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long thought to be the best Canadian novel. It has met with much favor outside of Canada. The story, as given in the legend, is intrinsically of very exceptional interest, and it is told with considerable literary skill,
Since then writers of stories have become numerous in Canada. It will be impossible to mention more than a few. Miss Machar, of Kingston, has written some capital novels of Canadian life. Mr. James Macdonald Oxley is fully equal to the best writers of books of adventure for boys. Since 1877 he has produced a surprising number of books, published usually out of Canada, though all upon Canadian life and history.
Gilbert Parker is the chief name among Canadian writers of fiction, and he has won high position in the mother land. Although he now resides in England his subjects are Canadian and his books abound with local color and incident. He stands now among the leading novelists of the day.
During the last few years William McLennan has made a reputation far beyond the limits of Canada, not only by his dialect stories, but by his charming book,“ Spanish John,” a novel without a woman and yet full of interest. This book is remarkable for its singularly pure English style. “The Span o' Life," which he wrote in collaboration with Miss McIlwraith (a Hamilton lady well known as a contributor of bright essays and stories in British and American magazines) is a novel of the same period as the “ Chien d'Or.” It is written with the same charm of style as Mr. McLennan's other books. The plot is original and there is a very love able heroine in it. The setting is historically true and the local color is faithful.
Miss Lily Dougall, not long ago, surprised the English public by a strong novel in an original vein, “Beggars All,"
published by Longmans. The subject was not Canadian, but her later books deal with more familiar scenes. Nor should we omit to count Miss Blanche Macdonald and Mrs. Harrison in the number of our novelists. We must not forget to make mention also of William Lighthall, whose two novels “ The
Young Seigneur” and “ The False Repentigny” have met with much acceptance. Within the last few weeks Miss Agnes Laut, of Ottawa, has published “ The Lords of the North," a novel upon the struggle between the two great fur companies which entitles her to an assured place among Canadian writers of fiction.
Mrs. Coates, now of Calcutta, formerly Sara Jeannette Duncan, of one of our Canadian cities, has written books, not only bright and interesting, but with a vein of most charming humor. One was a volume of travels around the world, another The American Girl in London," an exceedingly clever story which appeared first in the “ Illustrated London News,” and the third “ A Voyage of Consolation.” She has written other books, but these are her best.
Robert Barr is a Canadian, now well established in England as a popular writer, whose first success was in Canadian story-writing. He has recently chosen other themes, and two of his later books,“ Tekla” and “ The Strong Arm," are historical novels of the Holy Roman Empire at the period of Rodolph of Hapsburg. His writings are sparkling and clever, but he has much to learn before he begins to understand anything of that complex institution, the Holy Roman Empire.
It is a far cry to Rodolph of Hapsburg, and the Rev. Charles W. Gordon, of Winnipeg (better known as Ralph Connor), has had the insight to find, among devoted missionaries on the outskirts of civilization, heroes who are fighting
among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains as real a battle for civil order and righteousness as Rodolph ever fought. In “Black Rock” and the “Sky Pilot” are vivid pictures of life on the western plains and mountains. In that grand and solemn world which he describes with loving power his heroes labor and struggle and endure-true Galahads fighting the ceaseless battle of good against the evil and recklessness and profanity of border life. Stories these are—and good stories —but they are more, they are tonics for enfeebled faith, full of literary vigor, and instinct with highest truth.
The latest development of modern literature is the short story, and E. W. Thompson now on the staff of the “ Youth's Companion” is a master in that art. There are many others, well known in the popular American magazines, among them Duncan Campbell Scott, better known as a poet, W. A. Fraser, and Dr. Frechette (whose French poetry was crowned by the Academy of France), who has achieved the success of writing a book of capital short stories in English and so of winning laurels in two languages.
Ernest Seton Thompson occupies a place by himself in his books “Wild Animals I have Known,” “The Sand-Hill Stag,” and “ The Biography of a Grizzly.” The sympathetic naturalist tells these stories from the animal's own point of viewma method which imparts much freshness into the narration. Mr. Thompson's skill as an artist adds charm to his books, and his wife, accomplished not only in the art of getting up pretty books, but also in the unconventional art of taking care of herself on the western prairies, has contributed another volume, “A Woman Tenderfoot,” to our open-air literature.
Mr. W. A. Fraser has gone further in this direction, and his “Mooswa and Others of the Boundaries” makes the wild
animals talk as they do in Kipling's “ Jungle Book.” His hero is a moose whose moral character has developed beyond that of the usual run of the Christians who hunt and trap in the spruce forests of the upper Athabasca. Our natural history is leading us back to Æsop and the dawn of literature, but our wild animals have not the keen wit and didactic brevity of the Greek creatures. They tend toward diffuseness and to the northwest superfluity of expletives.
Canadian history and scenery are beginning to make their appearance in novels by outside writers who, having no real knowledge of either, seek it in the pages of Francis Parkman with indifferent success. We may read with amused wonder (in a very successful American novel) of Daulac's wife-a Laval-Montmorenci--starting from Montreal in the year 1660 for Carillon on the Ottawa, with one Indian girl attendant, making a raft at Ste. Anne's with knives, and floating up the current to the north shore. We may follow her there to the seven chapels on the mountain where she and her attendant sleep and find food convenient for them in the bread and roasted birds which a pious devotee is accustomed to place upon the altar. It is only eighteen years since Maisonneuve landed, but Daulac has on Isle St. Bernard, at the mouth of the Chateaugay, a strong baronial castle built of stone with lancet windows, and we follow him also with wonder as he steps into his canoe at midnight and goes down to Montreal by the Lachine rapids, evidently his usual route to town; but this was his last trip down, for he was preparing for his fight at the Long Sault.
In like manner Dr. Conan Doyle, in the “ Refugees," with much ingenuity rescues some Huguenots at Quebec from imprisonment for their faith. A fanatical Franciscan friar tracks them up the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers until
they find refuge from persecution in the English colonies. This is hard to bear; for New France is the only region where there has never been persecution for the sake of religion. The only law relating to Huguenots was that they could not winter in the country without permission, or assemble for public worship. From such absurdities as these we must look to our native writers to protect us. It is enough for Edwin and Angelina to harrow our feelings with their woes without harrowing our geography and history also.
Apart from the choice of subject matter the prospect for a distinctive Canadian school of literature is not bright; and in truth any provincial narrowness of style or language is not desirable. Our writers can reflect lustre on their country only when they venture into the broad world of our language and conquer recognition in the great realm of Anglo-Saxon letters. The great centres of our race, where are to be won the great prizes of life, must always attract the brightest and most ambitious spirits. One of our own people—a successful author now in London—writes in the “ Canadian Magazine to reproach us for underestimating ourselves. It is a good fault, even if uncommon among English speakers. Our youth are unlearning it; but they will not grow great by self-assertion, only by performance.
I have tried to set forth in detail the reasons of our retarded commencement-our growth of late years has been rapid. We have to guard against materialism and to watch lest literature be oppressed by the pursuit of practical science. We see the workers toiling and we hear the din, but the world is saved by the dreamers who keep the intellect of mankind sane and sweet by communion with the ideal. Canada must not regret her children if they achieve fame in other lands. John Bonner and William G. Sewell left Quebec long ago