Isabella Valancy Crawford’s Hugh and
: Crafting a Samsonian Hero

by Shelley Hulan


     I Crawford as Cruising Auk

—More than forty years ago, Robert L. McDougall proclaimed in “The Dodo and the Cruising Auk” that Canadian literature showed “an abnormal absence of feeling for class” (217). McDougall argues that while many of the nation’s literary works display a “social awareness” (223), they tend to depict individual characters as symbols of the human condition rather than as the results of particular material and social circumstances in specific places and times. To paraphrase McDougall’s titular metaphor, Canadian writers have to decide whether they will remain “dodos,” a rarified species that cannot evolve with the increasingly socially-conscious times, or whether they will become “cruising auks” able to rise above their characters and to see them as part of a larger environment.1

Although some critics of class representation in Canadian writing have acknowledged McDougall’s essay as an early recognition of a visible deficiency (Rimstead 300), others such as Malcolm Ross and Northrop Frye have bypassed his central argument about class in favour of the observations incidental to that argument on the influence of academic culture over Canadian writing (Ross 128) or on “characteristic Canadian feeling” (Frye 29). Frye’s quotation, in “Haunted by Lack of Ghosts,” of McDougall’s comments about heroic action in the national literature offers a reason why his major focus attracts only some of the attention that the essay receives. McDougall’s primary concern does not lie with class in itself but with the individual; class is worth exploring because it constrains personal freedom and creativity, both of which should be liberated from it. He makes his case partly by comparing Canadian literature’s heroic types—those exceptional characters whose gifts set them apart from their surrounding community—unfavourably to those of other national literatures. The first hero of American literature, “‘the authentic American figure of heroic innocence and vast potentialities, poised at the start of a new history’” (Lewis qtd. in McDougall 218), underwrites that literature’s vitality by provoking equally [page 10] vibrant antitypes, which presumably expose the pressure that class and other external forces put on the individual’s development. By contrast, Max Gordon, the unprovoking hero of Isabella Valancy Crawford’s Malcolm’s Katie, helps demonstrate the “frail[ty]” of Canadian protagonists created by writers who treat class as, at most, a mere backdrop to the character’s actions rather than an influence upon them (220).

It would be unfair to fault McDougall for not consulting Crawford’s other narrative poem Hugh and Ion2 when he wrote this essay in 1963, since at the time it was an untitled and unpublished manuscript buried among the papers Crawford left behind when she died in 1887. Had he done so, he might have noticed the attention to class that he believed the subject lacked in Canadian literature. On the other hand, he probably would still not have regarded Crawford as a “cruising auk” among Canadian writers, for she uses her hero in Hugh and Ion, as she does Max in Malcolm’s Katie, to invert the supreme value that McDougall places on the individual. The difficulty with an emphasis on class that privileges individualism is that it discounts the idea of community (in its broadest sense “the general body to which all alike belong” [OED] and whose members share some common experience or goal) when the idea of the community and the individual’s integration into it preoccupies the period’s literature. Nowhere is this preoccupation plainer than in the person of the herculean hero. Crawford’s Max, the hero’s archetype, embodies an exemplary balance of individual exceptionalness and devoted membership in a community, not the triumph of unchecked individualism.

This is not to say that the kinds of social and economic concerns implied in the word “class” are absent from Crawford’s writing. They emerge, however, through the relationship between the hero and the community with which he identifies himself, not in spite of it. The balance of the individual and the community remains a priority in Hugh and Ion, where the protagonist, Hugh,3 is a labour variation on the herculean hero. Crawford’s description of Hugh as a “Samson soul” (V. 208) alerts readers to his simultaneously Christlike and herculean qualities. Often called the Hebrew Hercules, Samson possesses the same physical strength as his Greek counterpart, and Crawford’s use of his name indicates that the herculean hero remains the standard by which she measures the ideal leader. Samson is also an important symbol in the intertexts4 that feature prominently in Hugh and Ion and that Crawford uses to make the late nineteenth-century labour crisis in the industrialized West a major theme in her poem. With the help of these intertexts, the figure of the herculean hero intersects [page 11] with the labour crisis in the industrialized baseland that was 1880s urban Canada.

I would argue, furthermore, that recasting the herculean hero as a Samson in the context of this labour crisis adds a significant dimension of uncertainty to the figure, sets him in conflict with the priorities of the archetype, and renders the community with which he is aligned—a community that has many features of a class—opaque. All three effects invite an interpretation of the poem as a form of social criticism, particularly when they are considered in relation to Crawford’s labour intertexts. In crucial respects, Samson is a failed Hercules. While his exceptional physical strength calls Hercules to mind, he never represents the herculean hero’s combination of strength and communal fraternity. On the contrary, the biblical strong man often misunderstands the constituency that he supposedly represents. Though very public-minded, Hugh, like Samson, is unable to recognize the needs of the community whose cause he would like to champion because he is estranged from all but a peculiarly isolated perspective on his world. Moreover, an evangelical element in Hugh’s character devalues the harmony of individual and community priorities that the herculean hero celebrates.

Once Crawford has set up the labour context as one within which the poem may be read, she develops her new “samsonian” hero and establishes labourers as the community that he would but cannot lead in three ways. First, she demonstrates that the hero’s singular perception of “his” community often determines the representation of that community in the poem. Second, she removes the herculean association of the hero’s perspective with a communal vision that moderates it, emphasizing its alienation from that vision instead. Third, she suggests that Hugh believes in the authority of personal revelation over that of a shared experience of the world. If the name Samson foreshadows the ending Crawford planned for this unfinished poem, then the emergence of this isolated figure forecasts possible gains for the working poor who constitute the labour community in the poem, but only after disastrous loss and strife. Finally, as a hero who reminds readers of the herculean ideal while remaining unconsciously distant from the labouring community that he would help, Hugh personifies a warning about the perils of not giving this particular class a voice.


     II Labour Problems and Herculean Variations

Critics of Hugh and Ion have convincingly interpreted it as a crucible for what Crawford saw as the compelling social problems in her world, Catherine [page 12] Ross going so far as to assert that despite its unfinished state, the poem “contains some of her most…pungent social comment” (“Isabella Valancy Crawford and ‘this clanging world’” 133). Cecily Devereux’s analysis of the poem’s “expansionist rhetoric” (“‘And let them wash me from this clanging world’” 102) and Robert Alan Burns’s discussion of its references to Louis Riel (“Crawford, Davin, and Riel” 66-9) show not only how the text reproduces and critiques the imperial aspirations contemporary with its composition but also how it gestures toward other Canadian cultural preoccupations, echoing 1880s purity discourse (Devereux) and evoking the contentious relations between the rapidly-growing nation and Native and Métis peoples in the West (Burns). A third cultural context relevant to the poem is that of the nineteenth-century industrial labour crisis to which movements such as Chartism responded, a context made unmistakable by the intertextual resemblances of certain passages in Hugh and Ion to the work of Victorian social philosopher Thomas Carlyle and to that of the radical American land reformer Henry George. The community with which the hero in this poem identifies himself consists of the urban poor and working classes in a recognizably late nineteenth-century industrial environment.

The labour situation in late Victorian Canada involved the same element of emergency that it did everywhere else in the nineteenth-century industrialized world. The struggle between factory owners and factory workers intensified after the federal Conservative government adopted the protectionist National Policy in 1879 to encourage the growth of Canadian manufacturing. John Armstrong offered one summary of the 1880s as industrial workers experienced the decade in his report for the Royal Commission on the Relations of Labor and Capital (1889),5 in which he observed that although the tariff had helped foster enough industry to render Canadians almost self-sufficient, industrial growth had outpaced the country’s ability to regulate the factory system that the tariff protected, leading to a deterioration in labour relations because “[t]here seems to be no idea of any obligation existing between the employer and his operatives, any more than the mere payment of wages. To obtain a very large percentage of work with the smallest possible outlay of wages appears to be the one fixed and dominant idea” (41). As McGill philosopher John Clark Murray argued, these alienated industrial relations went hand-in-hand with a rise in urban poverty in the working class.6

By the same decade, the growing North American labour movement, which like its British Chartist counterparts pressed for shorter working days and the extension of the franchise, had evolved a leadership ideal that [page 13] parallels the herculean hero’s combination of the fraternal and the messianic. Contributors to the pro-union Hamilton newspaper The Palladium of Labor frequently underlined the importance of finding leaders who shared their followers’ working-class background. As one writer argued, better labour conditions depended on workers making “our own selection of men who are honestly and thoroughly [inbred] with our principles”7 as opposed to those of the landowning and managerial classes.8 Thus fraternal organizations like the Knights of Labor, the largest and for a time the most influential society for labourers in late Victorian Canada, gave their leaders an honoured place while maintaining that they were brothers, not superiors, to the rank and file. These leaders possessed unique gifts that could benefit their fellow labourers, but all were equal members of a putatively non-hierarchical labour fraternity that, another subheadline asserted, “Should be Universal Without Regard to Race, Creed or Nation.”9

The two major examples of the herculean hero in Confederation Canadian writing, Richard Stahlberg in Archibald Lampman’s The Story of an Affinity and Max in Malcolm’s Katie, foreground the same brotherly relations between exceptional figures and a community. The hero belongs to a group with whose members he shares experiences and aspirations and whose values he defends against the “less structured and more individualistic alternatives” (Bentley 218) available in the Canadian geographical setting, much of which remained uncolonized and outside the rule of Euro-settler law. The “choice of Hercules”—the specific decision this figure makes to shun moral and physical laziness—expresses his willingness to sacrifice immediate personal gratification for future rewards (Bentley 219) that will accrue not only to himself but to the people around him. While Devereux has recently reminded us that within the “conventional discourse of colonization, empire, and incipient nation” that informs the poem, Max and his fellow colonizers’ toil redefines the land they work as ripe for their possession and profit (“The Search for a Livable Past” 283), the herculean hero’s communal values advocate moderation in the colonial quest for material prosperity. In this sense, the herculean figure sets some limits on the capitalism that accompanies colonial growth. Although the profit motive always risks fostering unbridled selfishness, it is limited in the herculean hero, who symbolizes an equilibrium between the self-interest inherent in the ideology and concern for the welfare of the whole group.

Empathy plays the greatest role in diminishing the distance between the hero and the more common folk with whom he aligns himself. Both Richard and Max identify with the communities in which they find themselves, Max because he invites its members to see the similarities between their [page 14] lives and his, and Richard because he feels compassion for the “rude multitudes” who “in mute despair / Wear out their days in labour for small gain” (II. 345-6) only to “sink care-weary into unknown graves” (II. 347). That compassion helps him turn his youthful antisociality into the avid pursuit of an education that will teach him “the meaning and the ends / Of all the interlinking toils of men” (II. 224-5). Crawford’s Max, always “social-soul’d” (II. 240), is consistently identified with the settler community that pushes into the Canadian west. Stories about his beloved Katie help him make connections with neighbours who share his emotions along with his way of life; he talks about her to “the women-folk / Who, mostly, happy in new honeymoons / Of hope themselves” (II. 242-4), listen willingly to dreams that mirror their own. The nation-building he undertakes with his axe (IV. 56) is simultaneously undertaken by the other new colonizers around him, whose wishes and circumstances, if not their physical strength, closely resemble his.10

Despite the difference between Hugh’s initially urban and Max’s exclusively rural milieus, Hugh’s narrative trajectory in the industrial setting Crawford gives her second hero seems at first to be very much like Max’s. Like Max, Hugh travels into the wilderness away from the woman he loves. Like Max, he plans to return to the baseland in the near future. A believer in the same pastoral capitalism that the axe-wielding Max personifies, Hugh envisions “free grants for every soul” (IX. 731) in the colony he plans to lead away from that baseland. Well-prospected towns with wharves to facilitate commerce will follow the homesteads of which he dreams. His aspirations turn not on the vision of future personal gain but on the dream of a prosperous settlement for all.

Hugh is also associated with the herculean hero through specific images. Early in the poem, he is linked to Hercules via an allusion to the story of the demigod’s death. The sunset described as he walks through the city recalls Hercules’ frantic attempts to tear away the poisoned cloak that his wife has unwittingly sent him. In Max Müller’s retelling of the Hercules myth, the hero’s frenzied movements appear as fragments of clouds through which, even in death, “his fierce splendour breaks” until “fiery mists embrace him” (116). In Crawford’s city, the “[d]ull, purple bars that [hold] the first, fine snow” (II. 119) and the “golden script” that hangs in the sky beneath them (II. 121) resemble the “violet-coloured evening clouds” and final “conflagration” of the sundown that represents Hercules’ death (Müller 116). Later, the suggestion of an exact correspondence between Hugh’s spirit and his physique in the phrase “large thew’d soul” (VII. 278), which echoes Crawford’s description of Max’s body and soul [page 15] as “Full muscl’d and large statur’d” (II. 173), puts his herculean identity practically beyond question.

Does Hugh’s character, then, confirm the resemblance between the ideal late Victorian labour leader and the herculean hero? Answering this question requires a brief outline of the plot’s events. Crawford’s draft consists of eleven sections11 that divide into two parts of roughly equal size. In the first part, an unnamed lady (Burns names her the fortune hunter, and I will hereafter refer to her as the marriageable woman) has just refused a suitor’s (Hugh’s) marriage proposal while her successful wooer, evidently a businessman, looks on impassively. After replying to his erstwhile lover’s reasons for jilting him with the epigrammatic “‘And give us up Barabbas’” (I. 35), Hugh exits into the city streets and hears all around him the cries of a suffering humanity exclaiming “‘we starve—we faint, we die!’” (V. 201). Mingled with these cries, he hears more calls for Barabbas. In despair, he tries to commit suicide, but his soul chooses life at the last minute (V. 241-6).

In the poem’s second half, the setting changes from the wintry city to an idyllic springtime wilderness. Another argument, this time between a more optimistic Hugh and his cynical companion Ion, unfolds on a version of the same problem that divided the jilted lover from the marriageable woman: whether modern humanity is intrinsically selfish, as Ion claims, or whether it is intrinsically good but influenced for evil by environmental conditions and desperation, as Hugh contends. Hugh believes that moving impoverished city-dwellers away from the city and into the country, as he intends to do, will give them the impetus to build better, healthier lives. Given the chance to own land and to engage in commercial enterprise for themselves, the “‘serf[s]’” (VII. 288) at present condemned to lives as “‘ghosts / That tend on iron tyrants’” (VII. 284-5) will finally enjoy the fruits of their own toil. Ion, on the other hand, asserts that where large numbers of people go, corruption and disappointment always follow.

An echo in Hugh of Carlyle’s colonialist version of the herculean figure reaffirms a reading of this protagonist as a paradigm of the herculean type as well as a would-be saviour of urban workers. Carlyle’s version stems from his exasperation at the unemployment and overpopulation in Britain, which possesses land-rich dominions still unsettled by British subjects. Remarking on a “Benthamee-Malthusian” pamphlet he had found that advocated legislating infanticide for all the children “after the third” born to poor households (“Chartism” 202), Carlyle expresses outrage at the widespread poverty provoking such a desperate solution, which appears in the same “world where Canadian Forests stand unfelled, boundless Plains [page 16] and Prairies unbroken with the plow” at a time when the whole planet, “nine-tenths of it yet vacant or tenanted by nomades, is still crying, Come and till me, come and reap me!” (“Chartism” 203). The planetary cries that Carlyle hears resound in those of “‘We starve!’,” which Hugh hears in the city “[w]hile half a world [lies] fresh / And teeming, out beyond the city gates!” (V. 206-7); his estimate of half a world lying unused resembles Carlyle’s contention that ninety percent of the earth clamours for British emigrants to farm it and voices the same frustration that Carlyle does.

For Carlyle, the leaders of west-bound emigrants are simultaneously ideal types of British manhood and men who could identify themselves with the people they lead, men who, like Hercules, are exceptional and ordinary at the same time. Though the colonizers inevitably differ in terms of their social classes and material circumstances, the motive for emigrating is the same for the highest as for the lowest. In the overcrowded mother country, persons surplus to requirements are found at every rank and in every walk of life. “[B]riefless Barristers, “chargeless Clergy,” and “[h]alf-pay Officers” number with the impoverished families that cannot feed their children (“Chartism” 203), and all have the same reason—unemployment—for seeking opportunity outside Britain. In spite of the social differences between emigrants, the potential leaders of new colonies exemplify to Carlyle the common character of the whole settler community much as the herculean hero functions as a community type.

If Carlyle’s images were detectable only in Hugh and Ion’s exclamation over the paradox of the city’s poverty and the land of milk and honey just beyond its gates, then this Carlylean intertext would provide an interesting Victorian source text for the herculean hero, a text that identifies him specifically with the labour crisis in Britain and that defines Canada’s capacity to welcome new settlers in relation to that crisis. But other intertextual references to his work create and maintain a more general focus on the labour question, too. Carlyle views unemployment as the symptom of much more widespread labour troubles that result from fundamental social changes that the post-revolutionary nineteenth century brought with it. The cries for Barabbas that Hugh hears in his lover’s argument and in the streets outside resound with a condemnation of materialism and rampant individualism that appears in Carlyle’s work. Carlyle uses the story of Pilate to warn his audience against the dangers of seeing universal suffrage as a panacea for labour problems because getting the vote will not, in his view, relieve labourers’ dispossession and poverty in a free market economy: “A certain People, once upon a time, clamorously voted by overwhelming majority, ‘Not he; Barabbas, not he!…To the gallows and the cross with him! Barabbas [page 17] is our man; Barabbas, we are for Barabbas!’” (Latter-Day Pamphlets 33, emphasis in original). As he believes the crowd around Pilate was mistaken then, so he believes Chartists are now. “[A]fter eighteen centuries of sad fortune” (Latter-Day Pamphlets 34), the Jews’ forced itinerancy in the world seems to him to serve as a cautionary tale to those who would extend the vote. While the cries Hugh hears after departing from the marriageable woman contain no Semitic references, they make the same demand in many of the same words: “The cry of eighteen hundred years ago” that sounds to him in the church bells’ “ev’ning chime” (IV. 181) exclaims “‘Loose us Barabbas!—he will rear us high;…./ And stain our windows with the blood he robs / From the free Helot’s heart’” (IV. 182, 185-6). Elsewhere, Carlyle likens the Helot to the “able-bodied Paupers” or labourers who cannot find work (Sartor Resartus 183). Like Carlyle, Hugh hears the imperatives of a market in the demand: “‘Loose us Barabbas!’ all the busy marts / Buzzed with the cry, ‘for none but robber thews/Can wrestle with fierce Fortune, now-a-days’” (IV. 190-92).

Subtler echoes point to other Carlylean influences on Crawford’s images. Leaning “[a] portly shoulder by a distant door” (I. 37) and surveying the argument between the marriageable woman and Hugh, the successful but indifferent rival for her hand seems a cousin to the cigar-smoking “Law-dignitary” who “blandly” ridicules any serious concern with the idea of justice in Latter-Day Pamphlets (72). The “lean, lank giant, honest [and] hunger-blind” named “Want” (Hugh and Ion IV. 195), who wonders dejectedly whether Barabbas may in fact reveal a “‘newer gospel fitter for the time’” (Hugh and Ion IV. 198) than Christ’s example of compassion and self-denial, recollects Carlyle’s image of the “Irish Giant, named of Despair” (Latter-Day Pamphlets 94) who consists of thousands of starving Irish flocking toward city centres during successive potato famines.

Crawford’s other major intertextual source of labour imagery is the work of the famous American land reformer Henry George. Like Charles Stuart Parnell, the Anglo-Irish activist whose work Burns has suggested resonates in some of Crawford’s poems on Irish emigration (“The Poet in Her Time” 40), George militated against corrupt landlordism. He also protested the dearth of opportunities given the classes whose only wealth consisted of the physical labour they could perform. “[I]n the 1880's George was a force to be reckoned with in working class affairs,” comments F.W. Watt, and only “the weakness of the radical tradition in Canada” has caused his work to be lost to contemporary students of labour writing (17). His arguments were widely disseminated by Canadian labour organs like The Palladium of Labor, which frequently printed excerpts from George’s [page 18] work, and by mainstream newspapers like The Globe, which covered (and criticized) his activities and speeches. Even at the end of the nineteenth century, George’s writing exerted a tremendous influence; in Albert Carman’s Social Gospel novel The Preparation of Ryerson Embury (1900), the protagonist’s reading of George’s Progress and Poverty produces an almost religious conversion that transforms him from a rising young lawyer employed by a firm with close ties to local business into a labour activist.

As a writer whose poems sometimes express a concern with contemporary Irish political troubles, Crawford may have encountered the first of the Georgian images that appear in Hugh and Ion in an interview with him that T. Phillips Thompson conducted as part of the “Troubled Ireland” series, which ran in The Globe from 15 November 1881 to 10 January 1882 (Burr 194 n. 23). That year, George embarked on a well-publicized tour of Ireland, where his advocacy of nationalizing private property landed him briefly in jail. In the interview, George emphasized the extent of government power in Ireland: “Of course I knew that a man in Dublin Castle [the official residence of the Viceroy in Ireland] could send any man to prison during his will and pleasure, but I did not realize how in all its details the entire system of government partook of the same arbitrary character” (7). The “arbitrary” nature of power appears in an Orientalized version from the mouth of Crawford’s marriageable woman when she tells the tale of a man imprisoned in a dungeon for “‘some fell tyrant’s freak’” (I. 8) until the day when “‘[t]he Sultan missed his beauty and his sword’” (I. 16). If Crawford did read this interview with George, she could not have missed George’s comment on urban privation, which he regarded as the consequence of private land ownership: “the fact that there are nearly one million paupers in manufacturing England, and that in the great and rich city of London PEOPLE DIE OF STARVATION is…a consequence of the monopolization of English soil” (7, original emphasis).12 This statement might be one of the sources for the cries of “‘So little space!—we starve—we faint, we die’” (V. 201) that the jilted lover hears rising from “the close city hives” (V. 200) after he leaves the marriageable woman.

A third image bears a further similarity to George’s arguments. Disdainful of half-hearted attempts such as “‘midnight missions’” and “‘Christian homes for destitute young girls’” to cure widespread social diseases, George demanded: “what will [such attempts] avail in the face of general conditions…which can drive a mother to such despair that she will throw her babies from a wharf of our Christian city and then leap into the river herself!” (Social Problems 82). The despair of these women is exactly [page 19] the kind that Ion later asserts will be exported from the city if Hugh leads the urban poor to his bayside colony. Countering Hugh’s description of the prosperous wharves the colony will build, Ion predicts that

“…to their slimy lips shall steal at night
Lost mothers with their bastards at their breasts—
And stare a moment at the town behind,
A moment at the stars—then make the choice
Of filthy water.”
                                          (IX. 757-61)

Such resemblances to George’s imagery draw attention to other possible uses of his writing in Crawford’s text, particularly in connection with the marriageable woman’s arguments. The marriageable woman embraces the values of the avaricious status quo that her businessman lover represents, explaining that women like her

“…need our thieves
Our Benedict Barabbas who can steal
With such bland gestures, and wise brows bent down
In plans financial, that the feeble folk
Stand all at gaze in envy and delight
Yes—even when he plucks the crusts from lips
Blue with their torture for it.”
                                          (I. 50-56)

George contends that such misguided admiration of the rich by the poor is a key source of capitalism’s strength and survival:

…men admire what they desire…And thus the sting of want and the fear of want make men admire above all things the possession of riches, and to become wealthy is to become respected, and admired, and influential…. Men instinctively admire virtue and truth, but the sting of want and the fear of want make them even more strongly admire the rich and sympathize with the fortunate. (Progress and Poverty 459)

Poverty thus leads its sufferers paradoxically to praise the people most likely to benefit from their pain.

Another Georgian intertext may also underpin the trope of blindness associated with the marriageable woman. In Progress and Poverty, George writes that landowners’ continuous robbery of their tenantry “darkens faith in the human soul, and across the reflection of a just and merciful Creator [page 20] draws the veil of a hard, and blind, and cruel fate!” (365). The metaphor of blindness for a wilful lack of spiritual insight is so common that naming only one source for it is impossible. Yet in its suggestion of landowners’ mercilessness and injustice, this statement names the same wilful denial of love and the responsibilities, both in one’s personal relationships and in one’s activities as a citizen, that love imposes on the individual. Caring neither for Hugh nor for humanity in general, the marriageable woman’s “soul was blind, and could not look on Love” (I. 71), an incapacity that protects her from witnessing sorrow, prevents her from experiencing joy, and makes her excessive consumption possible (I. 74-79). In an act reminiscent of George’s veil-drawing, she draws “the golden glamour of a rose / Across her eyes” to signal her final rejection of her former lover’s argument (I. 93-4).

Carlyle’s and George’s remedies for the inequality between owners and labourers could not have been more different. Carlyle regarded poverty in the British empire as the symptom of a much larger social malaise caused by the complete breakdown of concepts of duty and obligation among all social classes, and he argued that Britain needed either to return to or to reconstruct a time when Britons still actively obeyed both. At the opposite end of the political spectrum, George advocated the abolition of private property and the replacement of land with labour as the economy’s most valuable commodity. In borrowing some of their vivid imagery, Crawford reproduces neither of these remedies for the exploitation of industrial workers and urban privation.13 She does not abolish land ownership as George would—her protagonist envisions his colony partly in terms of capitalist opportunity idealized as freedom from slave labour in the city—and she does not suggest that the solution is a return to caste commitment as Carlyle does. What she does insert into her text is Carlyle and George’s conviction that the industrial age has produced a near-apocalyptic breakdown in social relations that reserves its worst consequences for the urban poor and working classes. Furthermore, though Crawford is thinking about labour more than the founding of new colonies, the parallels that she draws between Hercules and her protagonist also repeat Carlyle’s suggestion that the labour crisis requires colonial leaders who possess a herculean ability to be simultaneously integrated members of their communities and the exemplary leaders of them.


     III Imagined Community [page 21]

Yet Carlyle and George’s preferred figure for the hero who will end the labour injustices of the era is not Hercules but Samson, who in contrast to his Greek alter ego is as famous for being a destroyer as he is for being a saviour; indeed, his story cannot be told without acknowledging the mixed results of a strength that repelled the Philistines only at the cost of his own life. In an uncharacteristically conservative moment, George makes Samson the figure for the calamitous power that large numbers of unemployed and impoverished people could wield if given the vote before their standard of living is improved: “To put political power in the hands of men embittered and degraded by poverty is to tie firebrands to foxes and turn them loose amid the standing corn; it is to put out the eyes of a Samson and to twine his arms around the pillars of national life” (Progress and Poverty 532). In his representation, Samson is a blindly destructive force in need of direction, not one who supplies leadership. In George’s radically reformist argument for the political and economic independence of working people, Samson is a curiously ambiguous symbol and one that suggests unguessed-at difficulties to come with the liberation of the industrial working class.

For Carlyle, Samson is the figure of the apocalyptic destruction that precedes revolutionary change, the figure responsible for razing old social systems to make room for new ones. This is a necessary and ultimately beneficial process, but also a painful one. One of his Samsons is Honoré Mirabeau, a prominent figure during the French Revolution and a “fiery fuliginous mass, which could not be choked and smothered, but would fill all France with smoke” (The French Revolution 141) as that country made “away with her old formulas” (The French Revolution 140). Another reveals himself in King Friedrich II of Prussia. Friedrich helped initiate massive social change by leaving “the world all bankrupt,…fallen into bottomless abysses of destruction” (History of Friedrich II of Prussia 5). The revolutionary Europe that he, like Mirabeau, helped usher in was one of “[b]lack midnight, broken only by the blaze of conflagrations;—wherein, to our terrified imaginations, were seen, not men, French and other, but ghastly portents, stalking wrathful, and shapes of avenging gods” (History of Friedrich II of Prussia 6). Such a figure generates “a spectacle of truly epic and tragic nature” (History of Friedrich II of Prussia 5).

At first glance, Crawford’s references to Samson in Hugh and Ion do not suggest the same catastrophic implications. The Samson with whom Hugh is initially aligned is the shorn and weak one who “clasps strong columns in a flaccid arm” (V. 211), the one who cannot wreak havoc without God’s direct intervention. At the same time, Hugh’s “Samson soul” (V. 208) is still “giant” (V. 233) enough to prevent him from committing suicide, [page 22] attacking his body until “the poor ghost / Of flesh and blood lay at the strong soul’s feet / Trembling to dust” (V. 238-40). In the context of a poem that contains herculean elements, this suicide attempt might logically be interpreted as a merely temporary lapse within a generally herculean trajectory, the name “Samson” accepted more or less as a synonym for Hercules. The Hugh who chooses life over suicide arguably makes a “choice of Hercules,” for the “giant in” him selects the more difficult and virtuous path of waging war against the enemies of the poor rather than fleeing from them. From this perspective, the springtime scene that inaugurates the poem’s second half introduces the kind of hero who can make changes to the blighted world, a figure newly girded for the fight by his self-redemption from a mortal sin. Hugh’s emergence to spring in the wilderness from winter in the city may credibly be viewed as mirroring his own rebirth from hopelessness to optimism, from weakness to renewed strength.

Yet if Hugh’s great strength and his individual choices reinforce the impression of his herculean capacities, his self-identification with the urban poor and labouring classes does not. The city scenes invite a serious questioning of those capacities through their representation of his ambiguous relationship to the group whose interests he wants most to serve (and to which the labour intertexts in the poem tie him). The initial appearance of a common ground between the hero and these suffering masses gives way to the stronger possibility that Hugh only imagines his brotherhood with them.

The empathy that Hugh apparently feels for the unhappy humanity he encounters on his walk through the city recalls the role that empathy plays in the narratives of other herculean heroes in closing the distance between the hero and the community around him; if, like Carlyle’s ideal leaders of new colonies, he has not had exactly the same experiences as the people around him, he believes that he shares their motives and desires. When the narrating persona begins to focalize through Hugh’s perspective, however, this apparent empathy comes to reveal his actual alienation from the people with whom he seems to share so many feelings. As much as his emotional responses to the scenes before him suggest otherwise, no fraternal bond ever convincingly forms between himself and this community. What seems to be empathy is in fact Hugh’s projection of his own experience onto the people he encounters. And just as George and Carlyle depict Samson as a figure of unstable energy who hurts as much as helps the people he defends, Crawford uses Samson imagery to define her hero as a problematic mixture of forcefulness and impotence. [page 23]

Hugh’s ability to imagine the predicaments of others seems obvious at first, when he is introduced as the interpreter of the tale the marriageable woman tells in defence of her misanthropic outlook on love, in which a tyrannical ruler (the same one who resembles George’s “man in Dublin Castle”) casts a favourite knight into prison, where he lies starving on the rock slab to which he is bound. When the tyrant later orders him released, the prisoner discovers that the ropes that tied him were only “‘feeble rose-vines’” (I. 23), his imprisonment real only in his own mind. The marriageable woman tells the story to argue that love is an illusion that her jilted lover could abandon if he wished. Her own disbelief in love enables not only her successful pursuit of security in the form of a well-heeled mate but of luxury too; she does not just have clothing for warmth but “‘golden tissues floating far’” (I. 49), not just sandals but “‘sandals jewel-lac’d’” (I. 50). Hugh’s reply to this story and its teller’s argument, the previously-noted “‘And give us up Barabbas’” (I. 35), rejects the marriageable woman’s depiction of the prisoner as a false martyr. Recognizing the martyred knight’s tale as an allegory of his own, Hugh allies himself with the other victims of the marriageable woman’s greed, the “‘feeble folk’” (I. 53) also sacrificed, as she coolly acknowledges, for the avarice that she defends (I. 50-54). The fact that Hugh feels for the weak in the world that she describes aligns him with the poor of the city through which he will later wander.

Since the scenes in which Hugh subsequently mingles with city-dwellers (III and IV) are the only ones that put him in the same place as the people he will later declare his intention of saving, demonstrating some relationship between them and their would-be leader at this point in the poem is crucial to the pattern of the herculean narrative. Certainly, Hugh’s disappointment at the rejection he has suffered seems mirrored in the city’s mood. The description of despair presented as he walks the streets is not attached to him individually but to any and every city inhabitant. While the sun sets, the “dark’ning world” (II. 122) shrouds itself with “dun mist” (II.131) and dust, turning the city into a terrible fortress choked by a serpentine frost. “On such an eve” in such a place, comments the narrating persona, “despair seems no strange growth, / But a chief vein that feeds the chilling heart” (II. 135-6). Rather than a depiction of the hero’s grief-stricken reaction to the ruin of his hopes, there is a description of a general hopelessness associated with anyone who happens to be in the city, including but certainly not limited to Hugh.

A lyrical outburst at the beginning of Section III again ostensibly identifies the hero’s grief with that of the urban dwellers who surround him. [page 24] Alluding to the city’s and Hugh’s despair, the narrating persona observes that speech “never throve / On the high swell of Sorrow’s bursting heart” (III. 143-4). Just “[t]wo groans” (III. 145) comprise all “speech in auguish [sic]” (III. 143): “‘God, God!’” and “‘Why? Why?’” (III. 146-7). The emotional intensity of these cries evokes the idea of the lyric as the verbal expression of a deep personal feeling; just as despair is generalized to the entire city in the previous scene, however, so is the lyric outburst in this one attributed to a plural subject. The “bursting heart” of Sorrow, a personified abstraction, belongs to everyone who feels this anguish, unifying them in a common grief-stricken speechlessness. As the sun sets on the materially and spiritually impoverished city, Hugh and many others undergo the same loss of hope, their suffering the common ground among them. Similarly, the questions that later reformulate this lyric cry as an object for critique and exploration—“‘Might not Barabbas be a newer Christ? / With newer gospel fitter for the time?’” (IV. 197-8)—are ones that any member of the destitute community through which Hugh moves could ask as well as Hugh himself.

However, these intimations that Hugh and the urban community meet on the same emotional plane are undermined once the narrating persona begins to describe the city from Hugh’s perspective in Section IV, where it becomes clear that any appearance of an ordeal shared by the hero and the group is illusory. Wherever Hugh goes in the city, he hears its “virile voice... shout[ing]” (IV. 179) the same demand for Barabbas (IV. 182) that he heard in the marriageable woman’s tale. That the hero should hear the city reiterate the demand he interpreted that woman to be making earlier implies that the city in this scene exists largely in his imagination. It is unclear, then, whether Hugh distinguishes between his own pain and the particular pain of the others in his environment, or whether he configures the latter to reflect his own experience. The groans of sorrow that earlier seemed to belong both to him and to the city folk now seem just as likely to have been the projections of his own mental fancy. The possibility that he projects his own ideas onto the world rather than regard that world as an entity in its own right distances Hugh from the herculean hero, whose alignment with a community depends on his similarity to the people he serves, not his invention of them.

While the marriageable woman’s acknowledgement that only a cheated and starving population makes her level of consumption possible confirms that a destitute labouring community does exist outside Hugh’s imagination, the sections focalized through Hugh thus render his relationship to that exploited population ambiguous. The utterances that Hugh thinks he [page 25] hears raise doubts about whether he experiences the same phenomenal world as the people whose cries he hears in the city streets. If Hugh is even partly imagining the words he hears, then those words do not signify a communication between him and the outside world so much as his potential misunderstanding of it. Even as he roams through the city with an abundance of empathy for its impoverished inhabitants, then, he is alienated from them.

Misunderstandings between the hero and the community to which he belongs, particularly misunderstandings that involve language, call to mind Samson’s story rather than Hercules’. Though Samson, a riddler, knows how to use language cleverly, he is just as well known as a poor sender and receiver of communication; his Philistine father-in-law’s understandable misreading of his anger when he abandons his new wife precipitates Samson’s retaliatory destruction of Philistine crops by tying firebrands to foxes’ tails. The action that led to the abandonment, his bride’s revealing the solution to Samson’s riddle of the lion and the honey to her relatives, teaches him nothing; his later capitulation to Delilah’s persistent requests to learn the secret of his strength leads to his capture and imprisonment. Acting as he does from personal motives rather than from national or religious ones, write Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger of Judges 16:28, Samson is far from the ideal embodiment of the community (316). While Hugh is not myopically focussed on avenging his disappointments as Samson is, he is similarly distanced from the community around him, a community that he might imagine he comprehends but that is a product of his own desires.


     V Samson Agonistes

By the time Crawford’s manuscript reaches its final sections, then, it has established a labour context that foregrounds a protagonist with some herculean features and an urban community of “serfs” without making the connection between this protagonist and the community that defines the herculean hero. Far from supplying that relationship, the poem’s final stages reassert its absence, suggesting that the case Hugh makes for the redemption of this community from the miserable city relies on a personal revelation rather than any experience he has had of that community. This reliance again compromises his plan to lead the urban working class by intensifying readers’ sense that he is isolated, and moreover that he has trouble with the empathy that is so necessary to the herculean fusion of the fraternal and the exceptional. [page 26]

The relationship between evangelical Christian rhetoric and nineteenth-century labour movements is well documented. During the Knights of Labour drive to organize Ontario’s working men and women in the 1880s, efforts to increase membership produced a boom compared to a “‘great awakening’” (Kealey and Palmer 99-100).14 Unlike the churches that often hosted revivals, evangelical movements and the visiting preachers spearheading them often ignored the hierarchy of owners and labourers, middle and working classes, that defined local congregations. If evangelical revivals disregarded class distinctions between the converts who attended the meetings, however, they did so only temporarily, never permanently reordering the church’s hierarchical structure. For her part, Crawford saw that structure as hypocritical (Burns, Isabella Valancy Crawford 7). Her scepticism about organized religion may also be discernible earlier in the appearance of the prostitute who observes Hugh as he leaves his meeting with the marriageable woman. Her attempt to blend into this pious environment—she matches the “sombre hues” (III. 158) of her dress to the “churches churches pressing on her path” (III. 161)—suggests that her place of business is near the church walls; the “grave grey-beards tott’ring in her wake” (III. 162), with their resemblance to church elders, imply a worse hypocrisy within those walls themselves. Not surprisingly, Crawford’s adoption of an evangelical vocabulary in a poem that thematizes the labour crisis further ironizes the hero’s envisioned replacement of urban misery with wilderness harmony.

As Hugh and Ion argue over whether it is more appropriate to hope for or despair of humanity, Ion declares that if Hugh can “[p]rove” that hope is God’s “chiefest Prophet” (IX. 795), then he will abandon his misanthropic pessimism and become a believer in the possibility of redemption. But Hugh rejects Ion’s demand that he demonstrate the link between God and hope. “[W]ork the problem out / Alone,” he instructs his friend, “nor waste your toil on it unless / You feel at times the passionate, plain pang / Of adoration paining all your soul” (IX. 797-800). The only person who can find Hugh’s God for Ion, Hugh suggests, is Ion himself. Though Hugh’s faith in God and hope is absolute, communicating that faith to a third party is impossible, and therefore so is the demonstration that Ion requests because the only valid evidence that God exists involves the adoration of, not the argument for, God’s omnipotent goodness.

In short, Hugh affirms an evangelical Protestant idea of testimony that is based on the witness’s claim of a direct personal experience of the divine. To the faithful, this kind of testimony does not argue but actually proves that the divine exists. It claims a personal authority for the witness [page 27] that carries weight because it is seen as evidence of a transformational truth approachable only in incontrovertibly personal terms. No material evidence supports the speaker’s words, and while other individuals may have their own experiences of God, the experience itself is always thoroughly private.

The evangelical character of Hugh’s speech during this final argument, and the ironic uses to which it is put, become clearer when the speech is compared to the sermons of F.W. Robertson, a well-known evangelical Anglican minister to a largely working-class congregation at Brighton, England, in the mid-nineteenth century. After his death in 1853, his popular sermons were published many times on both sides of the Atlantic through the remainder of the Victorian period.15 Robertson’s discomfort “with the fact that social cleavages were widespread and acute” in his England was not radically socialist in a political sense, as E.D. Mackerness affirms in The Heeded Voice (43); however, his sermons eloquently unified a recognition of working-class needs for higher working and living standards with an insistence that true Christianity could not endorse the self-interest that capitalism rewarded.

Hugh’s declaration to Ion that he must have faith in order to find God resembles Robertson’s conclusion to “The Scepticism of Pilate,” in which he affirms that faith in God precedes rational belief in Him and does not depend on empirical evidence. Robertson directs his sermon specifically at young men like Ion, who profess that they need to be sure that God really exists before they change their lives for Him. “They say,” Robertson reports,

If I could but believe, then I would make my life true. If I could but be sure what is truth, then I would set to work to live in earnest. No; God says, Act—make the life true, and then you will be able to believe….

Infer the blessedness of belief. Young men are prone to consider scepticism a proof of strong-mindedness—a something to be proud of….

[but] the only manly thing, the only strong thing, is Faith. It is not so far as a man doubts, but so far as he believes, that he can achieve or perfect anything. (“The Scepticism of Pilate” 346-7)

This passage illuminates the evangelical significance of Ion’s demand that Hugh “[p]rove” Hope is God’s “chiefest Prophet” (IX. 795), as well as Hugh’s rejection of that demand. The evangelical idea, like Hugh’s, is that only an a priori belief in God generates hope. [page 28]

Most damagingly to Hugh’s questionable herculean status, the exposure of this evangelical element in his character further challenges the idea that he can bridge the distance between himself and the people with whom he believes he belongs by drawing attention to an earlier passage that reaffirms his incapacity for empathy. Again, Robertson’s sermons provide a helpful background. In “The Human Race Typified by the Man of Sorrows,” Robertson proposes that Christ’s genuinely human character is captured in the phrase “the man of sorrows” because Christ himself suffered deeply from distresses like poverty. Along with his well-developed empathy came an almost unbearable sympathy. His genuine grief for others’ pain leads Robertson to conclude that the spiritual suffering involved with sympathy is far worse than physical pain:

The spirit of a man will sustain his [physical] infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear? The inner mind, wrapped up, as it seems, by impenetrable defences, is yet more exposed to shocks and wounds than the outward skin tissue; and the sensitive network which encompasses that mind is a thousandfold more alive to agony than the nerves that quiver when they are cut. (13)

No one feels such shocks more than “[s]trong and able manhood,” for “[t]hat which a base and a craven spirit smiles at is torture to the noblest and the best” (13). The virtuous man feels others’ pain as well as his own not only because he has similar experiences but also because he has an immense capacity for pity: “To sympathize is…to feel with those that suffer…. It is the rising, the almost spontaneous rising, of the emotion of pity in the bosom” (16-17). These statements echo in the comments on pity that the narrating persona makes with reference to Hugh during the suicide-attempt scene:

                   He who pities man
Has keener sword pricks on his tender breast
Than the gaunt bosom of the victim bears
Aye, though the sword is hilt deep in his heart
And he who sees the mountain reel and fall
Had more of death than him that falls with it.
                                      (V. 227-32)

But associated with sympathy rather than empathy, pity does not suggest the same complete identification of the subject with his or her object that [page 29] empathy does. If anything, it stresses the distinction between the two, for the pitying subject feels for a plight that he or she does not share.

Perhaps because Hugh’s argument with Ion is often overtly agonistic—it involves the speeches, the liberal use of stichomythia, and one interlocutor’s invitation to the other to speak that characterize the formal agons or debates of classical drama—it generates the expectation of a self-reflexive turn on Hugh’s part, one that would allow him to question what he saw and heard in the city and to critique his own reaction to it. But while Hugh’s desire to save others remains as sincere as ever, the evangelical element of his dialogue with Ion only reiterates his real distance from the urban community that he believes he can represent, bringing readers full circle back to the poem’s beginning, where the marriageable woman’s assessment of Hugh turns out to have been quite accurate: as is true of the knight in the tyrant’s dungeon, Hugh’s imagination constitutes his reality.


     VI Conclusion

In order to grasp the ramifications of the hero Crawford creates in Hugh and Ion, it is useful to compare him to the slightly later hero of the Social Gospel fiction that circulated a decade after her death, a figure situated within a Christian framework and closely modelled on Christ. Regarding the life Jesus lived as a scathing indictment of the material inequalities that capitalist societies generated, Social Gospellers portrayed him as a combination of ordinary labourer (a carpenter) and the redeemer of humanity. His alchemical mixture of the common and the uncommon could, they believed, teach modern society how to bridge the chasm between the rich and the poor. Generally a middle-class activism, the Social Gospel and its narratives imagined a harmonious but still hierarchically-ordered relationship between owners and workers initiated by sensitive leaders culled from the ranks of the bourgeoisie and adopted by members of the proletariat. Reading Hugh and Ion along with Malcolm’s Katie shows that by contrast, Crawford does not write the former to comfort any one class. To McDougall’s vision of the archetypal national hero who transcends social conditions, Crawford opposes heroes who are, or who ought to be, bellwethers for those conditions instead. In Malcolm’s Katie, her use of her hero to stand for a whole community identifies one with the other; Max’s amalgamation of shared community values and virtuous individuality flowers into a muscular and bourgeois nationalism that articulates his fellow settlers’ westward aspirations. To the extent that those settlers are shown to [page 30] strive after the same goals he does, Max functions as their symbol and their voice, his task to translate their values and assumptions.

The question that Hugh and Ion’s hero raises is why a failed symbiosis between the individual hero and the community is the pattern with which Crawford combines numerous references to a labour crisis that, by association, needs but never receives a solution. Why not reincarnate the herculean hero in this new labour context if the parallels with labour’s own ideal representative are as obvious as they seem? Why suggest that the herculean figure’s transfer from the story of western colonization to the story of urban privation transforms him into the Samson that George and Carlyle invest with so much uncertainty? By introducing a samsonian version of her hero, Crawford implies that the herculean version of Malcolm’s Katie is unsustainable in the new industrial-labour circumstances on which she focuses, even though the latter remains the only hero who can stand for the community that he defends. While community remains as important to the samsonian hero as it does to the herculean, the insight into the community that Hugh offers does not include the translation of the group’s priorities that Max makes. This refusal to make the plain-seeming parallel prevents readers from viewing this particular community as one for which the hero and his actions provide an explanation, confronting them with the idea that they know nothing whatsoever about it. Hugh teases out the anxiety implicit in movements such as the Social Gospel years before its literature takes shape. The fear that urban labourers and the urban poor are in fact an unknown quantity, and that if they constitute a community, it is one whose aims and character resist explanation from the outside, lend themselves to a distinctly samsonian treatment; far from transcending the social problems alluded to in the poem, Hugh as samsonian hero draws attention to them by foregrounding the difficulties with identifying the hero and the group, and with treating the hero as the spokesperson for that group.

While it is difficult to say how this narrative would have ended had Crawford completed Hugh and Ion, it is unlikely that the ending would have asserted Hugh’s herculeanism any more strongly than the beginning did. The failure of the hero-community relation, the basis for that failure in the hero’s character, and the consequent withholding of the community’s identity are too consistently established to be dismissed by a return to an ideally integrated protagonist. Although he comes to readers in a draft instead of a completed manuscript, there is substantial evidence in Hugh and Ion that Crawford is in the process of crafting a new kind of hero, one whose outline is clear enough to warrant a new title. And if intertextual references are at all proleptic of the final outcome, the ones that point to the [page 31] labour crisis in the late Victorian West indicate that the conclusion would be as ambiguous as the Samson for whom this protagonist is named.



  1. As McDougall acknowledges, he derives his image of the dodo from a television play about the Avro-Arrow project entitled The Day of the Dodo, and that of the cruising auk from George Johnston’s 1959 poetry collection The Cruising Auk. [back]

  2. So named by Glenn Clever when he published an edited version of the manuscript in 1977. [back]

  3. Because the protagonist of the poem’s early sections is not specifically named, and because there is no clear consensus among critics of the poem as to whether he is Hugh or Ion, a brief rationale for putting Hugh forward as the poem’s protagonist is in order.
         Both Hugh and Ion are only named in the second half of the draft, and both bear some resemblance to the man whose movements and experience are narrated in the poem’s first half. It is possible to argue, as Clever does (xiii), that Ion is the more plausible candidate owing to the falcon imagery that appears first in the rejected suitor’s indictment of the marriageable woman as a “fierce falcon soul” (I. 84) and then later when the narrating persona describes Ion as fleeing from his “false falcon love” (IX. 613). However, there are also good reasons for identifying Hugh as the suitor. The suitor and Hugh both refuse to accept the cynical view of human nature that the marriageable woman and Ion advance. The narrating persona describes the city through which the suitor walks and the one from which Hugh flees as characterized by the same hunger, the first via the personified abstraction “Want” (IV. 195), and the second through that of “Ancient Famine” (V. 258). Most compellingly, references to Barabbas link Hugh to the suitor. After Hugh leaves the city, he declares that he will return to it one day to save the miserable men “who bore their abject way /…through the city mire” (VII. 300-01) while calling out “‘Loose us Barabbas’” (VII. 306), exactly the same call that the nameless suitor hears repeatedly in the city streets that he wanders (IV. 182 and 188) as well as in the marriageable woman’s argument (I. 35).
         My purpose is not to argue that the unnamed man of the early sections can only be Hugh. No evidence in the draft suggests how Crawford intended finally to resolve his identity, if indeed she intended to do so at all. Still, a strong reading available from the manuscript is that Hugh and the unnamed suitor are the same person. [back]

  4. Since documentary evidence of what Crawford read and when she read it is virtually nonexistent, the use of the term “intertext” is preferable to that of “allusion” in discussing her work. However, several of the texts that I will be identifying as intertextual sources for the labour theme in Hugh and Ion were available, according to the 1880 library catalogue, at the Mechanics’ Institute of which she was a member, including Thomas Carlyle’s Chartism and Latter-Day Pamphlets. [back]

  5. The Commission submitted two reports to the Macdonald government because the commissioners divided sharply in their interpretation of the data gathered at hearings across Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Armstrong headed the larger pro-labour faction against a group whose sympathies were perceived to lie with the manufacturers. [back]

  6. See The Industrial Kingdom of God, especially 137-40 on the laws of supply and demand. [page 32] [back]

  7. The bracketed word is partly illegible. [back]

  8. Untitled passage reprinted from the Chicago Truth in the Palladium of Labor 12 Jan. 1884, 1. [back]

  9. Enjolras (T. Philips Thompson), “Internationalism,” Palladium of Labor 20 June 1885, 1. [back]

  10. A prose example of the herculean hero that supports the idea that a central feature of the type is his identification with a community is found in Thomas Guthrie Marquis’ historical novel Margeurite de Roberval: A Romance of the Days of Jacques Cartier (1899). One of Cartier’s fellow explorers in the novel, the popular Charles de la Pommeraye, is a “handsome young Hercules” (148) who first rescues Margeurite from the “Isle of Demons” on which her uncle left her in the Strait of Belle Isle, and when she rejects his proposal, sacrifices the rest of his life to fighting for France in her war with Spain, saving the French from certain defeat several times and becoming a national legend in the process. [back]

  11. In this essay I cite both the line and the section numbers of the passages quoted. Though the lines in the poem are numbered consecutively from its beginning to its end rather than by section, the section numbers are Crawford’s and contribute to readers’ sense of the narrative’s organization. [back]

  12. Crawford might also have encountered this image in Progress and Poverty, where George makes the same observation that “amid the greatest accumulations of wealth, men die of starvation” (8). [back]

  13. Other allusions extend the same general theme of labour into the poem’s second half. In Section VI, which bridges Hugh’s transition from the city and its misery to the comparatively pristine and problem-free wilderness setting of the remaining sections, the narrating persona’s description of the “healing” April clouds as an “alabaster box” (VI. 265) that breaks to pour balm onto the world recalls the story in the Books of Matthew and Mark of the woman who anoints Jesus’ head with oil. When she “brake[s]” the box to pour the expensive oil on Jesus’ head, some of his companions grumble that the money the oil would have fetched could have been given to the poor (Mark 14:3-6). [back]

  14. Kealey and Palmer are quoting from the Palladium of Labor, 14 November 1885, n.p. [back]

  15. Robertson’s sermons and letters were also part of the library holdings at the Mechanics’ Institute in Toronto. [back]


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