Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

The most charming parts of the book are the conversations between Sir George and Lady Maxwell. She tries to influence him in favour of the Bill, paints the miseries of the EastEnd poor, plays upon his sympathies, touches his heart-strings, throws her whole beautiful personality into the scale on the side she so anxiously desires. He, on his part, replies at first, because he hates her power in and around Parliament, continues the struggle because he likes to hear her voice, to see her flashing, sympathetic eyes, to feel the tremendous power of a beautiful, intellectual and enthusiastic woman. Finally, he changes his attitude and saves the Bill becauseshe desires it. Then comes the denouement the jealous wife, the sorrowful awakening of Marcella to the havoc she has wrought, the sudden realization by Sir George of his own delicate position. All this is worked out with a dramatic power which few of our authors possess.

The critics are divided as to the merit of the work. The Athenæum thinks that Lady Maxwell is a degenerate Marcella; the Spectator, that the book is less mature and less fascinating; and the Saturday Review, that Marcella is made to do some shameless, posturing impossibilities. The Independent, (N.Y.) says that everything in the book is alive and real; while the Bookman says that "Mrs. Ward lacks the final supreme gift of making her characters step down from their pedestal and live with us." Other critics lavish great praise on the novel as a whole, while nearly all admire the author's finished technique. Perhaps the difference of opinion among the critics may be taken as good evidence of the book's real excellence. That no two of them strike at the same point would seem to prove that there is no really vulnerable spot in the work as Mrs. Ward has given it to the world.

John A. Cooper.

THE DAYS OF THE CANADA GOMPANY.*

A Review.

FRO

ROM every point of view, this is one of the pleasantest books that has come in our way for a long time. In the first place, the literary quality of the volume is excellent-we might say, first rate. The two lady writers have so fused the work of each, or have had sympathies so perfectly in harmony, that there is no appearance, from beginning to end, of any discord, or even of any combination. We put this quality of the book first, because it might otherwise seem that we made the best of the workmanship on account of the subject and the intrinsic interest of the contents. This is not

the case. We entirely agree with the judgment of Principal Grant, expressed in his "Introduction," when he says: "To me it has been an unmixed delight to read the proof. Their racy descriptions give vivid glimpses of the good old times, and many Canadians will join with me in thanking them for allowing us to sit beside one of the cradles of our national life, and hear some of the first attempts at speech of the sturdy infant." That we may not seem to be uncritical in our laudation, we will add that, here and there, the writers are slightly elliptical; so that now and then we have to turn

In the Days of the Canada Company: The Story of the Settlement of the Huron Tract, and a View of the Social Life of the Period, 1825-1850. By Robina and Kathleen Macfarlane Lizars. Price, $2.00. Toronto: W. Briggs. 1896.

F

back a little, and make sure of the connection. Moreover, the topographical indications might have been a little more precise. But the reader may help himself in this respect by reference to a sketch-map of the Huron district, "in which the Canada Company have about 1,000,000 acres of land," at p. 379.

Here, however, we have done with criticism, which, we trust, has not sounded carping or ungracious. As regards the actual contents of the volume, whether we are Canadians born or have become so by adoption, it is with nothing less than a feeling of pride that we peruse these records of our early history. It is hardly possible to believe that the conditions of life have altered so greatly during the few years that have intervened between the period covered by this volume and the present time. We suppose that the children and grandchildren of those hardy and heroic pioneers might be capable of enduring and accomplishing what they endured and accomplished; but most of them would be very reluctant to submit themselves to such an ordeal.

We have no intention of entering here into the merits of the Canada Company, not only because of the difficulty of forming what we may call a general estimate of its value; but because the very phrase must, of necessity, have a very uncertain meaning. The praise and the blame, if they are ever to be distributed, cannot be assigned to the representatives of the Company in Canada alone, nor to the authorities at home alone. Sometimes the very necessities of the circumstances are responsible for what is done or left undone, if we can speak of responsibility in such a Sometimes plans which have been formed with the very best intentions and from the purest motives have most seriously miscarried. There is little attempt, in the book before us, to settle questions of this kind. The writers are content to place living

case.

men before us in action, and help u to understand them and what they did.

One figure, of course, leads the way, John Galt, the "father of the Company," of whom we shall have something more to say; but other notable persons and families appear in these pages. Canada, as the Company found it, is placed before us, and we see "these roads before they were made," and the work which was cut out for the pioneers. Then we have an historical sketch from Champlain to Gooding, the Kings of the Canada Company, and the Colborne clique. Canadian names are a little trying to persons unacquainted with the special localities. The Colborne here is a township next to Goderich, and the Perth is the county east of Huron County, and has obviously no connection with the Perth on the C.P.R. A denizen of Huron would probably smile with disdain on these explanations; but we don't all hail from Huron.

Some of the most interesting chapters are those which are devoted to the description of the homes of the leading families, as of Gairbraid, the home of the Dunlops, of whom more anon; Lunderston, the home of the Hyndmans, a very remarkable family, the head of it being "a tall man, straight as a tree; the best and truest man that ever set foot in Huron;" and Meadowlands, the home of the Lizars, from whom, we presume, the authors of our history proceeded. Another very prominent family in these pages is the well-known family of the Stricklands. There is also much of interest in the chapters on the Canada Company v. the People and the People v. the Canada Company. The Company, we may remark, were at their worst when they were meddling with politics; and, although there is a good deal of amusing narrative in the stories of the elections, there was always, especially in those days, something that we could dispense with, were it

not that history must be truly writ

ten.

during their youth." Mr. Galt, the writer says, was never other than the "plain gentleman."

plain gentleman." He says of himself: "I was, doubtless, not born in the hemisphere of fashion, but I have lived in it as much as a plebeian should do who had any respect for himself." This is excellent. Truly do our authers add, "There is no snob clot on the Galt brain."

We must not dwell longer on this grand figure. Canada owes much to him, and would gladly number many such men among her sons in every period. It is to be hoped that the memory of the author and that of the administrator may go down to posterity together.

Talking of the writing of history, we ought perhaps to remark that our authors give us no references to any authorities for the verification of their statements. We suppose, therefore, that the substantial contents of the volume rest on local tradition, or are derived from letters and other private documents, and perhaps, to some extent, from pamphlets and newspapers. This is an additional reason for thankfulness that the work has been done whilst it still could be done. In books like these we have the material for future history; and it not only bears evidence of truth and reality, but it can be tested and sifted for the use of the historians that are to come.

As we have said, there is one man who comes first; but there is another who stands close beside him, and who appears on the scene long after Galt had quitted it, Dr. William Dunlop, who may not improperly be called the hero of this epic.

John Galt was a very remarkable man as a writer and as an administrator. His "Annals of the Parish," and other books of the same class, hold a first place among the books that deal with the human life of Scotland. Galt was essentially a good man, upright, high-minded, publicspirited. If he had been a smaller man, or a meaner man, he might, from a worldly point of view, have done better for himself. Perhaps it was the very simplicity and nobility of the man which laid him open to misconception. "Mr. Galt had been accused of extravagance; but if extravagance there was, it was an authorized extravagance. His actions have been blamed as high-handed and short-sighted; for the first, he was under direction from a Board not in touch with the circumstances; and, for the second, he was far-sighted enough for his sons, in their maturity, to have been able to see in Canada many things which he had hoped for

There are many topics touched upon in this part of the book, in regard to the manners and customs and practices of the times of Galt and his fellowworkers, which we would gladly dwell upon. But we shall have done our work indifferently, indeed, if our readers are not induced to turn to the volume itself. For our own part, we shall not be contented with merely having read it from beginning to end. We shall keep it by our side and dip into its pages, and learn from it to understand better and to appreciate more deeply the men who have gone before us and the work which they have done. One thing we may here note— that we get to understand better the feeling of the men who have grown up with, or immediately after, these pioneers, in their devotion to their own Canada, and in their aversion to the idea of annexation to another country.

As, however, we have said, the most interesting and picturesque character in this volume is Dr. William Dunlop, a Scotchman by birth, who was an army surgeon in India for a time, the heat of which he became unable to endure, after which (in 1813) he came out to Canada. In 1841 he succeeded his brother, Captain Robert Graham Dunlop, at his death, as member in the Provincial Parliament; and himself died in 1848, aged 56.

This Dr. William Dunlop was "a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy," in all ways. It is not quite easy to forbear following him-in his kindly intercourse with his neighbours, in his dry humour, in his delight at getting up a duel. To his credit be it spoken that these duels seldom (perhaps never) came off. We must, however, content ourselves with the verdict of the writers, thoroughly borne out by the testimony of the book and with one peculiar specimen of his humour.

"In spite," they say, "of the faults

Yours thuty

of his day, and his own surpassing excellence in them, this son of the land of the tartan, the bonnet and the kilt, was a true man. There was not an untrue or a selfish thread in his cord of life. He made no boast of religion; he simply lived it; the chief tenet in it was charity. The half-obliterated letters on that grey slab are not his epitaph (see p. 460, 461). He is best remembered by what he did, and when even that shall have faded, a whole country-side of happy and prosperous times shall remain to keep his memory green." So let him rest!

One specimen of his humour, however, we cannot withhold, and that is the "Tiger's" will. We neglected to mention that he was called "Tiger Dunlop" because of his having killed a tiger in India, by first giving the contents of his snuff-box in his eyes, and then slaying him with his sword. But the will! It is certainly unique; and we give it complete, without the codicil, which is of no special interest: In the name of God, amen:

"6

"I, William Dunlop, of Gairbraid, in the township of Colborne, County and District of Huron, Western Canada, Esquire, being in sound health of body, and my mind just as usual, (which my friends who flatter me say is no great shakes at the best of times,) do make this my last will and testament as follows,revoking, of course, all former wills.

Muutoss

AUTHOR OF SKETCHES OF UPPER CANADA"

"I leave the property of Gairbraid, and all other landed property I may die possessed of, to my sisters, Helen Boyle Story and Elizabeth Boyle Dunlop; the

former, because she is married to a minister whom (God help him) she henpecks. The latter, because she is married to nobody, nor is she like to be, for she is an old maid, and not market ripe. And, also, I leave to them and their heirs my share of the stock and implements on the farm; provided, always, that the enclosure round my brother's grave be reserved, and if either should die without issue, then the other to inherit the whole.

"I leave to my sister-in-law, Louisa Dunlop, all my share of the household furniture and such traps, with the exceptions hereinafter mentioned. "I leave my silver tankard to the eldest son of old John, as the representative of the family. I would have left it to old John himself, but he would melt it down to make temperance medals, and that would be sacrilege. However, I leave my big horn snuff-box to him; he can only make temperance horn spoons of

that.

66

I leave my sister Jenny my Bible, the property formerly of my greatgreat-grandmother, Bethia Hamilton, of Woodhall; and when she knows as much of the spirit of it as she does of the letter, she will be another guise of Christian than she is.

"I also leave my late brother's watch to my brother Sandy, exhort

ing him at the same time to give up Whiggery, Radicalism, and all other sins that do most easily beset him.

"I leave my brother Alan my big silver snuff-box, as I am informed he is rather a decent Christian, with a swag belly and a jolly face.

"I leave Parson Chevasse (Magg's husband) the snuff-box I got from the Sarnia militia, as a small token of my gratitude for the service he has done the family in taking a sister that no man of taste would have taken.

"D°

you want to take that move back?" he asks abruptly. We are playing chess, apparently; in reality we are playing a deeper game.

"If I don't, the game is yours." "Would that be anything new?" sardonically.

I could box his ears-or kiss him when he speaks to me like that.

"I leave John Coddle a silver teapot, to the end that he may drink tea therefrom to comfort him under the affliction of a slatternly wife.

"I leave my books to my brother Andrew, because he has been so long a Jungley Wallah, that he may learn to read with them.

"I give my silver cup, with a sovereign in it, to my sister, Janet Graham Dunlop, because she is an old maid and pious, and therefore will necessarily take to horning. And also my grandma's snuff-mull, as it looks decent to see an old woman taking snuff."

Imagine such a will being read at a funeral! Some doubts were expressed as to the legality of such a document; but its validity was found to be unquestionable. William Clark.

A GAME OF GHESS.

A Sketch.

Which do I do? Well, really

He meanders on, in his professorlike style, on the inability of women in general-and me in particular-to play chess well. "It is too long a game, and too serious a game," he is saying. "Women like to talk and laugh and come to some result. You

« PředchozíPokračovat »