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Canadian Crusoes   By: (1802-1899)

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By Catharine Parr Traill

Authoress Of "The Backwoods Of Canada, Etc."

Edited By Agnes Strickland

Illustrated By Harvey


Arthur Hall, Virtue, & Co.

25, Paternoster Row.



To The Children Of The Settlers


The Rice Lake Plains,

By Their

Faithful Friend And Well Wisher



15th Oct 1850


IT will be acknowledged that human sympathy irresistibly responds to any narrative, founded on truth, which graphically describes the struggles of isolated human beings to obtain the aliments of life. The distinctions of pride and rank sink into nought, when the mind is engaged in the contemplation of the inevitable consequences of the assaults of the gaunt enemies, cold and hunger. Accidental circumstances have usually given sufficient experience of their pangs, even to the most fortunate, to make them own a fellow feeling with those whom the chances of shipwreck, war, wandering, or revolutions have cut off from home and hearth, and the requisite supplies; not only from the thousand artificial comforts which civilized society classes among the necessaries of life, but actually from a sufficiency of "daily bread."

Where is the man, woman, or child who has not sympathized with the poor seaman before the mast, Alexander Selkirk, typified by the genius of Defoe as his inimitable Crusoe, whose name (although one by no means uncommon in middle life in the east of England,) has become synonymous for all who build and plant in a wilderness, "cut off from humanity's reach?" Our insular situation has chiefly drawn the attention of the inhabitants of Great Britain to casualties by sea, and the deprivations of individuals wrecked on some desert coast; but it is by no means generally known that scarcely a summer passes over the colonists in Canada, without losses of children from the families of settlers occurring in the vast forests of the backwoods, similar to that on which the narrative of the Canadian Crusoes is founded. Many persons thus lost have perished in the wilderness; and it is to impress on the memory the natural resources of this country, by the aid of interesting the imagination, that the author of the well known and popular work, "The Backwoods of Canada," has written the following pages.

She has drawn attention, in the course of this volume, to the practical solution [FN: See Appendix A; likewise p. 310.] of that provoking enigma, which seems to perplex all anxious wanderers in an unknown land, namely, that finding themselves, at the end of a day's toilsome march, close to the spot from which they set out in the morning, and that this cruel accident will occur for days in succession. The escape of Captain O'Brien from his French prison at Verdun, detailed with such spirit in his lively autobiography, offers remarkable instances of this propensity of the forlorn wanderer in a strange land. A corresponding incident is recorded in the narrative of the "Escape of a young French Officer from the depĂ´t near Peterborough during the Napoleon European war." He found himself thrice at night within sight of the walls of the prison from which he had fled in the morning, after taking fruitless circular walks of twenty miles. I do not recollect the cause of such lost labour being explained in either narrative; perhaps the more frequent occurrence of the disaster in the boundless backwoods of the Canadian colonies, forced knowledge, dearly bought, on the perceptions of the settlers. Persons who wander without knowing the features and landmarks of a country, instinctively turn their faces to the sun, and for that reason always travel in a circle, infallibly finding themselves at night in the very spot from which they started in the morning. The resources and natural productions of the noble colony of Canada are but superficially known... Continue reading book >>

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