restricted access Immigrant Odyssey: A French Canadian Habitant in New England/Histoire ďun enfant pauvre by Félix Albert (review)
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580 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW some variation in theincidence ofimmorality - higherratesin newlysettled areas andthewestern districts (which laydosest totheProtestant infection), lowerratesin communities of longstanding- but everywherethe rule of Catholic doctrine prevailed overwhelmingly. Parish priests dealt withlesser offences bythemselves, onlyoccasionally guidedby advice from their superiors. Thus theyheard,rebuked, and imposed penitential deeds on fornicators, adulterers, and masturbators as wellasthose(mostoftenwomen)who enjoyedthe pleasures of sexwhile tryingto avoidconception. They alsoconfronted the delicate problem of pregnancy outside marriage. Moreserious offences fell to bishops to deal with.The infrequent cases involving incest,besfiality, homosexuality, pedophilia, and publicconcubinage requiredepiscopal intervention. But however gravethe offence, the churchdifferentiated betweenprivateand public misdeeds. Whena sinwasknown onlytotheoffenders themselves, or perhaps to a smallgroupwhosediscretion wasassured, the priesthood imposed private chastisement andpenance in hopes of avoiding allscandal. Onlywhenoffences werepublic,and then onlywhentheywereflagrant, weresinners rebukedfromthepulpitandtheir penitentialtasks spelled out. In eithercase thegoalwastoreconcile theoffender withthe community of believers, withthechurch, and,ultimately, withGod. Gagnon's work liesat a point wherethe historyof privatewishes and interestsintersects with that of public values and institutions.Catholic doctrines that called for the sublimation of sexual desire in favour of procreation overlapped withthecommon ruralneedtosubordinate personal aspirations for the generalgoodof the family.The religiousquestfor life everlasting haditsechoin thepopularwishfor a longlife and for descendants , bothof whichalsorequiredthat the individual's passions be bridled for thebenefitof others.The churchno doubthadpowerfulinstitutional interests toserve in promoting itsteachings onsexuality, a pointGagnon has chosen notto explore. But hehasopeneda windowon a centralfeatureof the privatelife in nineteenth-century Canadian history. We wouldbe well advised to follow his lead. PETER WARD University ofBritish Columbia Immigrant Odyssey: A French Canadian Habitantin NewEngland/Histoire d'un enfant pauvre.F•LIX•tLBERT. Introductionby FV•NCV_.S H. •¾. English translation byARTHUR L.ENO, JR.Orono,Maine:University of MainePress 1991.Pp.xii, 178,illus.$23.95 In recent years historians havesought ways in which todocument thelives of 'ordinary' people.This hasled to muchusefulworkin deeds,wills,and diaries. Actualautobiographical accounts, with the exception of the life REVIEWS 581 histories taken bythepioneers oftheWorks Progress Administration, have, however, provento be rare. This book,presented in both Frenchand English, provides oneofthese missing documents. Albert wasa Qu6b6cois farmerandwoodsman. He wascaught, aswith manyothers,in the industrialand agricultural revolutionof the 1870s. Unable to survive in theRimouski area,he migrated, working firstasa supplier for woods crews in northern Maine.He, hiswife,andtheirseven children eventually setfled in Lowell, Massachusetts. Thusfar thestoryis typical. Whatmakes Albertimportant is thatin 1909hebecame retrospective about hislife.Albertwas illiterate, andspoke onlytheFrench ofhiscountry boyhood. However, hehiredanamanuensis, anddictated hislifestory. Afew copies were made, andtheauthor hawked themonthestreet. Luckily, acopy survived. Arthur Enohastranslated it, in a generally felicitous style,and Frances Earlyhaswritten anexcellent essay locating Albert andhisfamily in theirtimeand place. The Albertstoryhasmajorsignificance. We are ableto viewthe livesof theQu•b•cois migrantthrough hisattitudes andaccounts ofhisexperience. Welearnmuchabouthislifein Lowell, although virtually nothing about sa bonne femme, an omission thatisimportant in itself. Although illiterate, and possessing no English,he and hisfamilywererelatively successful in their petit Canada. Because his account survived, the storyof his life helpsus understand the livesof hisconfri•resmuchbetter, or at leastthe males,and it sharpens ourperceptions oftheirpast. Takenwith two otherrecentpublications from the Universityof Maine Press, StewartDoty'sTheFirstFranco-Americans andAcadian Hard Times, the historian's dream of understanding the fivesof the lower classes is fast becoming muchmorelikely,at leastamongthisgroup.Oral histories have extendedour knowledge,and extensionof anthropological researchis widening it evenfurther. Moreremainspossible. In the French-language newspapers in theUnited States of thelatenineteenth andearlytwentieth centuries, for instance, there are other bits of information. Two novels of life in the Lewiston textile mills await translation, LaJeune Franco-Amdricane (1933)byAlbertM. Gastonguay, andCanu&(1936)by 'Liane,'thenora deplume of CamilleLessard. Perhaps otherdictated autobiographies stilllie undiscovered in attics. We alsoneed materialsfrom the Frenchmigrantsto Chicago(large enough to forma significant enclave at theturn of thiscentury), andfrom themorerecentFrench-Canadian moves to LosAngeles andsouthern California . AidanMcQuillan hasprovided useful comparative dataaboutFrench Canadians in Kansasbetween1875 and 1925, alsoindicatingthe results possible withdetailedwork.All of thesemigrants to the UnitedStates may 589 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW have hadmore English than people likeF61ix Albert, andwere probably moreapttobeliterate. Detailed attention totheirstories willhelpfilloutthe history of NorthAmerica. The English translation of HisWire d'unenfant pauvreseems smooth, althoughthe odd error creepsin - Le Grand Saultis Grand Falls,New Brunswick, for example,and there is someconfusionas to Madawash County andtheMadawaska territory. Thedocument isarecord oflanguage, religion, sodal customs, andmores, andthereader, inwhichever language, gains...


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