In Search of the Magnetic North: A Soldier-Surveyor’s Letters from the North-West, 1843-1844.

p. xi, re an English soldier-scientist and surveyer assigned to Toronto: …with an English gentlemen’s sincere belief in the inevitable superiority of things English….. He loved his Church; and his interest in missionary work never diminished throughout a career which lasted seventy-eight years.

p. 11-12, letter to cousin Julia, 6 May 1843: Tell me of books, and ideas, and the progress of opinions, whether it is true that so much really Romish leaven is developing with the revival of unity and discipline in the church. Being so much out of the world I can speculate on what is going on in it with more liability to error, it is true, but with less prejudice than if more in it…. [Goes on to mention Carlyle, Voltaire and Diderot. ]

p. 27, reports on an Indian village on Lake Winnipeg: There is a missionary (Wesleyan) at the village, not doing much however, for he can only speak through an interpreter, and there are great difficulties in inducing these wilder Indians to accept Xtianity or to send their children to school. Not the least of these arises from the rivalry between Church of England, Church of Rome, Wesleyans and Baptists, all of whom have missionaries in the country, and the Indians are quite acute enough to take advantage of their divisions.

p. 36, letter to Sophia Lefroy, 15th June 1843: I forgot to mention that Sir Geo S[impson] lent me on starting Cottrell’s [Recollections of ] Siberia(London: Parker, 1842), which disappointed me; from a man who had led rather a dissipated life, I expected a light sketchy work, full of anecdotes and lively remarks; the only thing lively about it is his running fire at that unfortunate Captain Jesse, which is rather impertinent than otherwise. Moreover there are some very badly written passages. I hope it has had a sale. I had seen some extracts in Canadian papers which are mostly supported by pilfering, so suppose it has made some way.

p. 37: Unluckily I forgot to provide myself with a French dictionary and grammar, so while I am daily speaking if possible worse and worse French by learning their patois, I cannot take the opportunity of increasing my stock of words and phrases. They talk very bad French, full of provincialisms, icit for ice, fret for froid, potatoes, patats, Etc.

p. 50, on the missionary school at Norway House: The school children amounting to 60 were soon got together…and we heard them read and spell and sing in Indian and English. They are Crees, their language a pretty one; the astonishing thing was to hear them repeat long exercises, such as the creed, sing hymns, read the Testament etc. in Englis, not one word of which any of them understand. The missionary wishes to prepare the way for their learning the language but I think goes too far. One little boy repeated the Lord’s Prayer perfectly in English, putting his stops correctly, varying the tone in perfect imitation of an intelligent speaker, yet could not say it in his own language….

p. 56, asks for Church newspapers and also London paper.

p. 69, at Fort Chipewyan, 13 Dec 1843: Time passes very rapidly and to me agreeably enough, I borrowed a few books at Norway H. and found some here. These, with chess, fill up the short time to be disposed of out of the observatory….

p. 91, Jan 1 1844 from Athabaska: I wish to hear more of your Italian travels, how far you went and what you saw of English society abroad….

p. 107-8, from Fort Simpson 19 March 1844: Of all possible books, what would you suppose to be the very last one might meet with in this corner of the world. I think London’s Cyclopedia of Villa and Farm Architecture is the one. Yet here I found it, fresh and new. And this reminds me that Anthony and you are building or having builded a house for yourselves; if you have done so without consulting that work you have done great wrong….

p. 155, from Toronto 17 Dec 1844: Will you send me out at the same time a copy of the Xtian Year [John Keble] for Mrs. H. I gave her some time ago Geo. Herbert’s poems, and the other day she gave them back in exchange for Keble. It must be an English edition, as the American editions are not admissible in England.

p. 158: Who have I thank for Grant’s Lectures? I suppose you. I have been reading them with great interest.

p. 162: Will you tell Anthony that unless he has already got the Keble for me, I will not trouble him, I have got one here, but if he sends it, I shall find some one else to present it to. I was dutiful enough to buy the Winter’s tale the other day. I like it, better than Bertram’s dream–….