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The Backwoods of Canada

Catherine Parr Traill

Book Overview: 

The writer is as earnest in recommending ladies who belong to the higher class of settlers to cultivate all the mental resources of a superior education, as she is to induce them to discard all irrational and artificial wants and mere useless pursuits. She would willingly direct their attention to the natural history and botany of this new country, in which they will find a never-failing source of amusement and instruction, at once enlightening and elevating the mind, and serving to fill up the void left by the absence of those lighter feminine accomplishments, the practice of which are necessarily superseded by imperative domestic duties. To the person who is capable of looking abroad into the beauties of nature, and adoring the Creator through his glorious works, are opened stores of unmixed pleasure, which will not permit her to be dull or unhappy in the loneliest part of our Western Wilderness. The writer of these pages speaks from experience, and would be pleased to find that the simple sources from which she has herself drawn pleasure, have cheered the solitude of future female sojourners in the backwoods of Canada. (Summary from book introduction)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .r a canoe for themselves and their marketable produce, or through the worst possible roads with a waggon or sleigh.

The Otanabee is a fine broad, clear stream, divided into two mouths at its entrance to the Rice Lake by a low tongue of land, too swampy to be put under cultivation. This beautiful river (for such I consider it to be) winds its way between thickly-wooded banks, which rise gradually as you advance higher up the country.

Towards noon the mists cleared off, and the sun came forth in all the brilliant beauty of a September day. So completely were we sheltered from the wind by the thick wall of pines on either side, that I no longer felt the least inconvenience from the cold that had chilled me on crossing the lake in the morning.

To the mere passing traveller, who cares little for the minute beauties of scenery, there is certainly a monotony in the long and unbroken line of woods, which insensibl. . . Read More

Community Reviews

What a difference from 'Roughing it in the Bush'! Susanna Moodie's younger sister Catherine went out to Canada not only prepared, but determined, to get her hands dirty (the book ends with some very useful recipes for maple sugar, bran bread, maple vinegar etc) As soon as their log cabin was finishe

My journey deeper into Canadiana continues. Today’s entry is a collection of letters written by a British woman who, arriving in the 1830’s, describes the settler life of backwoods Ontario (specifically near Peterborough). Though originally just her private letters, the book was collected to serve a

My last (and possibly most inspiring) read of 2022. Since the early settlers were far too busy trying to hack out a living from this wild country of ours, memoirs like this one are precious. I marvel at Traill’s ability to write at all, given her struggles with the harsh climate and isolation in the

There are no fancy plot twists and turns. But for those who enjoy hearing a beautiful voice from the past, I highly recommend it.

Catherine Parr Strickland was an experienced writer who first work was published in 1818; her writing helped to support herself and her family financially after her father’s death. She married half-pay Lieutenant Thomas Traill and emigrated to Upper Canada in 1832 to homestead in the bush. Her siste

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