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The Moccasin Maker   By: (1861-1913)

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This collection of prose written by Pauline Johnson was first assembled and published shortly after her death in 1913.


By E. Pauline Johnson

With introduction by Sir Gilbert Parker and appreciation by Charles Mair.

Dedicated to Sir Gilbert Parker, M.P. Whose work in literature has brought honour to Canada


Introduction Pauline Johnson: An Appreciation My Mother Catharine of the "Crow's Nest" A Red Girl's Reasoning The Envoy Extraordinary A Pagan in St. Paul's Cathedral As It Was in the Beginning The Legend of Lillooet Falls Her Majesty's Guest Mother o' the Men The Nest Builder The Tenas Klootchman The Derelict


The inducement to be sympathetic in writing a preface to a book like this is naturally very great. The authoress was of Indian blood, and lived the life of the Indian on the Iroquois Reserve with her chieftain father and her white mother for many years; and though she had white blood in her veins was insistently and determinedly Indian to the end. She had the full pride of the aboriginal of pure blood, and she was possessed of a vital joy in the legends, history and language of the Indian race from which she came, crossed by good white stock. But though the inducement to be sympathetic in the case of so chivalrous a being who stood by the Indian blood rather than by the white blood in her is great, there is, happily, no necessity for generosity or magnanimity in the case of Pauline Johnson. She was not great, but her work in verse in sure and sincere; and it is alive with the true spirit of poetry. Her skill in mere technique is good, her handling of narrative is notable, and if there is no striking individuality which might have been expected from her Indian origin if she was often reminiscent in her manner, metre, form and expression, it only proves her a minor poet and not a Tennyson or a Browning. That she should have done what she did do, devotedly, with an astonishing charm and the delight of inspired labour, makes her life memorable, as it certainly made both life and work beautiful. The pain and suffering which attended the latter part of her life never found its way into her work save through increased sweetness and pensiveness. No shadow of death fell upon her pages. To the last the soul ruled the body to its will. Phenomenon Pauline Johnson was, though to call her a genius would be to place her among the immortals, and no one was more conscious of her limitations than herself. Therefore, it would do her memory poor service to give her a crown instead of a coronet.

Poet she was, lyric and singing and happy, bright visioned, high hearted, and with the Indian's passionate love of nature thrilling in all she did, even when from the hunting grounds of poesy she brought back now and then a poor day's capture. She was never without charm in her writing; indeed, mere charm was too often her undoing. She could not be impersonal enough, and therefore could not be great; but she could get very near to human sympathies, to domestic natures, to those who care for pleasant, happy things, to the lovers of the wild.

This is what she has done in this book called "The Moccasin Maker." Here is a good deal that is biographical and autobiographical in its nature; here is the story of her mother's life told with rare graciousness and affection, in language which is never without eloquence; and even when the dialogue makes you feel that the real characters never talked as they do in this monograph, it is still unstilted and somehow really convincing. Touching to a degree is the first chapter, "My Mother," and it, with all the rest of the book, makes one feel that Canadian literature would have been poorer, that something would have been missed from this story of Indian life if this volume had not been written. It is no argument against the book that Pauline Johnson had not learnt the art of short story writing; she was a poetess, not a writer of fiction; but the incidents described in many of these chapters show that, had she chosen to write fiction instead of verse, and had begun at an early stage in her career to do so, she would have succeeded... Continue reading book >>

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