J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

. (page 4 of 59)
Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 4 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of the typographic fashion of the time.

"Of the two remaining advertisements, one is an order of the Collector
of Customs for the prevention of composition for duties and the other
gives a list of 'an assortment of goods,' 'just imported from London,
and to be sold at the lowest prices by John Baird, in the upper part
of Mr. Henry Morin's house at the entry of the Cul de Sac' - an
assortment which is very comprehensive, ranging from leather breeches
to frying-pans. From this and subsequent trade advertisements we are
able to gather some not unimportant information as to the manner of
living of the citizens of Quebec in those days." [22]

William Brown was succeeded in the editorship and proprietorship of this
venerable sheet by his nephew, Samuel Neilson, the elder brother of John
Neilson, who for years was the trusted member for the County of Quebec; as
widely known as a journalist - a legislator - in 1822 our worthy ambassador
to England - as he was respected as a patriot.

Samuel Neilson had died in 1793; - his young brother and _protégé_, John,
born at Dornald, in Scotland, in 1776, being, in 1793, a minor, the
_Gazette_ was conducted by the late Rev. Dr. Alex. Sparks, his guardian,
until 1796. When John Neilson became of full age, he assumed the direction
of the paper for more than half a century, either in his own name or in
that of his son Samuel. Hon. John Neilson closed his long and spotless
career, at his country seat (Dornald), at Cap Rouge, on the 1st February,
1848, aged 71 years. Who has not heard of the Nestor of the Canadian
Press, honest John Neilson? May his memory ever remain bright and
fragrant - a beacon to guide those treading the intricate paths of
Journalism - a shining light to generations yet unborn!

In a pretty rustic cemetery, the site of which was presented by himself to
the Presbyterian Church of Valcartier, near Quebec, were laid, on the 4th
February, 1848, the remains of this patriotic man - escorted by citizens of
every origin, after an eloquent address had been delivered by the Rev. Dr.
John Cook, the present pastor of St Andrew's Church.

The Literary and Historical Society of Quebec is indebted to his son John
Neilson, of Dornald, for a precious relic, the iron lever of the first
Press used at Quebec in 1764 - precious, indeed, as a souvenir of Canadian

There are indeed many Scotch names associated with the Quebec Press. Space
precludes us from enlarging more on this subject. In alluding to notable
Quebec Journalists we are bound to name Daniel Wilkie, LL.D., the editor
of the Quebec _Star_, - a literary gazette - in 1818 - still better
remembered as the esteemed instructor of Quebec youth for forty years.

Dr. Wilkie was born at Tollcross, in Scotland, in 1777, one year later
than John Neilson: he settled in Quebec in 1803, and died here on the 10th
May, 1851. His pupils had the following truthful words inscribed on the
monument they erected to their patron in Mount Hermon cemetery:

"He was a learned scholar
And indefatigable student of philosophy and letters,
An able and successful instructor of youth,
Of genuine uprightness and guileless simplicity
A devout, benevolent and public spirited man."

The Abbé Vignal resided at the corner of St. Louis and Parloir street,
previous to joining the _Sulpiciens_. In October, 1661, he was roasted
alive and partly eaten by the Mohawks at Isle à la Pierre, _la Prairie de
la Magdeleine_, near Montreal. In our day, the judicial and parliamentary
heads, and the Bar have monopolized the street. In it have resided at
various times, Sir N. F. Belleau, Chief Justice Duval, the Judges
Taschereau, Tessier, Bossé, Caron, Routhier; Hon. H. L. Langevin, P.
Pelletier, M.P.; Messrs. Bossé, Baby, Alleyn, Languedoc, Tessier,
Chouinard, Hamel, Gauthier, Bradley, Dunbar, _cum multis aliis_, some
of whose rustic clients are as early birds as those in the days of Horace,
and scruple not to wake up their trusted advisers, "_sub galli cantum_."

St. Louis street legal luminaries are careful not to endanger their hard-
earned reputations by delivering their consultations with the oracular,
Solon-like gravity of the barristers who flourished in the palmy days of
Hortensius or Justinian. 'Twould be an anachronism. The traditional fee,
however, is rarely omitted. A busy day, indeed, in this neighborhood,
watched over by the shades of Louis XIII., St. Louis street, is, in each
year, the 1st of September, when the close of the sultry midsummer
vacation brings round "the first day of term," then

"Grave gownsmen, full of thought, to 'chambers hie,
From court to court, perplexed, attorneys fly;
... each! Quick scouring to and thro',
And wishing he could cut himself in two
That he two places at a time might reach,
So he could charge his six and eightpence each."
- (_The Bar, a Poem_, 1825.)

Matters judicial, legal, financial, etc., have much changed - we are
inclined to say improved - in Canada, especially for the Judges. "I will
not say," writes the satirical La Hontan, "that justice is more chaste and
disinterested here than in France; but, at least, if she is sold, she is
sold cheaper. We do not pass through the clutches of advocates, the talons
of attorneys and the claws of clerks. These vermin do not infest Canada
yet. Everybody pleads his own cause. Our Themis is prompt, and she does
not bristle with fees, costs and charges. The judges have only four
hundred francs a year - a great temptation to look for law in the bottom of
the suitor's purse. Four hundred francs! Not enough to buy a cap and gown,
so these gentry never wear them." [24] Justice is not now sold, either in
Quebec or elsewhere, but judges, on the other hand, viz., in Ottawa,
receive, not "four hundred francs," but thirty-five thousand francs
($7,000) a year, and have "enough to buy a cap and a gown," yea, and a
brilliant red one, to boot. _Voilà un progrès._

On an old plan, in our possession, of the Cape and Mount Carmel, showing
the whereabouts of lots and the names of their proprietors, drawn by Le
Maître Lamorille, a royal surveyor, bearing date 20th May, 1756, and duly
sanctioned by the French Intendant Bigot on the 23rd January, 1759, can be
seen at Mont Carmel, St. Louis street, a lot marked "No. 16, M. Pean."

M. Pean, Town Major of Quebec, a trusted confederate of the Intendant
Bigot, the proprietor of this land, was the husband of the beautiful
Angélique de Meloises, the _inamorata_ of the voluptuous and munificent
Intendant. In her youth she had been a pupil of the Ursuline nuns. In his
_Reminiscences of Quebec_, 2nd edition republished in 1859, Col. Cockburn
thus alludes to this St. Louis street house (now Dominion property and
occupied by Lt.-Col. Forest and Lt.-Col. D'Orsonnes). "It sometimes happened
in those days, when a gentleman possessed a very handsome wife, that the
husband was sent to take charge of a distant post, where he was sure to
make his fortune. Bigot's _chère amie_ was Madame P - - in consequence of
which as a matter of course, Mr. P - - became prodigiously wealthy. Bigot
had a house that stood where the officers barracks in St Louis street, now
(1851) stands. One New Year's Day he presented this house to Madame P - -
as a New Year's gift."

Mr. Kirby, in his "_Chien d'Or_," a historical novel of rare Merit,
thus recalls this house - "The family mansion of the des Meloises was a
tall and rather pretentious edifice overlooking the fashionable rue St
Louis where it still stands, old and melancholy as if mourning over its
departed splendors. Few eyes look up now-a-days to its broad façade. It
was otherwise when the beautiful Angélique de Meloises sat of summer
evenings on the balcony, surrounded by a bevy of Quebec's fairest
daughters, who loved to haunt her windows where they could see and be seen
to the best advantage exchanging salutations, smiles and repartees with
the gay young officers and gallants who rode or walked along its lively

The novelist has selected this historic house for the meeting of the
lovers, on Christmas Eve 1748. Here Le Gardeur de Repentigny, the loyal
and devoted cavalier was to meet the fascinating, but luckless Cleopatra
of St Louis street a century ago and more.

"As Le Gardeur spoke, adds Mr. Kirby; a strain of heavenly harmony
arose from the chapel of the Convent of the Ursulines, where they were
celebrating midnight service for the safety of New France. Amid the
sweet voices that floated up on the notes of the pealing organ was
clearly distinguished that of Mère St. Borgia, the aunt of Angélique,
who led the choir of nuns. In trills and cadences of divine melody,
the voice of Mère St. Borgia rose higher and higher, like a spirit
mounting the skies. The words were indistinct, but Angélique knew them
by heart. She had visited her aunt in the convent, and had learned the
new hymn composed by her for the solemn occasion. As they listened
with quiet awe to the supplicating strain, Angélique repeated to Le
Gardeur the words of the hymn as it was sung by the choir of nuns: -

Soutenez, grande Reine,
Notre pauvre pays!
Il est votre domaine,
Faites fleurir nos lis!
L'Anglais sur nos frontières,
Porte ses étandards
Exaucez nos prières
Protégez nos remparts!"

"The hymn ceased. Both stood mute until the watchman cried the hour in
the silent street."

We shall not follow further the beautiful but heartless Cleopatra through
her deadly schemes of conquest, or in her flight after the Intendant.
Sixteen years after the departure of the Court beauty, on a dark, stormy
winter morning, the 31st December, 1775, a loud note of alarm awoke at
dawn from their slumbers the demure denizens of St. Louis street. It was
the captain of the guard, Captain Malcolm Fraser, [26] formerly of
Fraser's Highlanders (78th), but now of the 84th Royal Emigrants, Col.
Allan McLean - who, on going his rounds between 4 and 5 in the morning, had
passed the guard at St. Louis gate, and had noticed flashes like lightning
on the heights without the works. Convinced it was for an attack, he sent
notice to all the guards, and ran down St. Louis street, calling "Turn
out" as loud and as often as he could. The alarm soon caught the quick ear
of the General (Guy Carleton) and the picquet at the Récollets Convent was
instantly turned out. Captain Fraser's alarm was timely. Before eight
o'clock on that memorable December morning, Benedict Arnold had been
wounded, routed at the Sault au Matelot barricade, and 427 of his daring
men taken prisoners of war, whilst the Commander-in-Chief, Brigadier-
General Richard Montgomery and thirteen followers were lying dead in their
snowy shrouds at Près-de-Ville. The rest had taken flight.

The saddest sight ever witnessed in St. Louis street was that which
heralded to its awe-struck denizens the issue of the momentous conflict on
the adjoining heights in Sept. 1759.

In the paper read by the writer before the Literary and Historical Society
of Quebec, on the 3rd of December, 1879, the mournful appearance of the
French hero, Montcalm, is thus described: -

"The morning of the 13th September, 1759, has dawned; an astounding
rumour fills the air; the citizens of Quebec repeat with bated breath:
_Wolfe's army is at the gates of the city._

"Hark! What means this deafening roar of artillery - this hissing of
shot and shell - these rolling, murderous volleys of musketry in the
direction of the heights of Abraham?

"Hark! to these loud cheers - British cheers mixed with the discordant
yells of those savage warriors, Fraser's Highlanders! The fate of a
continent has just been decided. The genius of William Pitt has
triumphed, though victory was bought at a dear price.

"Here comes from St. Louis gate [27] on his way to the Château, pale,
but dauntless - on a black charger - supported by two grenadiers, one on
each side of his horse, a General officer wearing the uniform which
won at Fontenoy, won at Laufeldt, as well as at the Monongahela [28]
and at Carillon. [29] A bloody trail crimsons the _Grande Allée_,
St. Louis street, on that gloomy September day. My friends, 'tis the
life-blood of a hero. Drop in reverential silence, on the moistened
earth, a sympathetic tear; France's chivalrous leader, the victor of
many battle-fields, has returned from his last campaign.

"_Oh! mon Dieu! mon Dieu! Le Marquis est tué,_" is repeated by female
voices as the death-stricken but intrepid general glides past, to
which he courteously replies, trying to quiet their fears, 'that he
was not seriously hurt, and not to distress themselves on his
account.' '_Ce n'est rien! ce n'est rien! ne vous affligez pas pour
moi, mes bonnes amies._'

"You have all heard the account of the death-bed scene - of his tender
solicitude for the good name of France - of his dying injunctions to de
Ramesay, the King's lieutenant in charge of the Quebec Garrison, and
to the Colonel of the Roussillon Regiment. '_Gentlemen, to your
keeping I commend the honour of France. Endeavour to secure the
retreat of my army to-night beyond Cape Rouge. As for myself, I shall
pass the night with God, and prepare for death._'

"At nine o'clock in the evening of that 14th of September, 1759, a
funeral cortege, issuing from the castle, winds its way through the
dark and obstructed streets to the little church of the Ursulines.
With the heavy tread of the coffin-bearers keeps time the measured
footsteps of the military escort. De Ramesay and the other officers of
the garrison following to their resting-place the lifeless remains of
their illustrious commander-in-chief. No martial pomp was displayed
around that humble bier, but the hero who had afforded at his dying
hour the sublime spectacle of a Christian yielding up his soul to God
in the most admirable sentiments of faith and resignation, was not
laid in unconsecrated ground. No burial rite could be more solemn than
that hurried evening service performed by torchlight under the
dilapidated roof of a sacred asylum, where the soil had been first
laid bare by one of the rude engines of war - a bombshell. The grave
tones of the priests murmuring the _Libera me, Domine_ were responded
to by the sighs and tears of consecrated virgins, henceforth the
guardians of the precious deposit, which, but for inevitable fate,
would have been reserved to honour some proud mausoleum. With gloomy
forebodings and bitter thoughts de Ramesay and his companions in arms
withdrew in silence.

"A few citizens had gathered in, and among the rest one led by the
hand his little daughter, who, looking into the grave, saw and
remembered, more than three fourths of a century later, the rough
wooden box, which was all the ruined city could afford to enclose the
remains of her defender.

"The skull of the Marquis of Montcalm, exhumed in the presence of the
Rev. Abbé Maguire, almoner, in 1833, many here present, I am sure,
have seen in a casket, reverently exposed in the room of the present
almoner of the Ursuline Convent."


Under the sway of the English Government, Canada soon recovered her wonted
gaiety, and the social condition of the country, following on so large an
admixture of a different nationality, is a subject stimulating inquiry. We
cannot do better than have recourse again to Mr. Reade's graphic pen in an
article on "British Canada in the Last Century," contributed to the New
Dominion Monthly, and suggested by the _Quebec Gazette_ of 1783, the St.
Louis Street journal above quoted: -

"If there were nothing left to the enquirer but the single
advertisement of John Baird, which appeared in the first number of the
Quebec _Gazette_, as the basis of information, he might, with a
moderate power of inductiveness, construct a very fair account of the
mode of living pursued at Quebec a hundred years ago. But the fact is
he is overwhelmed with _data_, and his chief difficulty is to
choose with discrimination. There is certainly ample evidence to show
that the inhabitants of the ancient capital did not stint themselves
in the luxuries of their day and generation. The amount of wine which
they consumed was something enormous, nor are we wanting in proof that
it was used among the better classes to an extent which public opinion
would not allow at the present day. A correspondent, more inclined to
sobriety than his fellow citizens, after complimenting Quebec society
for its politeness and hospitality - in which qualities it still
excels - finds fault with the social custom by which 'men are excited
and provoked by healths and rounds of toasts to fuddle themselves in
as indecent a manner as if they were in a tavern or in the most
unpolished company.' In connection with this state of affairs it may
be interesting to give the prices of different wines at that period:
Fine Old Red Port was sold at 17 shillings a dozen, Claret at 12s.,
Priniac at 17s.; Muscat at 24s., Modena at 27s., Malaga at 17s.;
Lisbon at 17s.; Fyall at 15s.

"Mr. Simon Fraser, perhaps one of those converted Jacobites who scaled
the height of Quebec, in 1759, turned civilian, gives us the price of
tea: Single Green tea is 13s. a pound, Best Hyson, 25s; Bohea, 6/6d.
Pity that tea was so dear and wine so cheap! Bread was very cheap, and
large quantities of wheat were exported - whereas now Lower Canada has
to import the most of its cereals. Great attention was paid to dress,
and though no sumptuary laws were in force, the principle on which
they were founded was still remembered, and attire bespoke the
position of the wearer. The articles and styles advertised by drapers
and tailors are, of course, in accordance with the manufacture and
fashion of the time. The lists of dry goods and fancy goods are very
full, but to those engaged in the business now the antique
nomenclature might be puzzling. Irish linen was sold at from 1/6 to
7/0 per yard, and Irish sheeting at from 1/6 to 2/6. We are not told
the prices of tammies or durants, romals or molletons, cades or
shalloons, but we are always carefully informed that they may be had
at the lowest prices. Pains are also taken, in many instances, to
indicate the previous experience of the advertisers. Thus tailors and
mantua-makers generally 'hail from' London. Mr. Hanna, the watch-
maker, whose time-keepers still tick attestation to his industry and
popularity, is proud to have learned his trade by the banks of the
Liffey. Mr. Bennie, tailor and habit-maker, from Edinburgh, 'begs
leave to inform the public that all gentlemen and ladies who will be
so good as to favour him with their custom may depend upon being
faithfully served on the shortest notice and in the newest fashion for
ready money or short credit, on the most reasonable terms.' There were
peruke-makers in those days and they seem to have thriven well in
Quebec, if we may judge by their advertised sales of real estate.
Jewellers also seem to have had plenty to do, as they advertise
occasionally for assistants instead of customers. Furriers, hatters,
_couturières_ and shoemakers also present their claims to public
favour, so that there was no lack of provision for the wants of the
outer man.

"From the general tone and nature of the advertisements it is easily
inferred that the society of Quebec soon after the conquest was gay
and luxurious. We are not surprised when we find that a theatrical
company found it worth their while to take up their abode there. Among
the pieces played we find Home's 'Douglas' and Otway's 'Venice
Preserved.' The doors were opened at five o'clock and the
entertainment began at half-past six! The frequenters of the 'Thespian
Theatre' were a select and privileged class, and only subscribers were
admitted. Private theatricals were much in vogue; and, indeed, there
was every variety of amusement which climate could allow or suggest,
or the lovers of frolic devise. Nor were bards wanting to celebrate
these festivities, witness the following extract from a 'carioling

"'Not all the fragrance of the spring,
Nor all the tuneful birds that sing,
Can to the _Plains_ the ladies bring,
So soon as carioling.

"'Nor Venus with the winged Loves,
Drawn by her sparrows or her doves,
So gracefully or swiftly moves,
As ladies carioling,"

"Another poet, whose mind was evidently less healthily braced by out-
door exercise, gives us a very different picture of the recreations of
the period. It occurs in the course of an essay in versification
called 'Evening.'

"'Now minuets o'er, the country dance is formed
See every little female passion rise,
By jealousy, by pride, by envy warmed,
See Adam's child the child of Eve despise.

"'With turned-up nose Belinda Chloe eyes,
Chloe Myrtilla with contempt surveys,
"What! with that creature dance!" Cleora cries,
"That vulgar wretch! I faint - unlace my stays.

* * * * *

"'Now meet in groups the philosophic band,
Not in the porch, like those of ancient Greece,
But where the best Madeira is at hand
From thought the younger students to release

"'For Hoyle's disciples hold it as a rule
That youth for knowledge should full dearly pay,
Wherefore to make young cubs the fitter tool
Presuming sense by Lethean drafts they slay.

* * * * *

"'With all the fury of a tempest torn,
With execrations horrible to hear,
By all the wrath of disappointment borne,
The cards, their garments, hair, the losers tear.'

"The winner's unfeeling composure is described in another verse, and

"'Now dissipation reigns in varied forms
Now riot in the bowl the senses steeps,
Whilst nature's child, secure from passion's storms,
With tranquil mind in sweet oblivion sleeps.'

"It is to be hoped, for the honour of the ladies and gentlemen of old
Quebec, that 'Asmodeus' was under the malign influence of envy, hatred
and all uncharitableness when he wrote those cynical verses. If he
wrote the truth we cannot be too thankful that the Chloes and Cleoras
are dead and buried.

"Who was Miss Hannah MacCulloch? She _was_ a young lady once; and, if
we may believe her panegyrist, was a beauty in her day. The acrostic
in her honor is anonymous, and occasion is taken in the course of it
to almost mention some other young ladies by the way of making a
climax of her charms. The poet seems to have been inspired by
indignation at the insinuations of 'Asmodeus,' for he begins thus.

"'Muses, how oft does Satire's vengeful gall
Invoke your powers to aid its bitter sting,'

and then he prefers his own claims to the favor of the Nine

"'Sure you will rather listen to my call,
Since beauty and Quebec's fair nymphs I sing'

"It seems his petition was heard, for he forthwith begins his

"'Henceforth Diana in Miss S - ps - n see,
As noble and majestic is her air,
Nor can fair Venus, W - lc - s, vie with thee,
Nor all her heavenly charms with thine compare.

"'Around the B - ch - rs Juno's glory plays,
Her power and charms in them attract our praise
Minerva, who with beauty's queen did vie
And patronized all the finer arts,
Crowned the McN - ls with her divinity,
Crowned them the queens of beauty and of hearts.

"'Unto fair F - m - n now I turn my song,
Lovely in all she says, in all she does,
Lo! to her toilet see each goddess throng,
One cannot all, but each a charm bestows
Could all these beauties in one female be,
_Her_ whom I sing would be the lovely she.'

"This effusion provoked more criticism than many a book of poetry is
subjected to nowadays, and the censors were in their turn criticized

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 4 of 59)