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378 The Canadian Historical Review Nor do the editors sufficiently question the fact that Euro-Canadian newcomers of all ethnic groups and of both genders were laying claim to Native homelands. The role ofwhite women in the colonization process remains underanalysed by authors and editors alike. Greater critical attention to these broader questions is imperative ifwe are to hear in these 'other voices' the complexities diversity engenders. KATHRYN MCPHERSON York University I Bless You in My Heart: Selected Correspondence ofCatharine Parr Traill. Edited by CARL BALLSTADT, ELIZABETH HOPKINS, and MICHAEL A. PETERMAN . Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1996. Pp. xxi, 438, illus. $39.95 . Catharine Parr Traill is best known as the author of The Backwoods of Canada, and essayists have focused on her life as a pioneer and as a writer of cheerful, practical tracts of advice for prospective settlers in Canada. The publication of 136 of her letters in this volume reveals a more complex person who wrote on varied subjects and who became the matriarch of a large extended family. This is a work of impeccable scholarship, with letters carefully selected and introduced by informative biographical essays before each of the three sections covering Traill's long life. The letters reveal several aspects of her world, which was nineteenth -century Canadian society in eastern Upper Canada. Hers was a strong community of friends and family, despite separations by distance . They shared food, clothes, seeds, gossip, and burdens. They boarded each other's children, assisted in births and deaths, and gave enormous support to each other out of necessity and convention. With little money and the constant threat of illness (they frequently broke out in boils), they exhibited the civility and graciousness of another era in often formally written correspondence. Within this community, Traill was both loved and admired, though she was not above expressing a frank opinion. Referring to an inheritance ofa small amount of money, she lamented, 'We nor Aunt Moodie never got a single keepsake from the Reydon things which was rather mean I must say' (203). With this emotional support, and because ofher deeply held Christian beliefs and a love oflife, she was sustained through the deaths ofher husband, three children (one was murdered), several grandchildren, and the trials and tribulations ofher friends and family over three generations. Like other women of her class and generation, in Upper Canada's early years she raised a large family, ran a household under difficult, Book Reviews 379 impoverished conditions, and tried to help her severely depressed husband, who predeceased her by many years. She sewed, gardened, cooked, and was a teacher, midwife, and nurse when occasion demanded it. What was distinctive and unusual about Traill was that she, being one of the literary Stricklands, wrote consistently, amid the din of family life, sometimes late in the evening by candlelight. There is a suggestion that she separated her inner life of ideas from her domestic and social roles. She read literature and natural history, and later in life she met; conversed, and corresponded with leading scientists like botanist John Macoun, geologist William Dawson, and entomologist James Fletcher. However, as she wrote to a sister in England: in Lakefield, 'I never bring forward myself keeping quietly the even tenor of my way - without obtruding myself, or introducing topics of this kind among my friends in our little world - there are always little matters to talk about beside Books - those that interest me most on Botany and flowers - and natural History have not much charm for any out of our own - but here [in Ottawa] I find many friends among the Professors and we get on charmingly' (233). Her published work included non-fiction and literature for adults and children. She produced two important botanical studies, Canadian Wild Flowers (1868) ancj. Studies of Plant Life in Canada (1886), for which in her final years she\vas recognized by both the Canadian and British governments as a distinguished botanist. Her fame bemused her, for when she was invited to a Saturday night fete in Ottawa by the govenor general and found she was the subject of admiring stares and whispers, she wrote, 'The poor old lionness squeezed herself into a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 378-380
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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