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The Englishman in Canada, a satire online

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and actually the capital of this colony ! I could not realize it till
convinced by the presence of the Parliament buildings, and the
assurance given me by His Excellency, upon his honour, that it

* Contracted and pronounced as if written, " Ne' md rath."


was really and truly a fact. The buildings are huge piles of repul-
sive stone and mortar, most unattractive to the eye of a man of
culture like myself, having no symmetry in design or taste in finish,
although the architects of the civilized world were invited to make
designs and plans for them, many of whom did so. I must, how-
ever, in all candour say, that the defect is not owing to any defi-
ciency in the skill of the architects, but to the climate and atmos-
phere in which the buildings stand. If they stood on the banks
of one of the noble rivers of Great Brit in, France, or Germany —
the Thames, the Clyde, the Liffey, the Seine, or the Danube
instead of on the banks of the Ottawa — a mere colonial stream-
the people of those countries would be in raptures over their
splendour and magnificence, because then the atmosphere would
transform them from what they appear to me to be, a mass of
colonial rubbish, into gems of architectural symmetry and beauty
worthy of our own immortal cities. If the landscape were in
Europe the scenery could not be surpassed in grandeur and sub-
limity, but colonial prospects are never worthy of our attention,
and there are no exceptions to the rule. There is an immense
volume of water tumbling over a ledge of rocks in the vicinity,
called the " Chaudiere Falls," which visitors never fail to see and
perhaps admire, but, as I said before, what are termed colonial
curiosities and topographical attractions, are too contemptible to
our notice or regard. True, if we had anything approaching them
in volume and majesty on the other side of the Atlantic we would
think we deserved the envy of the whole world, and we would have
it too. The Falls derive their name from an incident that occurred
in the remote ages of the past. In those times there was a tribe
of savages, happily now extinct, known as the " Shiners," who held
possession of the valley of the Ottawa, and whose great aim in life
was to exterminate the French Canadians. On one occasion a
Frenchman named Shaw fell into their hands, whom they brought
to the narrow bridge that at that time spanned the foaming vortex:
below, and from the side of which many a French colonist was.
vossed, and which might well be called the " Bridge of Sighs," like
its Venetian prototype. When they arrived at the middle of the
bridge the leader, whose name was Pat murphy, shouted in his
victim's ear — " Shaw ! die here ! " and then threw him into
the seething waters of the Ottawa. The words were heard by par-
rots in a neighbouring tree, and by them repeated and corrupted
into the present form of pronunciation. The only objects about
Ottawa deserving of notice are the locks on the Rideau Canal and
the Sappers' Bridge, both built by the British authorities, with
English capital, but I could plainly see that they, too, are assuming
a colonial aspect and soon will not be worthy of attention from my
regal countrymen. The citizens,, with that reprehensible spirit
peculiar to colonists, had the assurance to make the bridge double


its original width, and even to build another near it, but they have
in a measure, relieved the odium that should fall upon them on
that account, by giving it the name of their late distinguished
Governor-General, Lord Dufferin. Ottawa was first ushered into»
existence under the name of Bytown, a name which it retained
for thirty years, until the citizens thought that a good old Anglo-
Saxon one vvas less appropriate to their state of civilization than
that of a tribe of hideous savages more on a level with themselves.
At the time that our venerated countryman, Colonel By, was
building the Rideau Canal, he made a pond, with a sluice-way
leading to it whih he used as a bathing place, to which the citizens
gave the name of " The By wash," and subsequently when the.
site becam^ a'town it was called after the Coloners bathing
ground and was so known till it became a city.



During my stay at the capital I had the honour of enjoying the
hospitalities of the Marquis and the Princess Louise, at Rideau
Hall, the vice-regal xesidence. Parliament was in session, and
dinners, balls, receptions, and the usual festivities were in order,
and carried on ad libitum. The colonists made herculean efforts
to bring themselves into notice ; the ladies succeeded admirably
in arraying themselves in all the tinsel and finery that art and
fashion could suggest, and money and credit, (particul3[rly credit,)
could procure. There was one feature conspicuous at those enter-
tainments, to which I drew their Excellencies' attention — and wc
discussed the matter exhaustingly — and that was the utter disregard
that was manifested for that hallowed and primitive custom of
wearing low-necked dresses, a custom that was enjoined upon all
ladies who intended to present themselves to Her Royal Highness ;
but those stupid and irrepressible colonists pay more regard to the
state of the thermometer and thei^- ideas of modesty than to the
wishes of royalty, and attended on those occasions with dresses
lastened up to the throat. Such an innovation and gross breach
of etiquette would never be tolerated in Europe — even if persons
could be found mad enough to attempt it — where morality and
the fashions go hand in hand, and where the full-dress system is
hallowed by the impress of antiquity so remote that it goes back to
the origin of man, nay, even till it becomes obscured and lost in
the dark and indefinable creations of Darwinism.

It is a deplorable climacteric in the lives of the Marquis and
Princess that they have to stoop, even for a season, to the level of
the hoi-polloi that constitute what is called, by courtesy, the upper
class of society in Canada. If I could believe the British Govern-
ment capable of doing anything that was wrong, I would be
disposed to censure it for having exiled the illustrious couple to
this crude colony, but there is a soothing comfort in the thought
that they can spend the greater portion of their term of banishment
at Halifax, where the true and unrivalled type of manhood will be
found in the brilliant naval officers who will make that station their
rendezvous. The feminine portion of society in the colonies may
do well enough to look at and toy with, as one would look at a
painting by the old masters, or play with a domestic pet, and I
readily admit that they are good enough for an hour or so in the
<irawino;-room. or to kill time and contribute to our amusement



but in the case of the men it is quite different. They are abso-
lutely devoid of the polish and good breeding required in one who
would be considered good enough to associate or be on a par in
the social circle with one of us ; and while making this remark it
should be borne in mind that I do not admit the possibility of
colonists ever attaining to our sphere ; sooner will two parallel
lines meet than that those would-be somebodies can rise to an
equality with us. An esteemed friend of mine gives a most graphic
and life-like picture of Canadian society in the columns of Vanity
Fair, wherein he describes the awkward ungracefulness of the
members of Parliament whenever they sit at the Vice-regal table ;
and he accounts for their awkwardness by announcing the f ct that
many of them are the sons of washer-women, and shows conclu-
sively the utter impractibility in ever making a Canadian fit to
dine ar Government House ; the incomparable boorish ness that
permeates all classes of the people, aud the sheer futility of any
attempt to inculcate in their minds those high, moral, social and
refining principles that are so conspicuous in our people, even in
the humblest individual. I was much pleased to see my friend's
veracious article reproduced in the Toronto J/<7/7 ot Jan. i8th,
1879, (every word and sentiment of which I heartily endorse,) as
it will enable those uncouth specimens of humanity to see them-
selves as their betters see them, and it may, in some measure, have
the effect of smoothing down the gnarled asperities and rough-
ness that so badly disfigure their character, and also of paring
off the serrated edges of their manners, which grate so discord-
antly on the keen susceptibilities of my countrymen — the more
so because we are ever conscious of our own superlative pre-
eminence. When I saw the article in the Mail I hastened to
show it to their Excellencies, and to assure them that those noble
sentiments found a ready echo in the breast of every true son
and daughter of the British Isles, of Germany and of France, at
the same time expressing a fervent hope that their Excellencies
would escape from the slough of ethological depravity,in which they
were floundering,uncontaminated by contact with it. But although
I feel quite convinced that the Marquis and Princess shared the
same sentiments, yet they expressed no word of approval of my
friend's delineation of Canadian character, but rather deprecated
any attempt being made to pourtray the cd|bnists as they really are.
It is by such carefully collated facts and criticisms as those in Van-
ity Fair^ that people in Europe will be enabled to form a just es-
timate of the inhabitants and resources of our colonial possessions
and to guard against the impossbilityof being imposed upon : and
notwithstanding the expressed views of their Excellencies, I must
be true to my trust, and in <^he interests of science and philanthropy
give a true and unvarnished account of whatever comes under my
notice while engaged upon this important mission, as the fate of


I think it a thousand pities that members of our noblest families
should be sent as Governors to the colonies, where they linger
away many years of their valuable lives in a kind of slow torture
that might be pleasantly employed in those pursuits so dear to
many of us, namely, the turf, the yacht^ and the cock-pit. But, I
presume that so long as we allow the colonies to be a drag upon
our skirts, sticking to us like binnacles to an old ship, so long wiH
we be compelled to send them governors, who receive, as in the
case of Canada, the paltry recompense of ^10,000 sterling, or
$50,000 Canadian currency a year ; a very poor cataplasm, indeed,
to soothe the gaping wounds made in mind and body by those ,
long years of expatriation, and indigestible addresses. Canada,
however, pays the fnoney with great willingness, and probably as
much more to keep up the pageantry, and so long as she does so \
we must keep up the number of victims for the sacrifice till the
holocaust is complete. So depressing has the position been on
the spirits of the incumbents that very few of them have survived
to the present day. Poor Roberval is dead, Champlain is gathered
to his fathers, Murray no longer commands his thousands, Dal-
housie died in a barn, (shewing that we should never enter a barn,)
and Elgin is not amongst us ; all cut down in the prime of their
usefulness, and who, but foi;^ their colonial hardships, might still
be amongst our leading sportsmen. And I feel rather apprehen-
sive about the longevity of the other ex-Governor-Generals who
still survive the rigours of colonial service ; the day will surely
come, I fear, when they, too, will succumb, and be numbered with
the long list of victims whose lives have paid the forfeit.

At Prescott is pointed out the wind-mill at which the early
settlers of the colony got their grist ground. This Norman struc-
ture was the only mill in the country for many years. It is
claimed to be the identical wind-mill that the Spanish knight-
errant of chivalrous memory fought against, and the marks of his
lance are still visible on the walls, and the impression of his Rosi-
nante's hoofs are pointed out as evidence of the struggle. But I
doubt the authenticity of those claims very much, and I am inclined
to believe that the colonists themselves made those marks in order
to impose upon travellers, and give the country an importance that
it does not deserve. There is nothing remarkable about the mill,
being merely a round toiter of ordinary stone and mortar, but it is
pointed out to every body who visits the place, or passes that way,
ajs if it were one of the seven wonders of the world, which shews
how absurdly silly Canadians are.*

The calcareous city of Kingston was built by the Dutch, and on
account of their " child-like and bland" appearance and disposition
they called their town " Kindessir?n stadt^^ but when the English
settled in the neighbourhood the original name was converted into
" Kingston." The principal industry of which Kinston can boast


!-> the manufacture of limestone, of which large quantities are
turned out every year. It has a penitentiary, a lunatic asylum^ a
military college, several Martello towers and a town hall, all of
which the unsophisticated colonists admire with their usual un-
limited vanity. Formerly it was the Capital of Canada, but after
the penetentiary was estcblished there it was found that such an
institution could not co-exist with the Parliament ^^'ithout the
morals of the prisoners being corrupted, accordingly to obviate that
danger, the seat of government was removed to Montreal, where a
few years later, the Governor General was veneered with a coating
of eggs of doubtful reputation, as I have already mentioned. The
seat of government after that, wandered about the country seeking
a resting place, but owing to the character of the members, as
described by their biographies, no place could allow them to re-
main longer than four years, until finally, the happy thought struck
Her Majesty the Queen to hustle them off into the backwoods
and establish them at Ottawa, where they would not be molested,
and at Ottawa they are, free to exchange compliments across the
House in undisturbed security, and to get assistance from out
siders too as was done recently, t(5 describe each others peculiar-
ities on the floor of the House. There is a fort at Kingston, too
but its guns have been silent for many years, some months ago a
number of the citizens decided to bring out one of the big Guns
to practice, contrary to the wishes o\ the instructor, who for a third
of a century had directed them how to fire off their rockets, shot
and shell ; they insisted on introducing some new-fangled notions
of gunnery and would no longer be guided by him, and so he left
them to their fate, and to the practice of their Gun as they pWased
and accepted the leadership of a primitive people living on a neigh-
bouring island, belonging to Herr Vancouver, I suppose it is one
of the Thousand Islands, of the St. Lawrence, lying at the foot of
the Pacific Slope, whose inhabitants wear the tails of their pigs on
their heads as ornaments. The Kingston people use the Slope for
tobogganing purposes, and I would have liked to take a slide my-
self if I were a younger man, but am not now so well adapted for
scaling acclivities as I was in my juvenile days. The prison is a
big rambling place, the like of which is much needed in many
parts of Europe just now, and would do her infinite service and
credit (this sub-rosa however), but as it is only a colonial institution
it is not worthy of much attention. First-class criminals in this
colony are usually sentenced to death : then those who had strain-
ed every nerve, and exhausted every effort, to secure a conviction
the Courts, get up a petition to the Government to spare the con-
vict's life, as it is cruel in their opinion, to inflict capital punish,
ment, and degrading to the victim to undergo the penalty of death
on the scaff'old, and the sentence is commuted to imprisonment
for life in the Kingston penetentiary. After enjoyiny the comfort


and luxuries of a home for a few ye^rs, the rest of the sentence is
discharged : the warden is instructed to let them go, and they are
again free to go out into the world to prey upon society, he wishing
them God speed in their career till they come back to his bosom
again greater heroes than ever. Some of course have not suffici-
ent influence to get their sentence commuted or discharged, as the
case may be, and they have to suffer the penalty of their friend-

The Town Hall would be an ornament and a boon to many a
pretentious town in our own country, and considering that it is a
colonial building, it is not so very unsightly, but its cheif use at
present seems to be for the citizens to climb to the dome and con-
template the geographical position of the Thousand Islands and
listen by telephone to the divines who hold forth on the camp-meet-
ing grounds at Alexandria Bay. Some day it will contain a mag-
nificient library of thousands of volumes, but whether that day
will be before or after the visit of Macaulay's New Zealander^ x
will not venture to say, but the first volume has not yet been pro-
vided for it, the shelves are there, however.

The Military College, as its name indicates, is for the training
of officers for the colonial militia, and it fulfils its mission well so
far as numbers go, for there are more military officers to the acre
in Canada than in the most warlike country in the world, except
perhaps the United States, where every man is an officer of dis-
tinction, or a prospective President. But where there are so many
officers there cannot be many privates, the ratio, I believe, is fifteen
officers to one private, and the aim of the government seems to be
to keep up a large staff of officers all over the country, and to pay
out fabulous sums of money, to Commandants for keeping the
keys of armouries, to Brigade Majors for inspecting the drawers
in which the keys are kept, and to numerous other dignitaries who
do not render a particle of useful service in return, and if they do
it is so infinitessimally small that it sinks into insignificance in com
parison with the salaries they receive. Several of those officers, it
is alleged, draw a salary of about ;^35o starling a year for about
a week's actual service. Fifty pounds a day ought to make Can-
ada a paradise for military dead-beats.

The Rideau canal which connects Kingstou with Ottawa, is no
longer used as a highwoy for traffic, it is now used principally for
the cultivation of eels, frogs and muskrats, for the Paris market, of
which large quantities are exported every year, the soil is well
adapted for the culture of these products, and that is why the
canal was originally named ^^Rat-d'eau," which some people errone-
ously suppose derived its name from the Rideau Falls at Ottawa,
near the Government House and which the early habitants com-
pared to a curtain {rideau), but the muskrat furnishes the true



Since I came to this country I have often been tempted to
return to dear old England, and I would have done so were it
not for my unflinching perseverance and indomitable pluck —
added to my burning desire to contribute in no mean degree to
the cause of Science and Philanthropy; and I will not conceal
the fact (a man of culture from Europe never does), that I am
thoroughly disgusted with the colony and its " Jack's-as-good-as-
his-master" sort of people. Oh! it is odious, debasing, horrible!
Apart from my zeal to elevate the standard of Science and
Philanthropy, the only thing that tends to reconcile matters to
my outraged feelings is, the prospect of stepping into some good
prominent position, with large emoluments attached, and services
of a nominal character, in order that I may be enabled to do
justice to my mission more thoroughly and efficiently. When I
think over the hair-breadth escapes I have had, night and day,
from the ferocious wild beasts and ubiquitous savages of this
land of terror and vicissitudes, my flesh creeps on my bones in
horror, and my hair stands on end, but perseverance is my motto,
and although my hair has changed to silver since I left my
native shores^ I will not flinch from the prosecution of my
researches in the interests of the noble aim I have in view.


Toronto is a veritable mudhole, and to account for the great
quantity of mud that gathers on the streets, we must come to
the conclusion that the mud volcanoes of New Zealand are right
under it, in fact that Toronto is the antipodes of Ohinemutu,
aiid that the Maories and Torontonians get the mud eruptions
by turns. Why people stay in Toronto is a mystery to me, it
certainly is no place for a man of refinement and culture from
Europe. It is an exceedingly "stuck up" place; its people
think it is one of the finest places in the world, and indeed we
would prize it very highly ourselves if by some magic power it
could be transplanted from the shores of Lake Ontario to the
banks of Killarney, but as it is only a colonial mud puddle, with
only a hundred thousand, or thereabouts, of inhabitants — it is
beneath my notice — my patience with it is exhausted. What can
we expect, of a lofty or interesting character, to exist under a
colonial sky, with no stimulating mists, or exhilirating fogs, to
give tone to the prospect? The harbour, it must be admitted,
is a very fine one — while it lasts — but in a few years hence the


island which forms it will have been washed away. Some engi-
neers give it as their opinion that the more the island is washed
away the more secure will the harbour be, while other engineers
hold a different opinion, and thus while the asses are disputing,
the horse is quietly helping himself to their feed. But colonial
engineers do not amount to much anyway, especially those who
have never been to Europe.

Toronto derives its name from two Gaelic words, " Torran dhu,^
which signify a "black hillock," the island appearing like a knoll
or hill in the distance, and so called by a mighty hunter who
flourished in this country some centuries ago, and who on
account of the many lions he had slain where Toronto now
stands, was known far and wide by the soubriquet of "Lion"
Mackenzie. He adopted the name himself, but changed the
spelling to "Lyon," and as "William Lyon Mackenzie" his
memory has been handed down from one generation to another,
quite distinct from the other Mackenzies. He had a fearful
struggle with a royal Bengal tiger that was kept in the colony as a
pet by one of the ancient kings of Great Britain and Ireland,
which, it was alleged, caused great loss and damage to the in-
habitants, as it was allowed to roam at will over all the land. The
great hunter would, in all probability, have killed the animal, but
for the timely arrival of the royal gamekeeper, a Sir John
Colborne, who saved its life ; but although he did not kill it he
maimed it so badly that it had to be removed, and in conse-
quence of having interfered with His Majesty's pet tiger, Mr.
Mackenzie had to flee from the royal wrath, and remain hidden
in a cave till the king died, and a tender-hearted woman — who
hated those tigers — ascended the throne. He has passed away,
but his memory is held in grateful remembrance by the colonists
for having caused the removal of the dreadful beast, and freed
them from its ravages.

In the eyes of the city authorities, the greatest glory of To-
ronto is centered in the Queen's Park on Sundays, where a cer-
tain class of the citizens go to enjoy themselves by witnessing
the " Punch and Judy" comicalities that are acted in it under
diflerent forms. One favorite representation is the confusion of
tongues at the Tower of Babel, performed by a band of strolling
minstrels, who get up on a platform and shout and gesticulate in
a most vehement manner, in their efforts to make themselves
heard and understood, and also to shew how unalloyed their
ignorance is about the subjects upon which they try to speak.
The Bible is the great bone of contention between the players,
like the ball in a game of cricket, and the unfathomable ignor-
ance displayed is so sublime and yet so operatically presented,
that the audience enjoys it more than a prize fight, and jeers and
laughs at the performers in a way that such a motley crowd only


can jeer and laugh. The chief of the band is a venerable patri-

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Online Librarypseud MACThe Englishman in Canada, a satire → online text (page 5 of 7)