J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

. (page 37 of 59)
Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 37 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

winter combined in one landscape; the tropics and their luxuriant
magnolias, divided by an inch of glass from the realms of old king frost
and his hardy familiars, the pine and the maple. Charming was the
contrast, furnishing a fresh proof of the comfort and luxury with which
the European merchant, once settled in Canada, surrounds his home. What,
indeed, can be more gratifying, during the arctic, though healthy,
temperature of our winter, than to step from a cosy drawing-room, with its
cheerful grate-fire, into a green, floral bower, and inhale the aroma of
the orange and the rose, whilst the eye is charmed by the blossoming
camellia of virgin whiteness; the wisteria, spirea, azalea, rhododendron,
and odorous daphne, all blending their perfume or exquisite tints.
Cataracoui has been recently decorated, we may say, with regal
magnificence, and Sillery is justly proud of this fairy abode, for years
the country seat of the late Charles B. Levey, Esq., and still occupied by
Mrs. Levey and family.


"Along their blushing borders, bright with dew,
And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace;
Throws out the snow-drop and the crocus first;
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
And polyanthus of unnumber'd dyes;
The yellow wall-flower, stain'd with iron-brown;
And lavish stock that scents the garden round;
From the soft wing of vernal breezes shed,
Anemones; auriculas, enrich'd
With shining meal o'er all their velvet leaves;
And full ranunculas, of glowing red.
Then comes the tulip race, where beauty plays
Her idle freaks; from family diffus'd
To family, as flies the father dust,
The varied colors run; and while they break
On the charm'd eye th' exulting florist marks,
With sweet pride, the wonders of his hand.
No gradual bloom is wanting; from the bud,
First-born of spring, to summer's musky tribes
Nor hyacinths, of purest virgin white,
Low bent, and blushing inward; nor jonquils
Of potent fragrance; nor narcissus fair,
As o'er the fabled fountain hanging still;
Nor broad carnations, nor gay spotted pink;
Nor, shower'd from every bush, the damask rose."

A tiny and unostentatious cottage buried among the trees. All around it,
first, flowers; secondly, flowers; thirdly, flowers. The garden, a network
of walks, and spruce hedges of rare beauty; occasionally you stumble
unexpectedly on a rustic bower, tenanted by an Apollo or Greek slave in
marble, or else you find yourself on turning an angle on the shady bank of
a sequestered pond, in which lively trout disport themselves as merrily as
those goldfish you just noticed in the aquarium in the hall hung round
with Krieghoff's exquisite "Canadian scenery." You can also, as you pass
along, catch the loud notes issuing from the house aviary and blending
with the soft, wild melody of the wood warblers and robin; but the
prominent feature of the place are flowers, sweet flowers, to charm the
eye and perfume the air. Do not wonder at that; this was the summer abode
of a gentleman whose name usually stood high on the Montreal and Quebec
exhibition prize list, and who was as successful in his commercial
ventures as he had been in the culture of carnations, zenias, gladiolus,
roses and dahlias. We remember seeing six hundred dahlias in bloom at
Rosewood at the same time, the _coup d'oeil_ and contrasts between
the varieties were striking in the extreme.

This rustic cottage was the summer residence of the late Jas. Gibb, Esq.,
of the old firm of Lane, Gibb & Co., a name remembered with gratitude, in
several educational and charitable institutions of Quebec for the
munificent bequests of its owner.


Near some fair town I'd have a private seat,
Built uniform, nor little, nor too great;
Better if on a rising ground it stood, -
On this side fields, on that a neighboring wood;
A little garden, grateful to the eye,
Where a cool rivulet runs murmuring by."

In the year 1848, Mr. Samuel Wright, of Quebec, purchased from John
Porter, Esq., that upper portion of Meadowbank (the old estate of
Lieutenant Governor Cramahé in 1762), which lies to the north of the Cap
Rouge or St. Lewis road, and built a dwelling thereon. In 1846 Mr.
Wright's property was put in the market, and Ravenswood acquired by the
present owner, William Herring, Esq., of the late firm of Charles E. Levey
& Co. No sylvan spot could have been procured, had all the woods around
Quebec been ransacked, of wilder beauty. In the centre, a pretty cottage;
to the east, trees; to the west, trees; to the north and south, trees -
stately trees all around you. Within a few rods from the hall door a
limpid little brook oozes from under an old plantation, and forms, under a
thorn tree of extraordinary size and most fantastically shaped limbs, a
reservoir of clear water, round which, from a rustic seat, you notice
speckled trout roaming fearlessly. Here was, for a man familiar with the
park-like scenery of England, a store of materials to work into shape.
That dense forest must be thinned; that indispensable adjunct of every
Sillery home a velvety lawn, must be had; a peep through the trees, on the
surrounding country, obtained; the stream dammed up so as to produce a
sheet of water, on which a birch canoe will be launched; more air let in
round the house; more of the forest cut away; and some fine beech, birch,
maple, and pine trees grouped. The lawn would look better with a graceful
and leafy elm in the centre, and a few smaller ones added to the
perspective. By dint of care, elms of a goodly size were removed from the
mountain brow. The efforts of the proprietor to plant large trees at
Ravenswood have been eminently successful, and ought to stimulate others
to add such valuable, such permanent elements of beauty, to their country
seats. One plantation, by its luxuriance, pleased us more than any other,
that which shades both sides of the avenue. Few of our places can boast of
possessing a more beautifully-wooded and gracefully-curved approach to the
house than Ravenswood. You see nothing of the dwelling until you emerge
from this neat plantation of evergreens. We once viewed it under its most
fascinating aspect; 'tis pretty in the bright, effulgent radiance of day,
but when the queen of night sends forth her soft rays, and allows them to
slumber silently on the rustling boughs of the green pines and firs, with
the dark, gravelled avenue, visible here and there at every curve, no
sounds heard except the distant murmur of the _Chaudière_ river, the
effect is striking.


I know each lane, and every valley green,
Dingle, or bushy dell, of this wild wood;
And every bosky bourn from side to side,
My daily walks and ancient neighborhood.
- Comus, _Shakespeare_.

"You, doubtless, imagine you have now seen Sillery under every aspect;
there never was a greater mistake, dear reader. Have you ever viewed
its woods in all their autumnal glory, when September arrays them in
tints of unsurpassed loveliness? We hear you say, no. Let us then, our
pensive philosopher, our romantic blushing rose bud of sweet sixteen,
our _blasé_-traveller, let us have a canter over Cap Rouge road
out by St. Louis gate, and returning by the St. Foy road, nine miles
and more, let us select a quiet afternoon, not far distant from the
Indian summer, when

The gentle wind a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life
Within the solemn woods of ash, deep crimsoned,
And Silver beech, and maple yellow-leaved,"

and then you can tell us whether the glowing description below is

"There is something indescribably beautiful in the appearance of
Canadian woods at this season of the year, especially when the light
of the rising or setting sun falls upon them. Almost every imaginable
shade of green, brown, red and yellow, may be found in the foliage of
our forest trees, shrubs, and creeping vines, as the autumn advances
and it may truly be said that every backwood's home in Canada is
surrounded by more gorgeous colourings and richer beauties than the
finest mansions of the nobility of England.

"Have our readers ever remarked the peculiarly beautiful appearance of
the pines at this season of the year? When other trees manifest
symptoms of withering, they appear to put forth a richer and fresher
foliage. The interior of the tree, when shaded from the sun, is a deep
invisible-green, approaching to black, whilst the outer boughs,
basking in the sunlight, show the richest dark-green that can be
imagined. A few pine and spruce trees scattered among the more
brightly-colored oaks, maple, elms and beeches, which are the chief
denizens of our forests, give the whole an exceedingly rich
appearance. Among the latter, every here and there, strange sports of
nature attract attention. A tree that is still green will have a
single branch, covered with red and orange leaves, like a gigantic
bouquet of flowers. Another will have one side of a rich maroon,
whilst the other side remains green. A third will present a flounce or
ruffle of bright buff, or orange leaves round the middle, whilst the
branches above and below continue green. Then again some trees which
have turned to a rich brown, will be seen intertwined and festooned by
the wild vine or red root, still beautifully green; or a tree that is
still green will he mantled over by the Canadian ivy, whose leaves
have turned to a deep reddish-brown. In fact, every hue that painters
love, or almost could imagine, is found standing out boldly or hid
away in some recess, in one part or another of a forest scene at this
season, and all so delicately mingled and blended that human art must
despair of making even a tolerable imitation. And these are beauties
which not even the sun can portray; the photographer's art has not yet
enabled him to seize and fix them on the mirror which he holds up to
nature. He can give the limbs and outward flourishes, but not the soul
of such a scene. His representation bears the same relation to the
reality that a beautiful corpse does to the flashing eye and glowing
cheek of living beauty." - (From "_Maple Leaves_," 1865.)



Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping,
Haply of lovers none ever will know,
Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping
Years ago.

The ghost of a garden fronts the sea,
A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses
The - square slope of the blossomless bed
Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses
Now lie dead.

The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
To the low last edge of the long lone land,
If a step should sound or a word be spoken
Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?
SWINBURNE'S _Forsaken Garden_.

On a grey, cheerless May afternoon, I visited what I might call the ruins
of this once bright abode - Longwood - at Cap Rouge. Here the eccentric,
influential and scholarly historian of Canada and statesman, the Honorable
William Smith, spent the evening of his long and busy life. Whence the
name Longwood? Did the Hon. William bestow on his rustic home the name of
the residence where sojourned his illustrious contemporary - his admired
hero, Napoleon I. (born like himself in 1769), to commemorate his own
release from the cares of State? Was Cap Rouge and its quiet and sylvan
bowers to him a haven of rest like St. Helena might have been to the
_Petit Caporal_?

The locality, at present, can only attract from its woodland views. The
house, of one story, is about eighty feet in length by forty in breadth,
of wood, with an oval window over the entrance to light up that portion of
the large attic. Its roomy lower apartments and attics must have fitted it
admirably for a summer retreat. It is painted a dull yellow; the blinds
may have been once green. When I saw it, I found it as bleak, as forlorn,
as the snows and storms of many winters can well make a tenantless

Outside, the "ghost of a garden" had stared at me, and when the key turned
and grated in the rusty old lock of this dreary tenement, with its
disjointed floors, disintegrated foundations, darkened apartments with
shutters all closed, I almost thought I might encounter within the ghost
of the departed historian;

All within is dark as night:
In the windows is no light;
And no murmur at the door,
So frequent on its hinge before,

still the time had been when the voice of revelry, the patter of light
feet, the meeting of many friends, had awakened gladsome echoes in these
now silent halls of Longwood. Traditions told of noted dinner parties, of
festive evenings, when Quebec could boast of a well appointed garrison,
and stately frigates crowded its port.

How many balls at the Barons' Club? how many annual dinners of the
Veterans of 1775, at Menut's? how many _levees_ at the old Château,
had the Laird not attended from the first, the historical levee of Dec. 6,
1786, "where the Governor-General, Lord Dorchester, monopolised the
kissing," so graphically depicted by William's dignified papa, [249] the
Chief Justice, down to the jocund _fêtes champêtres_ of Sir James Craig at
Powell Place immortalized by old Mr. DeGaspé - to the gay _soirees_ of the
Duke of Richmond - the literary _reunions_ of the scholarly Earl of
Dalhousie - the routs and lawn parties at Spencer Wood.

The Honorable William Smith, a son of the learned chief Justice of New
York in 1780 - of all Canada in 1785, was indeed a prominent figure in
Quebec circles for more than half a century; his high, confidential and
official duties, his eminent position as member of the Executive Council,
to which his powerful protector Earl Bathurst had named him in 1814 - his
refined and literary tastes, his tireless researches in Canadian annals,
at a time when the founts of our history as yet unrevealed by the art of
the printer, lay dormant under heaps of decaying - though priceless - M.SS.
in the damp vaults of the old Parliament Buildings; these and several
other circumstances surround the memory, haunts and times of the Laird of
Longwood with peculiar significance.

But for the Honorable William one bleak autumn came, when the trees he had
planted ceased to lend him their welcome shade - the roses he had reared,
to send perfume to his tottering frame - the garden he had so exquisitely
planned, to gladden his aged eyes. He then bid adieu forever to the
cherished old spot and retired to his town house, now the residence of
Hon. Chas. Alleyn, Sheriff of Quebec, [250] where those he loved received
his last farewell on the 7th December, 1847, bequeathing Longwood to his
son Charles Webber Smith, who lived some years there as a bachelor, then
decked out his rustic home for an English bride and retired to England
where he died in 1879. Desolation and silence has reigned in the halls of
Longwood for many a long day, and in the not inappropriate words of

Not a flower to be prest of the foot that falls not.
As the heart of a dead man the seed plots are dry;
From the thickets of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.

Chief Justice Smith [251] concerning house-keeping, house-furnishing
château ceremonies, etc, at Quebec in 1786, wrote thus in a letter to his

QUEBEC, 10th Dec., 1786.

_Mrs. Janet Smith, New York._

My dear Janet,

"Not a line from you yet! so that our approach to within 600 miles is
less favourable to me hitherto, than when the ocean divided us by
three thousand. It is the more vexatious, as we are daily visited by
your Eastern neighbors, who, caring nothing for you, know nothing of
you, and cannot tell me whether McJoen's or the Sopy Packet is
arrived. If the latter is not over, there will be cause for ill boding
respecting Mr. Lanaudière, who, I imagine, left the channel with the
wind that brought us out.

If the packet is on the way for Falmouth, get my letters into it for
Mr. Raphbrigh, it contains a bill for £300 sterling to enable him to
pay for what you order. You have no time to spare. A January mail
often meets with easterly winds off the English coast, that blows for
months, and we shall be mortified if you arrive before the necessary
supplies, which, to be in time, must come in the ships that leave
England in March or on the beginning of April.

I have found no house yet to my fancy. None large enough to be hired.
We shall want a drawing-room, a dining or eating-room, my library, our
bedroom, one for the girls, another for Hale and William, and another
for your house-keeper and hair-dresser. Moore and another man servant
will occupy the eight. And I doubt if there is such a house to be
hired in Quebec. To say nothing of quarters for the lower servants
who, I think must be negroes from New York as cheapest and least
likely to find difficulties. My Thomas's wages are 24 guineas and with
your three from England will put us to £100 sterling per annum.

If you bring blacks from New York with you, let them be such as you
can depend upon. Our table will always want four attendants of decent
appearance. The hurry of the public arrangements prevents me from
writing, as I intended, to my friends on the other side of the water,
nor even to Janet _upon the great wish of my heart_, tell her so,
but she will know what can be done in time, for she cannot leave
England till April or May, at any time before August to be here in
good season. I have written to Vermont upon the subject of Moore Town
and hear nothing to displease me, as yet, if no mischief has been done
to our interests in that country, there will be peace, I believe; but
of this more when I have their Governor's answer to my letters. They
already ask favours and must first do justice.

Our winter is commenced and yet I was never less sensible of the
frost. The stoves of Canada, in the passages, temper the air through
all the house. I sit ordinarly by a common hearth which gives me the
thermometer at 71 or 72, nearly summer heat. The close cariole and fur
cap and cloak is a luxury only used on journeys. The cariole alone
suffices in town. The Rout of last Thursday demonstrates this: 50
ladies in bright head dresses and not a lappet or frill discomposed.
All English in the manner, except the ceremony of kissing which my
Lord D. (Dorchester) engrossed all to himself. His aide-de-camp handed
them through a room where he and I were posted to receive them. They
had given two cheek kisses and were led away to the back rooms of the
château, to which we repaired when the rush was over. The gentlemen
came in at another door. Tea, cards, etc., that till 10 o'clock and
the ceremony ended. I stole away at 9 and left your son to attend the
beauty of the evening, a Mrs. Williams, wife to a major Williams and a
daughter to Sir John Gibbons of Windford, a lady of genteel manners as
well as birth. He did not find his lodging till near midnight. We had
a dance that day at the Lt. Governor's. You must know General Hope. He
was often at General Robertson's under the name of Col. Harry Hope,
nephew to Lord Hopetown in Scotland, to Lord Darlington (by his
mother's second marriage) in England. His table is in very genteel
fashion. It reminds me that Mrs. Mallet must not forget all those
little ornaments of plate, glass, etc., that belong to a dining-room.
No water plates, the rooms don't require them, the plates being
sufficiently heated by the stoves. But water dishes are necessary for
soup and fish _fricassees_ all in the shape of the proper dishes
for such articles. Don't forget, among others, the silver gravy cups
with double cavities, the larger for hot water. They are small hand
ones, not unlike a tea pot. Mrs. Mallet will find these at all the
great shops and particularly at Jones, in Cockspur street, near
Charing Cross, where I bought my Mary's watch chain. William that
understands Latin and French letters better than his native tongue,
importunes my ordering a set of classical books, which he is welcome
to, if you can purchase at N. Y. a small bill for about £15 sterling
and enclose it in my letter to Mr. Ryland. If that is inconvenient to
you stop my letter, and I will find other means to gratify his
inclination. There is a very good library [252] here, and many private
ones at my friends. How wretched your general affairs? if our Yankey
informers speak the truth, multitudes are disposed to turn their heads
from that draught, which I thought they would not long relish. Lord D.
with the generosity and charity he always indulged, bids them welcome,
disposed as he says to favour even the independant Whigs of America,
above any other nation under heaven, for tho' no longer brethren, they
are at least our cousins, branches from the same stock.

I have infinite consolation, in having dissuaded the parties from the
steps, that led to all the calamities they have felt and still dread
and more cheerfully will grasp at the means to lessen these
afflictions, as the surest path to the greatest glory. I am solicited
from Cambridge for a gift for pious uses, and find that you have been
applied to, and probably will again. My promise shall most certainly
be fulfilled. It was to give a lot for a church. But as I told them it
was to be a gift to _Christianity_ and not to Sectarianism.
Religion and party are two different things. Tell them so that my gift
will be to all Protestants, that is to say to the majority of the town
being protestants, be the denomination what it may, and that I may not
be imposed upon, I shall put my seal to no deed, before they bring me
Dr. Rodger's certificate upon the subject. My best respects to him
with compliments to Mrs. T., Mr. Ainslie, Mr. and Mrs. Foxcraft and
all your friends.

The snapping of my wood fires makes me think of yours. Don't forget
them yourself. _Your three hundred acres of shingles_, chills the
blood in my veins.... Adieu. The broad hand of Heaven protect you!

I am, my dearest,

Most faithfully yours,

W. S.



Happy, is he who in a country life
Shuns more perplexing toil and jarring strife,
Who lives upon the natal soil he loves
And sits beneath his old ancestral groves."
- _Downing_.

Facing Ravenswood, on the road to Cape Rouge, on the breezy banks of the
noble river, there lies a magnificent expanse of verdure, with here and
there a luxuriant copse of evergreens and sugar maple. It crowns a
graceful slope of undulating meadows and cornfields. The dwelling, a
plain, straggling white cottage, lies _perdu_ among the green firs
and solemn pines. Over the verdant groves, glimpses of the white cottages
of Levi and New Liverpool occasionally catch the eye. This rustic
landscape, pleasant at all times, becomes strikingly picturesque, at the
"fall of the leaf" - when the rainbow-tinted foliage is, lit up by a
mellow, autumnal sun. Under this favored aspect it was our happiness to
view it in September, 1880.

"Bright yellow, red and orange
The leaves came down in hosts;
The trees are Indian princes—
But soon they'll turn to ghosts."

In 1762, this broad, wild domain was owned by Lt.-Gov. Hector Theophilus
Cramahé of Quebec, and according to an entry in the Diary of Judge Henry,
he apparently was still the proprietor in 1775, at the time of the
blockade of Quebec. In 1785, the land passed by purchase to one of
Fraser's Highlanders, Capt. Cameron. It was from 1841 to 1875, the
cherished abode of a cultured English gentleman, the late John Porter, the
able secretary and treasurer of the Quebec Turnpike Trust. It did one good
to see the courteous old bachelor, cosily seated in his ample, well

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 37 of 59)