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Hudson Bay   By: (1825-1894)

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In publishing the present work, the Author rests his hopes of its favourable reception chiefly upon the fact that its subject is comparatively new. Although touched upon by other writers in narratives of Arctic discovery, and in works of general information, the very nature of those publications prohibited a lengthened or minute description of that EVERYDAY LIFE whose delineation is the chief aim of the following pages.


Since this book was written, very considerable changes have taken place in the affairs and management of the Hudson Bay Company. The original charter of the Company is now extinct. Red River Settlement has become a much more important colony than it was, and bids fair to become still more important for railway communication will doubtless, ere long, connect it with Canada on the one hand and the Pacific seaboard on the other, while the presence of gold in the Saskatchewan and elsewhere has already made the country much more generally known than it was when the Author sojourned there. Nevertheless, all these changes actual and prospective have only scratched the skirt of the vast wilderness occupied by the fur traders; and as these still continue their work at the numerous and distant outposts in much the same style as in days of yore, it has been deemed advisable to reprint the book almost without alteration, but with a few corrections.

R.M. Ballantyne.



Reader, I take for granted that you are tolerably well acquainted with the different modes of life and travelling peculiar to European nations. I also presume that you know something of the inhabitants of the East; and, it may be, a good deal of the Americans in general. But I suspect at least I would fain hope that you have only a vague and indefinite knowledge of life in those wild, uncivilised regions of the northern continent of America that surround the shores of Hudson Bay. I would fain hope this, I say, that I may have the satisfaction of giving you information on the subject, and of showing you that there is a body of civilised men who move, and breathe (pretty cool air, by the way!), and spend their lives in a quarter of the globe as totally different, in most respects, from the part you inhabit, as a beaver, roaming among the ponds and marshes of his native home, is from that sagacious animal when converted into a fashionable hat.

About the middle of May eighteen hundred and forty one, I was thrown into a state of ecstatic joy by the arrival of a letter appointing me to the enviable situation of apprentice clerk in the service of the Honourable Hudson Bay Company. To describe the immense extent to which I expanded, both mentally and bodily, upon the receipt of this letter, is impossible; it is sufficient to know that from that moment I fancied myself a complete man of business, and treated my old companions with the condescending suavity of one who knows that he is talking to his inferiors.

A few days after, however, my pride was brought very low indeed, as I lay tossing about in my berth on the tumbling waves of the German Ocean, eschewing breakfast as a dangerous meal, and looking upon dinner with a species of horror utterly incomprehensible by those who have not experienced an attack of sea sickness. Miseries of this description, fortunately, do not last long. In a couple of days we got into the comparatively still water of the Thames; and I, with a host of pale faced young ladies and cadaverous looking young gentlemen, emerged for the first time from the interior of the ship, to behold the beauties and wonders of the great metropolis, as we glided slowly up the crowded river.

Leave taking is a disagreeable subject either to reflect upon or to write about, so we will skip that part of the business and proceed at once to Gravesend, where I stood (having parted from all my friends) on the deck of the good ship Prince Rupert , contemplating the boats and crowds of shipping that passed continually before me, and thinking how soon I was to leave the scenes to which I had been so long accustomed for a far distant land... Continue reading book >>

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