LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. I
I left your loyal City of Kingston, on board the Royal Mail Boat Sovereign, at 5 o’clock on a Summer’s evening, for the “Queen City” of the West. Or rather I should have said I intended to do so; for on account of the non-arrival of the Montreal host at her usual time, we did not leave the wharf until 10 o’clock. The night was rough and stormy; peculiarly trying for those who seldom plough the “vastly deep,” but more so for the five or six hundred wretched emigrants we had on board.
On getting up in the morning, completely sick for inhaling the pestilential air that found its way through the sky-lights and door into the cabin, I made my way for the deck in order to breathe the morning air; but this was a task more difficult to be accomplished than I anticipated; for every avenue to the middle and saloon deck was so choked up with boxes, beds and prostrate men and women, the effluvia from whom was perfectly disgusting, that it was by dint of squeezing I was able to accomplish my intention; and when I did succeed, I found myself, if possible, only in a worse situation; I had nothing else to do but turn back, go through the same pushing and squeezing, and confine myself to the cabin, until some change for the better should be wrought.
This is a disagreeable position for passengers to be placed in, yet the extraordinary influx of emigrants this season renders such unavoidable.
Before leaving this subject, allow me to pay a justly deserved tribute to the kindness and humanity of Captain Twoby. About noon of the day after departure, he had all the emigrants, men, women and children submitted to a perfect ablution. He did not leave this unenviable task to deputies, but was himself actually engaged in scrubbing and drenching them. I am the more ready to pay this trifling expression of merit from finding that an unfortunate dissension exists between a portion of the Irish and him – a dissension which I regret to understand has spread among the great body ofthe lately united Irish. I deeply deplore this. I thought the events of last winter had for ever eradicated and destroyed the very germs of that baneful animosity which so long and so unfortunately made them the scoff and byword of their enemies. Are they again to become the pliant tools of the designing? — Are their naturally excitable temperaments to be made the means by which they are to be disunited. I fondly, ardently, hope not. As an Irishman I entreat of them to throw from them the firebrand that is causing so much ruin. As Protestant Irishmen I must assert that I do not think so meanly of the Roman Catholic Clergy, as to believe, that any one of them would be aiding and exciting a mob to do mischief.
The scenery from Coburg to Toronto is really beautiful and picturesque. Here and there fine table lands, waving like a sea of ruddy gold under their heavy crops, high cliffs crowned with majestic forest trees, and snow white cottages peering here and there through the opening of the woods, render the scene highly pleasing, while the still and placid lake, upon whose bosem we are sailing, reflects, like a broad mirror, the different objects that lie adjacent to its borders, giving the whole a similitude to some of these quiet, but exquisite scenes so beautifully described in Llala Rookh.
We arrived in Toronto at 4 P.M., and landed the emigrants at a wharf at the west end of the city, reserved exclusively for them. The “Eclipse” steamer, which had been waiting some hours for our arrival, came along side to take off those going to the “far West,” and as I was for Port Credit, I got on Board. A few moments and we were under way skirting the shores of blue Ontario.
How differently were the emigrants disposed on board the “Eclipse” to those on the “Sovereign.” All communication was cut of between the emigrants and regular passengers. The same thing could be done on board the latter if there were not such a crowd put on board.
The “fittings” up of this boat are chaste and beautiful; the Ladies’ Cabin and Saloon are finished with taste; nothing gaudy, but every thing elegantly simple. Her Commander is affable and courteous, her officers obliging, and crew attentive. But enough for one letter. I am now safely landed at Port Credit. For the present, then, I bid your readers adieu, and gently squeeze them by the hand.
LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. II
The close of my first letter left me landed on the wharf at the village of Port Credit. This flourishing village is situated on both …
… tend to the disadvantages of this dainty and flourishing village.
About the distance of two miles up the river is, or rather was, an Indian village, now desolate, as the tribe, with the exception of its Chief, the somewhat celebrated Peter Jones, and a squaw, the wife of a white, have removed West, out of the march of civilization. The village is prettily located on a high bank, overlooking the river. The “flats” on each side the river are highly rich, and afford luxuriant pasturage for cattle, long before the highlands begin to put on their verdant livery. Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village” found here its counterpart. An air of quiet, solemn solitude breathed its spell over it.– The houses tenantless, windows fastened up, no cheering hum from the schoolhouse, not a solitary being seen to break the monotony. — I stood on the bank and looked down on the river, that crept along like a silver serpent, vainly expecting to see one of the stalwart tribe, as I saw them of yore, standing on the edge of the bank with poised spear, ready to plunge it into some scaly inhabitant of the flood; but I looked in vain. A saw mill’s clatter reverberated through the solemn quiet. I turned away heart sick, but on it went. It seemed as if itwas proving to me with each “see-saw” the triumph of busy, bustling Art over wild and unsophisticated Nature.
Is it not a great pity that in the progress of events, no great good of any amount can be obtained without a vast amount of injury, both national and domestic. Look at the history of civilizednations at the present day. How have they introduced their dogmas &c.? Is it with the “olive branch of peace” or the Cannon’s mouth “Civilization” the arts and sciences, and humanity itself have been taught to nations, tribes and casts, by usurpation, cruelty and death. Nay, the Bible — the charter of humanity and peace — has been preached at the bayonet’s point; and love and friendship have been introduced, not by the warm embrace or the friendly grasp, but by the clash of swords and the struggle of hate. Strange this, but true. And if these be the means used, what must be the result?
What, I ask, has the boasted refinement and humanity of the “White” done for the Indian? It has destroyed that savage greatness of soul which once reigned with unsophisticated grandeur in the hearts of those sons of the forests. The introduction of the arts and sciences by the “pale face” has paved the way for the deep degradation of the “red man.” That unhallowed thirst for gain which predominates amongst our race, induced the introduction of the accursed “fire water” as if to render their destruction more sure, and the annihilation of their manners, customs and independent nationality more complete. The march of civilization has with rapid strides stalked over their hunting grounds, once sacred to their throne alone; it has encroached on the prostrated their liberties, and converted their once noble lords of the soil into the condition of serfs dependent upon some haughty noble for liberty and subsistence. In a few short years we may look in vain for the red man’s path; while wandering through the forests once their abode, and thinking perhaps of their hapless fate, our ears will be saluted, not with the stunning thrilling whoop which made the forest ring, and caused the warm blood to course quickly through the veins, but by the …. “gee-haw” of some plodding ploughman as he follows his patient oxen insome adjacent clearing. Alas! alas! that civilization is attended with such humiliating consequences.
I admit that Indians in an uncultivated state, were savage, barbarous and illiterate; but have we taught them better? have we improved their condition? We proposed to teach them morality, humanity, and religion; have we done so? Of the first, we have set them a fine example indeed; of the second, are we more humane? True, we do not scalp our enemies, &c.; but war with us and them differs more in kind than degree. As regards the last, what better is our holy hundred garbled systems of religion to their simple faith? Better, far better, to have left them to their simple and pure method of devotion, than inundate them with deacons, priests, dissenters, and the ghostly train which profess to expedite their way to the “Great Spirit,” but have only involved them in doubts and fears, and debased their nobleness of soul, and made shipwreck of the simple and unalloyed faith of their fathers.
Leaving Port Credit I travelled for the distance of three or four miles through a dense fine tract to the pretty village of Cooksville. But as I have extended this letter to a reasonable length, I shall reserve a description of this place for a commencement of my next.
LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. III
The neat and improving Village of Cooksville is situated on Dundas Street, sixteen miles from Toronto; it numbers about 400 inhabitants. It contains three excellent houses of accommodation, one large, well furnished Store, an extensive Furniture Warehouse, a Post Office, Blacksmith’s and Sadler’s Shop, and a “Fashionable Tailor’s Establishment”; together with numerous “concerns” of less note. In the centre of the fine tract lying between Port Credit and this village, a capital Steam Saw Mill has been lately erected by the Messrs. Romain, which apprises you of its whereabouts long ere you can see it, by the reverberations of its machinery through the profusidity of the pine forest, – to use an expression of an egotistical writer in a late number of the Church.
The country from Toronto to this place, is well cleared and in a high state of cultivation. The loghouses and shanties, the primitive indispensable of the settlers, have long since disappeared to make room for the more commodious and respectable frame buildings with its green blinds, or brick cottage, glorying in its florid front. It is really astonishing to find what a few years of patient industry and sobriety will accomplish in converting the untrodden forests into smiling abodes of independence and happiness. Toronto can well boast of having in its immediate vicinity some of the finest farms in this or any other country.
From Cooksville, I travelled in one of the numerous stages which ply between the city and villages on Dundas Street, to Springfield. Here I found a friend of mine comfortably located with the worthy hostess of the Royal Arms Hotel, of which I shall say a little by and by.
This sweet, picturesque and enchanting village, is situated on the right bank of the River Credit, from which a charming view is had of several “bends” of this beautiful stream. Some idea may be formed of the exquisite scenery which environs this pretty spot, from a first glance calling to my recollection some of those inimitable views on Killarney’s Lakes. The River at this place, takes awide and circuitous sweep between high banks crowned with venerable Oaks and towering Pines. The “flats” on both sides the steam are now cleared, then covered with bushy shrubs; here waving with yellow corn, there reposing in solitary beauty, while the limped stream, like a silver cord, winds its tortuous course along– at one place broken into myriad of bubbles by the rocky bed, another leaping gaily over a sudden declivity — a perfect miniature cataract — rendered more pleasing from its sweet associations, while again it glides peacefully by — scarcely kissing the pebbles on its enameled border.
The village numbers 500 inhabitants; and contains one Store, one Furniture Manufactory, a Saw Mill, two well ordered Taverns, and one capital Hotel, kept by mine hostess, Madam Cavanahthan, than whom can be found none more ready to pay attention to her guests; her beds are perfect luxuries, clean, well aired and soft. I strongly recommend a visit to this section of the country, to pay their devoirs to the landlady of the “Royal Arms.” An extensive Grist Mill has lately been burnt down it is strange that there seems no likelihood of another being erected in its place; it is a matter of reproach to those capitalists in the village. I was astonished to find that such valuable water privileges had not been taken advantage of. There is a neat and commodious English Church here, but miserably attended. The Protestant population is about 200, yet not more than 20 people attend. This shows that, either the people are very careless and indolent, or that the Curate is very lax in his spiritual admonitions * . Some few years back this place was the resort of numerous fishermen, who in the season found ample sport for their trouble; but “Othello’s occupation’s gone.” Then it was deemed only fair sport to spear 80 or 100 Salmon a day — now you can with difficulty procure a dozen. The River, however, abounds with somelarge silver eel, which amply repay the trouble of catching them. Trout are rarely hooked so far down the stream, but hearing that farther up there was abundance, I expressed a desire to go; my friend immediately formed a party of five, to start early in the morning, for a pond some fifty miles north-west. Then hey! for the “boundless continuity of” — woods.
A perfectly enchanting drive to two hours, over a smooth road, and through beautiful scenery, brought us to the village, town more properly, of Streetsville. But enough for this letter.
VIATOR Township of Kingston, Sept.1, 1847.
* Dissenters are numerous, no less than four … hold meetings here.
LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. IV
This large, flourishing and pretty village is pleasantly situated on the left bank of the River Credit, eight miles from its mouth, and about thirty from Toronto. It has all the appearance necessary to make it in a few years a place of some importance. It is built in the centre of a rich, beautiful, and well cleared country, remarkable for the extensive growth of wheat, to the cultivation of which the farmers devote more than three-fourths of their farms. It was here I had the first occasion to remark the great change of a couple of hundred of miles make in the climate of this country. When I left Kingston, grain of every description was green; no sigh of wheat ripening; yet, what was my surprise when here, only three days after, I found grain of all kinds nearly ripe, and thewheat crop nearly all harvested. I remarked this great disparity to an intelligent farmer, but he surprised me more by his reply, that this was a later harvest than usual. I enquired particularly concerning the wheat crop, both here, and as I travelled up, and found that invariably it was most abundant; and, indeed, as far as my own knowledge went, from ocular demonstration, I can safely aver that the number of reports, concerning the ravages of weevil &c., which were industriously circulated through the public prints, in many instances to subserve private interests were grossly exaggerated statements, discreditable to the originators, and if fully believed in, would be ruinous to the interests of the country. Will any of the journals assert, that in the Home, Gore or Wellington Districts, the wheat crop of this harvest will be under an average crop. None of them can, with truth, do so. The truth is, as I have been informed, the reports were chiefly got up by the speculators to answer their own ends. The potato crop needs give no apprehension, as far as Canada is concerned; for not one-sixth the breadth of ground has been planted this year, that was last; nor do I believe that even this small quantity will be generally affected with disease. It is very strange what an epidemic bad news is, the slightest report of a untoward aspect is circulated with astonishing rapidity; it flies from one mouth to another, losing nothing by the flight; the “respectable journals” get hold of it, it is copied and re-copied; it extends to the body politic, you can scarcely meet a passer-by in the street, but “bad news” is legibly written on his lowering brow. Well, let a contradictory statement appear; mark how cautiously ’tis told; and without some violent effort of nature, scarcely believed. It really seems that evil tidings are more congenial to our pliant nature than good; and that all report of a unchecking nature are taken immediately under our especial protection. But I fear I am getting prosy.
Streetsville numbers about 1,200 inhabitants, and contains a Post Office, twelve Stores, three Taverns and a Hotel, conducted very respectably, with the numerous other “shops” &c., necessary to make up a thriving locality. There are three excellent Grist Mills, with eight run of stones, owned by Street, Baty & Rowe; an extensive Wollen Factory, by Barber; three Saw Mills,and a large Tannery. There are four Churches, viz: one English, one Presbyterian, and two Methodist, four resident Clergymen, no lawyers but a brace of sons of Esculapius; and last thoughby no means least, a newspaper, the “Weekly Review,” a number of which is lying before me, and from which I copy the follow chaste and delicious morceau. – Speaking of news by a late steamer from Europe, he says, “poor Ireland continues to be the same boiling kettle of dirty water which she has ever been.” How to pass over the miserable irony conveyed in the former part of the extract, and the excellent adaption of language to bear out the idea intended, I would ask the “we” of the “Review” does not he know full well that “poor Ireland” has not always been the “boiling kettle” &c. which he falsely says “she has ever been?” It is strange how far a cowardly animosity will lead individuals to forget truth, their own character and interests; and it is more strange that a paper lately started into existence, of mediocre respectability and limited circulation, will indulge in a dastardly mode of expression, at variance with the commonest rules of proper decorum, or the established character of respectable journals. Let the paltry attempt at irony go for what it is worth, it is only in perfect keeping with puerile attempts at wit, which adorn the “Review’s” pages, and which seem to be the favorite hobby of the precocious editor. These may appear all very fine in the eyes of ruling “we,” but certainly contribute very little to the entertainment of knowledge of the readers of the journal. I would strongly advise the “Review” to alter its tone, if it desire to ensure success.
From this village about four miles in a north-easterly direction is the village of Churchville.
This village is beautifully situated on the Credit. It contains a Post Office, two Grist Mills, owned by Duggan & Ingram; three Stores, two Taverns, one Tannery, and about 250 inhabitants. It is a very large manufacturing place, and turns out some of the best work of any place in the Province. I was told of an occurrence in connection with the Mill now in Mr. Duggan’s possession, which I have not seen in the public prints. It was formerly owned by a man named Adams, of very industrious and sober character. Last winter he went to Toronto to draw money, I believe, from one of the Banks: was seen in the City by several about the time, but strange to say, no trace of him from the time to this, can be discovered. It was known that he had a large amount of money with him, which must have afforded a temptation to some wretch to, no doubt, murder and rob him.
Leaving this place I travelling to Norval about twelve miles from Streetsville, along a beautiful road, and through some excellent country. This for the next.
VIATOR Township of Kingston, Sept 6 1847
LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. V
This exceedingly pretty Village is charmingly situated on a beautiful flat at one of the heads of the Credit. The village is on one side of the stream, overlooked by majestic pines, which proudly lift their stalwart heads to Heaven, alike in defiance of summer’s smile as winter’s frown; – on the other side a neat and commodious place of worship, surmounted by a glistening spire, looks down on the village like a guardian angle, while the beautiful river, like a stream of molten silver, gracefully flows over a gravelly bed, through the centre of the village. The tout ensemble forms a perfect scene of rural felicity.
The village contains 500 inhabitants, a post office, one grist mill, with two run of stone; one sawmill, one distillery, an oatmeal mill, two stones; one Church of England, one Presbyterian Church,and last though by no means least, four Orange Lodges. Much as I was astonished to find so much comfort, improvement and taste so far in the back woods, I was quite amazed at finding such a focus of Orangeism centered here. I asked myself then and since, what object there could be in keeping alive such useless mementoes; I am satisfied there can be none which will in the remotest degree be productive of any good either to Orangemen of their adopted country.
Is it not to be lamented that any of those tiresome reminiscences should be at this day the cause of angry and excited feelings between fellow-countrymen. It is high time that demonstrations of every description, which tend to arouse religious enthusiasm of obsolete bigotry, should cease; forof all the unhallowed war fares men can be engaged is, a religious one is the most unholy, uncharitable and unjustifiable. This applies in an especial manner to this country. While in Ireland, Orangemen may have some shadow of excess for marching in military procession, because they there tread over the soil saturated with the blood of the stoic defenders of Protestation; but once here they ought to recollect that a new era has long since dawned; that the spirit of the age condemns such illiberal feelings as precessions generate; that their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen might with as equal justice have their processions of the …; and that above all, it is a source of no good, but of unquestionable evil. In fact, that it is only the resources of bigoted minds to annoy their fellow-men. But in Canada what excuse have Orangemen for importing these uncharitable demonstrations? In the name of all that is just, reasonable, good and true, I ask them, what is the object in perpetuating them? In Canada, all nations and creeds meet on equal footing; its pure air has never been tainted with the bigot’s harangue; or its solid dyed with the blood of religious fanaticism. There is nothing in the country, its laws or its Government, to arose the slumbering feelings of superstitious fear, or awake the dormant energies of the crusader’s zeal. All, all, is indicative of repose and happiness. On leaving the shore of our native Isle — an Isle endeared to us by thousand endearing recollections — to seek an independence in a land of civil and religious liberty, a land of beauty, plenty, and freedom, we ought to come to it unshackled by religious or party animosity, leaving every other feeling with national love, on the pebbly shores of our native land. This land we can retain in its purity, without having alloyed with the dross of an inferior metal. While we retain it in this state, it is beautiful and commendable, but when we mix it up with the obnoxious drug, Creed we lower its character, and forget our country in our faith.
Let the Orangeman look to Ireland’s condition for years back, and he must acknowledge that religious animosity is one of the causes of its wretchedness. The worst feelings of human nature have been aroused by fanatic appeals from the sanctuary of peace, or violent declarations from the national orators. Nay, even the British Senate has re-echoed with the war-cry of Protestant Ascendancy. But yon, Orangemen, be not excited or influenced by such. Let our holy religion stand on its own intrinsic merits. A religion possessing within itself the principles of truth, should require no extraneous means of the nature I allude to, to prop it up. It should breathe Peace and charity to all men. But can there be peace whilst every anniversary day the streets of the different cities, towns and villages of the Province are paraded with marshalled bands, with flashing sabers and gaudy banners, and preceded with music of an irritating tone. Can that be called charitable which thus gloats over the overthrew of your fellow-men in one pitched battle. Which thus calls up the feelings of years, and compresses them within the compass of an hour; which nerves the hand to do deeds of weakness, which takes away the feelings of the man, and substitutes those ofa demon. These are only a tithe of the deplorable results which follow in the wake of those processions, and which it takes a length of time to cure, if an effectual cure can be wrought, whilst there is sure to be a recurrence of the causes of the disease. With the example of Ireland before your eyes, and more recently a terrible one in this country, can you, ought you, nay dare you, ifyou be men possessed of the commest feelings of humanity, persists to keeping up a custom which more properly belongs to savage tribes, than to enlightened Christendom. As I have already remarked, we come to this country to earn an honest independence; we are in daily need of each other’s assistance, and, in the country especially, we are mutually dependent on oneanother; let no one then, do nothing at least which will mar the mutual good feelings which should be prevalent amongst us. We can each of us indulge in our religious belief, and worship God, inthe way we deem most accordant with His revealed will. I, as a Protestant, believe in a heaven and hell alone; my Catholic countryman believes in a place of purgation, where we shall bepurified throughly before entering the celestial regions. Well, am I to get furious in my zeal because of this belief. The Roman Catholic pities me, as much as I him; he wishes ardently and zealously for my conversion, I do for his; will you decide which of us is right. Speculative theorists have attempted to do so, but they have failed. Moral and Religious Philosophy have been drummed into our ears until we have grown dull of hearing. Religious dissensions have been so pregnant, and of so much harm that we indiscriminately rank those who emerge in them now, as either fools of madmen. How culpable then are we in perpetrating any demonstration which leads us to forget this sublime and moral precept, love your neighbor as yourself, and this other and better one — love God and keep His Commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
VIATOR Township of Kingston, Sept. 21st 1847
LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. VI
A rough drive, over a “corduroy” road, through a densely thick pine bush, brought us suddenly upon the banks of the Credit, and in full view of a rich and verdant plant and to the sweet village of Stewart-Town.
Its neatly built houses and beautiful location were quite a relief to the slight, after being for some hours previous, circumscribed in our views to the length and breadth of a few perches. The band who so ardently sighed “Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness” — could here have his desiregratified to its fullest extent, without fear of having his solitude disturbed except by the growl of a grisly bear, the howl of a prowling pack of wolves, or the bark of a sagacious Reynard.
The village is located in the centre of a well-cultivated and thickly settled country, and is furnished with every requisite for its wants. It contains a population of 400 inhabitants, a Post Office and two Stores, by far the best I saw in the route. A very extensive Furniture and Fanning Mill Manufactory, by Jones; a Grist Mill and Saw Mill: one Congregational and one Methodist Church. The Credit at this village is narrow and deep, abounding with beautiful trout, which are hooked here in large quantities.– The river preserves nearly a straight course for a couple of miles in a westerly direction along which we agreeably lost ourselves in Waltonian pleasure, until, when about returning we looked around and perceived with wonder the quiet and retired village of Williamsburgh.
Beautiful spot! A perfect oasis in the leafy desert. Here are some of the finest water privileges in the Province. The village itself is built on a “flat,” but above and below it there are numerous millseats. It is only a short time since it was located, yet there are already erected and in operation an extensive Woollen Factory, by Williams; a Grist Mill with three run of stones, and a Saw Mill.–There is no doubt that in a few years this place will be the nucleus of an extensive trade with the adjoining country.
From Norval, in a north-westerly direction, the road runs through a picturesque country, beautifully diversified with hill and dale.– The pine grows to an enormous height and girth — I measured some full six feet through. Excellent wheat is raised, among the pines — I have seenfields of forty and fifty acres under beautiful crops, the primeval forest still standing, but shorn of its verdant sheen. All that is necessary to do before putting in a crop is, to select a piece of land wooded with pine exclusively; take your axe and girdle the trees, the green branches which shelter the ground from the sun soon dies, a little hand picking is next resorted to after this. You can drag in your seed. It was truly beautiful to see the golden grain rustling in heaving folds under the protection of those giant trees, and blending in happy unison the rustic simplicity of art with the somber grandeur of nature.
I was shown here the residence of Stephens, the Poet, who gave such a glowing description of Hamilton some years back. He, like the author of “Claud Halero,” published a volume of his effusions, but also for the poetic taste of Canada, it turned out a failure.– One principal reason for this was the titles to his pieces were not unique or classical.– The public, now-a-day, want something very attractive, something of a tinselled glare before they can be caught. Modesty won’t do, that is long since discarded as altogether unsuited to this enlightened age. “Claud,” gifted youth, saw this, and admirably did he suit the titles to the taste of the public and in the merits of the outpourings of his talented mind; for you must know “Claud” has talent.
There is no doubt that Stephen’s had talents of a high order, but they require cultivation, and even if they were cultivated I doubt it he ever would attain any celebrity. There are numerous and great obstacles attending the success of genius when knowing no influence or wealth. How many a noble intellect and talented mind have been doomed to pine in dreary despondency and hopeless griefs for the want of some powerful hand to lead them forth and support their tottering hopes. Year after year sees minds endowed with sterling abilities sink into oblivion because of no influence or name. Minds which if placed in positions that would give scope to their impassioned yearnings, would shed a luster upon mankind. What trials, what tortures must not the true man of genius endure in his endeavor after fame, when surmounted by difficulties which unfeeling society compel him to suffer. The ignoble and the illiterate he sees elevated over him. He meets the cold gaze and the cruel scoff of the cynic, and illiberal, withering satire of the critic. He could, under other circumstances, treat these with lofty disdain, but he must, as he is, bend beneath them. The mind which contains within itself the germs of greatness, seems to you but of ordinary mould. The chrysalis which hangs from yonder wall is to you unsightly and unworthy of notice, yet a few genial suns will bring forth from its uncouth enclosure a thing of life and beauty. Despise not, then, genius though it be poor, or talent because you find it in rags; rather give it your support and the sunshine of your favor. By so doing, you ennoble yourself, benefit the world, and earn the gratitude of your fellow men.
VIATOR Township of Kingston, Sept. 30, 1847
LETTERS BY VIATOR FOR THE BRITISH WHIG – 1847
LETTER NO. VII
Of the many village retreats which have sprung up in the backwoods, and which I have visited, none has pleased me half so well as happy, flourishing Georgetown.
Sweet and enchanting location! frequently have your beautiful associations recurred to my memory, and made me wish to see you again. For whether it is that you meet with such peaceful quiet so unexpectedly, or that you are tired of travelling through the gloomy forest, certain it is that this village calls up pleasing emotions. You seem suddenly transplanted into another clime.
Emerging from the interminable forest, you come by a short turn upon a beautiful verdant slope; another turn and you came in full view of the village, its end reposing in a valley, and laved by the crystal waters of the Credit. Its top climbs the opposite hill, which is crowned with a luxuriant maple grove. The Credit here takes the form of a semi-circle, and nearly enclosed the end of the village in an island. The whole village is enclosed by a thick bush, through which a white cottage now and then peeps. The houses are neatly built, and serve to assure you of the comfort of the inmates. The village numbers about 700 inhabitants. It contains two Methodist and one Congregational Churches; a Post Office, three Stores and two Taverns; one Furniture Manufactory, by Travis, employing thirty hands; one Tannery, by Dayfoot, with fifty workmen; two Saw Mills, and a Grist Mill, with three run of Stones; an iron Foundry, and extensive Woollen Factory, by Kennedy, the manufacture of which took the highest premium at the “Show,” in Toronto. And well the enterprising proprietor deserves such a mark of merit. His establishment is well worth a day’s journey to see. The building is large and well built, the owner is obliging and affable, the workmen are the best that can be procured, and the cloth the best manufactured. The machinery is all in good working order, an nearly stuns you by its ceaseless whine. There are fourteen power looms, and two spinning jennies which “run off” 260 and 270 threads. Indeed, from what I have seen, I can say there are few such establishments in the Province. Success I say to the enterprising owner, and may the shadow of “Kennedy’s Woollen Factory” never be less.
A drive of a few miles over a hilly and picturesque country brought us to the village of Ballinafad.
This village is the centre of an Irish settlement, and is well situated for internal trade. The land adjacent is fertile and in a high state of cultivation; the houses are neat and bespeak happiness, and fully attest to the traveller what “Patt” can do when you give him liberty and “a chance.” The village numbers about 200 inhabitants; has a Post Office, Store, &c., and is fast improving. It is a pity that the village itself is located on such a rocky piece of ground. I do not know the Anglican translation of Ballinafad, but from the locality one would suppose it meant something rocky, hilly, uneven and grotesque. It has one great advantage, however, in the quantity of limestone in its neighborhood.
I met a man here from my native town of K—-h, he told me he was the first man that cut a log in the place, and gave me graphic description of life in the backwoods. His heart warmed, he said, at seeing one from his part of the “oald country.” Mine did too. That word home has a magical charm potent as the magician’s wand. What mournfully pleasing associations will it not conjure up. — From the inmost cells of the heart, where memory conceals her most precious gems, thought, life, being, will start forth at the sound. Scenes nearly forgotten will rush “thick as autumnal leaves which strew the brooks in Valambrosa.” Before the sight phantoms of laughing beauty and graceful mien will flit and dance before your high-wrought imaginations. Fancy willpaint in all the roseate hue of beauty, the realities of a distant land. The variegated landscape, the shady grove, the moss-covered grotto, the ivy-clad Abbey, the village Church, the cottage encased in fragrant honey-suckle, the prattling brothers and sisters, the fond and affectionate parents, the frowning rock oe’r -hanging the crested wave, where the artless tale of first-love was first lisped; all these, and more will crowd upon the mind, but only for a moment. Only for a moment are you allowed to revel in the delicious agony which sets your brain whirling. The next, – ” why you’re dreaming.” Just so — the vision is departed, and I find myself jolting over a rough road under a broiling sun in the forests of Canada.
VIATOR Township of Kingston, Oct. 13, 1847