Victorian Era Abroad: Q1: Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie

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Victorian Era Abroad: Q1: Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie

joulukuu 21, 2022, 4:02 pm

Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie (Full title: Roughing It in The Bush: or, Forest Life in Canada) was first published in London in 1852 (then in Toronto almost 20 years later in 1871 after quite a lot of successful editions in both England and USA). It is her memoir of her life as an immigrant in Canada during the 1830s. It is partially memoir, partially a novelized account of her story and apparently after it was finally published in Canada, Moodie was called anti-Canadian and anti-Irish by some reviews. Unlike most of the memoirs of the times, her account was trying to be truthful and to actually show what Canada was like in those early days.

So after spending a lot of time in 2022 with the women of the era in the motherland, let's see how the life of the ones who moved away changed. :)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 11, 6:19 pm

The Norton Critical Edition of Roughing It in the Bush finally arrived today (via Interlibrary loan), so I plan to start it tonight.

My own library _did_ have this in the Teen section:

Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush, a graphic novel adaptation by Willow Dawson and illustrated by Selena Goulding, based on a screenplay written by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe, with an Introduction by Margaret Atwood.

So I grabbed it, too.

And skimming the intro, I see Margaret Atwood wrote a poem sequence: The Journals of Susanna Moodie back in 1970. I'll need to find it.

tammikuu 11, 8:01 pm

tammikuu 12, 9:40 am

After years of seeing multiple copies of Roughing it in the Bush in just about every second hand book store for next to nothing, the supply seems to have suddenly dried up and I am having difficulty finding a copy. I read it years ago, but would like to revisit it in this readalong. Will try the library.

>3 raidergirl3: That is an excellent book.

>2 kac522: That's too funny.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 12, 4:37 pm

If you don’t mind e-books, you can get a copy on Project Gutenberg.

tammikuu 12, 2:42 pm

>5 Yells: The only device I have is a large screen desktop computer, which is not really conducive to protracted bouts of reading, so I'm a physical book kind of person.

tammikuu 17, 5:46 pm

Did you know that Noopiming: The Cure For White Ladies is an indigenous response to Roughing it in the Bush?

tammikuu 22, 10:07 pm

Here’s an unpleasant excerpt:

Tom Nogan, the chief's brother, had a very large, fat, ugly squaw for his wife. She was a mountain of tawny flesh; and, but for the innocent, good-natured expression which, like a bright sunbeam penetrating a swarthy cloud, spread all around a kindly glow, she might have been termed hideous.

This woman they considered very handsome, calling her "a fine squaw—clever squaw—a much good woman;" though in what her superiority consisted, I never could discover, often as I visited the wigwam. She was very dirty, and appeared quite indifferent to the claims of common decency (in the disposal of the few filthy rags that covered her). She was, however, very expert in all Indian craft. No Jew could drive a better bargain than Mrs. Tom; and her urchins, of whom she was the happy mother of five or six, were as cunning and avaricious as herself.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 6:12 pm

It took me an entire month to make my way through Roughing It In the Bush. I'm not sorry I read it, but it certainly was a project. In the original text, each chapter ends with a poem, either written by Moodie or her husband. John Moodie also contributed 3 chapters to the original text.

Susanna Strickland Moodie was raised in comfortable upper middle-class surroundings in Suffolk, England. Her husband John's military half-pay income is not enough to support his family in the way they have been accustomed, so her husband decides that better opportunities exist in Canada. Susanna's memoir begins with the family's trip across the Atlantic to Canada in 1832 and here they join her brother Sam and sister Catherine Parr Traill (also a writer) in the "bush": the backwoods of Ontario. She describes the people, the landscapes and the trials of every day life. The book continues through 1840, when John is appointed to a civilian post in Belleville, Ontario, a small-sized town. Moodie continued her story in the town in her second book Life in the Clearings.

Moodie was completely unprepared for Canada. From the moment she sets onboard ship, she shows contempt for most persons who she considers beneath her, and on ship, those feelings are directed toward the Irish steerage passengers. When she gets to the bush, she is critical of just about every neighbor or person she meets. She is completely ill-prepared for this life. While her servants do all of the work, she seems to be idle and frustrated. Her servants eventually bolt and Moodie is left to figure out how to cook, clean and that dreadful chore, milking cows.

As their funds dwindle, the crops fail, and food becomes scarce, those neighbors, friends and servants start to be described in a more positive light, as she learns to appreciate their help and support. Moodie has a love/hate relationship with Canada: on the one hand, she is constantly in awe of the physical beauty but on the other she is terrified of the frigid temperatures, snow storms and "whirlwinds" (probably tornadoes) that ravage the land.

As >8 dianeham: has pointed out, Moodie's descriptions of Native people in the area are difficult to read. Yet, by the end, she recognizes that at many times her family would have starved if kindly Native neighbors had not brought them food and other provisions.

In fact, much of this book seems to be a memoir of contrasts. Margaret Atwood, in an Afterword to her original poem sequence The Journals of Susanna Moodie, best describes Moodie this way, and the Canadian character:
Mrs Moodie is divided down the middle: she praises the Canadian landscape, but accuses it of destroying her; she dislikes the people already in Canada but finds in people her only refuge from the land itself; she preaches progress and the march of civilization while brooding elegiacally upon the destruction of the wilderness....She claims to be an ardent Canadian patriot while all the time she is standing back from the country and criticizing it as though she were a detached observer, a stranger.
Perhaps that is the way we still live. We are all immigrants to this place even if we were born here: the parts unknown to us we move in fear, exiles and invaders. This country is something that must be chosen--it is so easy to leave--and if we do choose it we are still choosing a violent duality.

Finally, on the last page of the memoir, Susanna Moodie reveals the reasons for penning this memoir:
I have given you a faithful picture of life in the backwoods of Canada, and I leave you to draw from it your own conclusions. To the poor, industrious working man it presents many advantages; to the poor gentleman, none! The former works hard, puts up with coarse, scanty fare, and submits, with a good grace, to hardships that would kill a domesticated animal at home...The gentleman can neither work so hard, live so coarsely, nor endure so many privations as his poorer but more fortunate neighbor.....If these sketches should prove the means of deterring one family from sinking their property, and shipwrecking all their hopes, by going to reside in the backwoods of Canada, I shall consider myself amply repaid for revealing the secrets of the prison-house, and feel that I have not toiled and suffered in the wilderness in vain.

In short, Gentleman and Gentlewoman, stay home.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 6:12 pm

Moodie's work led me to several others:

The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1997) is a collection of poems that Margaret Atwood originally wrote in 1970 after reading and studying Moodie's works. My edition was an illustrated edition of the poems, with artwork by Margaret's long-time friend and Canadian artist, Charles Pachter. The graphic layout of the poems over the artwork brings the poems to life.

Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush (2016) is a graphic book with a complicated history. The graphic text was written by Willow Dawson and the illustrations were drawn by Selena Goulding. The text is based on a proposed screenplay by Carol Shields & Patrick Crowe. Sadly, Shields died before the film project was completed, but Dawson & Goulding were given permission to turn the screenplay into this graphic form.

Like many screenplays, this story takes Susanna Moodie's two memoirs of her life in the backwoods, and takes liberties to condense and re-arrange events. Changes were made to the order, characters are combined and the real events are sometimes changed for dramatic effect. It does work in its own way, but did have me going back to the original text of Roughing It In the Bush to confirm what I'd actually read.

The illustrations are in full color and the book makes a good introduction to the Moodie family's story.

Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995) are four lectures Margaret Atwood originally gave in 1991 at Oxford and collected in book form in 1995. These four lectures focus on four different themes:
Lecture 1: How the doomed 1845 expedition of Sir John Franklin to find the Northwest Passage--and the myth of the North surrounding it--have influenced Canadian literature and culture.
Lecture 2: About white men, like Grey Owl, who found a fascination in presenting themselves as Native people, and how that has influenced Canadian literature and culture.
Lecture 3: How the mythic Wendigo Algonquin monster has been used by non-Native writers in Canadian literature.
Lecture 4: Women writers in Canada: how they've developed and how they use and/or interpret the above 3 Canadian North ideas in their works.

As always, Atwood is funny, articulate and has an analytical mind that gets right to the heart of things. The first lecture was my favorite because she ends it with the lyrics of "Northwest Passage" by the great Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers. I think I was least engaged with the last lecture, particularly when she went into depth on specific works.

helmikuu 14, 3:18 pm

>10 kac522: Thanks for posting about these! :)

helmikuu 14, 5:20 pm

>9 kac522: >10 kac522: Thanks for the review and follow-up: I’m still nowhere near getting to the book, but it sounds very interesting, if not exactly appealing.

helmikuu 14, 5:39 pm

>12 thorold: Sometime I may get to Sisters In The Wilderness: The Lives Of Susanna Moodie And Catharine Parr Traill by Charlotte Gray. I've heard good things about Gray's biographies, but I think I need a bit of a break from the Canadian North.