J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

. (page 7 of 59)
Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 7 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

once more to prove the great truth enunciated by Bulwer Lytton in
"_Richelieu_," that

"The pen is mightier than the sword."

The Chairman called upon Hon. Wilfred Laurier to propose the next

Hon. Mr. Laurier, on being called on to propose the toast of the
Academy of France, was loudly cheered on rising, and the enthusiasm
became the greater as he advanced, showing the many claims the great
French tribunal of letters had upon the attention of the learned word.
He spoke of the old ties which bound France and Canada, and alluded to
the argument of Doucet, the French Academician, in favour of the
admission of Fréchette to the French _concours_, viz., that when
France was in the throes of agony, the voice of French Canada spoke
out its loud attachment to the cause of the ancient mother country. In
such action was the forgotten daughter restored to its sorrowing
mother. The hon. gentleman then in language of forcible eloquence
referred to the pleasure shown by English-Canadians at the success of
Mr. Fréchette, and concluded a highly intellectual and eloquent
speech, amidst the reiterated cheers of the whole assemblage.

The Chairman then proposed the toast of English and French literature.

Mr. George Stewart, jr., who on rising was greeted with cheers,
said: -

MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: - I must thank you for the very
enthusiastic manner in which you have just drank to this toast, and
for the cordiality with which you have been good enough to receive my
name. Before asking you to consider with me the subject which has just
been so happily proposed from the chair, I would ask your permission
to say how gratified I am at being present, this evening, to assist
you in paying homage to one whom we all delight to honour, and at
whose feet it is our special privilege to sit. (Cheers.) It is all of
seventeen years since Mr. Fréchette gave to the public, in a little
book, the best fruits of his youthful muse, but those early efforts of
his mind gave abundant promise of future excellence and hope, - a
promise which has since been admirably and delightfully fulfilled. I
cannot tell you how proud we all feel, - we who speak the English
tongue, alike with you who utter the liquid and mellow language of
Béranger and De Musset, - that the "Forty Immortals" of Mother France,
recognized in Mr. Fréchette, - what all of us knew before, - that he was
a tender and graceful poet, and that his work is as pure and sweet as
anything to be found in the lyric poetry of our time. (Cheers.) Mr.
Fréchette had not to go abroad to find that out, but it is pleasing to
us all to find our opinions confirmed and ratified by the highest
authority in France. I again thank you, gentlemen, for the privilege
which you have afforded me of saying these few words regarding our
laurel-crowned poet and guest. (Applause.) With regard to the subject
which has brought me to my feet, what am I to say? I might dilate upon
the beauties of Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_, or Edmund Spenser's
immortal _Faerie Queene_, or Shakespeare's tender women, the
_Juliet_ we love, the Rosalind who is ever in our hearts, the
Beatrice, the Imogen, gentle Ophelia, or kindly but ill-starred
Desdemona, or the great heroes of tragedy, Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet or
Othello, or I might ask you to hear a word about Ben Jonson, "rare
Ben," or poor Philip Massinger who died a stranger, of the Puritan
Milton, the great Catholic Dryden, or Swift, or Bunyan, Defoe,
Addison, Pope and Burke and grim Sam Johnson who made the dictionary
and wrote Rasselas, the Prince of Abyssinia, but there is not time for
us to go into the subject as minutely as that. At a dinner of this
kind, which is so rich in every delicacy which the most sensitive
palate could desire, and which boasts wines as delicate and as
fragrant in bouquet as one of Mr. Fréchette's sonnets - (Cheers) - and I
might add also as one of my friend LeMay's hopefullest lyrics -
(Cheers), it would be ungenerous of me to keep you very long. I will
content myself therefore with a remark or two regarding the peculiar
features which seem to inspire our literature, at the present time,
and by our literature I mean English literature in its broadest sense
and amplest significance. Perhaps at no period of letters, in the
whole history of literature from the days of Chaucer and Raleigh, from
the renaissance, through the classic period, to more modern times, to
our own day in fact, has the cultured world seen such a brilliant
array of brilliant men and women, who write the English prose which
delights our fire-sides, and enriches our minds at the present time.
The world has never presented to mankind before, in all its years of
usefulness, such a galaxy of great essayists and novelists as we have
enjoyed and enjoy now, within a period of fifty or sixty years, and
which properly belong to our own age. The era is rich in stalwart
minds, in magnificent thinkers, in splendid souls. Carlyle, Emerson,
Wilson, Morley, Froude, Holmes, Harrison, Darwin, Huxley, Spencer,
Mill, Buckle, Lewes. In fiction the list is too long for mention, but,
in passing, I may note George Eliot - a woman who writes as if her soul
had wings, William Black who paints almost as deftly as Walter Scott,
Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, Thackeray, Dickens, Reade, William
Howells, who has not forgotten to write of the grandeur of the
Saguenay, and William Kirby whose _Chien d'Or_ will serve to keep
a memory green in many a Quebecer's heart. I need hardly name more.
The list could, I am well aware, be extended indefinitely, and as each
of you doubtless has your favourite novelist, I need not waste your
time by the simple enumeration of men and women who have from time to
time, beguiled away the hours with their stories of the heart, or of
purpose, or of endeavour. We get _blasé_ now and then perhaps
through the reading of so many moderns, but the cure for that lies
within easy range. We can take a peep at those old fellows in old-
fashioned bindings, who used to delight our grandfathers in the "brave
days of old," when Richardson told the story of "Pamela," and
"Clarissa Harlowe," when Fielding wrote "Tom Jones," and Smollett
narrated the history of "Humphrey Clinker," and the career of
"Tristram Shandy" found a truthful historian in that mad parson
Lawrence Sterne. We might even read those ancient authors, ancient in
style at least, for a change, and still be reading English literature
in its truest and widest sense. But it is less with the fiction-
writers that we have to deal, than with the thinkers who have given to
_belles-lettres_ in this age, its robustness and vigour. In
political economy, in scientific thought, in history, in moral
philosophy and in polite learning, and in criticism, I think our day
has produced the greatest teachers, as well as the largest number of
them since the English tongue had a literature of its own. (Applause.)
This is true at least in prose writing. I know that in poetry we are
surpassed in grandeur and majesty by the bards of other periods of our
mental activity, I know that we have not produced a Milton yet, nor a
Dryden, nor a Pope - I leave Shakespeare and Chaucer out of the
question, nor a Spenser. We have very many more than our share of
really tuneful singers and fine poets like Tennyson and Longfellow,
Morris and Swinburne, the Arnolds and Lowell - all of them sweet and in
every way charming, none of them grand and magnificent like the sons
of song of the great days of poesy. We have singers and singers, minor
poets and minor poets, all engaged in weaving for our delight very
many pretty fancies; graceful story-tellers in verse, if you will, but
our chief strength lies in prose, sober, scholarly and healthful
prose. Our fame will rest on that branch of the service. (Applause.)
Turning to Canada, I might say that our mental outfit is by no means
beggarly. In fiction we have produced, and I confine myself
particularly to those who have written in English, Judge Haliburton,
James DeMille, Wm. Kirby, John Lesperance. (Applause.) In poetry,
Heavysege, John Reade, Roberts, Charles Sangster, Wm. Murdoch,
Chandler, Howe; in history, Beamish Murdoch, Todd, Morgan, Hannay, Mr.
LeMoine - (Applause) - whom I see present here to night; Dr. Miles, Mr.
Harper, the efficient Rector of our High School, and others of more or
less repute. In Science, Dr. Dawson and Sir Wm. Logan; in logic, Wm.
Lyall; in rhetoric, James DeMille. In political and essay writing we
have a good list, the most prominent names being Goldwin Smith, whom
we may fairly claim, Bourinot, Haliburton, Todd, Howe, Elder, Ellis,
Griffin, Anglin, Dymond, McDougall, White. (Cheers.) And here I would
just say to you - for I have spoken longer than I intended - over-taxed
your patience I fear very much - that we must, if we would ever become
great in helping to form current thought and the intellectual movement
of the day, renounce all sectionalism in letters, and go in for the
great goal which all may aspire to who wish. When the French Academy
hailed our friend Fréchette as a brother poet, the act was not done
because he was a Canadian, but because he was a poet, writing and
speaking the French tongue. (Applause.) There is no such thing really
as Canadian literature or American literature. It is all English
literature, and we should all strive to add to the glory of that
literature. We can do it, in our way, as well as Moore and Lover and
Lever and Carleton and McGee did, when they added the splendid work of
their genius to build up the renown and prestige of the parent stock.
(Applause.) As Scott and Burns, Dunbar and Hector McNeill, and
Tannahill and James Hogg and bluff "Kit North;" all of Scotland, did
to make the English literature massive and spirited and grand.
(Applause.) As Hawthorne and Longfellow, Holmes and Bryant, Cooper and
Irving, and Motley did, and as our own John Reade (cheers) and Charles
Roberts, a new poet whose star has just arisen, and Bourinot -
(cheers) - and the rest of them are doing now. We must forget the small
localism which can do us no good, and join the great brotherhood of
letters which writes the world over, in the English tongue. France,
Germany and Russia, Italy and Spain teem with the grand work of their
children. We who speak and write in the English language must not be
unmindful of our several duties. We must work for the attainment of
the great end, the development of English literature, of which we are
as truly a part as the authors of the United States, of Scotland, of
Ireland and of England. English literature does not mean simply a
literature written solely by Englishmen. It takes its name from the
fact that it draws its nourishment from all writers who write in
English, and Scotchmen, Irishmen, Americans, and colonists, as well as
citizens of England are invited to add to its greatness and
permanency. I thank you Mr. Chairman and you gentlemen for your
kindness and forbearance in listening to me so long, and so patiently.
(Loud continued cheering.)

Mr. Lemay, in replying for French literature, said - It is particularly
agreeable to be called on to speak on this occasion because it affords
me the opportunity to render to our host an evidence of the admiration
and friendship which I bear towards him this evening. It is now over
twenty years since we were together at College, and the same tastes
which pleased us then govern us now. The same destiny which led us
towards the bar guided us also on the paths of literature. The speaker
here improvised a magnificent address to the genius of French-Canadian
letters. He alluded to the first pages of Canadian history written in
the blood of martyrs, thus giving to the Canadian people a literature
of heroes. The speaker then traced the changeful epochs from the days
of the soldiers of the sword to the warriors of the pen, and he drew
forth loud applause as he alluded to the brave polemists who traced
their literary endeavors in the brave work of defending their country
and redeeming its liberties. In quoting Sir Geo. Cartier's well known
line, "O Canada, my country and my love," ("O Canada, mon pays, mes
amours,") the eloquent orator elicited the warm and hearty applause of
the assemblage. From the troublous days of 1837 to the present moment,
Mr. Lemay reviewed the various efforts at literary renown of the
French Canadian people, and concluded one of the finest speeches of
the evening amidst the tumultuous applause of his sympathising

The next toast was that of the Literary and Historical Society and of
the _Institut Canadien_ of Quebec.

Mr. J. M. LeMoine, in replying to the first part of the toast said: -

GENTLEMEN, - In the name of the Literary and Historical Society of
Quebec, I thank you cordially for the health just proposed - As the
President of a society numbering close on 400 members, who though
diverse in creed and language, are united for one common object - the
promotion of culture and science and the encouragement of historical
studies, - I cannot help feeling I stand here somehow in the character
of a representative man. In tendering a welcome to Mr. Fréchette, our
honoured guest, I can add but little to the sentiments conveyed in the
resolution adopted at our last meeting and which you have heard read.
In presence of so many distinguished persons, several of whom have
made their mark, at the Bar - or on the Bench - the forum - in
literature - in the bank parlor or in the counting house, - with so many
fluent speakers here present and prepared to applaud, with all the
graces of oratory and fervour of patriotism, - the distinction
conferred on French Canada, by the highest literary tribunal in
France - convinced myself of the honour which Mr. Fréchette's laurels
must confer on this ancient and picturesque Province of Quebec, with
its glorious though yet unrevealed destinies, I feel proud as a
Canadian in standing here, the bearer even of a solitary rosebud for
the fragrant _bouquet_, which a grateful country offers this
night to its gifted child. Alas! had not the relentless hand [32] of
death - had not a self-imposed fate, darker even than death, removed
from our midst, another "mind pregnant with celestial fire," Canada
this night might possibly have counted two laurel-crowned poets - Louis
Honoré Fréchette and Octave Crémazie. For I am not one of those who
refuse to recognize Canadian talent; on the contrary, I feel myself
moved to rejoice in our wealth of intellect. I am reminded to be
brief; around me there is a surging stream of eloquence ready to burst
through its floodgates. I must give way. With your permission, I shall
therefore merely ask a question. What propitious turn of fortune?
which of the benign fairies who watched over his natal hour has Mr.
Fréchette to thank for his present success? How came it to pass that,
though he was born a poet, he should have to undergo an ordeal like
another great poet (whom posterity may specially claim as an
historian) the author of the "Lays of Ancient Rome," of emancipating
himself from his earthy - at one time not burdensome - thraldom before
soaring on the wings of poesy to that lofty region, where his classic
diction and lyric power attracted the attention of those worthy but
fastidious gentlemen, yclept "The Forty Immortals of the French
Academy." I have mentioned a very illustrious name in the Republic of
Letters, - a name as dear to Britain as that of our Laureate ought to
be to Canada - that of Macaulay - historian, essayist, poet. You all
know how his parliamentary defeat as candidate for Edinburgh in 1847,
rescued him forever from the "dismal swamp" of politics, providing his
wondrous mind, with leisure to expand and mature, in the green fields
of literature. If New France has not yet produced such a gorgeous
genius as he, of whom all those who speak Chatham's tongue are so
justly proud, it has however out of its sparse population of one
million, put forth a representative whom Old France with its thirty-
eight millions has deemed a fit subject to honour in an unmistakable
way. Shall I tell you how, figuratively, if you should prefer, ended
for Fréchette the "day of tumult"?

That _Ignis Fatuus_, ambition, has allured, as you are aware,
more than one youthful fowler to an uncertain swampy hunting ground,
called "politics." Mr. Fréchette was one of the unfortunate. This game
preserve, I pronounce "uncertain" because owing to several
inexplicable eventualities sportsmen innumerable, therefrom return
empty handed, whilst others, Mr. Chairman, make up, we know, pretty
good bags. The Son of Apollo, whilst thus hunting one gruesome, windy
morning, fortunately for us, sank in a boggy, yielding quicksand.
Luckily he extricated himself in time, and on reaching the margin of
the swamp, there stood an old pet of his tethered as if waiting for
its loved rider, a vigorous Norman or Percheron steed. Our friend
bestrode him, cantered off, and never drew rein until he stood,
panting perhaps, but a winner in the race, on the top of a mount,
distant and of access arduous, called Parnassus.

In conclusion, Mr. LeMoine quoted the memorable lines from Macaulay,
written the night when his parliamentary defeat at Edinburgh, in 1847,
restored him to letters: -

The day of tumult, strife, defeat, was o'er,
Worn out with toil, and noise, and scorn, and spleen,
I slumbered and in slumber saw once more
A room in an old mansion, long unseen.

That room, methought, was curtained from the light;
Yet through the curtains shone the moon's cold ray
Full on a cradle, where, in linen white,
Sleeping life's first sleep, an infant lay.

* * * * *

And lo! the fairy queens who rule our birth
Drew nigh to speak the new-born baby's doom:
With noiseless step, which left no trace on earth,
From gloom they came, and vanished into gloom.

Not deigning on the boy a glance to cast
Swept careless by the gorgeous Queen of Gain.
More scornful still, the Queen of Fashion passed,
With mincing gait and sneer of cold disdain.

The Queen of Power tossed high her jewelled head
And o'er her shoulder threw a wrathful frown.
The Queen of Pleasure on the pillow shed
Scarce one stray rose-leaf from her fragrant crown.

Still fay in long procession followed fay;
And still the little couch remained unblest:
But, when those wayward sprites had passed away,
Came One, the last, the mightiest, and the best.

Oh! glorious lady, with the eyes of light,
And laurels clustering round thy lofty brow,
Who by the cradle's side didst watch that night,
Warbling a sweet strange music, who wast thou?

"Yes, darling; let them go," so ran the strain:
"Yes; let them go, gain, fashion, pleasure, power,
And all the busy elves to whose domain
Belongs the nether sphere, the fleeting hour.

"Without one envious sigh, one anxious scheme,
The nether sphere, the fleeting hour assign.
Mine is the world of thought, the world of dream,
Mine all the past, and all the future mine.

* * * * *

"Of the fair brotherhood who share my grace,
I, from thy natal day, pronounce thee free;
And, if for some I keep a nobler place,
I keep for none a happier than for thee.

* * * * *

"No; when on restless night dawns cheerless morrow,
When weary soul and wasting body pine,
Thine am I still in danger, sickness, sorrow,
In conflict, obloquy, want, exile, thine;

"Thine where on mountain waves the snowbirds scream,
Where more than Thule's winter barbs the breeze,
Where scarce, through lowering clouds, one sickly gleam
Lights the drear May-day of Antarctic seas;

* * * * *

"Amidst the din of all things fell and vile,
Hate's yell, and envy's hiss, and folly's bray,
Remember me!"



In Professor Kalm's saunter round Quebec, his description of the public
edifices, in 1749, is worthy of note:

"The Palace (Château Saint Louis) says he, is situated on the west or
steepest side of the mountain, just, above the lower city. It is not
properly a palace, but a large building of stone, two stories high,
extending north and south. On the west side of it is a court-yard,
surrounded partly with a wall, and partly with houses. On the east
side, or towards the river, is a gallery as long as the whole
building, and about two fathoms broad, paved with smooth flags, and
included on the outside by iron rails, from whence the city and the
river exhibit a charming prospect. This gallery serves as a very
agreeable walk after dinner, and those who come to speak with the
Governor-General wait here till he is at leisure. The palace is the
lodging of the Governor-General of Canada, and a number of soldiers
mount the guard before it, both at the gate and in the court-yard; and
when the Governor, or the Bishop comes in or goes out, they must all
appear in arms and beat the drum. The Governor-General has his own
chapel where he hears prayers; however, he often goes to Mass at the
church of the _Récollets_, which is very near the palace."

Such it seemed, in 1749, to the learned Swedish naturalist and philosopher
Peter Kalm. How many rainbow tints, poetry and romance can lend to the
same object, we may learn from the brilliant Niagara novelist, William
Kirby! In his splendid historical novel "Le Chien d'Or," whilst venturing
on the boldest flights of imagination, he thus epitomises some striking
historical features of the state residence of the French Viceroys of

"The great hall of the Castle of St. Louis was palatial in its
dimensions and adornment. The panels of wainscoting upon the walls
were hung with paintings of historic interest - portraits of the Kings,
Governors, Intendants and Ministers of State, who had been
instrumental in the colonization of New France.

"Over the Governor's seat hung a gorgeous escutcheon of the Royal
arms, draped with a cluster of white flags, sprinkled with golden
lilies - the emblems of French sovereignty in the colony; among the
portraits on the walls, beside those of the late (Louis XIV.,) and
present King (Louis XV) - which hung on each side of the throne - might
be seen the features of Richelieu, who first organized the rude
settlements on the St. Lawrence in a body politic - a reflex of feudal
France; and of Colbert, who made available its natural wealth and
resources, by peopling it with the best scions of the Mother Land - the
noblesse and peasantry of Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. There,
too, might be seen the keen, bold features of Cartier, the first
discoverer, and of Champlain, the first explorer of the new land, and
the founder of Quebec. The gallant, restless Louis Buade de Frontenac
was pictured there, side by side with his fair countess, called, by
reason of her surpassing loveliness, "The Divine." Vaudreuil, too, who
spent a long life of devotion to his country, and Beauharnois, who
nourished its young strength until it was able to resist, not only the
powerful confederacy of the Five Nations, but the still more powerful
league of New England and the other English Colonies. There, also,

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 7 of 59)