J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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by others. Montreal even took part in this literary tournament. But we
are left in the dark as to its effect on the spirits, tempers or
destinies of Miss MacCulloch and her sister belles.

"It would seem that the author was a young clerk or merchant of
Quebec, as one of the critics spitefully tells him not to desert his
shop. The ladies themselves do not escape, one writer suggesting that
they are coquettish enough already without making them more so. The
Montreal correspondent is warned off as an intruder, and told that he
had better have saved his ninepence of postage money. Just imagine
this silly acrostic furnishing gossip for Quebec and matter for the
_Gazette_ for two months!

"As another note of the state of society at that time may be mentioned
occasional advertisements for the sale of negro lads and wenches, or
of rewards for the recovery and restoration of missing ones. Slavery
was not abolished in Lower Canada till 1803. In Upper Canada, as a
separate province, it hardly ever existed. Did the manumitted blacks
remain in Canada after their liberation, or did they seek a more
congenial climate?

"For education there does not seem to have been any public provision,
but private schools for both sexes were numerous. These were probably
expensive, so that the poorer classes were virtually debarred from the
advantages of learning. The instruction of Catholic children was in
the hands of the clergy, and it may be that in some of the conventual
schools a certain number were admitted free of expense or at reduced
rates. It would appear that some of the young ladies were sent to
English boarding-schools, if we may judge by advertisements in which
the advantages of these institutions are set forth.

"A Miss or Mrs. Agnes Galbraith not only taught school, but also
carried on the millinery business, to which she informs the public
that she had served a regular apprenticeship, besides having been 'a
governess for several years to a genteel boarding-school.'

"The principal of a boys' school who resided at Three Rivers
'respectfully begs leave to remark that he means to presume no further
than he is perfectly able to perform, and build his hope of
encouragement on no other foundation than his assiduity to merit it.'
His 'course' is nevertheless a pretty full one, including English,
French, Latin, Greek, writing in a natural and easy style after the
best precedents; arithmetic, vulgar and decimal; geography, with use
of the globes; geometry, navigation with all the _late modern_
improvements; algebra, and every other useful and ornamental branch of
mathematical learning. Some of the other male teachers write in a
similar strain of their qualifications."

"It may be inferred, then, that the wealthier classes of Canada in
those days had much the same advantages of culture as their friends in
England. Intercourse with the mother country was much more general and
frequent than might be imagined, and, no doubt, many young gentlemen,
after a preliminary training at a colonial academy, were sent home to
enter some of the English public schools or universities. From the
higher ranks downwards education varied till it reached the 'masses,'
with whom its index was a cipher. There is no reason to suppose,
however, that the population of Canada, taken as a whole, was less
cultivated during the last forty years of the eighteenth century than
that of any European nation during the same period. From the
consideration of education, one naturally passes to that of crime.
Thefts were frequent, and sometimes committed on a large scale. The
punishment was whipping at a cart-tail through the streets of the
city - the culprits themselves being whipped and whipsters in turn.
Assault, stealing in private houses, and highway robbery were punished
with death. The expiation for manslaughter was being branded in the
hand which did the deed. Desertion was very frequent, especially among
the Hessians and Brunswickers then stationed in Canada. In some cases
they were promised pardon if they returned to their regiments, but woe
to them if they returned against their will! Towards the end of the
year 1783 'Gustavus Leight, a German doctor, confined for felony,
broke out of His Majesty's jail at Quebec.' He was '25 years of age,
about 5 feet high.' We are not told whether or not he was captured as
the advertisement is continued to the end of the year, but if he did
not change his dress he could not have succeeded in baffling very long
the keen eye of a detective, for "he had on, when he made his escape,
a brown coat, red plush waistcoat, white stockings and cock'd hat.' If
such a gentleman made his appearance in the streets of any Canadian
city to-day, he would certainly be requested to 'move on,' or asked to
'explain his motives.' One thing is certain, that prisoners for felony
in the year 1783 had not to submit to any arbitrary sumptuary
arrangement - at least in the Quebec _gaol_ (as it is always spelled in
the _Gazette_, perhaps because it is the goal of evildoers).

"The general state of society in Montreal, as well as in Three Rivers,
St. Johns, L'Assomption, Terrebonne, Sorel and the other towns and
villages in existence at the period which we are considering was, in
all probability, very like that of Quebec - the last-mentioned place
having, of course, a certain prestige as the capital.

"It would be futile to attempt to give an accurate picture of the
appearance of Montreal or Quebec at that distant date, and a
description pretending to accuracy would not be possible without the
collation of more ancient records than are easily obtainable by one
person. The names of some of the streets, as Notre Dame, St. Paul and
St. Antoine in Montreal, and St. John's, Fabrique, St. Peter and
others in Quebec, are still unchanged. Villages near these towns, such
as Ste. Foye, Beauport, Charlesbourg, Sault aux Récollets, St. Denis,
Ste. Thérèse, etc., are also frequently mentioned in the old
_Gazettes_. Detroit and Niagara were places of considerable
importance, and St. Johns, Chambly, Berthier, L'Assomption, L'Acadie
and other places were much more influential communities in comparison
with the population of the country than they are to-day. The
authorities at Quebec and Montreal were not wanting in endeavors to
keep these cities clean, to judge, at least, by the published
'regulations for the police.' Every householder was obliged to put the
Scotch proverbs in force, and keep clean and 'free from filth, mud,
dirt, rubbish straw or hay' one-half of the street opposite his own
house The 'cleanings' were to be deposited on the beach, as they still
are in portions of Montreal and Quebec which border on the river.
Treasure-trove in the shape of stray hogs could be kept by the finder
twenty-four hours after the event, if no claim had been made in the
meantime, and if the owner declared himself in person or through the
bellman, he had to pay 10s. before he could have his pork restored.
Five shillings was the penalty for a stray horse. The regulations for
vehicles, slaughter-houses, sidewalks, markets, etc., were equally
strict. Among other duties, the carters had to keep the markets clean.
The keepers of taverns, inns and coffee-houses had to light the
streets. Every one entering the town in a sleigh had to carry a shovel
with him for the purpose of levelling _cahots_ which interrupted
his progress, 'at any distance within three leagues of the town.' The
rates of cabs and ferry-boats are fixed with much precision. No carter
was allowed to plead a prior engagement, but was to go 'with the
person who first demanded him, under a penalty of twenty shillings.'
The rate of speed was also regulated, and boys were not allowed to

"Constant reference is made to the walls and gates of Montreal as well
as Quebec, and there is reason to believe the smaller towns were
similarly fortified. Beyond the walls, however, there was a
considerable population, and many of the military officers, Government
officials and merchants had villas without the city. The area in
Montreal which lies between Craig, St. Antoine and Sherbrooke streets
was studded with country-houses with large gardens and orchards
attached. The seigneurs and other gentry had also fine, capacious
stone-built residences, which much enhanced the charm of the rural
scenery. Some of the estates of those days were of almost immense
extent. The Kings of France thought nothing of granting a whole
province, and, even in British times, there were gentlemen whose acres
would have superimposed an English county. The extraordinary donation
of James I. of a large portion of North America to Sir William
Alexander was not long since brought before the public by the claims
of his descendants. Large tracts of land were given away by Louis
XIII., Louis XIV. and other French kings, by Oliver Cromwell and the
Stuarts, and the same extravagant system of entailing unmanageable
wealth on companies and individuals was continued after the conquest.

"It would be interesting to know what was the kind of literary fare on
which the intellect of Canada subsisted in those days. It cannot be
supposed that the people spent all their time in business and social
pleasure. There must have been readers as well as cariolers and
dancers, and the literature of England and France was by no means
scanty. Great writers on every subject have flourished since that
time, but some of the greatest that ever lived, some of those whose
productions are still read with the highest pleasure, were the
offspring of the two centuries which preceded the conquest. No one
will be surprised to find, then, that in the year 1783, a circulating
library in Quebec numbered nearly 2,000 volumes. Nor is the enquirer
left in the dark as to its probable contents. In the Quebec
_Gazette_ of the 4th of December, a list of books is given which
'remained unsold at M. Jacques Perrault's, very elegantly bound' - and
books were bound substantially as well as elegantly in those days. In
this list are found 'Johnson's Dictionary,' then regarded as one of
the wonders of the literary world, 'Chesterfield's Letters,' long the
_vade-mecum_ of every young gentleman beginning life, and which,
even in our own days (and perhaps still), were frequently bound along
with spelling and reading books, the 'Pilgrim's Progress', which it is
not necessary to characterize, Young's 'Night Thoughts,' the
'Spectator and 'Guardian,' Rapin's 'English History,' 'Cook's
Voyages,' Rousseau's 'Eloise,' 'Télémaque,' 'Histoire Chinoise,'
'Esprit des Croissades,' 'Lettres de Fernand Cortes,' 'Histoire
Ancienne' par Rollin, 'Grammaire Anglaise et Française,'
'Dictionnaire par l'Académie,' 'Dictionnaire de Commerce,' 'Dictionary
of the Arts and Sciences,' 'Smith's Housewife,' 'The Devil on Sticks,'
'Voltaire's Essay on Universal History,' 'Dictionnaire de Cuisine' and
several others on various subjects, 'Oeuvres de Rabelais,' 'American
Gazetteer,' etc. These, it will be remembered, had remained unsold,
but among the sold there must have been copies of the same.

"It is, according to our notions of to-day, a meagre collection, but,
no doubt, many families possessed good libraries, brought with them
from over the sea, and the bookseller may not have kept a large stock
at one time. It was the custom for merchants to sell off all their
overlying goods before they went or sent to Europe for a

"The following books were advertised as 'missing:' - Langhorn's
Plutarch, 1st vol., Thomson's Works, 4th vol., Gordon's 'Universal
Accountant,' 1st vol.; and Gray's Hudibras, 2nd vol. For each one of
them there is offered a reward of _two dollars_! Reading was expensive
recreation in those times.

"The reader, perhaps, has seen, or, it may be, possesses one of those
old libraries, of which the general public occasionally have a glimpse
at auction rooms, composed of standard authors, and beautifully and
solidly bound, which had adorned the studies of the fathers of our
country. They contain all that was best in the French and English
literature of the last century - history, poetry, divinity, _belles
lettres_, science and art. From these may be gathered what were the
tastes, the culture and the thought of the Canadians of the last

"Music and painting were cultivated - the former being, as now, a
necessary part of female education. Of a festival given by the young
ladies of a place called _La Côte_, near Quebec, in 1764, it is
promised in the programme that "the orchestra and symphony will be
composed of instruments of all kinds." It may interest some ladies to
know that among the dances at the same entertainment are mentioned
'l'Harlequinade,' 'La Chinoise,' and 'La Matelote Hollandaise' - some
relation, perhaps, to the 'Sailor's Hornpipe.'

"The settlement in Canada of the United Empire Loyalists, after the
peace of September, 1783, by which the independence of the revolted
colonies was recognized, must have had a considerable influence on
Canadian society, and more than atoned for sufferings inflicted on the
colony during the progress of the war. Repeated efforts had been made
by the Americans to engage the affections of the Canadians. Among
those whom Congress had appointed commissioners to treat with the
Canadian people on this subject was the renowned Dr. Benjamin
Franklin, whose visit to this country was not the most successful
portion of his career. Although in some instances there was a
manifestation of disaffection to the British Government, the great
bulk of the population remained unmistakably loyal. In the Quebec
_Gazette_ of October 23rd, 1783, is found the Act of Parliament
passed in favour of the Loyalists, in which the 25th day of March,
1784, is fixed as the limit of the period during which claims for
relief or compensation for the loss of property should be received.
How many availed themselves of the provisions of this act it is not
easy to say, but the whole number of persons dispossessed of their
estates and forced to seek another home in consequence of their
continued allegiance, is set down at from 25,000 to 30,000. Of these,
the great majority took up their abodes in the Canadas, New Brunswick
and Nova Scotia, while a few went to the West Indies, and others
returned to England. The biographies of some of these Loyalist
settlers in British North America would be full of interest and
instruction. But records of family movements and vicissitudes are very
rarely kept - most rarely in those cases in which adventures are most
frequent and the course of events most changeful. I have, however,
seen accounts of the early settlements in the Eastern Townships, P.
Q., and in different portions of Ontario, which were full of the
romance of faith, of courage, and of perseverance."


A sketch of this fashionable thoroughfare - St. Louis street - the
headquarters of the judiciary, barristers, politicians, etc., would be
incomplete without a mention of the chief trysting-place of travellers and
tourists for the last thirty years - the leading hostelry of Quebec. St.
Louis Hotel is made up of two or more private dwellings joined together.
That on the corner of Haldimand and St. Louis streets formerly was owned
as a residence by the late Edward Burroughs, Esq., P. S. C. Next to it
stood, in 1837, Schluep's Hotel - the Globe Hotel - kept by a German, and
where the military swells in 1837-8-9 and our jolly curlers used to have
_recherché_ dinners or their frugal "beef and greens" and fixings. In
1848, Mr. Burroughs' house was rented to one Robert Bambrick, who
subsequently opened a second-class hotel at the corner of Ste. Anne and
Garden streets, on the spot on which the Queen's printer, the late Mr.
George Desbarats, built a stately office for the printing of the _Canada
Gazette_ - subsequently sold on the removal of the Government to Ottawa
- now the Russell House. The _Globe_ Hotel belonged to the late B. C.
A. Gugy, Esq. It was purchased by the late Messrs Lelièvre & Angers,
barristers, connected with two or three adjacent tenements, and rented,
about 1852, to Messrs. Azro and Willis Russell (represented now by the
Russell Hotel Company) for the St. Louis Hotel. Connected by a door
through the wall with the Music Hall, it is a notable landmark in St.
Louis street and an object of considerable interest to city cabmen as
well, during the season of tourists. Its dining saloon, on the second
flow, has witnessed many bountiful repasts, to celebrate social, military,
political or literary events, none better remembered than that of the 17th
of November, 1880, when the _élite_ of Quebec crowded in unusual numbers -
about one hundred and eighty citizens, English and French - to do honour,
by a public banquet, to the laureate of the French Academy, M. Louis
Honoré Fréchette, [30] to celebrate his receiving in August last, in
Paris, from the _Académie Française_, the unprecedented distinction, for a
colonist, of the _Grand Prix Monthyon_ (2,000 livres) for the excellence
of his poetry.

Subjoined will be found the names of some of those present, also, extracts
from a few of the addresses delivered. We regret much that want of space
precludes us from adding more of the eloquent speeches delivered, because
they throw light for English readers on the high degree of culture French
literature has attained at Quebec. All, we are sure, will rejoice with us
that, for the cause of letters, M. Fréchette was timely rescued from the
quagmire of political warfare and hustings promises.


"Mr. L. H. Fréchette, the laureate of the French Academy, was last
night the recipient of marks of honor and esteem, in the shape of a
magnificent banquet given him at the St. Louis Hotel, by the citizens
of Quebec and vicinity. The tables were laid in the large dining hall
of the St. Louis Hotel, which was handsomely decorated for the
occasion. The walls were partially covered with French and English
flags, and wreaths of evergreen surrounded all the windows. Behind the
Chairman, on a bracket, was an excellent bust of the Canadian poet,
having on either side paintings of scenes in Mr. Fréchette's drama,
'Papineau,' by Mr. E. W. Sewell, Levis.

"Over 125 gentlemen sat down to the banquet, amongs-whom we noticed -
The Honorable Judge Henri T. Taschereau, M. Lefaivre, Consul of
France, Count de Premio-Real, Consul-General of Spain, the Baron
Bols, Consul-General of Belgium, Major Wasson, Consul of the United
States, M. Thors, Hon. W. Laurier, Hon. I. Thibaudeau, Hon. C. A. P.
Pelletier, C.M.G. Hon. D. A. Ross, M.P.P., Achille Larue, N.P.,
Charles Langelier, M.P.P., Hon. H. G. Joly, M.P.P., Hon. F. Langelier,
M.P.P., Hon. Arthur Turcotte, Speaker of the Assembly, Dr. Rinfret,
M.P.P, P. B. Casgrain, N.P., James Dunbar, Esq., Q.C., Nazaire
Turcotte, Dr. Colin Sewell, Oscar Dunn, C. Antil, B. Bédard, G. T.
Davie, G. Paré, Henri Delagrave, W. E. Brunet, E. W Sewell, F. X.
Lemieux, Faucher de St. Maurice, F. M. Dechêne, G. E. T. Rinfret, O.
L. Richardson, Louis Bilodeau, Oscar Lanctôt, N. Levasseur, George
Stewart, jr., Edward Thomas, D. Chambers, F. G. Gautier, Paul de
Cazes, R. J. Bradley, D. J. Montambault, T. Godfroy Papineau, N.P.,
Montreal, De La Broquerie Taché, C. Massiah, James M. LeMoine,
President Literary and Historical Society, W. J. Wyatt, Alphonse
Pouliot, Dr. L. LaRue, Colonel Rhodes, Dr. Pourtier, C. Duquet, V.
Bélanger, Charles Langlois, W. C. Languedoc, Alfred White, Peter
McEwan, George Henry Powell, A. P. Beaulieu, Alfred Lemieux, Elie
Lachance, Richard L. Suffur, Lieut.-Col. Turnbull, H. M. Price, R. St.
B. Young, G. R. White, Captain Gzowski, J. U. Laird, Chariot,
Fitzpatrick, E. Swindell, E. J. Hale, Cecil Fraser, Aug. Stuart, C. V.
M. Temple, Timolaus Beaulieu, C. S. Beaulieu, N. Laforce, George
Bouchard, L. N. Carrier, J. B. Michaud, Dr. Lamontagne. Dr. Collet,
Arthur Lavigne, P. Boutin, M.P.P., F. Fortier, G. Bresse, J. S. C.
Wurtele, M.P.P., P. E. Godbout, Paul Dumas, Lieutenant Drury, Captain
Wilson, H. G. Sheppard, J. B. Charleson, Dr. Hubert LaRue, H. J. J. B.
Chouinard, Président de l'Institut Canadien, H. J. Beemer, J. L.
Renaud, E. W. Méthot, E. C. E. Gauthier, O. Leger, J. E. Pouliot, D.
R. Barry, L. P. Lemay, Jacques Auger, Ernest Pacaud, J. Allaire, M.P.,
T. G. Tremblay, M.P., J. J. Gahan, Joseph Blondeau, Thomas Potvin, J.
B. Z. Dubeau, Frs. Bertrand, J. C. Hamel, Emile Jacot, John Buchanan,
Antoine Carrier, William Breakey.

"The Chair was occupied by Hon. Judge H. T. Taschereau, having on his
right the guest of the evening, L. H. Fréchette, the Count Premio-
Real, Hon. C. A. P. Pelletier, Mr. Wasson, Hon. F. Langelier, M. Thors
of Paris, &c., and on his left the Consul-General for France, Hon. Mr.
Laurier, Mr. Bols, Hon. D. Ross, &c.

"The banquet was given in the well-known excellent style of the
Russell Hotel Company, which never leaves anything to be desired.
After full justice had been done the good things provided for the
occasion, silence was obtained, when the following resolution,
presented to Mr. Fréchette by the Literary and Historical Society of
Quebec, was read by the Secretary, Mr. Delagrave: -

"At a monthly general meeting of the Literary and Historical Society,
held on the 13th October last:

"It was proposed by Commander Ashe, R.N., seconded by R. McLeod, Esq.,

"That the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec has witnessed with
the highest satisfaction the literary honours conferred in August
last, by the _Académie Française_, on Monsieur Louis Honoré Fréchette,
for the poetical excellence of his two poems, 'Les Fleurs Boréales'
and 'Les Oiseaux de Neige.'

"That the Academical crown, encircling the brow of a Canadian poet,
ought to be as much prised by Canada as it must be dear to its gifted
son, the Laureate of the French Academy.

"That such a signal distinction conferred by the highest literary
tribunal, whilst it exhibits in such a favourable light the
intellectual vigour of the Province of Quebec, cannot be otherwise
than a subject of legitimate pride to the Dominion of Canada.

"That the President and Secretary of this Society be charged with the
pleasant duty of conveying to Monsieur L. H. Fréchette the expression
of the sentiments of admiration with which it views his literary

(Signed,) J. M. LEMOINE, President

_Quebec_, 13th October, 1880.

"The usual loyal toasts - the Queen and Governor-General - were given
by the Chairman, and enthusiastically honoured.

"The Chairman then proposed "France," the toast being received with
the usual honours and responded to by M. Lefaivre, the Consul-General
for France.

"M. Lefaivre made an interesting speech, alluding to the past and
present of France, to the communication between the France of the Old
World and the _Nouvelle France_ of this Western hemisphere, dwelling
upon the honours achieved by the guest of the evening in Paris, and
contending that literature was the soul of a nation.

"The Chairman, Hon. Mr. Justice H. Taschereau, then rose to propose
the toast of the evening, being received with loud and prolonged
cheering. He said, -

"GENTLEMEN, - I have now the honour to propose the toast of the
evening - the health of our distinguished fellow-countryman, our guest,
Louis Honoré Fréchette, the poet of Canada, crowned by the Academy of

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 5 of 59)