A general history of the Company from the seventeenth century until the end of the Reil Rebellion until after 1870 and the Company’s “great prospect” at the beginning of the twentieth century. He tries to recount with fairness the problems of the Company, its dubious Charter, the feud with Dobbs over Hudson Bay as the route to the NW Passage, problems with both Catholics and the metis, but he is too pro-British and anti-Catholic to be totally convincing. But he does show the urbane education and wide reading of many of the traders.
p. 283: In his will, a copy of which lies before the writer, it is made quite evident that Fidler was a man of education, and he left his collection of five hundred books to the nucleus of a library which was absorbed into the Red River library, and of which are to be seen in Winnipeg to this day.
p. 284-85, more about Peter Fidler’s will.
p. 297, re the correspondence between Hargrave and Governor Simpson: That the Hudson’s Bay Company officers were not traders only is made abundantly evident. In one of his letters, Governor Simpson states that their countryman, Sir Walter Scott, has just passed away, he thanks Hargrave for sending copies of Blackwood’s Magazine, and orders are often given for fresh and timely books. … He speaks to Hargrave of the continuation of Southey’s “History of the War of the Peninsular War” not being published, and we know from other sources that this History fell still-born, but [Chief Factor John] Stuart goes on to say that he had sent for Col. Napier’s History of the Peninsular War.” “Napier’s politics,” says Stuart, are different, and we shall see whether it is the radical or a laurel (Southey was poet laureate) that deserves the palm.” These examples but illustrate what all close observers notice that the officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company not only read to purpose, but maintained a keen outlook for the best and most finished contemporary literature. Much additional evidence might be supplied on this point.
p. 301, on John Sieveright writing: Writing of Fort Coulonge, he gives us a picture of the trader’s life: “This place has the advantage of being so near the civilized world as to allow us to hear now and then what is going on in it; but no society or amusement to help pass the time away. In consequence I cannot help reading a great deal too much—injurious at any time of life—particularly when on the wrong side of fifty. I have been lately reading John Galt’s ‘Southernan.’ Not much to be admired. His characters are mostly all caricatures. If place will be allowed in paper trunk, I shall put that work aond ‘Laurie Todd’ in for your acceptance.”
p. 336: Lefroy [Sir Henry] wintered in the fort [Chipewyan], where the winter months were enjoyed in the well-selected library of the Company and the new experiences of the fur trader’s life, while his voyageurs went away to support themselves at a fishing station on the lake [Athabaska].
p. 355, on Adam Thom, first recorder for the Red River Settlement: He had been a journalist in Montreal, was of an ardent and somewhat aggressive disposition, but was a man of ability and broad reading.
p. 380-81, on developments in Labrador: Since the time of McKenzie the fur trade had been pushed along the formerly unoccupied coast of Labrador. Even before that time the far northern coast had been taken up by a brave band of Moravians, who supported themselves by trade, and at the same time did Christian work among the Eskimos. Their movement merits notice. As early as 1749 a brave Hollander pilot named Erhardt, stimulated by reading the famous book of Henry Ellis on the North-West Passage, made an effort to form a settlement on the Labrador coast. He lost his life among the deceitful Eskimos.
p. 384, at Fort Chipewyan: At this historic fort also, Roderick McKenzie, cousin of the explorer, founded the famous Athabaska Library,” for the use of the officers of the Company in the northern posts, and in its treasures Lieutenant Lefroy informs us he reveled during his winter stay.