Narrative of the Discoveries on the North Coast of America; Effected by the Officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company during the Years 1836-39.

From the introductory memoir of Simpson by his brother Alexander (p. xviii), following the death of Simpson at the hands of a few Métis: if, indeed, it pleased Providence to darken the spirit which had passed undaunted through so many we can but acknowledge that the decrees of God are inscrutable to mortals, and join in these beautiful lines of Cowper:

Man is a harp whose chords elude the sight,

Each yielding harmony disposed aright:

The chords reversed (a task which, if He please,

God in a moment executes with ease,)

Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose;

Lost, till He tune them, all their power and use.

Thus perished, before he had completed his thirty-second year, Thomas Simpson, a man of great ardour, resolution, and perseverance; one who had already achieved a great object, and who has left a name which will be classed by posterity with that of Cook, Parry, Lander, and Franklin.

p. 29: The cariole intended for myself I appropriated to the carriage of my books, instruments, &c., and preferred performing the whole journey to Athabasca on foot.

p. 119, on meeting a new group of Esquimaux: A friendly communication was immediately opened, in which our vocabularies were summoned to play their part, to the great amazement of the savages, who declared that the books spoke to us.

p. 162: Our Esquimaux friends assisted in gathering some chips of wood to cook our breakfast, and stood amazed at seeing me light a piece of touch-wood with a burning-glass. Their own clumsy method of producing fire is by friction, with two pieces of dry wood in the manner of a drill. They seemed astonished when I used the sextant, but their wonder changed into terror on my applying the watch to their ears. They certainly took it for a “tornga,” or familiar spirit, holding some sort of mysterious communication with my “speaking book.”

p. 219-20: Now that we were fairly established [at Fort Confidence], divine service was duly performed on Sundays, at which both Protestants and Catholics attended. Our Canadians, like their countrymen in general, were deplorably ignorant; the Highlanders and Orkneymen, on the contrary, could both read and write, and the contents of the little library we had provided were in great request among them through the long winter nights. During the summer voyage we had laboured successfully to repress the practice of swearing, so common among voyageurs of every denomination.

p. 240-41: Our long-expected winter packet from the southern parts of the country was brought on the 9th, by Indians, via Marten Lake. Not the least valued part of its contents was a file of that excellent paper the New York Albion, with some numbers of the London Times, sent us by our worthy friend Chief Factor Christie. Those only who are cut off from the rest of the world can fully appreciate such marks of attention.

p. 385, near Cape Franklin, notes Byron Bay: nine miles wide, and was named after the immortal bard….

p. 391-92: That evening we reached the point where our over-land journey to Great Bear Lake was to commence. Here our remaining boat, our tents, powder, ice-trenches, in short, everything but books, instruments, and absolute necessaries, were shared between our two faithful Hare Indians, Larocque and Maccaconce, who were to return to the spot with their friends at some future day for this valuable present.

p. 405-06: In the New York Albion of the 23rd November, 1839, I fell in with an admirable article on the colonization of New Zealand; the following extract from which presents, I fear, too true a picture of savage life. ‘We are not aware of any authentic instance of a tribe of savage fishers or hunters becoming settled and agricultural, even by any pressure from without, much less from their own unaided efforts. So far from adopting civilized habits, the experience of America and New Holland has shewn that the savage hovers on the advancing frontier of civilization, till he finally disappears along with the game which afforded him support…. Hence even the Indian child, when brought up in a populous city, and educated in the arts and religion of civilized men, often betrays his dislike to a settled life, and endeavours by all means to rejoin his wild countrymen of the woods.’