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HUMANJTrES 505 ture, who would not be absorbed by what is within its pages. At a time when federal architecture is once again being transformed and new proposals for official Ottawa appear with increasing frequency, Crown Assets provides a comprehensive review of where we've been, architecturally speaking. It is welcome and comes not a moment too soon. (KELLY CROSSMAN) Carman Cumming. SketclJes from a Young Country: The Inwges of 'Grip' Magazine University of Toronto Press. xiv, 276. $55.00 cloth1 $21.95 paper Carman Cumming's first book, the biography Secret Craft: The Journalism of Edward Farrer (1992), was a readable and scholarly study of one of nineteenth-century Canada's most enigmatic and influential journalists. (Farrer, Liberal sympathizer and editor of the Toronto Mail, was one of those fascinating self-fabricators/renovators who periodically have found inCanada the opportunity to reinvent themselves; to show his gratitude he became/ like Goldwin Smith, one of the pluckier annexationists of the fledgling Dominion.) Sketches from a Young Country is a 'biography' of one of nineteenth~century Canada's most influential magazines, covering the life-span of the satirical Grip from 1873 to 1894, Both books, and Sketches especially/ provide windows on many of the key players and events that were shaping the growing country~ bringing late nineteenth-century Canada before readers in a vital and meaningful manner in its own terms. Grip was primarily the platform of its principal owner, editor, and chief contributor, John W. Bengough, who was a Liberal sympathizer himself, 'a passionate, righteous, talented young reformer,' a true Grit through and through, despite his periodic pretensions to disinterested journalism. Bengough wrote voluminously for Grip and prodigiously contributed its political cartoons (sometimes pseudonymously when his bias showed too freely), intermittently assisted editorially by the socialist T. Phillips Thompson. Although Cumming undervalues the pleasure his book affords by virtue of its reproductions of Bengough's cartoons, he is mostly accurate in his preface when he states that 'part of its value is that it exposes ... an especially bleak time in Canadian history, a time of discontent and grievances that seemed likely to destroy the young confederation.' In its discrete surveys of Grip's treatm.ent of various subjects - politics in the 187os, and in the r88os issues of race and creed, the West, imperialism, am.ong others - Sketches shows that the last decades of the nineteenth century were at least as tumulruous as, and certainly nwre colourful than, any this country has passed through since. But what remains most valuable and channing in Sketches from a Young Country are the more than one hundred examples of Bengough's cartoons. These are thoroughly contextualized1 annotated, and interpreted by 506 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Cumming in a no-nonsense prose that is not without its own charms. Readers perusing these gems of late-Victorian political cartooning might begin to realize, and not without a little astonishment, that their image of John A. Macdonald derives in part from Bengough's frequently reprinted caricatures of the prime minister during the building of the National Railway, the so-called Pacific Scandal (which involved pay-offs and alleged pay-offs to friends and relatives), and the fallout from the Northwest Rebellion. Readers might also conclude that everyone- subject and cartoonist alike- got away with a lot more one hundred years ago. It would seem that the cost of apparent honesty is a less colourful public life (pace President Clinton). It is also worth observing that these cartoons are not especially, or obviously, funny. In contrast to the blunt buffoonery that typifies the editorial cartoons of our dailies, those of Grip functioned as lightly serious political commentary, contained much more coded text, references, and allusions, and assumed a good deal more about the public's intelligence. Cumming convinces us that, with the possible exception of the Week, Grip was Canada's most lively and influential journal of soc:ial and political opinion. If he does so in a style that is at times too journalistic, not to say plodding at length, he can be forgiven, because he is meticulous in the recreation of the social-political ethos of a century ago. And anyway, this is one of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 505-506
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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