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(Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year eighteen hundred
and ninety, by WILLIAM J. WAITE, at the Department of Agriculture.)
PRINTED BY THE GAZETTE PRINTING COMPANY, AT THEIR PRINTING HOUSE, CORNER
CRAIG AND ST. FRANCOIS XAVIER STREETS, MONTREAL.
Canada was forced by harsh, imperative necessity to carve out a literary career for herself. Separated entirely from France, deprived of any intellectual aliment which the Mother Country might have been able to offer, severed by differences of race, language and religion from her English conquerors, the only course open to her was to create a native literature, congenial to her own desires, sympathies and climatic influences.
During the French period, no national literature existed. The early settlers passed through careers full of action and stirring incidents as marvellous as tale of chivalry or legend of saints, and endured privation with audacity and hardihood. Men of noble birth and courtly nurture penetrated the secrecy of the wilderness, pierced forests, traced streams, planted their emblems and built forts. Existence was vivified by thrilling excitement, softened often by graces of the very highest breeding, consecrated in many instances by the devotion of a higher purpose. These people lived poetry and romance, but
had no time to write it. The slow work of civilization amidst the sombre forests of the New World, struggles with inhospitable nature, with the Indians, with hunger, misery and famine, left slight leisure for the cultivation of the intellectual faculties. The dangerous innovation of the printing press had not reached the colony. Education was controlled by the religious orders. The reading consisted mostly of formulas of devotion and lives of the saints. La Hontan complained that the priests prohibited and burned all but devotional books. In 1737, the Intendant Hocquart wrote—“All the education received by the sons of officers and gentlemen amounts to extremely little; they are barely able to read and write." In 1792, the Duc de Rochefoucauld observed that “the Canadian who could read was regarded as a phenomenon.” “Notwithstanding their defective education," remarked the famous navigatator Bourgainville, “the Canadians are naturally intelligent. They do not know how to write, but they speak with ease and with an accent as good as the Parisian.”
Even at this period we are not without materials from which the story of our national existence is drawn. We have various diaries, histories and memoirs, but the contests of the day developed bitter antagonisms; prejudice and partizanship in many instances obscured truth. Perhaps, regarded as literature, the Relations des Jesuits scarcely merit attention, but as furnishing copious matter to the historian, they certainly deserve some notice. For forty years, from 1632-1672, these Relations were annually published at Paris. They have been collected in three large volumes and published by the Quebec Government. Their chief interest consists in the fact that these books contain the most minute details of colonial existence. The quaint old French is followed verbatim in the footnotes, Among the early narratives is “ Prémiero Etablissement de la Foy dans la Nouvelle France," of Father Le Clercq. This work is highly colored, strongly advocates the Récollet
cause, and is said to have been written under the eye of Frontenac. Bacqueville de la Potherie's "Histoire de l'Amérique Septentrionale depuis 1534 jusqu'a 1701," published in Paris, 1722, is held in high esteem as an authority upon the condition of the Indian tribes. “ Histoire veritable et naturelle de la Nouvelle France," written by Pierre Boucher, and dedicated to Colbert, contains much valuable information concerning the colony. " L'Histoire du Canada," by l’Abbé Belmont, Superior of the Seminary of Montreal, is a short history of affairs from 1608 to 1700. A paper entitled “Recueil de ce que s'est passé en Canada au sujet de la guerre tant des Anglais que des Iroquois depuis l'année, 1662,"contains a full account of the Lachine massacre, written by an eye-witness who accompanied Subercase to the scene. Nicholas Perrot's “ Mémoires sur les mceurs coutumes et religions des sauvages de l'Amerique Septentrionale," seems to have been written as a sort of diary from 1665 till the death of Perrot.
Colden gives part of this narrative in his "History of the Five Nations," published in London, 1747. It has also been printed in the third series of "Historical Documents," published by the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. We have also "L'Histoire de l'Hotel Dieu de Quebec," by Rev. Mère Juchereau; Dollier du Casson's "Histoire de Montréal," “Annales de l'Hotel Dieu de Ville Marie,” by Sæur Morin; “Mémoires de Sæur Bourgeoys,” all of which throw light upon the past. In their pages we may watch the grouping of events around the nucleus of a new nation, the light and shade of minor incidents playing about occurrences of a higher historic dignity.
Of all these writings, Father F. X. Charlevoix's history is decidedly first in value and importance. Charlevoix
a Jesuit, an accomplished man of the world, possessed of scientific attainment and a quaint sense of humor. IIis book is entitled “Histoire et Description Générale de la Nouvelle France, avec le journal historique