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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fill up the void left by the absence of those lighter feminine accomplishments, the practice of which are necessarily superseded by imperative domestic duties.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 fini...more

After reading Susannah Moodie's memoir of settling in Canada and absolutely hating it, I was dubious about committing myself to reading her sister's published letters on the same subject. I need not have worried, Catherine Parr Traill comes over as a much more pleasant person and I found myself a...more

Must be read along with Roughing it in the Bush by her sister Susanna Moodie - because the sister's experiences are similar but their different personalities and interests convey very different perspectives.

Great early history of what life was like in and around Peterborough, Ontario in the mid 1...more

These are the letters of a British Army Officer's wife writing back to her family in England as she begins her new life in the untouched Backwoods of Canada in 1832. They arrive on their newly purchased plot of land at 10pm at night, the wagon driver throws their belongings from his wagon and dri...more

As I've already written a paper on this book (focusing on only one letter no less) I don't feel inclined to go into detail about how important this source is to building the Canadian identity and also providing a unique perspective into a settler's life in the 1830s. I would, however, like to not...more

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 si...more

Reason for Reading: Reading letters, journals and diaries is one of my most favourite types of genres whether they be non-fiction, as here, or fictional.

McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library series is a staple of Canadian Literature publishing. The series started in the 1960s and contin...more

This is a book I have waited to read for some time, acquired my copy from the used book sale at Word on the Street, Toronto. Quite enjoyed the stories as told by the writer. They faced many adversities, both themselves and their neighbours, however came out as they had planned for their lives. A...more

Though written in the early 1800's (the editor rightly accords it the tone of Elizabeth Bennet "if...she and Mr. Darcy had deemed emigration necessary for the future of their family fortunes), Mrs. Traill seems surprisingly prescient. She predicts the patterns of future population, the regret fo...more

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