Chapter 3
Anna Jameson on the Thames, Upper Canada: the Emergent Structures of British North America

by D.M.R. Bentley


Some of the most perceptive and significant observations on the landscape and architecture of what is now southwestern Ontario are to be found in Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838) by Anna Jameson (1794-1860). Based on Jameson’s experiences between December 1836 and September 1837, when she lived in Toronto and then travelled through Upper Canada and northern Michigan, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles is especially interesting from an architextual perspective in the sections that treat of the period between late June and late July 1837 when she proceeded “westward” from Hamilton to Detroit along “[t]he main provincial mail coach road” (Brown 294), a route that took her through Brantford, London, and Chatham and permitted her to make an excursion to visit Colonel Thomas Talbot on his estate overlooking Lake Erie. Although they are based on the experiences of only a few weeks, Jameson’s diary entries of June-July 1837 are the work of the keen, experienced, and sophisticated observer who had already published Characteristics of Women (1832) and Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad (1834), and who would go on to publish such works as Memoirs and Essays, Illustrative of Art, Literature, and Social Morals (1846) and Sacred and Legendary Art (1848). In concert with two lesser-known accounts of the same region of Upper Canada from the same decade, A Tour of North America; Together with a Comprehensive View of the Canadas and United States (1835) by Patrick Shirreff (1791-1876) and Views of Canada and the Colonists, Embracing the Experience of Eight Years’ Residence (1839) by James B. Brown, Jameson’s observations of June-July 1837 shed a bright and revealing light on the assumptions and mentalities that were in operation at the time when a large portion of Canada was being shaped, overlaid, and built up in accordance with British conventions and preferences. They are a window onto the Britification and Englishing of southwestern Ontario.

     Of course, the process of making the Canadas over as a British colony began with the Conquest and gained momentum with each settler who arrived from the British Isles and, in the case of the Loyalists and late Loyalists, the United States. As important in its own way as immigration to the emerging British-American identity of Upper Canada was the Englishing of the region that took place in the early seventeen nineties when John Graves Simcoe began the process of naming the districts, towns, and geographical features of Upper Canada roughly in accordance with their counterparts on a map of England laid sideways across the region – thus, areas north and east of Lake Ontario would become Stormont, Northumberland, and Durham counties and areas to the north and west of Lake Erie would become Oxford, Kent, and Essex counties.1 On August 16, 1792, the river that the Native peoples had called Askunesippi and the French had dubbed La Trenchée (subsequently La Tranche) became the Thames and a few months later the settlement at its fork that Simcoe envisaged as the future capital of the province became New London and, in time, London. Once put in place (the operative phrase), the potential of the Englishing process was released and gathered momentum with a proliferating energy derived from a powerful mixture of immigrant nostalgia and a desire among the majority of Upper Canadian settlers and administrators to create a society that was recognizably and loyally British. In 1800, the act establishing the London District named the area around the proposed capital Middlesex County, and by the eighteen thirties the adjacent bank of the Thames was the site of the township of Westminster. “Crossing ‘Westminster Bridge,’ a little way on the left,” wrote Brown, “we overlook, from the elevated bank, the wonderfully prosperous Canadian town of London, so very recently sprung from the solitudes” (282). By 1842, “‘the city of stumps’” as it was less flatteringly known also boasted bridges “dignified with the names Blackfriars ... and Wellington” (James E. Alexander 1: 236, 1:42), and in due course it would have its Covent Garden Market, Oxford Street, Highbury Avenue, and Mayfair Drive.... To borrow and adapt a metaphor from the Vancouver novelist Robert Strandquist (1952- ) surveyors and builders were “wrap[ping] ... [Upper Canada] in the Union Jack” (61) and thus doing what they could to banish alienation and displacement from the minds of settlers and potential immigrants.

     Although in great measure it was of the result of the desire of Canada’s more-or-less permanent British inhabitants to recreate a semblance of “home” in the New World, the imposition of Britishness on the country was also sanctioned in the nineteenth century by Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s enormously influential conception of Britain’s colonies, “not [as] new societies, but [as] old societies in new places” (329). The direct application to Canada of Wakefield’s conception of colonies as “centres of British civilization” in foreign parts (Knorr 314) in Lord Durham’s Report on the Affairs of British North America would have to wait until 1839 but by the time of Jameson’s visit it had already been fully articulated by Wakefield in the lengthy essay entitled “The Art of Colonization” in his England and America: a Comparison of the Social and Political State of Both Nations (1834). The more that Britain’s North American colonies resembled Britain, Wakefield and his followers argued, the more desirable they would be to British settlers of all social classes and the less likely they would be to become Americanized (see Wakefield 327-29, Knorr 312-3, and Durham 162). To these ends (and in the words of Archbishop Richard Whately in 1832), not just the poor but people from “all ranks” of society, including the “most respectable,”should be encouraged to become colonists so that the social and political make-up of Canada and other colonies would be a replica or, as the Labour League put it in a statement of September 2, 1848, a “facsimile” of the British Constitution (qtd. in Knorr 311-12). Britain’s colonies, Sir R.H. Inglis told the House of Commons in 1843, should be a “miniature representation of England” (qtd. in Knorr 311).

     One way of gauging the importance and impact of the transference of names such as London, Middlesex, and Thames to the towns, districts, and geographical features of Upper Canada is to recognize in the procedure a parallel to the cross-domain mapping that George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, and other cognitive linguists have identified as a fundamental characteristic of metaphor, a term whose Greek roots signify the transfer or carrying of something from one place to another (OED). As is the case with any metaphor (for example, Romeo’s “Juliet is the sun”), where a word/concept from a source domain (“the sun”) is applied to a word/concept in a target domain (“Juliet”), the mapping onto a locale in Upper Canada of the name of a locale in British not only permits and encourages the Canadian locale to be seen and understood in terms of the British one, but also sanctions the use of knowledge and experience of the British locale to give meaning and structure to the Canadian one. In Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson describe “understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” as “the essence of metaphor” (5) and in Conceptual Projection and Middle Spaces and subsequent essays Giles Fauconnier, Mark Turner, Joseph E. Grady, Todd Oakley, and Sean Coulson describe a process of “conceptual integration” or “blending” whereby material from a source and target combine to produce a conceptual structure that contains aspects of both while also possessing an “emergent structure” or “content” of its own.2 The Upper Canada through which Jameson, Shirreff, and Brown travelled in the eighteen thirties was an “emergent structure” produced to a considerable extent by an activity closely related to the creation of metaphor: the mapping of a source domain (Britain) conceived as highly structured and attractive onto a target domain (Canada) conceived as less ordered and attractive but having the potential to be transformed both conceptually and physically into a semblance of the source domain to which it already bore a sufficient likeness to permit cross-domain mapping to occur. Shirreff’s remark that “The letters of [Thames] are invariably pronounced soft by the inhabitants of the country” around London, Upper Canada (194) is but one indication of the fact that the “emergent structure” under construction in the area was both like and unlike its British source domain: it was neither Canada nor Britain, but both of them and other than them, an amalgam and, as such, unique. When Henry Scadding observes in Toronto of Old (1873) that “Canadian society in all its strata has been more or less leavened from England” (144) his metaphor is entirely apt both in its narrow sense of a ferment that makes dough rise and in its broader senses of “permeat[ed] with a transforming influence” and “mingl[ed] or imbu[ed] with some … modifying element” (OED).

     As has already been intimated, the effect of cross-domain mapping on the conceptual and physical construction of Upper Canada was especially apparent in and around London. After a visit to the designated site of the provincial capital in the summer of 1804, Lord Selkirk noted wryly that “‘the great city of London’” consisted of little more than “‘a Chippaway Bark Whigwham,’” but following an influx of Irish immigrants that began in 1818 under the leadership of a relative of Colonel Thomas Talbot, the settlement grew rapidly so that by 1825 it had a population of 1,104 and by 1826 the title of District Town (see Nancy Z. Tausky and Lynne D. DiStefano 5-10). In the same act that established London as a district town, the Legislature appointed a Commission consisting of Talbot (who was elected its president) to oversee the erection of a courthouse and jail, the architectural evidence both of the “judicial process which [was] crucial to the orderly development of the province” and of “the moral, social and economic well-being of the citizenry that supported ... [its] construction” (Crossman and Johnson 100). That the Courthouse designed by John Ewart (1788-1856), a Scottish-trained architect who had moved to Upper Canada some ten years earlier, took the form of a baronial castle and may have been loosely modelled on Talbot’s ancestral home in Ireland reflects the emerging conception and, indeed, construction of London as a rural version of Britain’s capital city. Even if it was not modelled on a particular castle in the British Isles, the London Courthouse was (and remains) the embodiment of a gesture of loyalty, not just to the British justice system, but to the residually feudal social order of which it was (and is) a pillar. “The jail and court-house, comprised of one large and stately edifice, seemed the glory of the towns-people,” Jameson would record in her diary entry for July 5, 1837. “As for the style of architecture, I may not attempt to name or describe it; but a gentleman informed me, in rather equivocal phrase, that it was “‘somewhat gothic’” (254). Jameson’s interlocutor might also have said “somewhat neoclassical,” for as Nancy Z. Tausky and Lynne D. DiStefano have observed, several features of the castellated Gothic Courthouse, including its smooth stucco walls and symmetrical placing of its windows and towers, recall the work of Robert Adam (1728-92) and other neoclassicists (29-30). Since Adam was best known in the early nineteenth century as the architect of Edinburgh’s New Town and London’s Charlotte and Fitzroy squares, the Adamesque aspects of the Courthouse, like its then increasingly fashionable Gothic elements, bespoke London’s progressivism as well as its Britishness. No doubt, Londoners of the decades following the construction of the Courthouse would have been pleased by Brown’s description of the “new houses, ... and courthouse, public square, market-house,” and other evidences of the “variety of active industry, enterprise, comfort, and elegance” in their “wonderfully prosperous Canadian town” as an impressive “New World scene” in “a prosperous field for emigration” (282, 284).3

     When Shirreff visited London in 1835 it possessed few of the amenities that would enthrall Brown four years later, but it did possess one distinct advantage – a location of considerable aesthetic appeal and even greater aesthetic potential – that had also helped to dictate the architectural form of the Courthouse of which, Shirreff remarks non-committally, “the inhabitants feel proud” (180). Although Shirreff uses the term “beautiful” to describe the scene that will emerge at “the Forks of the Thames ... when the forest is a little more cleared away,” the apter term in the aesthetic terminology of the day is picturesque: with the removal of more of the forest, the site of London would possess the diversity of shapes, colours, and textures, the combination of natural features and human interest, and the serpentine river winding from foreground to background the Forks of the Thames would be reminiscent of the landscape paintings of Claude Lorraine, Nicholas Poussin, and their English admirers and adaptors, a group that included Lancelot “Capability” Brown, who designed gardens at Stowe, Blenheim, and elsewhere on picturesque principles, Sir Uvedale Price, who gave magisterial expression to those principles in his Essay on the Picturesque (1794-98), and Adam, who applied them to architectural composition through the concept of “[m]ovement” or “diversity of form ... in different parts of a building ... to produce an agreeable and diversified contour” like “hill and dale, foreground and distance, swelling and sinking, ... in ... landscape” (qtd. in Bolton 1:77). “Capability” Brown’s inclusion of Gothic structures in some of his gardens and Price’s endorsement of castles as “‘the most picturesque habitable buildings’” are probably sufficient to explain the choice of a “somewhat gothic” style for the London Courthouse, but Tausky and DiStefano argue further that some aspects of the building such as its octagonal and battlemented towers reflect Adam’s concept of “[m]ovement” (42-43). Be this as it may, James B. Brown’s description of the Forks of the Thames as it was several years after Shirreff’s visit indicates that the choice of a style approved by theorists and practitioners of the picturesque aesthetic would have been generally regarded as appropriate to the site: London “is very agreeably situated upon an elevated platform, formed by the two branches ... of the river Thames ..., which meet in an open valley ... directly beneath the high western point of the town. A rather pleasant view is had from this point of the clear and rapid river, winding its course through the partially-wooded banks, till we lose sight of it curving into the bushy forest” (282).

     Like Shirreff, Jameson uses the word “beautiful” in describing the London area (253-54). In her previous diary entry, however, she uses the more precise term “picturesque” and the qualities associated with it to describe the estate of Colonel Andrew Whalley Light (1779-1856) on the “winding Thames” near Woodstock, a town in Oxford County named, of course, for the village near Blenheim in Oxfordshire:

... the house of Colonel Light [is] in a situation of superlative natural beauty, on a rising-ground above the river. A lawn, tolerably cleared, sloped down to the margin, while the opposite shore rose clothed in varied woods which had been managed with great taste, and a feeling for the picturesque not common here; but the colonel being himself an accomplished artist accounts for this. (248)

Like the London Courthouse, Colonel Light’s house is located on a “rising ground” where it must be looked up to and from which it commands a good view of the river and opposite shore. Perhaps in accordance with principles of “Capability” Brown’s disciple Humphry Repton (1752-1818) in his Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803) this shore has been “managed,” not for the purpose of agricultural “profit,” but for aesthetic “pleasure” (see 58-61 and 136-41, and also qtd. in Coates 322). On Colonel Light’s estate near Woodstock, as at the Forks of the Thames, a complex process of Britification had taken place that involves acquisition, naming, construction, planting, and transplanting on and of the landscape. Both nominatively and visually a part of Canada was becoming what later in the century would be called “Nova Britannia” and included in “the vaster Britain.”4

     “The process of colonization presents analogies to the foundation of a garden which are highly instructive,” Thomas Huxley would write in the “Prolegomena” to Evolution and Ethics (1893):

Suppose a shipload of English colonists [is] sent to form a settlement.... They clear away the native vegetation, extirpate or drive out the animal population, so far as may be necessary, and take measures to defend themselves against the re-immigration of either. In their place, they introduce English grain and fruit trees; English dogs, sheep, cattle, horses; and English men; in fact, they set up a new Flora and Fauna and a new variety of mankind, within the old state of nature. (76)

Anticipating Huxley by over fifty years, Thomas Carlyle describes Canada’s “Forests ... unfelled” and “boundless Plains and Prairies unbroken with the plough” as “green desert spaces never yet made white with corn” (30: 203), a formulation whose oddly racist hue would surely not have gone unnoticed by the author of Heart of Darkness, who gives Marlow an ecstatic vision of the “the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires” before he embarks on a narrative that can be read as an uncovering of the pathogenic aspects of the word “germ” (3: 3). Glimpses of human and, in Alfred W. Crosby’s phrase, “ecological imperialism” at work were afforded to Jameson when she travelled south from London to Lake Erie to visit Colonel Talbot, the man who, more than any other, was responsible for what his most ardent poetic admirer (and the brother of his chief surveyor) Adam Hood Burwell (1790-1849) had described in Talbot Road (1818) as creating for “wild nature” in the region “a richer, variegated vest” and “A robe, more pleasing” (104, 474). The “process of colonization” may be analogous to “the foundation of a garden” but in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was as likely to be compared with undressing and re-dressing a “goddess” or “a maiden in need of the sartorial assistance of her overseers” (Fabricant 126) in order to make her more beautiful to English eyes. Joseph Pickering’s brief description of the site of Talbot’s house in Inquiries of an Emigrant (1831) is but one of a great many indications that the Colonel had the patriarchal and possessive qualities required of such overseers: “[t]he house ... commands a fine view of the banks and shore of Lake Erie for twenty miles down, and also the Colonel’s Creek winding through the ‘flats’ below” (68; emphasis added).

     While en route to St. Thomas through “Talbot country,” Jameson and her taciturn Scottish driver ascended Bear Hill, which was so named, the driver informed her, “because of the number of bears which used to be found [t]here.... It was some time, he said, since a bear had been shot in the [vicinity] ... but ... last spring one of his comrades had found a bear’s cub, which ... he sold ... to a travelling menagerie of wild beasts” (262, 267).5 After remarking on the “beauty and variety of the timber trees, intermingled with ... luxurious undergrowth, and festooned with ... wild grape and flowering creepers” (all indigenous species), Jameson recorded that, “with the exception of Queenston heights,” it was “the highest land [she] had yet stood upon in Canada” and afforded a panorama of “a boundless sea of forest, within whose leafy recesses lay hidden as infinite a variety of life and movement as within the depths of the ocean” (267-68). Ocean-like though it is, however, the forest is dotted with “new clearings” from which rise “wreaths of white smoke” that hang “suspended in the quiet air” of the “noontide” and prompt a vision of “the future ..., with its towns and cities, fields of waving grain, green lawns and villas, and churches and temples turret-crowned; and meadows tracked by the frequent footpath; and railroads, with trains of rich merchandise steaming along ... ” – a realization of what exists “already in the sight of Him who ordained it” (268).6 But, Jameson wonders in an impassioned ensuing paragraph in which a proto-ecological awareness casts a temporary shadow over her vision of future progress, “will it ... be better” when the “forests ... have fallen beneath the axe” and, in Huxley’s terms, the “native vegetation” and “animal population” have been “extirpate[d]” to “ma[k]e way for restless, erring, suffering humanity”? Her answer – that it may not be “better” but it will be “well” because part of a divinely ordained plan in which “progressive civilisation” leads to “progressive happiness [and] progressive approximation to nature and to nature’s God” – simultaneously evokes the greatest happiness principle so beloved of Utilitarianism’s nineteenth-century liberal heirs and echoes Alexander Pope’s resounding affirmation in the final lines of Epistle 1 of An Essay on Man that, properly understood, “All Nature is but Art, ... / All Chance, Direction, ... / All Discord, Harmony, ... / All partial Evil, universal Good” (1: 289-92). When viewed sub speciae aeternitis through Whig-tinted spectacles, the “partial Evil” of colonization can be seen as merely a stage in God’s plan to undo the damage of original sin and to bring fallen humanity closer to Himself.

     “Contemplations such as these were in [Jameson’s] mind as [she] descended the Hill of Bears, and proceeded to a beautiful plain, sometimes richly wooded, [and] sometimes opening into clearings and cultivated farms, on which were usually compact farm-houses, each flanked by a barn three times as large as the house” (268-69).7 They may also have been in her mind as she made her way to St. Thomas and, thence, to Colonel Talbot’s house near Port Talbot, observing on the way that St. Thomas “bears [his] Christian name” and that the “goodness of the road” to Port Talbot is “owing to [his] systematic regulations” (269, 270).8 In the Talbot Settlement, the world is unfolding according to divine plan. Far from being the misanthrope and misogynist that she had been led to expect, the Talbot to whom Jameson accords an entire diary entry (July 10) is a “courtly,” “hospitable,” and “courteous” “miracle”-worker whose graceful manners and aristocratic appearance are the outward and visible signs of the “grâce de Dieu” that made “a great man who ... [did] great things” (273, 276, 284). Both Talbot’s “indifference or even dislike to female society, and his determination to have no settler within a certain distance of his own residence” are explained by Jameson as “the natural result of certain habits of life acting upon a certain organization” (284): to the extent that he is the creator and the product of his environment, he is a living example of “conceptual blending,” the figure- (and figural) head of an “emergent structure.”

     Jameson’s enthusiasm for Talbot’s character and achievements extends to his house and garden. Shirreff describes “[t]he colonel’s residence ... as a cluster of mean wooden buildings, consisting of dwelling-houses, stables, barns, pigsties, and cattle-shades, constructed and placed seemingly without regard either to convenience or effect,” but he concludes his unflattering portrait by praising Talbot himself with references to transplanted agricultural and decorative species of plants that resonate strongly with Huxley’s gardening analogy:

The clay banks behind the colonel’s house have a barren and naked appearance, while the lake in front is too near. The situation, nevertheless, has capabilities to make a fine place, when taste shall build a habitation. The garden, which was badly kept, contained some fine apple and pear trees.... There were a few weeping willows, the first I saw in Canada, and which raised the colonel considerably in my estimation, as they are not, I believe indigenous to this country. (183)

Probably before Shirreff’s visit in the fall of 1833 and certainly before Jameson’s in the summer of 1837, Talbot had moved from a small log cabin to the “long wooden building, chiefly of rough logs, with a covered porch running along the south side” that she describes,9 but the house remained surrounded by a “vast variety of out-buildings, of all imaginable shapes and sizes, ... disposed without the slightest regard to order and symmetry,” and used, in many cases, “to shelter ... geese and poultry” (281). In noting that one of the out-buildings is “the very log-hut which the Colonel erected for shelter when he ‘first sat down in the bush’” in 1801, Jameson identifies a Canadian equivalent of the “remains of antiquity” and “long-known objects ... endeared by the remembrance of past events” that Repton retained or placed in his landscapes as sources of “Association” and “delight” (60). Her preceding and ensuing description of the site and setting of Talbot’s house is picturesque in vocabulary and in detail: the house stands “on a bold high cliff overhanging the lake.... Behind [it] ... lies an open tract of land, prettily broken and varied, where large flocks of sheep and cattle were feeding – the whole enclosed by beautiful and luxuriant woods, through which runs [a] little creek or river” into “a wild woody ravine ... till it steals into the lake” (281, 280). The “clear[ing] away of native vegetation” and the “set[ting] up [of] a new Flora and Fauna” that Huxley describes have created a landscape that is “prett[y]” and “beautiful” precisely to the extent that it is an English scene in a Canadian setting, a mapping of a source domain (England) onto a “target domain” (Upper Canada).

     This is even more apparent in Jameson’s descriptions of the contents of Talbot’s house and garden. The two diary entries devoted to the Talbot Settlement and its singular overlord, contain several brief descriptions of the interior of the house – its “really handsome ... dining-room,” its “large kitchen with a tremendously hospitable chimney,” and the “rough log-walls” of its “library and hall of audience” (281, 273, 285) – that provide ample evidence of Jameson’s common enough assumption that domestic architecture and furniture are the mirror of the man. Like Talbot himself after some thirty-six years in Canada, his house is a blend of the imported and the local10: its table and chairs were “cut from the forest in the midst of which they now stand”; the “hall or vestibule” of the house contains “sacks of wheat and piles of sheepskins ... heaped in primitive fashion”; and its “covered porch” is decorated with an object that speaks loudly of the process of extirpation and replacement at the heart of colonization:

Here I found suspended, among sundry implements of husbandry, one of those ferocious animals of the feline kind, called here the cat-a-mountain, and by some the American tiger, or panther, which it more resembles. This one, which had been killed in its attack on the fold or poultry-yard, was at least four feet in length, and glared on me from the rafters above, ghastly and horrible. (273, 281)

The lynx that Jameson describes has been a target both literally and metaphorically – literally when it was shot dead by Talbot or one of his employees to protect the Settlement’s European fauna and metaphorically when it was assigned the names of various animals that it more-or-less “resembles” (“cat-a-mountain” [or catamount], “tiger,” “panther”).11 Jameson invests it with affective rather than symbolic power, but “glar[ing]” down “ghastly and horrible” from the rafters of Talbot’s porch, it can easily be seen as an admonitory reminder of all that is being “extirpate[d]” in the process that Huxley likens to “the foundation of a garden” – a ghost of wild Nature haunting the house (the Heideggarian “Raum” [Poetry, Language, Thought 154]) of its extirpator.

     Not surprisingly, that process is especially apparent in the flora in the vicinity of Talbot’s house:

     He has sixteen acres of orchard-ground, in which he has planted and reared with success all the common European fruits, as apples, pears, plums, cherries, in abundance; but what delighted me beyond everything else, was a garden of more than two acres, very neatly laid out and enclosed, and in which he evidently took exceeding pride and pleasure; it was the first thing he showed me after my arrival. It abounds in roses of different kinds, the cuttings of which he had brought himself from England in the few visits he had made there.... We sat down on a pretty seat under a tree.... He described the appearance of the spot when he first came here, as contrasted with its present appearance.... (282)

As Jameson recognizes, the acreage around Talbot’s house has been transformed by transplanted flora as much for the purposes of “pride and pleasure” as of “comfort and convenience,” qualities that Repton ranked beside “picturesque effect” as “objects of good taste” “in the neighbourhood of men’s habitation” (56, and see Kluckert 394). Talbot may have shown Jameson his garden first because she was a woman, but he may also have wanted her to feel “at home” and to appreciate the extent to which his Settlement had moved beyond the pioneering stage of its development.

     As if taking his cue from Jameson (whose account of Talbot he admits to having read [see 270]), Brown is extravagant in his praise of the Colonel’s “residence,” describing it as “romantic ... beautifully situated ... possessing greater natural beauties, and more reminding [him] of the finest seats at home [in Britain], than any [he] had seen in Canada” (268). When Jameson arrived at the “approach” to Talbot’s residence, exhaustion prevented her from appreciating its “graceful and picturesque” qualities, which, in any case, were “concealed” by “darkness” (273). When Brown arrived at the “gateway” leading to the residence on “a delightful summer day,” the “spacious noble-looking avenue” and “the tall, deep, old forest” so impressed him that “the exquisite imagery of ... portions of Spenser’s Faëry Queen [sic] flowed on [his] recollection” and “translated this far western spot of young Canada into a scene of hallowed old English ground,” a testament to Talbot’s powers of Britification that he supports by quoting passages from the Elizabethan poem in which “‘A shady grove’” of “‘lofty trees ... heaven’s light did hide’” (1.i.7) and the “‘angel’s face’” of “fair Una” “‘made a sunshine in [a] shady place’” (1.iii.4) (269). With The Faërie Queene still in his thoughts, Brown describes the house of the man who had seen “growing up around him the beginnings of a new country he had aided so to plant” as a “humble hermit-dwelling” and then allows “the flitting fancies of ... imagination [to] wing ... into the far future” and “present ..., instead of the homely cottage, a magnificent mansion” with every “detail in keeping with the noble-looking grounds, and the grandeur of the ... lake” (269-70). In Talbot’s house and “park” (269), Brown saw both an extension of England’s romantic past into Canada and an anticipation of British North America’s prosperous future, a preliminary carrying across and forward of the capacity of Britain and her people to “‘ma[k]e sunshine in [a] shady place.’”

     Brown’s decision to use poetic descriptions of English landscapes to express the Englishness of a Canadian scene may also have been prompted by Jameson. The “Summer Rambles” section of Winter Studies and Summer Rambles is preceded by a quotation from Wordsworth’s Excursion, as are the opening and closing entries in the southwestern Ontario portion of the diary – the section as a whole and the entry for June 4 with passages from Book 4 (“Despondency Corrected”) that treat of “remembrance” as “a stately gallery ... / ... Of ... pictures” (4: 558-62) and envisage the forthcoming “ramble” as a journey into “unpeople’d glens; / And mountainous retirements, only trod / By devious footsteps – regions consecrate / To oldest time!” (4: 513-18), and the entry for July 12 and 13 with a passage from Book 3 (“Despondency”) that is spoken by the Solitary after a journey to North America that leaves him full of “disappointment and disgust” at finding not, as he had hoped, a “pure archetype of human greatness,” but “A creature squalid, vengeful, and impure, / Remorseless, and submissive to no law, / But superstitious fear or abject sloth” (3: 944-45, 951-55). This last passage serves as a preface to Jameson’s observations on the Native peoples of Upper Canada and the United States whose deplorable circumstances occasion several pages of commentary, but the previous two refer primarily to Upper Canada’s European settlers and the lands that they are in the process of rendering more “stately” and less “unpeopled.” Like much else in the diary entries that they preface, the prefatory passages from The Excursion set the scene for Jameson’s most ramifying citation of Wordsworth, the quotation from his sonnet “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” that graces the description of her journey from Port Talbot towards Chatham (a village named, of course, for the town in Kent, England):

     At length we emerged from the forest-path into a plain, through which ran a beautiful river (my old acquaintance the Thames) “winding at his own sweet will,” and farm-houses with white walls and green shutters 12 were scattered along its banks, and cheerful voices were heard, shouts of boys at play, sounds of labour and of life; and over all lay the last glow of the sinking sun. How I blessed the whole scene in my heart!... The first view of the beautiful little town of Chatham made my sinking spirits bound like the sight of a friend. (300)

As a result of the mapping of the name “Thames” onto Upper Canada, a Canadian river can evoke a poem about London, England without either irony or a sense of inappropriateness. Indeed, it is precisely because Upper Canada is undergoing appropriation that a quotation from a poem describing the “Ships, towers, domes, theatres, ... temples and houses” of Britain’s capital “City” (Wordsworth 3:38) can be applied with a supposition of appositeness to the “farm-houses ... of the little town of Chatham.” Jameson “blesse[s] the whole scene in [her] heart” and experiences a sense of elation akin to that generated by “the sight of a friend” not only because the name of her “old acquaintance the Thames” resonates with Wordsworthian experience and emotion, but also because the houses “scattered along its banks” are elements in a “very paradise of hope” (303) that herald the growth of a new city that would be Canadian and yet English – a Chatham on the Thames (rather than the Medway, as is its English namesake).

     Not everything that Jameson encountered before she emerged for the last time from “the solitary forests of Canada to be thrown ... into the midst of crowded civilised life” at Detroit (329) accorded as fully as the Thames and the Talbot Settlement with her sense of Upper Canada’s double nature as an extension of England and a “paradise of hope.” When she observed the Grand River “winding [picturesquely] through rich-wooded flats, with green meadows and cultivated fields,” on the outskirts of Brantford, she “was involuntarily reminded of the Thames near Richmond” and remarked that in both places the scenery is characterized by “tranquil[ity] and luxuriant beauty,” but, she quietly adds, the “traveller” in Canada “can enjoy little of the interest derived from association, either historical or poetical,” exceptions being “the memory of General Brock, and some anecdotes” of the War of 1812 (232).13 On occasion, the associations that Canadian scenes do engender are far from positive: her sympathetic response to trees that have been “‘girdled’” and then burned reminds her of the moralising of the “‘Fool i’ the Forest’ ... over the wounded deer” in As You Like It; a group of Native peoples that she encounters outside Brantford “remind ... [her] of a group of gipsies ... seen on the borders of Sherwood forest many years ago”; the “seemingly interminable,” uncanny “silence,” and “solitude” of the forests are “either exciting to the fancy, or oppressive to the spirits” (232, 234, 237). Despite its size, “the Canadian robin ... resemble[s] the sweet bird at home” in “plumage and shape,” but the “untrodden thicket[s]” beside the appalling roads are home, not just to “flowers of loveliest dye,” but to the “rattlesnake and all manner of creeping and living things not pleasant to encounter, or even think of” (237, 249-50).

     While Upper Canada’s rattlesnakes remain unencountered and its “creeping and living things” unnamed, other elements of the province’s environment such as an American man “deformed, degraded, haggard and inflamed with filth and inebriety” and a road system in a deplorable and dangerous state for lack of government funds receive more than enough detailed attention to sustain Jameson’s assertion that “as [she] travel[s] on” she is by turns “enchanted” and “disgusted” (227, 240, 303). The extensive commentaries on immigrant women and Native peoples that intersperse her July diary entries are especially pungent and poignant. Declining to draw a “pretty and ... romantic picture” of a life of “solitude and love” in “[a] cottage in the wild woods” such as that depicted in Thomas Moore’s “Ballad Stanzas” (1806), she suggests that, for all but a few emigrant women, the loss of “the early habitual influences,” and society of their “native land” is a cause of deep and abiding regret and discontentment (257, 247-48, 258-59). Shocked by the disease, poverty, and hopelessness of a Native population ravaged by tuberculosis and apparently unsuited for life in the future cities of Upper Canada, she envisages the Indians as doomed either to “amalgamat[ion]” (assimilation) or extinction (234, 322, 319-23). In Jameson’s stark portrayals of emigrant women, cross-domain mapping produces not metaphor but misery: transferred from a home to a target domain, women, especially those of “the better class” (255), become nostalgic and disconsolate exiles; settled on “reserved lands” in the target domain, Native peoples are deprived of all but a portion of the domain that was from time immemorial the source of their livelihood.14 To be sure, a process of “conceptual blending” and cultural emergence was at work for both groups, but at enormous cost, especially to the Native peoples.

     In the penultimate paragraph of Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, Jameson relays “an account of an Irish emigrant, a labouring man,” who in seven years rose from being “houseless and penniless” to being “the proprietor of a farm of two hundred acres of cleared and cropped land, on which he could proudly set his foot, and say ‘It is mine, and my children’s after me!’” (542). This is the happy ending towards which Jameson’s narrative moves as it records and comments on the multi-layered process of cross-domain mapping and Britification that was at work in Upper Canada in the mid-eighteen thirties. To her lasting credit, however, Jameson recorded some of the negative as well as the positive aspects of the process: neither as optimistic as Catharine Parr Traill’s The Backwoods of Canada nor as pessimistic as Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bush (1852), Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada is one of the more balanced as well as one of the most perceptive and significant accounts of the linguistic, agricultural, architectural, and human aspects of a part of Canada’s development from “colony [to] ... country” (Jameson 66).

Jack Hodgins, Innocent Cities

Shortly after introducing the Thames River near Woodstock as “a small but most beautiful stream, winding like the Isis at Oxford” and shortly before encountering the river-side estate of Colonel Light, Jameson paid a visit to the “settlement” of Henry Vansittart (1777-1843), a retired rear-admiral in the British navy who had settled in the area in 1834 and encouraged several “respectable British families to follow,” and who would come to play an influential part in local society and business (Dawe 44, 48). What immediately struck Jameson in June 1837 was the eccentric and outlandish character of Vansittart’s “house,” a structure that evoked no European precedents and prompted comparison with a dwelling place that she would almost certainly have regarded as primitive in the extreme:

His house is really a curiosity, and at the first glance reminded me of an African village – a sort of Timbuctoo set down in the woods; it is two or three miles from the high road, in the midst of the forest, and looked as if a number of log-huts had jostled against each other by accident, and there stuck fast. (242)

Such an oddity – a primitive hut built by a retired British officer that appears to have materialized haptically – demands explanation if it is not to compromise Jameson’s belief in Upper Canada as a site of progress and Britishness:

     The admiral had begun, I imagine, by erecting, as is usual, a log-house, while the woods were clearing; then, being in want of space, he added another, then another and another, and so on, all of different shapes and sizes, and full of a seaman’s contrivances – odd galleries, passages, porticos, corridors, saloons, cabins and cupboards; so that if the outside reminded me of an African village, the interior was no less like that of a man-of-war. (242)

In the ensuing paragraphs, Vansittart’s ingenious and exuberantly self-expressive house, its contents, and its setting are placed ever more firmly within the pale: its “drawing-room, which occupies an entire building, is really a noble room”; thanks to the admiral’s sister, “who has recently spent some years in Italy,” it is adorned with “pretty objets of virtù” such as “views of Rome” and a copy of “Raffaelle’s Vatican”; and the woods, although “yet close to the house,” have been cleared for a “fine well-cultivated garden” and are being further cleared “with great animation” (243). “[S]trangely picturesque” as it is, Vansittart’s house can “boast not only of luxuries and comforts, but cosa altra più cara, or at least ’piu rara’” – other things more dear, or at least more scarce in Upper Canada. Outlandish as it first appears, Vansittart’s house proves to be an outpost of genteel Britishness.

     Part of Jameson’s description of the house is a frustratingly vague comment on its heating and ventilation systems:

Around [the drawing-]room runs a gallery, well lighted with windows from without, through which there is a constant circulation of air, keeping the room warm in winter and cool in summer. The admiral has, besides, so many ingenious and inexplicable contrivances for warming and airing his house, that no insurance office will ensure him upon any terms. (243)

Vansittart’s “gallery” and other “ingenious and inexplicable contrivances” are, of course, a response to the extremes of the Upper Canadian climate, and Jameson’s description of them a celebration of his resourcefulness. Indeed, his techniques and her response to them anticipate Pete Melby’s and Tom Cathcart’s chapter on “Shelter Design” in Regenerative Design Techniques: Practical Applications and Landscape Design (2002), where they argue that shelters “should adapt to natural processes” such as “heat absorption and reflection [and] storage of thermal energy” “without disrupting them and should contribute to human health, productivity, and happiness” (67). An agglomeration of log-houses that contains a heating and cooling system that defies description,15 that resembles an African village from the outside and a naval vessel on the inside, and that houses a retired admiral, his cultivated sister and, Jameson adds, a source of “astonish[ment]” and scandal in “the whole neighbourhood ... [and] province” – “a young, very young wife, of a station very inferior to [the admiral’s] own” (243) – may be a “curiosity” and a source of amusement, but it is also an instance of the creative and adaptive opportunities provided by life on the margins. Nevertheless, even as Jameson celebrates Vansittart’s eccentricity and ingenuity, she betrays a degree of anxiety about his deviations from society’s norms and institutions: the marriage of a sixty-year old man to “a ... very young” woman may indeed be a cause for concern, as may the presence in their house of hazardous and therefore uninsurable “contrivances.”

     It is a fact worth noting and pondering that houses as eccentric and ingenious as Vansittart’s are relatively rare in Canadian architecture, for to do so not only helps to explain Jameson’s interest in the structure and its creator, but also to draw attention to the cultural implications of the rarity in Canada of buildings such as the new Ontario College of Art and Design (see also i) addition in Toronto (Will Alsop [1947- ]) and the paucity of clients prepared to commission them. Where are Canada’s Strawberry Hills, its Falling Waters, its Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, its First Church of Christ Scientist, its Vanna Venturi House, its Centre Pompidou, its Netherlands National (“Fred and Ginger”) Building? Is it possible that the absence of such buildings is the result of artistic and cultural timidity and traditionalism, a preference for the safe and conventional that was present in Canada’s colonial beginnings and has persisted to the present day? Could it be that the stupendously magnified quintessence of Canadian architecture is Casa Loma (1911), the homage to Balmoral Castle (1853-56) that the Toronto-born and trained architect Edward James Lennox (1855-1933) designed for the financier Sir Henry Pellat? One writer who might fear so is the Vancouver Island novelist Jack Hodgins (1938- ), whose Innocent Cities (1990) is in part a condemnation of an apparent reluctance even in British Columbia to tolerate anything but the most conventional artistic and architectural forms.

     Innocent Cities is set in late nineteenth-century Victoria, a city in which its architect protagonist, Logan Sumner, has abandoned his youthful “dream” of designing and constructing “fabulous buildings” – “magnificent structures which would be admired and photographed and later imitated” – in favour, first of “erect[ing] new structures according to the designs of others, however uninspired,” and then of “giving to the buildings [that his firm] renovate[s] an appearance of having been just newly erected, by applying new and inexpensive façades over the old” (18-19). Thanks to the imitative skills of Sumner Construction,

Houses, shops, warehouses, even factories ... could put on the style of any foreign architecture desired, in the manner of ladies’ fashions, depending on what books had been recently read, what photographs admired, what foreign travel just completed. When a small addition was commissioned by an owner who’d grown tired of having a residence or business that looked as though it were situated in Rome, say, or London, Logan Sumner could make it look as though the building had just been brought in on a barge from Madrid, or Dublin, or San Francisco. (19)

Of a piece with the preference of Victoria’s residents for the superficial imitativeness that John Ruskin excoriates with alliterative vigour as “miserable mimicry” (1: 154n) in The Poetry of Architecture (1840, 1893) is “the great iron church” of St. John, an edifice whose “cast-iron sections” were “shipped ... from England ... in pieces to be reassembled ... – transported ... round the world, like the religion it represented” (138). No more were the church’s financers and designers “able to imagine that there might be competent builders already living [in Victoria] who could have designed and erected a church” than they were “able to anticipate that the drumming of a rain storm on the iron roof [of St. John’s] ... would have the effect of entirely drowning out the words shouted from the pulpit, or than an electric storm would convert the church into an intolerable chamber of auditory horrors” (138). So unsuited is the iron church to the climate of the West Coast that even a mild but prolonged shower results in water seeping between “the joints in [its] prefabricated roof” and a “summer wind off the ocean, howling around its metallic joints, c[an] cause a soloist to believe the Pacific itself ha[s] broken in through his ear-drums to go roaring around in his brain” (138-39). Behind all this amusing hyperbole, Hodgins is reinforcing his point that the imitative and imported façades and buildings that exist to this day in (one of) Canada’s major cities are the product of a failure of confidence and a failure of imagination that together have resulted in buildings that are ludicrous in their colonialism and their inappropriateness.

     Honourable exceptions to this are rarer in Innocent Cities than in Victoria itself, but they do exist. Sumner’s most important client as far as the plot of the novel goes, the eccentric James Horncastle, has “put more new faces over old than any other property-owner in town,” but his Great Blue Heron Hotel resembles Vansittart’s aggregation of houses in being both a reflection of its creator’s character and evolving needs and, at its core, a product of its environment:

When he sat at his desk in the office of The Great Blue Heron Hotel, [Horncastle] was surrounded by the successive layers of his own expanded business – by the walls of the small log cabin he’d purchased for his saloon in 1860 upon arriving in the Colony, by the rooms of the boarding-house he’d constructed around the saloon,16 by the additional rooms and storeys added for his first hotel, and finally by the brick exterior of the grand Blue Heron, which had been inspired by some provincial hotel in England, but which he was now in the process of altering once again.... (19)

To the extent that its innermost “layer” is one of the “squared-log fish warehouses built by French-Canadian carpenters in the Hudson’s Bay fortress” around which Victoria developed and its newest layer is “likely to include a balcony above a long verandah, sturdy pillars, and much fancy fretwork” – that is, to resemble a fashionable American hotel of the era17 – the architectural narrative of The Great Blue Heron Hotel is a stor(e)y of diminishing Canadianism. Yet the onion- and Russian-doll-like building is viewed very differently by Sumner and by Horncastle’s sister:

     Sumner thought of the establishment as growing rather in the manner of a tree, adding continuously to its sequence of interior rings. Miss Adelina Horncastle took quite another view: “Imagine a home that is constantly changing! Nothing is ever considered completed, or even capable of being completed. It has taught me to see the world in constant need of being remade – an exhausting, hopeless task.” (38)

Later in the novel, Sumner and Horncastle’s other sister Norah expound the relationship between the Hotel’s façades and its centre in terms of the “real building” in the mind of the architect and the “‘Maker’” at the centre of Creation (305). Whether construed organically, processurally, or philosophically, The Great Blue Heron Hotel is a distinctive product of its creator and its place, a manifestation of the New World phenomenon of living and building a dream that can be found elsewhere in Canada but is especially observable in British Columbia.

     The most conspicuous example of West Coast eccentricity and excess in Innocent Cities is Sumner’s tombstone, a work-in-progress that begins as a token of his enduring affection for his dead wife and gradually becomes a monumental piece of life writing whose extravagant form scandalizes the good citizens of Victoria.18 By the latter part of the novel, its “column of interlocking granite ha[s] grown so tall that it now seem[s] to have thrust up out of his still-empty grave like some sort of monstrous fungus” (291). Instead of allowing the column to continue (and thus to require “flying buttresses ... to keep it from toppling across the less ambitious stones, murdering those who had only come to read”), Sumner has “arranged to expand out around [it] ..., using archways and terraces and castellated walls to create a sort of elaborate palace about the width and breadth of a child’s room, with words and sentences carved into every side”:

     The original [words of the inscription: “HUSBAND OF JULIA, INCONSOLABLE”] [are] ... so high now that you might not read them without stepping back a distance, where you could see (if your eyesight were good enough) his entire story tumbling down the varicoloured structure of moisture-streaming stones: an orphan, a romantic, a builder filled with impossible dreams, a grieving widower, a betrayed friend, a broken-hearted lover, a man of shifting opinions, a man in search of something he could not even identify himself. Bits of poetry had been flung at it here and there, as well as snatches from the Bible. (3, 291)

In an extravagant reversal of expectations, a tomb has become the text for an on-going rather than an all-over narrative: death has yielded to life, completion to process, closure to open-endedness, convention and tradition to flamboyance and imagination.

     Nor is Sumner’s tombstone only an architectural autobiography: “[b]y stepping around to the far side” of it, visitors to the graveyard are “able to read the latest additions to his still-growing alternative biography,” his long-standing and increasingly elaborate fantasy of transforming Victoria into a “great city of towering splendid buildings” (291, 130):

Following upon the [construction of] the opera house and the giant conservatory and the towering cathedral he ha[s] ... demolished all the buildings adjacent to the inner harbour ... and ... replaced them with a connected series of waterfront terraces and hanging gardens, pergolas and caryatides and lancet archways and oriel windows and soaring towers of vermiculated stone blocks, places of business and places to eat, museums and theatres and docking facilities. In that tight space he ha[s] created a semicircle of brick and timber and marble and gold-trimmed peaks and plateaus which ... [are] meant to reflect and even compete with the facing semicircular wall of gigantic foreign blue mountains that all but surround ... the city. (292)

In Sumner’s visionary architecture can be recognized a gigantism that derives from two sources: a desire to achieve notoriety by realizing a grandiose personal fantasy and a desire to respond at least adequately to the surrounding landscape (specifically, the mountains on the American side of the border). “‘Your gravestone threatens to rival the pharaohs’,” remarks one observer, and indeed the inclusion of “hanging gardens” and “caryatides” in Sumner’s vision – the former an evocation of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the latter of the columnar female figures of the Erechtheum temple in the Acropolis – does suggest a desire to surpass the architectural achievements of the West’s founding civilizations at the westernmost extremity of the New World. The Vancouver Island of Innocent Cities is a place where self-realization on the grandest scale imaginable seems not only possible, but demanded.

     Although Sumner’s tombstone would be at home in Christian W. Thomsen’s Visionary Architecture from Babylon to Virtual Reality, it eventually incurs the opprobrium of the citizens of Victoria, “thousands” of whom sign a “petition ... demand[ing] that city council do something about the offensive piece of architecture” (404). In the course of deciding that Sumner be ordered to “demolish his monstrous stone palace and replace it with a small marker, perfectly blank, in order to avoid competing with the stones of the city’s leading families,” opinions are expressed that convey a vivid sense of the forces that militate against the creation of a Sagrada Familia in Canada:

One councillor, born in London, agreed that it was “more the sort of grotesque self-congratulating monument one might expect of a mad wealthy Yankee than something appropriate to a modest community on British soil.” At the same time, a councillor who had been born in New York State found the stone equally inappropriate on the grounds that he wished the city to become the sort of place the citizens of the United States expected to discover when they crossed the line, a city that imitated Europe in its outer appearance, a city of dignity, good taste, modesty, and self-control – in short, as different from home as possible. (404-05)

Differ as they do in their backgrounds and prejudices, both the British- and American-born councillors agree that Victoria should be characterized by “modesty” – “[m]oderation; freedom from excess or exaggeration; self-control; ... reserve springing from an unexaggerated estimate of ... [its] qualities; freedom from presumption, ostentation, arrogance, or impudence” (OED). Perish the thought that Victoria’s buildings might be the outcome of an imaginative architect’s response to the city’s extraordinary setting.

     That the attitudes of Victoria’s citizens and councillors privilege the imported over the indigenous as much as the imitative over the imaginative becomes clear as the account of the debate over the tombstone continues:

When the question was raised of whether anyone on the council had been born, like Logan Sumner, on the island – or even in the country, or in the colony that preceded it – there was immediate general agreement that this was an irrelevant point, since the elected officials were unanimous in agreeing that such excess of the individual imagination was both unseemly and uncharacteristic of the nation to which they now belonged. (405)

Sumner is duly “required to demolish his ridiculous palace of fantastical words ... and to replace it with a stone as small and insignificant as possible, and to promise to confine himself and his descendants, in his will, to the simplest historical facts” (405). “‘[A] modesty ... in keeping with the circumstances of the man, the character of the city, and indeed the chosen attributes of the Dominion’” has triumphed, but not entirely: an economic boom affords Sumner “opportunities to build some of the buildings ... [he] dreamed of, though none of them so splendid as [he] dreamt on the stone,” and, as one of the characters in the novel observes in a letter to her sister in England, the new home that he designs for himself and his frequently absent second wife is as unconventional as their marriage:

   He has built the most peculiar house, not at all in the fashions favoured by other successful businessmen, reminiscent of homes in Oxford or Edinburgh or San Francisco or Rome. This has more in common with the houses built by the Indians in their villages, its great roof kept up by a structure of posts and beams carved from giant trees. He can be certain he will never discover another like it anywhere else but here, and I am equally certain that others will be slow to follow his lead. (407)

Highly unconventional (and, for most Victorians, unappealing) in its derivation from indigenous rather than imported models, Sumner’s “peculiar house” is not the result of a simple substitution of Native for imported models; rather, it is an amalgam of indigenous and European features and materials that addresses its environment with a confidence born of historical as well as topographical rootedness:

     It stands beyond the park, along the tops of the cliffs which look south towards the strait and the Olympic mountains of Washington Territory. Also within view ... is the location of the cabin where [Sumner] was born, the former Pest House, long since burned down. Behind the house, half-obscured by trees, is an ancient barn ... built by his late uncle, and a small shed once lived in by his Indian carpenter but long since abandoned – a funny little house scabbed over with bits of boards rescued off the shoreline from a shipwreck, each of them stamped with brand names and other words which have faded almost completely away in the weather. (407)

One of Colonel Talbot’s out-buildings was “the very log-hut” that he “erected for shelter” when he arrived in Upper Canada and the interior of Admiral Vansittart’s house resembled “a man-of-war.” In Sumner’s case, time and weather are gradually erasing the evidences and traces of early European settlement and the merchant-naval system that helped to sustain it, but memories of both linger around an emergent structure that is at once British, Canadian, and neither – a “most peculiar house” in a British Columbia of the imagination and of the heart that has more in common than might initially be supposed with the Upper Canada whose pioneers and eccentricities Anna Jameson encountered in the summer of 1837.


  1. This pattern was not consistently followed, however, as the presence of Cornwall west of Kingston and Perth County next to Oxford County attest. [back]
  2. In addition to Conceptual Projection and Middle Spaces, see Turner and Fauconnier, “Blending and Metaphor,” and Grady, Oakley, and Coulson, “Blending and Metaphor.” As the last succinctly explain, the phenomenon, “[b]esides inheriting partial structure from each input space, the blend develops ‘emergent’ content of its own, which results from the juxtaposition of elements from the inputs” (104). [back]
  3. See Tausky and DiStefano 46 for the London Courthouse as a “baronial stronghold [that] showed where ... British subjects should place their confidence: in the established British system of aristocratic power and prestige” rather than in the democratic principles symbolized by “the classical architecture ... across the border.” In his chapter on “The Castle Style and the First Stirrings of the Gothic Revival” in The Architecture of Robert and James Adam (1758-1794), Arthur T. Bolton identifies Windsor Castle (1824-28) as the “culmination” of the “castle building movement” (1: 94). [back]
  4. Alexander Morris’s Nova Britannia; or, British North America, Its Extent and Future (1858) was an influential contribution to the process leading to Confederation and William Wilfred Campbell’s Sagas of Vaster Britain (1914) a belated poetic statement of the imperialism that provided a vehicle for Canadian nationalism in the years surrounding the turn of the century. [back]
  5. The fact that the hill carries the name of the animals that were once found in abundance there echoes forward to the habit of naming suburbs after the flora and fauna that they displace. [back]
  6. Jameson introduces her vision with a reference to “the Arabian sorcerer of old” from whose eyes “the present fell like a film” (268), namely, Mirzah, the fictitious visionary created by Joseph Addison in The Spectator 159. As this point, Jameson may be remembering John Howison’s use of “the Vision of Mirzah” in his Sketches of Upper Canada (1821) to suggest that the Thousand Islands area might be proposed as “an asylum for suffering humanity” (32). [back]
  7. See Brian Dawe 25 for an illustration of the sort of house and barn that Jameson would have encountered. In the section of Views of a Settlement entitled “Picture of a Settlement,” Brown provides a vivid description of the “strikingly novel” “scene” encountered by a visitor to the London area: “You find yourself in a large long opening, or ‘clearance,’ of about a mile in width, bounded on each side as far as the eye reaches by the tall dark forest, serving as a kind of bold magnificent fringe to the more cultivated, yet somewhat rough-like scene between, with its fields, dotted with ‘stumps’ frequently, like so many dark stone boulders scattered over, at distances from ten to twenty feet apart. And there is the temporary zig-zag rail-fences of these square fields. Then almost close upon each side of the wide road of about sixty feet, and placed at intervals of a quarter mile or less, rise the settlers’ farm-houses, with their huge wooden barns in which they house their grain. Then there is the primitive, rather rough, unmade road itself, on which you are travelling ... now admiring a neat white painted cottage of an enterprising settler, with its shrubbery and flowers – ... [now] vexed, on meeting a slovenly-looking log house of some equally indolent people ...” (259-60). [back]
  8. Jameson’s wish that “Kettle Creek” had been “given ... a prettier name” (269) recalls the moments of bathos that occur in Burwell’s Talbot Road when such names are at odds with the poem’s elevated diction, as, for example, in “Thro’ a broad valley rapid Catfish glides, – / O’er pebbly beds descend his foamy tides ...” (55-56). [back]
  9. Tausky and DiStefano observe that in 1833, Talbot replaced his original log cabin “with a larger and more refined ... [one], possessing many comforts but displaying the insistently rustic quality that characterized the clothes and demeanor of its owner” (7). [back]
  10. For a similar blend, see Catharine Parr Traill’s description of the contents of the house of the Emigrant Clergyman from Cumberland in The Backwoods of Canada (1836), a work that may have been known to Jameson: “the floor of [the little family sitting-room] was painted after the Yankee fashion.... The dresses of the children were ... the produce of the farm and their mother’s praiseworthy industry.... Both girls and boys wore moccasins, of their own making” (220). [back]
  11. The “crouching tigers [that] wait their hapless prey” in the North American woods of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village 355 are perhaps the best-known instance of this phenomenon. Jameson remarks of the species of thrush named “the Canadian robin” that it is “as large as a thrush, but in plumage and shape resembl[es] the sweet bird at home ‘that wears the scarlet stomacher’,” a possible allusion to the “Crimson Stomacher” of Robert Herrick’s “Delight in Disorder“ (41). As Yakov Malkeil observes of similar instances of (re-)naming, “the early settlers would transfer, with greater or lesser felicity, the closest available approximations from the nomenclatural stock familiar to them from their Old World schooling and experience” (588). [back]
  12. According to John MacTaggart's taxonomy (see Chapter 2: Logs to Riches), these would have been the houses of people of American origin, possibly Loyalists, who moved to southwestern Ontario around the turn of the century because land was plentiful and relatively inexpensive (see Fred Landon, Western Ontario and the American Frontier and Chapter 4: Rising and Spreading Villages). [back]
  13. See D.M.R. Bentley, Mnemographia Canadensis 1: 155-57 for a discussion of Jameson’s observations on the paucity of historical associations in the landscape of Upper Canada. [back]
  14. In the final paragraphs of Winter Studies and Summer Rambles, Jameson describes emigrants to Canada who are “unable to adapt themselves to an entirely new existence” as “unfortunate ... miserable, and truly pitiable” (541). [back]
  15. Of course, Vansittart’s system is an application to architecture of Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, which holds that “the direction of energy flow or transport ... [is] from a region of high energy toward a region of low energy” and “from a region of higher temperature to a region of lower temperature” (Melby and Cathcart 175). In this, it rests on one of the principles that undergirds the sustainable designs of the “regenerative architecture” proposed by John Tillman Lyle (1934-1998) in the early nineteen nineties and now gaining increasing acceptance among proponents and practitioners of green architecture. [back]
  16. When Horncastle arrived in Victoria he had “expect[ed] to find a familiar British flavour” but found instead “Yankee businessmen agitating for annexation,” a situation to which he “adjust[ed] quickly ... and put a fake board front on his saloon in the manner of the California buildings he’d become accustomed to during the gold-rush days” (36). [back]
  17. “‘Round pillars will look ridiculous,’” Sumner tells Horncastle; “‘[y]ou aren’t building a monument after the fashion of Mr. Jefferson’” (40). [back]
  18. Sumner’s tombstone has a parallel in the tower that Cuyler Goodwill builds in memory of his deceased wife in Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries (1993), which was published three years after Innocent Cities. “[A] dream structure made up of sorrow mingled with bewilderment,” “‘Goodwill Tower,’ as it is known in the city [Winnipeg],” with a gravestone inscribed with his wife’s “name and dates,” is a “hollow” and blatantly phallic structure more than “thirty feet in height” with a protruding “spiral of cantilevered stones … [that] allow … him to ascend the steep sides as easily as an insect or a lizard might scale a wall” (58, 64). With “stone surfaces” decorated with “elaborate cipher,” “holy words,” and “the image of a bird, a flower, a fish, a face, a sun or moon … [c]upids, mermaids, snakes, leaves, feathers, vines, bees, cattle, the curve of a rainbox, a texturing like skin … [it] is a museum of writing forms, some of which he discovered in the Canadian Farmer’s Almanac or the Eaton’s catalogue or in his illustrated Bible” (64). Blakean in its exuberance, resembling both the Mount of Purgatory and the Tower of Babel, and decorated with Canadian as well as general motifs, it is open to construal as a metaphor of the combination of imported and local that characterizes Canadian literature and architecture. Later in the novel, Goodwill’s daughter Daisy marries into a family whose house is ornamented with carvings of “intertwined leaves, vines, and grape clusters [that] are considered a beautiful example of adapted art nouveau” and Goodwill himself embarks on the construction of “a miniature replica” of the “Great Pyramid” containing “stone from around the world” and elsewhere in Canada, but the structure goes “out of plumb” and is left unfinished at his death, by which time his Tower has been completely destroyed by “souvenir hunters” (108, 180, 276, 266-67). [back]


Works Cited