Sulte, and Frechette. M. Cremazie's elegy on 'Les Morts' is worthy of even Victor Hugo. M. Frechette was recognised long ago in Paris as a young man of undoubted promise 'on account of the genius which reflects on his fatherland a gleam of his own fame.' Since M. Frechette has been removed from the excitement of politics, he has gone back to his first mistress, and has won for himself and native province the high distinction of being crowned the poet of the year by the French Academy. M. Frechette has been fortunate in more than one respect,--in having an Academy to recognise his poetic talent, and again, in being a citizen of a nationality more ready than the English section of our population to acknowledge that literary success is a matter of national pride.

The French Canadians have devoted much time and attention to that fruitful field of research which the study of the customs and antiquities of their ancestors opens up to them. The names of Jacques Viger and Faribault, Sir Louis Lafontaine, the Abbes Laverdiere, and Verrault are well known as those of men who devoted themselves to the accumulation of valuable materials illustrative of the historic past, as the library of Laval University can testify. The edition of Champlain's works, by the Abbe Laverdiere for some years librarian of Laval, is a most creditable example of critical acumen and typographical skill. In the same field there is much yet to be explored by the zealous antiquarian who has the patience to delve among the accumulations of matter that are hidden in Canadian and European archives. This is a work, however, which can be best done by the State; and it is satisfactory to know that something has been attempted of late years in this direction by the Canadian Government--the collection of the Haldimand papers, for instance. But we are still far behind our American neighbours in this respect, as their State libraries abundantly prove.

The Canadian ballad was only known for years by the favourite verses written by the poet Moore, which, however musical, have no real semblance to the veritable ballads with which the voyageurs have for centuries kept time as they pushed over the lakes and rivers of Canada and the North-west. Dr. Larue and M. Ernest Gagnon have given us a compilation of this interesting feature of French Canadian literature, which is hardly yet familiar to the English population of Canada.

Other French Canadian names occur to the writer, but it is impossible to do justice to them in this necessarily limited review. 'Les Legendes,' of the Abbe Casgrain, 'Les Pionniers de l'Ouest,' of M. Joseph Tasse, and the works of M. Faucher de St. Maurice, are among other illustrations of the national spirit that animates French Canadian writers, and makes them deservedly popular among their compatriots.

If we now turn to the literary progress of the English-speaking people of Canada, we see some evidences of intellectual activity from an early time in the history of these colonies. During the two decades immediately preceding the Union of 1840, there was a cultured society in all the larger centres of intelligence. In official circles there was always found much culture and refinement, and the inmates of "Government House," in the several capitals, then as now, dispensed a graceful hospitality and contributed largely to the pleasures of the little society of which they were the leaders by virtue of their elevated position. Social circles which could boast of the presence of Mr. John Galt, author of 'Laurie Todd,' and other works of note in their day, of Mr. and Mrs. Jameson, who lived some years in Toronto, of the Stricklands, of Judge Haliburton, of learned divines, astute lawyers and politicians, and clever journalists, could not have been altogether behind older communities. From one of the magazines, published in 1824, we learn that there were some libraries in the large towns of Quebec, Montreal, York, Kingston, and Halifax; that belonging to the Parliament at Quebec being the most complete in standard works. Montreal as far back as 1823, had several book stores, and a public library of 8,000 volumes, containing many valuable works, and, independent of this, there were two circulating libraries, the property of booksellers, both of which were tolerably well supplied with new books. [Footnote: Talbot's Canada, Vol. I., p. 77. But it appears that there was a circulating library at Quebec as far back as 1779, with 2,000 volumes; it was maintained till a few years ago, when its books were transferred to the Literary and Historical Society.] In this respect Montreal possessed for years decided advantages over York, for Mrs. Jameson tells us that when she arrived there ten years later, that town contained only one book-store, in which drugs and other articles were also sold. Indeed, Mr. W. Lyon Mackenzie commenced life in Canada in the book and drug business with Mr. James Lesslie, the profits of the books going to the latter, and the profits of the drugs to the former. Subsequently, Mr. Mackenzie established a circulating library at Dundas, in connection with drugs, hardware, jewellery, and other miscellaneous wares, it being evidently impossible, in those days, to live by books alone. [Footnote: Lindsey's Life, pp. 36-7.] By 1836, however, even Mrs. Jameson, ready as she was to point out the defects of Canadian life, was obliged to acknowledge that Toronto had 'two good book-stores, with a fair circulating library.' Archdeacon Strachan and Chief Justice Robinson, according to the same author, had 'very pretty libraries.' Well-known gentlemen in the other Provinces had also well furnished libraries for those times.

We see in the articles contributed to the newspapers many evidences of careful writing and well digested reading. Literary and scientific societies now existed in all the large towns, though they necessarily depended for their support on a select few. Theatrical entertainments and concerts of a high order were not of unfrequent occurrence, for instance, we read in the Montreal papers of 1833 carefully-written notices of the performances of Mr. and Miss Kemble. The press also published lengthy criticisms of new publications, much more discriminating in some cases than the careless reviews of these later times, which seem too often written simply with the object of puffing a work, and not with a desire to cultivate a correct taste. We notice, too, that half a century ago there were gentlemen who thought they had an innate genius for writing manuals of arithmetic, and so forth, for the bewilderment of the Canadian youth. The literary tastes of the people were, then as now, fostered by the Boston and New York publishers; for example, we see lengthy notices of 'Harper's Family Library,' a series of cheap publications of standard works on History, Biography, Travels, &c., an invaluable acquisition to Canadians, the majority of whom could ill afford to pay the large prices then asked for English books. Several magazines began to be published in the East and West.

The first experiment of this kind was the Canadian Magazine, printed by N. Mower, in 1823, and subsequently published by Joseph Nickless, bookseller, opposite the Court House, Montreal. It was intended, in the words of the preface, 'as an archive for giving permanency to literary and scientific pursuits in the only British continental colony in the western hemisphere which has yet made any progress in settlement and cultivation.' The introduction is a very characteristic bit of writing, commencing as it does with a reference to the condition of 'man as a savage in mind and body,' and to the advance of the countries of ancient civilization in art and letters, until at last the reader is brought to appreciate the high object which the conductors had in view in establishing this new magazine--'to keep alive the heroic and energetic sentiment of our ancestors, their private virtues and public patriotism, and to form, for the example of posterity, a moral, an industrious, and loyal population.' The early following issues contained many well-written articles on Canadian subjects which give us some insight into the habits and tastes of the people, and are worthy of perusal by all those who take an interest in the old times of the colony. One particularly valuable feature was the digest of provincial news at the end of each number,--civil appointments, deaths, births and marriages, and army intelligence being deemed worthy of insertion. Among other things illustrative of social progress in 1823, we find notices of the first amateur concert given at Montreal in aid of a charitable object; of the establishment of the Quebec Historical Society, an event in the literary annals of Canada; of the foundation of the first circulating library in the City of Halifax, said to contain a number of valuable works. In 1824, H. A. Cunningham published, in Montreal, a rival publication, the Canadian Review, and Literary and Historical Journal, which appears to have excited the ire of the editor of the Canadian Magazine, for he devotes several pages of one issue to a criticism of its demerits. But these publications had only an ephemeral existence, and were succeeded by others. One of those was the Museum, edited by ladies in Montreal, in 1833. It contained some articles of merit, with a good deal of sentimental gush, [Footnote: The veteran editor of the Quebec Mercury thus pleasantly hit off this class of literature, always appreciated by boarding-school misses and milliners' apprentices:--'"The Cousins," written by M. ----, we candidly admit we did not encounter. When a man has arrived at that time of life when he is compelled to use spec----no, not so bad as that, but lunettes, in order to accommodate the text to his eyes, and finds at the conclusion of an article such a passage as the following: "Beneath that knoll, at the foot of that weeping ash, side by side, in the bosom of one grave lie Reginald and Charlotte de Conrci"--when a semi-centenarian meets such a passage in such a situation, it is a loss of time for him to turn back and threading way through the mazes of the story.'] such as one found in the keepsakes and other gift books of those days. The first magazine of ability in the West appears to have been the Canadian Magazine, edited by Mr. Sibbald, and published at Toronto in 1833. The next periodical, which lasted many years, was the Literary Garland, published in Montreal, in conjunction with Mr. John Gibson, [Footnote: These two gentlemen were long associated in the partnership, widely known throughout Canada, as that of Lovell & Gibson, parliamentary printers.] by that veteran publisher, John Lovell, a gentleman to whom the country owes much for his zeal and enterprise in all such literary matters. All these facts were illustrative of the growth of literary and cultured taste throughout the Provinces, even in those early times. But it must be admitted that then, as now, the intellectual progress of Canada was very slow compared with that of the United States, where, during the times of which I am writing, literature was at last promising to be a profession, Cooper, Irving and Poe having already won no little celebrity at home and abroad. It was not till the Canadas were re-united and population and wealth poured into the country that culture began to be more general. Sixteen years after Mrs. Jameson published her account of Canada, another writer [Footnote: W. H. Kigston. 1852. 2 vols] visited Toronto, and wrote in very flattering terms of the appearance of the city, and the many evidences of taste he noticed in the streets and homes of its people. At that time he tells us there were 'five or six large booksellers' shops, equal to any in the larger towns of England, and some of whom were publishers also.' Mr. Maclear had at that time 'published two very well-got-up volumes on Canada, by Mr. W. H. Smith, and was also the publisher of the Anglo-American Magazine, a very creditably conducted periodical.' Now, in this same City of Toronto, there are some forty stationers' and booksellers' establishments, small and large; whilst there are about one hundred altogether in the leading cities of the Provinces. Of the libraries, I shall have occasion to write some pages further on.

Since 1840, Canadians have made many ambitious efforts in the walks of literature, though only a few works have achieved a reputation beyond our own country. Nova Scotia can claim the credit of giving birth to two men whose works, though in very different fields of intellectual effort, have won for them no little distinction abroad. 'Sam Slick' may now be considered an English classic, new editions of which are still published from year to year and placed on the bookseller's shelves with the works of Fielding, Smollett, Butler and Barham. The sayings and doings of the knowing clockmaker were first published by Mr. Howe in the columns of the old Nova Scotia, still published as the weekly edition of the Halifax Chronicle, for the purpose of preserving some good stories and anecdotes of early colonial life. Like many good things that appear in the Canadian press, the judge's humorous effort would, no doubt, have been forgotten long before these times, had not the eminent publisher, Mr. Richard Bentley, seen the articles and printed them in book form. The humour of the work soon established the reputation of the author, and together with his companionable qualities made the 'old judge' a favourite when he left his native province and settled in England, where he lived and died, like Cowley, Thomson, Pope, and other men known to fame, on the banks of the Thames. The comments of 'Sam Slick' are full of keen humour, and have a moral as well. When first published, the work was not calculated to make him popular with certain classes of his countrymen, impatient of the satire which touched off weaknesses and follies in the little social and political world of those laggard times; but now that the habits of the people have changed, and the Nova Scotia of the Clockmaker exists no longer, except perhaps in some lonely corner; every one laughs at his humorous descriptions of the slow old times, and confesses, that if things were as Sam has portrayed them in his quaint way, he only acted the part of a true moralist in laying them bare to the world, and aiming at them the pointed shafts of his ready satire. The work is likely to have a more enduring reputation than the mere mechanical humour of the productions of 'Mark Twain.' Many of his sayings, like 'soft sawder,' have entered into our every day conversation.

The other distinguished Nova Scotian is the learned Principal of McGill College. Professor Dawson is a native of the County of Pictou, which has given birth to many men of ability in divinity, letters and politics. At an early age the natural bent of his talent carried him into the rich, unbroken field that the geology of his native province offered in those days to scientists. The two visits he paid with Sir Charles Lyell through Nova Scotia, gave him admirable opportunities of comparing notes with that distinguished geologist, and no doubt did much to encourage him in the pursuit of an attractive, though hardly remunerative, branch of study. The result was his first work, 'Acadian Geology,' which was at once accepted by savants everywhere as a valuable contribution to geological literature. His subsequent works--'The Story of the Earth and Man,' 'Fossil Man,' 'The Origin of the World,' and his numerous contributions to scientific periodicals, have aided to establish his reputation as a sound scholar and tasteful writer, as easily understood by the ordinary reader as by the student of geological lore. Moreover, his religious instincts have kept him free from that scepticism and infidelity into which scientists like himself are so apt to fall, as the result of their close studies of natural science; and his later works have all been written with the object of reconciling the conclusions of Science with the teachings of Scripture--a very difficult task discharged in a spirit of candour, liberality and fairness, which has won the praise of his most able adversaries.

A great deal of poetry has been written in Canadian periodicals, and now and then certainly we come across productions displaying much poetic taste as well as rhythmic skill. The only work of a high order that has attracted some attention abroad, is 'Saul,' a Drama, by Charles Heavysege, who died in Montreal not long since, a humble worker on the daily press. The leading English reviews, at the time of its appearance, acknowledged that 'it is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable works ever written out of Great Britain;' and yet, despite the grandeur of the subject, and the poetical and dramatic power, as well as the psychological analysis displayed in its conception and execution, this production of a local reporter, gifted with undoubted genius, is only known to a few Canadians. 'Saul,' like Milton's great epic, now-a-days, is only admired by a few, and never read by the many. Charles Sangster has also given us a very pleasing collection of poems, in which, like Wordsworth, he illustrates his love for nature by graceful, poetic descriptions of the St. Lawrence and the Saguenay. That a pure poetic vein runs through the minds of not a few of our writers, can be seen by a perusal of the poems contributed for some years to the CANADIAN MONTHLY, Scribner's, and other publications, by L'Esperance, Watson, Griffin, Carroll Ryan, 'Fidelis,' John Reade, Charles Roberts, Mrs. Seymour McLean, and C. P. Mulvany; the volume recently published by the latter writer is undoubtedly a good illustration of the poetic talent that exists among the cultured classes of our people.

As to Canadian novels and romances, there is very little to say; for though there have been many attempts at fiction, the performance has, on the whole, been weak in the extreme. In historic romance, only three works of merit have been so far produced; and these are 'Wacousta,' written by Major Richardson, in 1833; 'Le Bastonnais,' by M. L'Esperance, and 'Le Chien d'Or,' by Mr. Kirby, since 1867--during the long interval of nearly forty years between these works, not a single romance worth reading was published in Canada. These three books, however, are written with spirit, and recall the masterpieces of fiction. In novels, illustrative of ordinary life in the Colonies, we know of no works that anybody remembers except those by Miss Louisa Murray, the author of 'The Cited Curate,' and 'The Settlers of Long Arrow,' who, at all events, writes naturally, and succeeds in investing her story with a vein of interest. The late Professor De Mille gave us two well-written productions in 'Helena's Household,' a 'Tale of Rome in the First Century,' and 'The Dodge Club Abroad;' but his later works did not keep up the promise of his earlier efforts, for they never rose beyond slavish imitations of the ingenious plots of Wilkie Collins and his school. Yet they were above the ordinary Canadian novel, and had many readers in the United States and Canada.

In History, much has been attempted. Every one who can write an article in a country newspaper thinks he is competent to give the world a history of our young Dominion in some shape or other; and yet, when we come to review the results, it can hardly be said that the literary success is remarkable. The history of Canada, as a whole, has yet to be written, and it most be admitted that the task has its difficulties. The first era has its picturesque features, which may attract an eloquent writer, but the field has in a large measure been already occupied with great fidelity and ability by that accomplished historian, Francis Parkman, of Boston. The subsequent history, under the English regime, labours under the disadvantage of want of unity, and being for the most part a record of comparatively insignificant political controversy. To the outside world such a history has probably no very great attraction, and consequently could bring an author no great measure of reputation. Yet, if a Canadian imbued with true patriotism, content with the applause of his own countrymen, should devote to the task much patient research, and a graceful style, and while leaving out all petty and unimportant details, should bring into bold relief the salient and noteworthy features of the social and political development of Canada, such a writer would lift Canadian history out of that slough of dullness into which so many have succeeded in throwing it in their efforts to immortalise themselves rather than their country. Nor can it be truly said that to trace the successive stages in a nation's growth, is a task uninteresting or unimportant, even to the great world beyond us. But Canada has as yet no national importance; she is only in the colonial transition, stage, and her influence on other peoples is hardly yet appreciable So it happens, that whilst the history of a small state in Europe like Holland, Belgium, or Denmark, may win a writer a world-wide reputation, as was the case with Motley, on the other hand, the history of a colonial community is only associated in the minds of the foreign public with petty political conflicts, and not with those great movements of humanity which have affected so deeply the political and social fabric of European States.

All that, however, by way of parenthesis. Garneau's history, of which we have a fair translation, remains the best work of the kind, but it is not a history of Canada--simply of one section and of one class of the population. Hannay's 'History of Acadia' is also a work which displays research, and skill in arranging the materials, as well as a pleasing, readable style. Such works as Murdoch's 'History of Nova Scotia,' Dr. Canniff's Bay of Quinte, Dr. Scadding's 'Toronto of Old' are very valuable in the way of collecting facts and data from dusty archives and from old pioneers, thus saving the future historian much labour. The last mentioned book is one of the most interesting works of the class ever published in this country, and shows what an earnest, enthusiastic antiquarian can do for the English-speaking races in Canada, in perpetuating the memories and associations that cling to old landmarks. Like Dr. Scadding in Toronto, Mr. James Lemoine has delved industriously among the historic monuments of Quebec, and made himself the historian par excellence of that interesting old city. To him the natural beauty of the St. Lawrence and its historic and legendary lore are as familiar as were the picturesque scenery and the history of Scotland to Sir Walter Scott. Both Mr. Lemoine and Dr. Scadding illustrate what may be done in other cities and towns of Canada by an enthusiastic student of their annals, who would not aim too high, but be content with the reputation of local historians or antiquarians. We cannot lose any time in committing to paper the recollections of those old settlers who are fast dying out among us. 'The Scot in British North America,' by Mr. W. J. Rattray, is an attempt--and a most meritorious one--to illustrate the history of the progress of a class who have done so much for the prosperity of this country. Historical bodies, like the New England Historical Society, can do a great deal to preserve the records of old times. The Quebec Literary Historical Society, founded as long ago as 1824, under the auspices of the Governor-General of the time, Lord Dalhousie, has done a good work with the small means at its command in this direction, and it is satisfactory to know that a similar institution has at last been established in Halifax, where there ought to be much interesting material in the possession of old families, whose founders came from New England or the "old country" in the troublous times of the American Revolution.

Reviewing generally works of a miscellaneous class, we find several that have deservedly won for the authors a certain position in Canadian literature. For instance, Colonel Denison's works on Cavalry, one of which gained a prize offered by the Emperor of Russia, illustrate certainly the fertility and acuteness of the Canadian intellect when it is stimulated to some meritorious performance in a particular field. Mrs. Moodie's 'Roughing it in the Bush' is an evidence of the interest that may be thrown around the story of the trials and struggles of settlers in the wilderness, when the writer describes the life naturally and effectively. [Footnote: In the course of my readings of old files in the Parliamentary library, I came across this reference to the early literary efforts of this lady, whose pen in later times has contributed so much charming poetry and prose to Canadian publications, serial and general: 'The editor of the New York Albion has had the good fortune to obtain as contributor to his poetical columns the name of Susanna Moodie, better known among the admirers of elegiac poetry, in her days of celibate life, as Susanna Strickland. From the specimen with which she has furnished Dr. Bartlett of her poetic ardour, we are happy to find that neither the Canadian atmosphere nor the circumstances attendant upon the alteration of her name, have dimmed the light of that Muse which, in past years, engaged many of our juvenile hours with pleasure and profit.'--Montreal Gazette, 1833.] Mr. Charles Lindsey has given us, among other works, a life of Wm. Lyon Mackenzie,--with whom he was connected by marriage--valuable for its historical accuracy and moderate spirit. Mr. George Stewart has in 'Evenings in the Library' illustrated how earnestly and conscientiously he has studied English and American literature. Dr. Daniel Wilson, since he has made Canada his home, has continued to illustrate the versatility of his knowledge and the activity of his intellect by his works on 'Prehistoric Man,' and 'Recollections of Edinburgh,' besides his many contributions to the proceedings of learned societies and the pages of periodicals, Mr. Fennings Taylor, an accomplished official of Parliament, has given us a number of gracefully-written essays on Episcopalian dignitaries and Canadian statesmen, though he has had to labour in most cases with the difficulty of reviewing the career of men still in life, whose political merit is still a point in the opinion of parties. Mr. Alpheus Todd, the well-known librarian of Parliament, has been without a rival in the dependencies of Great Britain, in his particular line of constitutional studies. For over a quarter of a century he has been accumulating precedent upon precedent, until his mind is a remarkable store-house of well-digested data, from which he has illustrated the growth of Parliamentary institutions in Great Britain and her Colonies. His style is remarkably clear and logical,--though the character of his works and the plan adopted in their execution, are unfavourable to literary finish,--and even those who may not agree with his conclusions, on certain constitutional points, will give full credit to the conscientiousness of his researches and the sincerity of his purpose. His 'Parliamentary Government in England' was described in the Edinburgh Review as 'one of the most useful and complete works which has yet appeared on the practical operation of the British Constitution.' It says much for our system of Government, that it has been able to stimulate the intellectual faculties of a Canadian writer to the production of such thoughtful, erudite works. They are a natural outcome of the interest which all classes of our people take in questions of a political bearing. They illustrate the mental activity which, from the earliest times in our history, has been devoted to the study of political and constitutional questions, and which has hitherto for the most part found expression only in the press or in the legislatures of the different provinces. Works of constitutional authority like those of Hallam, May, Stubbs, and Todd must emanate naturally from the student, removed from the turmoil and excitement of political contests, rather than from the politician and statesman, whose mind can hardly ever find that freedom from bias which would give general confidence in his works, if indeed he could ever find time to produce them.

And here we may appropriately refer to the contributions made to Colonial literature by the eminent men who have assisted in giving Canada her present political and industrial status. The great speeches of Canadian statesmen must nearly all be sought in the old files of newspapers deposited in our libraries; but as a rule the chief interest that now attaches to these speeches is the light they throw on the history of the past. The opportunities which Canadian statesmen have had of making great oratorical efforts have not been frequent in dependencies where the questions have necessarily been for the most part of purely local importance and of a very practical character. Yet when subjects of large constitutional or national importance have come up for discussion, the debates prove that Canadian intellects display a comprehensiveness of knowledge and a power of argument worthy of a larger arena. Some of Sir Alexander Galt's speeches, in bringing down the Budget in old times, were characterized by that masterly arrangement of statistics which has made Mr. Gladstone so famous in the House of Commons. Sir John Macdonald's speech explaining the Washington Treaty, in 1872, was remarkable for its logical arrangement and its illustrations of the analytical power and the varied knowledge of that eminent statesman, who, in the intervals of leisure, has always been a student of general literature. Mr. Blake's speeches afford abundant evidence of the brilliant talent of a public man who is both a student of books as well as of politics, and who, were the tendency of Parliamentary oratory something higher than mere practical debate, could rise fully to the height of some great argument. But oratory, in the real sense of the art, cannot exist in our system of government in a Colonial dependency where practical results are immediately sought for. It consequently follows that the speeches which interest us to-day lose their attraction when the object has been gained. Both Mr. Howe and Mr. McGee were able to invest their great addresses with a charm which still clings to them when we take them up. The reason is, they were, like Gladstone and Disraeli, both litterateurs who studied their subjects in the library, among the great masters of eloquence and statesmanship, and were thus able to throw around a great question the flowers of a highly cultivated mind. But even Mr. Howe's most memorable speeches of old times would perhaps be hardly appreciated in the cold practical arena in which our public business is now transacted. Yet it cannot be said that the Legislature is no field to display the highest qualities of intellectual activity because it is no longer possible to indulge in those nights of poetic fancy or those brilliant perorations which are now confined to the pulpit or lecture-hall. The intellectual strength of the country must be of no mean order when it can give us statesmen like Sir Charles Tupper and Mr. Mackenzie, whose best speeches are admirable illustrations of logical arrangement and argumentative power. And, it may be added, with respect to the present House, that no previous Parliament, entrusted with the control of the affairs of Canada, has comprised a larger number of gentlemen, distinguished not only for their practical comprehension of the wants of this country, but for their wide attainments and general culture.

When we come to sum up the literary results of the century that has passed since the two races entered conjointly on the material and intellectual development of Canada, it will be seen that there has been a steady movement forward. It must be admitted that Canada has not yet produced any works which show a marked originality of thought. Some humorous writings, a few good poems, one or two histories, some scientific and constitutional productions, are alone known to a small reading public outside of Canada. Striking originality can hardly be developed to any great extent in a dependency which naturally, and perhaps wisely in some cases, looks for all its traditions and habits of thought to a parent state. It is only with an older condition of society, when men have learned at last to think as well as to act for themselves, to originate rather than to reproduce, that there can be a national literature. The political development of Canada within forty years affords forcible evidence of the expansion of the political ideas of our public men, who are no longer tormented by the dread of what others say of them, but legislate solely with respect to the internal necessities of the country; and the same development is now going on in other departments of intellectual life, and affords additional evidence of our national growth. It must also be remembered that there is a mental activity among the intelligent classes of the country, in itself as significant as the production of great works. Like our American neighbours, the mass of Canadians is able to think intelligently, and come generally to a right conclusion, on all matters of local concern; in this respect, no comparison need be made with the mass of Englishmen or Frenchmen in the Old World, for the social and educational facilities within the reach of the people of this country, give them undoubted advantages over others. It is only necessary to consider the number of pamphlets and volumes on matters affecting Canada, that annually issue from the press in this country, to show the existence of a mental activity in entire harmony with the industrial progress of the country. [Footnote: For instance, we find in Morgan's 'Annual Register' for 1879, that during that year there were no less than 166 publications issued from the press, of which 17 were poetic; 12 historical; 15 educational; 17 legal; 24 religious; 66 miscellaneous, &c. Some of these were of considerable merit, as 'Tasse's Pioneers,' F. Taylor's 'Are Legislatures Parliaments?' Frechette's Poems, Hannay's 'Acadia,' &c. In this connection it may be interesting to add that the Parliamentary Library contains some 1,400 copies of pamphlets, bound in 200 volumes, since Confederation, and that the total number of original Canadian publications registered since that time is over 1,500--only a few of the pamphlets being registered copyright. The Parliamentary Library, however, is very defective yet in Canadian books, papers and pamphlets. Laval University has a far more valuable collection. We ought to have a National Library like the British Museum, where all Canadian publications can have a place. Strange as it may seem, only a few copies of old Canadian papers can be found in the Ottawa Library. Yet, if a little money were spent and trouble. taken, a valuable collection could be procured from private individuals throughout the Dominion.] It is fair then to argue that the intellectual progress of a country like Canada must not be measured solely by the production of great works which have been stamped with the approval of the outside literary world, on whose verdict, it must of course be admitted, depends true fame. We must also look to the signs of general culture that are now exhibited on all sides, compared with a quarter of a century ago, when the development of material interests necessarily engrossed all the best faculties of the people. The development of higher education, together with the formation of Art Schools, Museums, and Literary Societies, is illustrative of the greater mental activity of all classes. The paintings of O'Brien and Verner are pleasing evidences of the growth of art in a country where, hitherto, but few pictures of merit have even been imported. It is no longer considered a sign of good taste to cover the walls with oils and chromes whose chief value is the tawdry, showy gilt which encases them and makes so loud a display on the walls of the nouveaux riches. In the style of public buildings and private dwellings, there is a remarkable improvement within twenty years, to indicate not only the increase of national and individual wealth, but the growth of a cultured taste. The interior decorations, too, show a desire to imitate the modern ideas that prevail abroad; and in this respect every year must witness a steady advance, according as our people travel more in the older countries in Europe and study the fashions of the artistic and intellectual world. There are even now in prosaic, practical Canada, some men and women who fully appreciate the aesthetic ideal that the poet Morris would achieve in the form, harmony, and decoration of domestic furniture. If such aesthetic ideas could only be realized in the decoration of our great public edifices, the Parliamentary buildings at Ottawa, for instance, the national taste would certainly be improved. At present huge portraits of politicians, who by intrinsic merit or political favour have become speakers, stare down from the walls in solitary grandeur, and already begin to overcrowd each other. We search in vain for allegorical paintings by eminent Canadian artists, or monuments of illustrious statesmen, such as we see in the Capitol at Washington, or in the elegant structure nearly completed at Albany.

In one respect we are still much behind hand, and that is in our Public Libraries. The library of the Parliament of Canada still remains the only institution worthy of much notice in the Dominion. It was certainly an event in the history of literary culture in Canada when this library was moved into the edifice whose architectural beauty is in itself an illustration of the rapid advance in taste of the Dominion. As one looks up at its chaste, vaulted ceiling, which lights the tiers of volumes, arranged in a circle, one recalls the now forgotten poem of Crabbe, that ardent lover of books:--

Come, Child of Care! to make thy soul serene,
Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene;
Survey the dome, and, as the doors unfold,
The soul's best cure, in all her cares, behold!
Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find,
And mental physic the diseased in mind.

* * * * *

With awe, around these silent walks we tread;
These are the lasting mansions of the dead:--
"The dead!" Methinks a thousand tongues reply:
"These are the tombs of such as cannot die!
"Crowned with eternal fame, they sit sublime
"And laugh at all the little strife of time."

But whilst we pay this tribute to its architectural grace, one wonders at the same time at the shortsightedness which has sacrificed everything to appearance, and given us a building not even equal to existing demands--as if a library was a thing of the present, not to increase with the intellectual requirements of the country. As it is now, the library contains only some 100,000 volumes, many of which have no particular value. The American and Canadian department is confessedly inferior in many respects, although we ought to excel in that particular. Of late years, the annual grant has been extremely small, and chiefly devoted to the purchase of books for the law branch, for the especial benefit of lawyers engaged in the Supreme Court. But we have as yet no Free Libraries like those in the United States, of which the Boston Library is a notable illustration. [Footnote: Boston, twenty years ago, spent and spent well, in founding her great free library, more than two dollars for each man, woman, and child within her limits, and she has sustained it to this day with great spirit and liberality. That library has now more than 360,000 volumes, and her citizens in 1879 took to their homes more than 1,160,000 volumes. Many smaller places in New England and elsewhere, not without careful investigation, have followed her example, finding in the practical results of her 20 years' work, proof satisfactory to their tax-payers, that a free library is a profitable investment of public money, while in the West the great cities of Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis, with Western free-handed energy, have already free libraries on such a scale that one at least of them bids fair to rank among the greatest in the world--Scribner's Monthly for September, 1880, where the advantages of a free library are very tersely shown.] But, nevertheless, the reading facilities of the people generally have increased very largely within two decades. At the present time, as far as we can estimate from the information within reach, there are some 130,000 volumes in the Parliamentary Libraries of the Dominion, 700,000 in the Universities, Colleges and Schools--all of which are necessarily of a limited professional class--and 140,000 in Mechanics' Institutes and Literary Societies. The grand total of library and prize books despatched to the Public Schools of the Province of Ontario alone within twenty-five years is over one million and a quarter of volumes--comprising of course books of an educational character, but nevertheless valuable in laying the foundation of general culture, and bringing the means of acquiring knowledge to sections where otherwise such facilities would be wanting. Last year, the value of the books imported into Canada amounted to about a million of dollars, or an increase of about 30 per cent. in ten years. Literary and Scientific Institutes are increasing in number, and some are doing a useful, if not a national work: the Quebec Historical Society, referred to on a previous page, the Toronto Canadian Institute, which has made not a few useful contributions to science and literature, and the Institut Canadien which has erected in Ottawa one of the handsomest structures yet raised in Canada by a literary association. In Ontario there are also some 100 Mechanics Institutes, including nearly 11,000 members, with an aggregate of 118,000 volumes in the libraries; [Footnote: 'Address of Mr. James Young, President of Mechanics' Institutes Association of Ontario (Globe, Sept. 24th, 1880).] and it is satisfactory to learn that institutions which may have an important influence on the industrial classes are to be placed on a more efficient basis. These facts illustrate that we are making progress in the right direction; but what we want, above all things, are public libraries, to which all classes may have free access, in the principal centres of population. The rich men of this country can devote a part of their surplus wealth to no more patriotic purpose than the establishment of such libraries in the places where they live, and in that way erect a monument for themselves far more honourable than any that may be achieved by expenditures on purely selfish objects. All through the New England and Central States we meet with such illustrations of private generosity, but there are few similar examples in Canada. Perhaps the handsome contribution recently made by Mr. Redpath towards the establishment of a museum in connection with McGill College--itself a memorial of private generosity--is a favourable augury of what we may often look for in the future, as the number of our wealthy men increase and they become more alive to the intellectual wants of those around them.

In the columns of our ablest journals there is a growing tendency to devote more space to the discussion of literary, artistic and scientific topics which are engaging attention in the world of thought The publication of a periodical like the Bystander may justly be considered an event in the political and literary annals of this country. It illustrates the desire that exists for independent political criticism amid the intense conflict of party opinion; and even those who cannot agree with the views of the eminent gentleman who conducts this work will frankly admit the originality and independence of thought in all he says. But it is not only as a political writer that Mr. Smith is doing good service to this country; every one who reads his reviews of current events cannot fail to profit by the study of his graceful style as well as by the versatility of his knowledge on all the social, political and economic questions that are engaging attention at home or abroad. The pages of the Canadian Monthly have also for some time shown that there is coming to the front a number of writers of considerable intellectual power on the leading social and religious problems to which so many able thinkers are devoting themselves now-a-days. Herbert Spencer has his disciples and defenders, who prove themselves no contemptible adversaries of the orthodox school of religion. Very few of us probably sympathize with these modern iconoclasts who would destroy all motive for right doing in this world, by breaking down human faith in the existence of one Supreme Being; but, at the same time, no one can deny the earnestness and ability these writers bring to their work. It is quite obvious that such able thinkers as Mr. Spencer and his followers in Canada, with Mr. Le Sueur at their head, cannot be 'snubbed' cavalierly by the professed teachers of religion. The tendency of modern thought, a wave of which has reached us, is undoubtedly in the direction of bringing all subjects, however sacred, to the crucial test of argument, fact and experience, and our religious guides must not think they will prevail by the exhibit of mere contemptuous indifference to the free thought that prevails around them. If our great theological schools and seats of learning are to prove themselves equal to the demands of the present day, it will be by moving out of their grooves of worn-out tradition and routine, and by enlarging their teachings so that the men they send out into the world may be more equal than most of them appear now to meet in argument the Positivist, Rationalist and Materialist, or whatever the disciple of the modern schools of philosophy may call himself. The man of true liberality and faith in the truth of his religious principles must be fully prepared to allow the freest expression of opinion, however antagonistic it may appear to the true happiness of society. This very conflict of ideas and arguments between such opposite schools of opinion must, in the end, evolve the truth, and necessarily give additional stimulus to intellectual thought in this country, where, so far, there has been a great dearth of original thinkers to elevate us above purely selfish, material interests.

In the natural order of things, the next half century ought to witness a far larger development of the intellect of this country. We have already seen that, with the progress of the Dominion in population and wealth, education has been stimulated to a remarkable degree, journalism has become more of a profession, and not only have several books, of more than ordinary value and merit, been produced in various departments of knowledge, but there are already signs of a spirit of intellectual emulation which must, sooner or later, have its full fruition. If Canada makes the material progress within the next few decades that her people hope, and her statesmen are endeavouring to accomplish, in the face, no doubt, of many difficulties, we may confidently look forward to a corresponding intellectual development. So much practical work of immediate importance has to be performed in a comparatively new country like this, that native talent has naturally found chief expression in politics, the professions, and the press; but with greater wealth, and an older condition of society, literature, science, and art, will be cultivated to a far larger extent. 'It was amid the ruins of the Capitol,' says Gibbon, 'that I first conceived the idea of writing the "History of the Roman Empire."' Such a work could not have been written among the forests of Canada, while men were labouring with the many difficulties of a pioneer existence. But with the greater opportunities of leisure and culture necessarily opening up to us in the future, Canadians may yet have a literature, not merely imitative, as at present, but creative and original. It is stated somewhere in an old English review of American literature, that on this new continent we can hardly expect the rich fruition which springs from that deep, humanized soil of the old world, which has for ages been enriched by the ripe droppings of a fertile national life, where, in the words of an American poet,--

One half the soil has walked the rest,
In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages.

It is certainly true that the beauty and grandeur of external nature alone will never inspire the highest and deepest writings; but human life with its manifold experiences, its glooms and glories, sorrows and rejoicings, pains, pleasures and aspirations. Every rood of ground in the old communities of Europe has its historic associations to point many a moral and adorn many a tale. Yet if this America of ours has a history only of yesterday, it, too, has its memories and associations to stimulate the genius of history, poetry and romance. Already in the first century of American literature have poets and historians and artists appeared to rival those of the older civilization of the world. The works of Parkman and Longfellow illustrate that there is, even in the early history and traditions of Canada, much to evoke the interest of the great world beyond us, when a writer brings to the task the genius of a true poet or the brilliancy of an accomplished historian. If our soil is new, yet it may produce fruits which will bear a rich flavour of their own, and may please the palate of even those surfeited with the hothouse growth of older lands. Hawthorne, Emerson, Howells, Bret Harte, Sam Slick, are among many writers who illustrate the raciness and freshness of American production. Nor let it be forgotten that American and Canadian, in 'the fresh woods and pastures new' of this continent, have an equal heritage with the people of the British Islands in that rich, humanized soil which has borne such rare intellectual fruit. We, too, may enjoy its bounteous gifts and gather inspiration from its treasures of 'English undefiled,' although we live in another land whose history dawned but yesterday, and where the soil is almost virgin.

In this land there is a future full of promise for literature as for industry. Our soil speaks to the millions of poor in the old countries of the world of boundless hope. Here there is no ancient system of social exclusiveness to fix a limit to the intellectual progress of the proletariat. Political freedom rests on a firm, broad basis of general education. Our political constitution is not alienated from the intellect of the country, but its successful working depends entirely on the public intelligence. As our political horizon widens, and a more expansive national existence opens before us, so must our intellectual life become not only more vigorous, but more replete with evidences of graceful culture:

'For through all the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.'

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