Joseph Edmund Collins.

Life and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada online

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Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 37 of 57)
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which n the story of Acadie during the period of its

occupation by the French, and up to the time of its final sur-
render to England by the treaty of Paris. Everything that

slop history is, this bonk is not, the author accepting little
evidence at second hand, but going direct to the original docu-
ments, containing the vitals of the story. Mr. Hannay's Btyle
is limpid, vigorous and chaste; and here and there, though he
modestly disclaims in his preface any attempt at fine writing,
he bursts .»ut into passages of genuine eloquence. There is a
passage relating to the drowning of the wicked Charnisay that
we cannot forbear quoting. "In 1G50 he was drowned in the
river of Port Royal. Neither history nor tradition gives us
any further particulars of his fate than is contained in these few
words. But if it is true, as some say, that a man who goes down
eath through the dark waters sees before him in an instan-

»ua mental vision a panorama of his whole life, than surely
deep anguish must have smitten the soul of the dying Charni-
say. * * And above the shadowy forms of those whom he had
Wronged and murdered, the face of one victim must have im-


pressed him with a deeper remorse bbao all the rest, that of the
heroic, noble and faithful lady Lb Tour." Mr. Hannay's vol-
ume is one <>t" the hooks thai deserve to live in our literature.
There have been several histories of Nova Scotia given to the
public, and some of them are said to have had not a little merit.
Colonel Gray 'a Confederation, so far i -. is a valuable

book, but there is not enough of it. Mr. Nicholas Flood Da vin,

in the literarv firmament, is a verv bright star: hut lie nee<U

more discipline than he is ever likely to get. The Irishman

in (kmada iv Mr. Davin's chief literary production, an<l may
he regarded as one of the most brilliant books that has ap-
peared in Canada. There i^ much information of historical
value in the volume, and some of the pen-portraits exhibit
a marked capacity for character sketching, though the very
brilliancy of Mr. Darin's glance sometimes blurs the object be
s to depict His style fairly bounds, and there is a contin-
uous ripple of mother-wit, telling allusion and sparkling anec-
dote along the page, which seem to chatter with you, and keep
yon in a state of glee as you follow the author in his excur-
sions. Mr. Davin has contributed some searching papers, with
this same glittering quality, to the Canadian Monthly, and the
best of the number was " Great Speeches," from which, let as
hope, Sir Charles Tupper and Mr. Blake derived some profit.

Mr. W. J. Rattray is another of the literary guild of which
Canada has reason to be proud ; and the work by which we
know him best is The Scot in British North America. The
book is not complete yet, but the literary public will not re-
quire guarantees from Mr. Rattray as to the quality of that
portion to come with that already published before them. It
is not certain that Mr. Rattray has wedded himself to the sub-
ject with which he is best fitted to deal, though like the rest of
us who have literary ambition, but who lack a private fortune,
he cannot follow his inclination, but must address himself to a
special market. If Shakespeare took his entire set of plays up
and down Toronto to-morrow, he could not get a publisher


to * touch them ; " but if he induced his stasre manager to write
a book about the " Methodists," or the " Tories," or the u Epis-
copalians," or on " Irishmen," or could " get up " a good cook-
book, there is not a publisher in Toronto who would not prompt-
ly enter with him into articles of publication. The fault we do
not lay at the door of the publishers, for they cannot be expect
ed to Bhow a literary philanthropy at the expense of their poc-
keta But it shows that there IS Something rotten in Denmark
«/ book- ought to find a publisher anywhere ; but, notwith-
standing what a writer who is not an authority said the other
day between covers, a good l>ook will not be published here un-
it appeal to some section of the community ; which will
then buy it whether it is good or bad. Our own poor effort ia
a case in point. We have taken the most popular subject in
da. Sir John Macdonald, and we appeal to a great public
v ; bo that financial s u cc e ss would be assured to the pub-
lishers, though we filled every page with garbage] while had

Come with a much better book t<> M r, Rose, Or tO any otliei
publisher, which appealed to nobody in particular, he or they
would have been obliged to send us sorrowing away, with
something ai least to light our fires, Mr. Rattray has com*
mand of a vigorous style, and lie brings a calm and unbiassed
thoughtfulness to every subject he di scus s es . But he is not a
pugilisi ; if he had a little more of the fighting instinct — for
fight we must, now and again, if we expect to get along
through this world — we should like him better. But there hi
is, the George Arthur who never fought, but who had his own
high sphere as well as Tom Brown who did; and we take
pride in him as a member of the guild

A little volume lately published in Montreal by Dawson
Brothers, entitled A Study of Tennyson's Poem, ■ The Prvnc
by Mr, S. K Dawson, we may say is one of the most meritor-
ver published in this country. Its tone is cosmo-
politan, exhibiting not a trace of provincialism or Philistinism
OT any of the stale rehash in which so many of our critics deal.


It is a piece of pure and polished literary workmanship, subtle
and pointed in its analysis, ardently appreciative, deeply poetic,
and altogether masterly. It quite demolishes a score or more

iockhead Quarl&rly L < and other British worthies

who have undertaken to set the "erring steps " of Mr. Tenny-
son aright. The little hook has been well received in Eng-

; . though, as a role, our Canadian press has been as dumb

ittlc and has a long article by Ernest Myers devoted to
it in the last number of Maonillan's Magazine.

Mr. Charles Lindsey has some literary reputation also, but

anted it when writers, like clear land and schoolmasters,

>carc.-. Hi- greeted work is Tin L'<i> ami Times of
Will I book showing much vigour, but

reeking with errors, and written on the bias. He sadly de-
serves ■ pltoe, however, in our native literary circle. Dr.
^ Ming wrote a very gossippj and entertaining book called
of Old, and he has contributed some very valuable
•rs to Mr. G. ! Adam's Carta atlonal Monthly.

it. -Colonel Dt unison has had some of the sweets of litera-
ture without any of the bitter, lie is not in any sense a lite-
man, but his Hirtory o/Oawdryfromthe Earliest Times,
I Lessons for the Future (a title which might have been
phrased as " The past and future of cavalry," instead of using
the proclamation form of expression) was a work of much note
in military circles. In 1874, the Grand Duke Nicholas, of
Russia, offered three prizes for the three best works on the his-
of cavalry. Col. Dennison's essay was translated into Rus-
sian ; the author visited St. Petersburg, and bore away, above
all competitors, the purse of roubles. Of the many histories of
Canada written in English, that by Dr. Archer is incomparably
the best, though it is evident that the author, in bringing down
his work to the school-house limit, has put it through a vast
ordeal of mutilation. Dr. Archer has a style in which there is
3, singular sweetness, and that charm that is only coexistent
with a deep poetic instinct ; and unlike the most of our other


English historians he has gone to the fountain for the greater
portion of his material. The pity is that Dr. Archer has not
written more; for he might well contribute that which future
generations would not let die.

The fame of Dr. Alpheus Todd, C.B., rests upon his writings
on constitutional subjects. He has written ParliamefUary
' n EnglandyBind Parlictrn&ntcury Government in
tin B If tlic doctors could get the body of Mr

Todd when he dies, they would, we will wager our reputation,
rind stamped upon his heart tin- words" British North America
Mr. Todd haa rendered some valuable assistance, now
and then, no doubt, win-re complex constitutional points hav<
ii, but the question lias come to be with him now, not
was this or tliat right or wrong, for that is of minor conse-
quence, but. - What says the British North America Act ?" Th<
king in Mr. Todd'a eyes can done wrong, and the British Nortl
America Aet must be always right. It' an act of parliament

imperial 01 subordinate, |>ineh Ofl in any way, the true course

u to have the cramping clause substituted by what we desire,
insolation by excursions through constitu-
tional graveyards. Mr. Todd'a work is the mildew of literature.
One of the mosl assuming of our late historical contributions
by Mr. John Charles Dent. The book
the chief political events since the union of 1841, in
a circumstantial manner, and the writer endeavour^ to lay the
various sides of the question, under treatment, open to the view
of the reader, in every case, however, closing the exhibition with
his own opinion. The book is valuable chiefly because it is a
(airly accurate record of the chief events of the time within its
purview, faithfully recorded in chronological order. There i-
not much party bias in the book, though the writer's head u has
at " towards government; and as a rule Mr. Dent's bones
are marrowless, and his blood is cold. To enthusiasm he does
not once rise from the first cover to the last. One might
fancy that he was a fish which had lived under the ice in the


tic Sea all his life, till captured by the publisher to write
Forty Years, Mr. Dent has fair ability, much pro-
ud a mind and impulse under a state of rigid discip-
11 is cleverer than several Canadian writers whom we
know, and inferior to many others that we have met. He
lias not the faintest seintilla of genius ; he never sinks below
common sense, and never rises to superiority. In his whole

book there is neither a bad nor a good sentence, BAYS where he

vibes Mr. W. II. Blake's eyes as assuming "the lurid glare

of forked lightning," and comperes the sparkling of Gavazzi's

orbs to the glint of "royal jewels." He is very pedantic here

tad then through his book; and has a way of putting quotation

marks around poor phrases "i' bis own coining. He is usually

correet in his statements, and has no mercy in that cold heart

t" his for a brother who makes a slip in recording a date or an

incident ; yet there glares out through his own pages, among

ie other inaccuracies, the statement that the present chief

ice (Sir W.J. Ritchie) was one of the confederate delegates

- England, and that Mason and Slideli were taken off the Trent

in " mid-ocean." But Mr. Dent's book is a valuable addition to

.our literature; as is also hi> ( in Portrait Gallery, which

contains sketches of our leading Canadian public men.

One of the naost delightful books it has been our good for-
tune to read, is Rowjhin'j it In the Bash, a vivid story, told by
Mrs. Susanna Moodie, of the hardships to be endured by the
emigrant who comes from a home of refined ease, to grapple
with life in the wild- woods of Canada. We have all of us our
favourite books — those that, read once, leave a clinging remem-
brance about the heart that time is unable to efface. So perfect
a picture is Mrs. Moodie's book of the struggles, the hopes, the
dark days, and the sun-spots of that obscure life that fell to her
lot in the forest depths, that its whisperings form a delight-
ful music to the memory. The style is limpid as a running
brook, picturesque, and abounding with touches that show a
keen insight into character, and an accurate observation of


external things. There is no padding or fustian in the book,
and no word is squandered, Mrs. Moodie regarding the mission,
of language to be to convey thought, not to be put on a useless
parade. Here La a description of a whirlwind seen near her
cottage, among the stumps, of a sultry summer day : " The ther-
mometer, in the shade, ranged from ninety-six to ninety-eight
w over my work and retired with the little
tn tin- coolest part of the house. The young ereatures

stretched themselves upon the floor, unable to jump about or play;

log lay panting in the shade; the fowls half buried them-
's in the dust, with open beaks and outstretched wings. . .
>k Donald in my arms, and my eldest hoy by the hand, and
walked with them to the brow of the hill, thinking that the air

WOUld be OOOler in the shad.-. In this 1 was mistaken. The

Is o^ er <>ur heads hung bo low, and the heal was so groat,
I was soon glad I > my steps. The moment I turned

round to face the lake I was surprised at the change that had

d place in the appearance of the heavens. The clouds that

had before lain bo still were now In rapid motion, hurrying

and chasing each other round the horison. It was a strangely

;l sight. Before 1 feh a breath of the mighty blast that

had already burst on the other side of the lake, branches of

and clouds of dust where whirled across the lake,

se waters rose in long, sharp furrows, fringed with foam,

F moved in their depths by some unseen but powerful agent.

ranting with tenor, I just reached the door of the house as

the hurricane swept up the hill, crushing and overturning

everything in its course. . . . The hurrying clouds gave to

the heavens the appearance of a pointed dome, round which

the lightning played in broad ribbons of fire. The roaring

of the thunder, the rushing of the blast, the impetuous

do wnpouring of the rain and the crash of falling trees were

fening." A picture like this becomes framed in the mind,

and years will not dim it. Mrs. Moodie, who also wrote other

works of much merit, among which maybe mentioned Flora


1. s ' yand L</< in tht Clenrimjn, is a member of the talented
Strickland family, which, out of six sisters, furnished five
distinguished writers. Her sister, Mrs. Traill, has been a va-
luable contributor to Canadian literature, her best-known
works being the Backwoods of Canada, and Rambling* in the
adtkm Forest ; and hex brother, Lieut-Colonel Strickland,
has earned a place in our letters by his work Twenty-*

)■ ' Wsts\ i record of his own experiences in the

bush, abounding with numerous realistic touches. Among
native authors, a place must be given to Mrs Leprohon, who
contributed so many charming tales to the Garland. Mrs

Leprohon has i sweet fancy, and a genuine sympathy in every
subject touched by her pen. Ida Beresford is perhaps her
most popular work, though the Manor House of De VUUtai
will Longest endure, because of those vivid sketches of the man-
ners and customs of the habitants of Lower Canada, which it
contains. The praises of Le Chien d'Or, by Win. Ivirby, have
been sounded by abler pens than ours ; and we have no desire
to detract aught from the fame of this weird story. Mr. Kir-
by's imagination is rich, and sometimes can take on as many
shapes as Proteus himself, now arraying itself in the fantastic,
and again coming in the guise of something so weird as to send
a shiver through the blood ; but he is a poor artist He is like
a lady with a rich wardrobe, and an ample store of pearls, who
has no taste, and appears in colours and combinations that do
literally commit murder before the eyes of all who see her.
Some interest was excited in literary circles some years ago,
over the clever detection by Mr. G. Mercer Adam, of some petty
larceny by two English novelists, from Le Chien d'Or. The
charge of " picking other peoples brains," * was intolerable to
the Englishmen, who cabled a denial in very hot language ; but
Mr. Adam, with a calm and dignified mercilessness, substantia-
ted his allegation, and fairly nailed the two authors, as a pair

* This is Prof. Gold win Smith's expression, and is applied to Bishop Wilberforce
in the inimitable critique in Bystander.


of kites, to the wall, an example for future transgressors. The
greater part of the Popu lar History of Ireland, by Thomas
D'Arev HcGee was written in Canada, and may therefore be
ranked among our native literature. It would be impossible
for BfcGee to write an unmeritorious thing in seriousness, and
while we have bat very little interest in his book, we pay our
tribute to its merit, and to the flashes that gleam over its
It has been the custom to quote Mr. M eGee's poetry,
but, as we have Been, while this brilliant Irishman had the poe-
tic instinct, he did not know what poetry was, writing only
brilliant verse, rather than the heaven-given thing itself. One
cann iplish one thing, by doing a totally different thing ;

that is to say. the writing of an essay on agriculture will not
accomplish the di f a turnip patch. The name of Dr.

Grant rings through our Literary circles, but this must be rather
by virtue of what the distinguished " principal " is capable of
doing, rather than by what he has done, Sis chief contribu-
tion to literature, bo Par, Lb the book O Ocean, which we
have read and re-read, not alone with delight, but with enthu-
siasm, for it is redolent <>f the breath of the mountain, the mys-
tery of tin- wood, and the perfume of wild (lowers. It is a sort

of pastoral \ m, written in prose, containing a wholesome

of the practical with the exuberant and the spiritual
Among our scientific writers of note may be mentioned pro-
i l)awson, whose contributions to geology will be im-
■ liable ; Sir William Logan, who has laid the same science
nndei deep obligation; professor Bailey, whose whole life is
of scientific research, and who has not confined his
splendid talents to the pursuit of geology alone, but to the
elucidation of this and its kindred studies in numerous lectures,
which, while profound are always delightful, and appreciable
even to ordinary understanding; professor Hind, who loves sci-
ence well, and has made many valuable contributions to its
literature; and professor Macoun, whose explorations in the
north-west, and his book on that region, published in connec-


tion with Dr. Grant, have brought his tine abilities into notice.
Among our writers on the important subject of forest preserva-
tion and reproduction, are Mr. Edward Jack, of New Bruns-
wick, whose efforts have been useless bo endeavouring to press
the importance of forestry regulations upon the dull ear of an
apathetic government ; and professor Brown principal of Guelph
agricultural college, has rendered valuable assistance In the Bamc
direction in Ontario, though Mr. Mowatandhis colleagues are
too much occupied with the affairs of faction to pay much at-
tention to what he has written. Several writers have appeared

before the public on religious subjects, but none of their fruits
are wedded to our memory now, save the inimitable translation
of the book of Job, by KshopMedley,the metropolitan of Canada.
This distinguished divine is the ablest Hebrew scholar in Can-
ada, and his translation of the most difficult and most 'beauti-
ful book in the bible is unequalled, in the opinion of competent
scholars, by any other translation yet made. The very flavour,
and that delightful poetic fervour, running through the religi-
ous pathos of the original, seem to have been turned, without
diminution or change, into the English equivalent. Then- is
another writer who employs a quaint style, of much charm, as
if he had drunk deep draughts of the old Saxon wells, who now
and again contributes papers on various subjects, trade, litera-
ture, and social improvement, to the daily press ; we refer to
Mr. R. W. Phipps, whose careful thought on all subjects with
which he deals, and felicitous use of imagery fresh from his own
mint, give him a literary standing that may well be envied.
On the important subject of pisciculture Mr. Samuel Wilmot
has contributed much valuable information, and to him and
that excellent magazine, Forest and Stream, the only publica-
tion that we know of which has a department devoted to fish-
culture, the public is under great obligation.

Mr. Charles Rumball, now a resident of Canada, may be
ranked among our litterateurs, though his sketchy and gossipy
book, The Pedlar, was printed before he left England. A


&ti Uional History of Canada, by the late Mr. Samuel
flames WatsOn is a valuable addition to our constitutional litera-
ture ; and he who reads it must regret that the author was not
spared to finish his work. Mr. Watson also wrote some very

I verse, which this writer should like to see published, as

well as the remainder of the history remaining in manuscript

Among those who take a foremost place in our realm of

is, it is not necessary to say, is Mr. George Stewart, Jr..
whose various contributions have so long delighted a large cir-
cle of readers. Literary honours, upon Mr. Stewart, have fallen
thick and fast. In L879, he was elected an associate member
of L' Association Litteraiiv Internationale of Europe, Victor

». president; and is the only Canadian that enjoys this dis-
tinction. The other members of the association from this side
of the Atlantic were Longfellow. Emerson, Col. J. W. Biggin-

Francis Parkman, and Edward hong. In 1881 Mr. Stewart

elected a member of the Prince Society of Boston; and is
one of the original twenty members of the English literature

»n of the Royal Society of Canada 1 by Lord Lome.

Ee was subsequently elected n eretary of that section, which

'inn he now holds. In 1NS0 he was chosen with Mr.

-I. ML Le ftfoine, as a delegate to represent the Literary and

Historical Society of Quebec, at the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences, held at Boston, Robt. C. Winthrop, presi-
likewise a corresponding member of the New
Brunswick Historical Society, and first vice-president of the
Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Mr. Stewart's
literary career has been one of unceasing activity, crowned with

•ess. In Stewart's Quarterly, a magazine with a strong
literary sparkle, appeared a number of his earlier contributions;
later he was editor of Belford's Magazine in Toronto; and
al out this time wrote those entertaining papers of his, known as

enings in the Library." Later still, he became editor of the

in Monthly, and during his occupation of the editorial

chair contributed a number of literary papers. It was then he


Wrote the book by Which In- is best known. ('<//><"/'/ Under th<

' rvn t which brought him into in-
stent repute. Severing his connection with the Monthly t h& took
the editorial chair of the Quebec Chronicle, which position he
still holds. I * 1 1 1 journalism during these years have not won

the tireless activity of Mr. Stewart away from the pursuit he
loves. In bis lectures on Alcott. Thoreao, Cariyle, Emerson,
and Longfellow (which by the way we would like to see bound
up in one volume) he has made an enduring contribution to
Literature, by which alone he would he assured the remem-
brance of posterity. Mr. Stewart's style thrills with life, and
he frequently succeeds in getting his images down while they
are at white-heat The following extract from his delightful
lecture on Aleott, the " Concord Mystic," selected at random,
exhibits the vitality and the nervousness of Mr. Stewart's
Btyle. It is of Alcott he speaks : "For awhile he supported
himself during the summer months by tilling the soil, and in
th.- winter time he chopped wood. But whether he planted or
reaped in the garden, in the field, or felled giant trees in
the resounding forest, his fancy still turned to thoughts of high
endeavour, and his eloquent imagination pictured the airiest
\ i -ions and the most lovely of all lovely things. His] mind
was full of quick-coming and beautiful creations, and like
Wordsworth, like Bryant, like Thoreau the friend of his youth,
he listened to the songs which the brooks seemed to sing, to
the lays which the birds chanted in his ear, and to the hymnal
sounds and roundelays which echoed from the dark recesses of
the wild woods he loved so dearly." And again : " He talks on
with the air of one who might be inspired — like a poet who
cannot restrain the utterance of the fanciful things which
struggle in his mind ; like a romancer who in vain attempts to

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 37 of 57)