For Canadian readers, J. Mackay’s Quebec Hill; or Canadian Scenery. A Poem. In Two Parts is probably the most engaging and least likeable of the earliest poems written about Canada. Published in London in 1797, Mackay’s poem contains some quite positive comments about various aspects of Lower Canada, most notably the Colony’s picturesque and romantic scenery, but ends by affirming in no uncertain terms its author’s preference for the “climate” and “manners” of “Britain” (II, 185- 186). Despite the patriotism of its conclusion, Quebec Hill was not favourably received by reviewers in England;’1 indeed, if the views expressed by Mackay in his Preface had been respected, his poem would have remained in the “oblivion” (Preface, 7) into which it sank within months of its first publication. But Mackay’s wide-ranging, if frequently acerbic, comments about the landscape and life of Lower Canada have proved to be of some enduring interest to students and scholars of Canadian literature. As a result, Quebec Hill and its Preface have been twice reprinted, the first time in their entirety in Three Early Poems from Lower Canada (1969), edited by Michael Gnarowski,2 and the second time in the form of excerpts from both of its two parts, “Summer” and “Winter”, in the first volume of Literature in Canada (1978), edited by Douglas Daymond and Leslie Monkman.3 Nor has Mackay’s work gone entirely unnoticed by Canadian critics. Briefly discussed in the Literary History of Canada and elsewhere,4 it has recently been accorded a certain prominence for its articulation of the “difficulty or impossibility” of finding in European “language and metrical forms” an “appropriate style” “to convey the very different North American experience":5

Ye who, in stanzas, celebrate the Po,
Or teach the Tyber in your strains to flow,
How would you toil for numbers to proclaim
The liquid grandeur of St. Lawrence’ Stream?
(1, 49-52)

For this question and for many other reasons, including its intriguing observations about late eighteenth-century Canada, Mackay’s work deserves the continued attention which, it is hoped, this edition of Quebec Hill and its Preface will help to sustain and enliven.


In the Literary History of Canada, James J. and Ruth Talman describe the author of Quebec Hill as “an unknown”,6 and, sad to say, extensive research has to date failed to uncover any firm evidence as to the identity of J. Mackay—his profession, the dates of his birth and death, the whys, whens and wherefores that lie behind his remark that “By far the greatest part of [his] poem was written in Canada, where [he] . . . has spent a considerable portion of his time” (Preface, 8-10). From the fact that the poem was published in London in 1797 and, apparently, entered by the author himself in February of that year in the Register at Stationers’ Hail,7 it seems safe to assume that, if only for a period early in 1797, J. Mackay was in England. Beyond this, nothing can be said with certainty, though some lines early in “Summer” suggest that Mackay spent his “early youth” in “rural” Britain, where an unnamed “traveller[’s] ... tale of other days ... “enabled him to explore vicariously the North American woods, hills and rivers that he would later see with his own eyes when he came to Canada (1, 23-30). Could this unnamed “travelier” be one or other of the two authors upon whom Mackay makes the most extensive levies for his descriptions of Canada in Quebec Hill: the Jonathon Carver of Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (who was in England from 1769 to 1780)8 and the Peter Kalm of Travels in North America and “A Letter . . . containing a particular Account of the GREAT FALL of Niagara” (who was in England in 1748 and 1751 )?9 On these and other questions the historical record seems destined to remain silent unless some hitherto undiscovered information appears to link Quebec Hill with a particular J. Mackay (whose surname, it should be noted, could appear in different documents in a variety of forms, including McKay, McKie, McKee, and, in French Canada, Maké). At present, it is possible only to suggest two plausible candidates for the authorship of Quebec Hill:

(1) Lieutenant James McKay (c. 1738-1818). A Military Knight of Windsor at the time of his death at the age of eighty in Chelsea, England, James McKay fought—probably as an enlisted man—under General Wolfe at Quebec, “where he received a serious wound."10 During the American War of Independence he served as a Lieutenant in the British Army “during the whole of that war” and was again seriously wounded in “defence of [the] fort"11 at Scot’s Lake in April, 1781. His journal12 of that defence is written in a plain, formal style, and could well be the work of an educated man. The account of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec Hill, though surprisingly brief if written by a veteran of the seige of Quebec, could nonetheless have been produced by such a person. Similarly, the reference in the poem to the bloodiness of “cruel War” (1, 187-198), to false military heroism (I, 187n.) and to the American Revolution (II, 201-202) are not inconsistent with what is known of Lieutenant James McKay—his obviously genuine heroism both at Quebec and at Scot’s Lake and his direct knowledge of “Disorders.., and faction” (II, 201) in North America.

(2) Captain John Mackie (dates unknown). A ship’s Captain who apparently specialized from 1792 until at least the early decades of the nineteenth century in the London (and, later, Greenock)-Quebec circuit, John Mackie appears from the Quebec Gazette, the Lloyd’s Register and the Lloyd’s List to have been almost an annual visitor to Quebec (and, occasionally, Montreal) on such vessels as the Queen of Naples (1792-1795), the Caprice (1795-1796) and the Fanny (1797 [or early 1798]-1805).13 This J. Mackie (and, like his fellow masters, he is never given more than an initial in the Lloyd’s Register and List) would obviously have had access to a London printer, particularly in winter, when Quebec Hill was published,’14 and by 1796-1797 he could easily have thought of himself as having “spent a considerable portion of his time” in Canada. As a Captain, he would have had some education and could have been well-read; moreover, he might well be thought likely to have been interested in the scientific issues—optical effects (I, 319-324), the origins of winds (II, 81-90), the freezing of the ocean (II, 91-102), and marine and meteorlogical matters generally (I, 317-318, 347-350 and elsewhere)—that are given poetic expression in Quebec Hill. A final point in favour of Captain John Mackie (whose name is, on occasion, spelled Mackay and McKay)’15 as the author of Quebec Hill is that he was without a doubt16 in Quebec in the summer of 1793, when the Quebec Gazette had recently reported a rumour repeated in a note to the poem (I, 156)—the rumour of the appointment of a Bishop of Quebec “with a salary of £2,000 per annum” (see Explanatory Notes, I, 155-156 and n.).

If only to prevent such internal and circumstantial evidence as this from seeming more convincing than it can ever be, the point should probably be made again that, in the absence of external evidence linking Quebec Hill to a particular J. Mackay, the authorship of the poem must for all intents and purposes remain “unknown". Lieutenant James McKay and Captain John Mackie are only two among several possible authors for Quebec Hill, a fact that can be readily confirmed either by a glance at a note opening up other possibilities’17 or by the mere recognition that in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain and Canada (not to mention the United States) J. Mackay was, if anything, a more common name than J. Smith.


Whoever he was, J. Mackay apparently found the programme for his poem in a work which, in many ways, provides the agenda, not merely for Quebec Hill, but for much early Canadian writing: J. Aikin’s Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry (1777). Arguing that “the grand and beautiful objects which nature every where profusely throws around us, are the most obvious store of new materials for the poet. . . [and] the store which of all others he has most sparingly touched,” Aikin proceeds in his Essay to direct would-be practitioners of “descriptive poetry"’18 to what, for him and his assumed English audience, appeared to be the greatest “store of new materials for the poet": “countries where almost every object is new. Such, to the inhabitant of a temperate climate, are the polar and tropical parts of the globe."’19 Of course, this statement is to a great extent implicit in the “Summer” and “Winter” portions of James Thomson’s The Seasons (both of which are quoted frequently by Aikin and —as the Explanatory Notes in the present edition attest—plundered heavily by Mackay); however, it is rendered almost diagrammatically explicit by Aikin’s Essay in the same, broad antithesis that governs Quebec Hill and prompts Mackay’s concluding endorsement of the “temp’rate” (II, 187) climate of the British Isles—the antithesis between the “burning . . . Sun” of a tropical summer and the “dreary scenes” that characterize winter in the “desolate regions"20 of the North. When Mackay notes that “Some days in July and August are said to be as intensely hot in [Canada] as in the West Indies” (I, 159), it is as if he is drawing the Canadian summer towards one of the extremes which, in Aikin’s view, will make it novel and “exotic"21 to “the inhabitant of a temperate climate.” Similarily, Mackay’s repeated references to Siberia (II, 19, 84) and Greenland (II, 90, 105) could be taken as attempts to wed the Canadian winter to the other extreme said by Aikin to be “productive of novelty” in poetry. And, needless to say, both the “Summer” and “Winter” sections of Quebec Hill are spiced with descriptions of the “extremes of ardent heat and cold” (II, 188) that can be assumed on the basis of Aikin’s Essay to have generated in Mackay’s British audience something of the astonishment—the pleasurable horror—characteristic of the sublime: “fiery cloud[s] that scorch.., the wind (I, 353) and light so “bright” that it impairs the sight (II, 49-54 and 4%.), “heats” so intense that they “affect strangers in an alarming manner” (1, 160) and winds so penetrating that they leave “fields of ice...! pendant charts . . .” on the inside walls of houses (II, 127-132).22 But the climatic structure and content of Quebec Hill are not the only aspects of the poem that appear to reflect Aikin’s Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry.

     Towards the end of his Essay, Aikin enthuses over the "infinite scope for new and striking description” that the “animal history” of the polar and tropical regions would afford “to the poet who should be able to draw.. .from original sources!"23 More specifically, he refers to the “untameable fierceness of the beasts of prey” and the “exalted rage and venom of the numerous serpents"24 in such regions, singling out various exotic creatures, including the bear and the python (as well as various plants), for comment. In at least two lengthy passages in Quebec Hill (I, 65-80 and II, 73-80), Mackay appears to have taken Aikin’s advice and used “original sources"—his own experience, presumably,25 and, certainly, the accounts of North American fauna in Carver’s Travels26 to create of the Canadian wilderness what Aiken calls a “rich garden of Exotics."27 In the lengthy passage in “Summer,” there are three untameable fierce “beasts of prey"—"prowling wolves” (I, 65), “fiery tygers” (that is, cougars; I, 71) and “The surly bear” (I, 73)—and two venomous snakes—"rattling snakes” (1, 66) and “the speckled adder” (I, 77). In the shorter passage in “Winter”, there are once again the “wolf” (I, 73), the “bear” (1, 77) and “tygers” (I, 79), as well as a creature from Carver that is every bit as exotic as the python: the “carcajou” (or wolverine) which was supposed to kill “elk” and other species of deer by strangling them with its “circling tail” (II, 75-76). Interestingly enough, Carver’s description of the carcajou’s extraordinary method of dispatching its prey incidentally associates the creature with the extremes of temperature poetically valued by Aikin: “taking his station on some . . . branches” of a tree, he waits until a deer, “driven by an extreme heat or cold, takes shelter under it; [t]hen he fastens upon [its] neck, and opening the jugular vein, soon brings his prey to the ground. This he is able to do by his long tail, with which he encircles the body of his adversary. . .” (See Explanatory Notes, II, 75).

     If Aikin’s remarks on the suitability of the exotic animals of extreme climates as a subject for descriptive poetry drew Mackay to the "carcajou” and other creatures, then perhaps his similar urgings about birds and their activities account for the presence in Quebec Hill of several comments on “feather’d warblers” and “songsters” (I, 341; II, 9), including what to many modern readers of the poem seems a curious anomaly: the inclusion of the cuckoo (1, 273), the nightingale (I, 274; II, 11-12; II, 173) and the skylark (I, 22) among the birds of Lower Canada. While Carver includes all of these species in his account of the birds of North America in Travels, and while there are indeed cuckoos in Quebec (see Explanatory Notes, I, 273-274), the presence of the nightingale and the skylark in Mackay’s poem could well have been prompted by Aikin’s remark that “The plaintive character of the nightingale renders its introduction [into poetry] pleasing and proper,” especially in contrast to the lark “whose character is always cheerful and sprightly."28 (That the skylark is mentioned only once in Quebec Hill and the nightingale is referred to three times points, like so much else in the poem, to Mackay’s bleak dualism—his tendency to concentrate more on the “shade” than on the “light” [I, 288] in his account of life’s “chequer’d groves” [I, 78]). It may also be that Aikin’s strong advocacy of the “migration of birds [as] ... a fertile source"29 of inspiration for “descriptive poetry” lies behind the brief references to the nightingale’s departure and return (II, 11-12 and II, 173) that bracket “Winter,” though, of course, Mackay may have been drawn to this particular facet of natural history by Thomson’s treatment of bird migration and related matter in The Seasons.30 Thomson, it should also be noted, places the cuckoo and the nightingale in close proximity in “Spring,” 31 as does Mackay (again with an emphasis on migration) in “Summer": “Here, the cuckoo his early visit pays, / And tuneful nightingales resume their lays (I, 273-274).

     More interesting than the possible sources of Mackay’s “tuneful nightingales” in Carver, Aikin, and Thomson (or any combination of the three) is his insistence on the musicality of the nightingale and other birds in Lower Canada. As he puts it towards the end of “Winter” in a passage that looks forward with hopeful anticipation to the coming of spring: “Then Philomela shall resume her lays,/And fiutt’ring warblers strains melodious raise . . . (II, 173-174). Although open to ornithological question on two counts (no more do female nightingales sing than are they found in Quebec), Mackay’s assertion here and elsewhere that Canada’s birds are given to “melodious” and “tuneful song” runs counter to the widely-known notion of his day that the birds of North America are either tuneless or silent. In a passage possibly echoed in the “matted groves” of Quebec Hill, I, 342, Oliver Goldsmith refers famously to “Those matted woods [of North America where birds forget to sing..."32 and, well into the nineteenth century, Alexander McLachlan writes sadly of Canada’s “Lovely birds of gorgeous dye” as being “songless, ev’ry one."33 In Mackay’s insistence on the melodiousness of Quebec’s “feather’d warblers” (I, 341) and “feather’d songsters” (II, 9), as, indeed, in his repeated references to the nightingales and other English-sounding birds in Canada, there is a tendency to familiarize the Lower-Canadian environnment for British readers, a tendency to make Quebec’s landscape intelligible and its landscape comfortable, which exists in tension with his emphasis at many points in the poem on the exotic and alarming—the “artful carcajou,” for instance, and the extremes of heat and cold. To a modern Canadian reader, Mackay’s reference to the nightingale as “Philomela” only compounds the offence of including nightingales at all among the flora and fauna of Quebec. But to the late-eighteenth-century British reader, such touches would probably have served the purpose of aligning the poem and its subject with old-world expectations, a purpose fulfilled also by Mackay’s decantation of his new-world subject-matter, however exotic, into the conventional diction and forms of post-Augustan poetry—Thomsonian periphrases (“feather’d warblers,” “finny race” [I, 137]), standard epithets (“verdant isle” [I, 147], “purling streams” [I, 272]), picturesque descriptions (more of which later) and, indeed, the heroic couplets which, in Mackay’s day, were still the appropriate form for reflecting (and reflecting upon) a world ordered by divine providence and the human mind.

     As has already been seen, the difficulties involved in attempting to render new- world realities in old-world “language and.. . forms” are raised early in Quebec Hill when Mackay poses the question of how the poets who have successfully celebrated the Po in “stanzas” and ’taught’ the Tyber to flow in their “strains” would find the rhymes and rhythms (“numbers”) “. . . to proclaim I The liquid grandeur of St. Lawrence’ Stream” (I, 49-52). While this question addresses formalistic issues (of which a little more later), it can be profitably extended into the equally intriguing realm of the relation between certain words in Quebec Hill and the actual objects to which they ostensibly refer. To return again to the example of the nightingale: did Mackay use this word in his poem merely because he (mistakenly) thought that there were nightingales in Lower Canada or, more interestingly, because it recommended itself to him (as earlier to Carver) as a suitable term for a species of bird whose name he did not know but whose characteristics (colour, song, flight, habitat and so on) reminded him of the European nightingale? In the same way that “tygers” describes cougars in Mackay and his sources, does the word “nightingale” in Quebec Hill actually refer to the Common Nighthawk or the Whip-Poor-Will, both of which are migrating birds found in Eastern Canada? Such a process of fitting available words to new phenomena must have been common among early visitors and emigrants to Canada, and doubtless remains so today. A strikingly pertinent instance of it occurs, in fact, in McLachlan’s The Emigrant, where the retrospective narrator tells how he and his companions “Paus’d to hear [what they subsequently came to know as] the whip-poor-will; / And thought of the cuckoo, / But this stranger no one knew."34 In the world but scarcely uttered that was eighteenth-century Quebec for an English-speaking visitor, the plant and animal life especially presented instances of creatures and things for which no word was known or, in fact, available. Mackay will probably continue in the future as he has in the past to provoke the scorn of Canadian nationalists for his use of such words as “tyger” and “nightingale” in his descriptions of Quebec; however, when account is taken of the lexical circumstances in which Mackay attempted to describe, catalogue and render into poetry the life of Lower Canada, the remarkable thing may be the extent to which Quebec Hill and its palpably amateur author avoid rather than exhibit the dangers of incongruity.

     In the late eighteenth century, any poet (especially an amateur one) who took as his subject the “native scenes” (I, 3) of a particular place, be it Greenfield Hill, Lower Canada or Tintern Abbey, had only one obvious choice of genre: the topographical poem. As famously described by Dr. Johnson in his discussion of John Denham’s Cooper’s Hill, one of the most celebrated landscape poems of the century (others centrally in the background of Quebec Hill are Alexander Pope’s Windsor Forest and, as already mentioned, Thomson’s The Seasons), the topographical or “local” poem has three component parts: “[1] some particular landscape poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by [2] historical retrospection and [3] incidental meditation."35 True to its genre, Quebec Hill contains each of these three elements (with some intriguing variations) and a further embellishment that will be discussed in due course: “scientific excurses"36 somewhat in the manner of Thomson on such topics as the composition of the winds and the freezing of the ocean in Northern latitudes. Within the broad category of the topographical poem, Quebec Hill belongs, as its title indicates, in the sub-genre of the “hill-poem"37,the principal roots of which reach back through the blank-verse description of Hagley Park “from an eminence"38 in Thomson’s “Spring” and the Miltonic octosyllabic couplets of John Dyer’s Grongar Hill to the decasyllabic couplets of Cooper’s Hill, a poem in which Mackay’s work echoes both formalistically in its couplets and verbally in its early reference to the “aspiring heights” of “fam’d Quebec” (I, 2). A sense of the popularity of the hill-poem may be gained by a glance at the Bibliographies in Robert Arnold Aubin’s Topographical Poetry in XVIII-Century England, where well over a hundred poems in the sub-genre are shown to have been published between the first appearance of Cooper’s Hill in 1642 and the turn of the nineteenth century. And, needless to say, the hill-poem did not disappear on either side of the Atlantic in 1800; later examples of it in the Canadian continuity include Charles G.D. Roberts’ “Tantramar Revisted”, Archibald Lampman’s “Winter Hues Recalled” and A.M. Klein’s “Lookout: Mount Royal”, all of which survey portions of the Canadian landscape in a manner reminiscent, not of the moralizing tradition of which Quebec Hill is a part, but of the introspective mode of William Wordsworth’s seminal “here-I-am-again"39 poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey ... July 13, 1798."40 Interestingly enough, Quebec Hill, probably composed a little over a year before Wordsworth’s “Lines . . . “, contains its own peculiar version of the “here-I-am-again” theme in Mackay’s referral of his present and actual experience of the landscape of Lower Canada to the earlier and imaginary sense of the same “scene” of “wood, I. . . hill, [and] copious flood. . .” (I, 27-28) that he had gained from the unnamed “traveller” beside the “rural blaze” in Britain.

    Although Quebec Hill is consistent with its announced sub-genre in offering the reader several descriptions of the sights and sounds in the vicinity of “Quebec’s aspiring heights”, it also uses as a means of surveying the scenery of Lower Canada the “copious flood” of the St. Lawrence, a device that links it to another popular sub-genre in topographical poetry: the “river-poem.’41 ’ Like the Thomas Cary of Abram’s Plains (a poem which may have influenced Quebec Hill in this and other respects),42 Mackay follows the St. Lawrence in an easterly direction from its sources in the Great Lakes to its estuary and beyond, using the river as a thread along which to string the embellishments of “historical retrospection” and “incidental meditation”, as well as some of the set-pieces of topographical poetry: picturesque and sublime tableaux, catalogues of animals and birds, and so on. From his references to the poets of the Po and Tiber, it is evident that Mackay was fully conscious of the long and distinguished tradition of European river-poetry in which his treatment of the St. Lawrence locates itself. He also seems from his references to the St. Lawrence as a navigable river (II, 141n. and elsewhere) and as a trading route to the interior (I, 57-60) to have been aware of the enormous economic importance for Canada of the water system which, in the words of Donald Creighton in The Empire of the St. Lawrence, “led from the eastern shore into the heart of the continent... and shouted its uniqueness to adventurers... invit[ing] journeyings... promis[ing] immense expanses, unfolding, flowing away into remote and changing horizons.’43 But even if the expansive possibilities so eloquently outlined by Creighton had entered Mackay’s awareness (as they likely did), the suspicion is that they would have been given short shrift by a temperament which, to judge from such features of Quebec Hill as its narrator’s progress down the St. Lawrence, away from the unexplored regions of the west, and its muse’s reluctance “on vent’rous wing to soar” (II, 325), was so thoroughly oriented towards the baseland that it could not do other than conclude by rejecting the “realms remote” (II, 206) of Canada in favour of the populated and cultivated landscape of Britain.44

     Mackay’s baseland mentality, his preference for order, enclosure and governance both in his landscapes and in his life, can be discerned in nearly every aspect of Quebec Hill, from the poem’s decasyllabic couplets to its evident horror at the ability of the winter winds to penetrate the walls of Canadian houses. Nowhere is it more apparent, however, than in the affinities and disaffinities expressed either directly or indirectly in the poem’s many descriptions of the “romantic scenery” of Lower Canada. In Mackay’s day, the perception and artistic rendition of landscape was regulated, of course, by two principal aesthetic categories, both of which are essentially psychological in nature: the picturesque and the sublime, the former appealing more to the baseland mentality in its emphasis on ascertaining the harmonious “Order” present among a “Variety"45 of different landscape components (rolling hills, deciduous trees and domestic animals, for example) and the latter appealing more to the hinterland mentality—the mentality attracted to “immense expanses . . . and changing horizons"—in its emphasis on the feelings of astonishment generated by such terrific natural sights as huge waterfalls, great rivers, lofty mountains and unbroken tracts of snow and forest, all of which, together with other potentially sublime phenomena such as storms and intense sunlight, are amply and, in Mackay’s view, dismayingly present in Canada.46 Mark Akenside neatly sums up the differing appeals of “wild” and "harmon[ious]” scenery to different temperaments in The Pleasures of Imagination, III, 546-550:

                         Different minds
Incline to different objects: one pursues
The vast alone, the wonderful, the wild;
Another sighs for harmony, and grace,
And gentlest beauty.47

Mackay’s distaste for “realms remote . . . / Where cultur’d fields but narrow tracts display, I Hemm’d in by wilds expresses itself explicitly as a boredom with Canada’s “Lonely wilds and woods, / and desart hills, and wide expanding floods . . .” (II, 206-210). Yet implicit in the initial part of this statement is a feeling of claustrophobia, a feeling of being, paradoxically, "Hemm ’d in” by the Canadian wilderness.48 It is a feeling that finds many echoes in the Canadian continuity, not least in the criticism of Northrop Frye, whose agrophobia prompts him to respond with fear to mountains49 and to project onto Canadian poetry his sense of “stark terror” in the face of “a huge and thinly settled country".50

     To examine each of the passages of “landscape . . . poetically described” in Quebec Hill that draws upon the aesthetics of the sublime and the picturesque would be both tedious and redundant. Instead, it should be sufficient to examine one important passage in each category: Mackay’s account of Niagara Falls, the most sublime sight that Canada could offer an aesthetic traveller at the end of the eighteenth century, and his description of the Isle d’Orléans, the cultivated part of Canada where he seems to have been happiest and most at home during his time here.

     On either side of Mackay’s account of Niagara Falls in “Summer”, 93-122 are passages that describe the destructive and disordered character of the wilderness surroundings of the Falls: the poisonous snakes, predatory animals, vengeful Indians and disease-ridden marshlands of the country to the west of Niagara and the “Unsettled”, “chaotic” and violent (1, 123-125) nature of a great river which, though it becomes “more calm” (I, 127) shortly after the Falls, does not entirely “forget... to brawl” (I, 145) until it enters the Lower Canadian baseland at Montreal. At the Falls, waters whose “impetuous billows” (I, 60) were quite capable of sinking “a large ship.., on Lake Ontario” (1, 60n.), become compressed and energized to the degree that they will do deadly violence to anything that crosses their path, from “fishes” (I, 103) to “savage beasts” (I, 109) and “ev’n birds”, which “scream and spread their feeble wings too late; I For as ’gainst speed augmenting they contend, I Adown the steep terrific they descend” (I, 113-116). Also at the Falls, Mackay’s association of the waters of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system with the human “passions” (1, 122), an association unobtrusively present in such words as “impetuous” and “brawls”, is, like the waters themselves, both concentrated and expanded—at one point in a phrase that tellingly echoes forward to Oliver Goldsmith’s description of the insubordinate school children in The Rising Village as “spum[ing] . . . all control . . .":51

High soar Niagara’s renowned Falls,
Whose dreadful grandeur passengers appalls:
With force collected, down the waters roll
Condensed, spread, impatient of control:
Now, o’er the tallest cliff in chaos bright,
The sparkling volume wings its giddy flight;
In one wide wave the bounding torrent pours,
And echo swells responsive to its roars . . .
                                                 (I, 95-102)

Several of the trigger words of the sublime (“dreadful grandeur”, “appalls”, “terrific”) are present here and in the remainder of Mackay’s description of Niagara Falls. So, too, are a number of words and phrases—"impatient of control”, “giddy flight", " bounding torrent”, “mighty ire” (I, 108)—that confirm the association of the chaotic waters of the Falls with the passionate and irrational, the bestial and the flighty. Little wonder that when the poet gives way to his homiletic impulses, he moralizes the Falls in terms of “careless, roving men, devoid of thought” who may be dragged to destruction in “the rapids of their passions” (1, 117-122). This is in marked contrast to Cary, whose “wild suspense” in the face of the sublimity of Niagara Falls in Abram’s Plains reminds him of his emotive response to the “Alleluia” chorus of George Frederick Handel’s Messiah and permits him temporarily to “leave [his] earthly part, I And into something more than mortal start".52 But Mackay is not alone in Canadian poetry in responding less to the divine than to the chaotic associations of Niagara Falls: in The U. E.: A Tale of Upper Canada, William Kirby similarly emphasizes the irrational and destructive in what he sees as “A spot of chaos. . . / Left unsubdued, to show the world... / What was the earth ere.. . order first began"53 and in “Uncurbed Passion” Charles Sangster conceives of passion—"The unchained bolt / Of sin’s dread electricity"—as “A human Niagara, plunging from the height / Of vain presumption to the sea of wrath / Below.54 Like every other feature of the Canadian landscape, Niagara Falls has been pushed in different directions depending on the sensibilities of the writers describing them.

     A further glimpse of the sensibility at work in Quebec Hill can be gained by placing Mackay’s brief description of water vapour rising from the foot of Niagara Falls in the context of his repeated use in the poem of an opposition between obfuscation and revelation, with the former usually giving way through a desirable, but often painful or puzzling, process of unveiling or disclosure to the latter. An illustrative instance of this can be found in Mackay’s account of Roman Catholicism where, with a Protestant hostility and progressivism which now draw him closer to Cary,55 he likens the “blind Superstition” and “artful Priestcraft” (II, 249-250) of the Catholic religion to “humid vapours [that] cloud the face of day . . .” and observes, not unhopefully, that the “papal mists [which] obscure the peasant’s mind” are beginning “to dispell / By slow degrees; [their] progress who can tell?” (I, 257-260). Predictably enough, this process of disclosure does not operate at Niagara Falls. On the contrary, the destructive energy of the “foaming torrent” (I, 108) generates a vapour which threatens to block from view the source of light (and, indeed, humanistic enlightenment and life-giving energy):56 “The rising mist obscures the face of day, / Faint seems the Sun, and feeble gleams its ray...” (I, 105-106). Like Mackay’s description of the Falls as a whole, this couplet owes debts both to Kalm ’s Account of the GREAT FALL of Niagara and to Thomson’s rendition of a waterfall in “Summer".57 But, whereas Thomson graphically describes his “hoary Mist . . . [as] a ceaseless Shower” and Kalm realistically likens his “abundance of vapours... [to] the greatest and the thickest smoak,” our poet gives his “rising mist"—a phrase alluding, surely not fortuitously, to the destructive deceptions of Satan in Paradise Lost, IX—obvious occluding and enfeebling properties which, by imagery and effect, connect it to other negative presences in Quebec Hill, including, as has been seen, the “papal mists” that “blind” the peasant, and, as will later become evident, the “piercing frosts” (II, 21) that deprive Canada’s inhabitants of the “vital heat” (II, 34) necessary for the constructive and virtuous life valued by Mackay.

     Like Niagara Falls, most of the other sublime and potentially sublime sights described in Quebec Hill are invested by Mackay with negative properties. One case in point among several (for example, the descriptions of the Plains of Abraham in I, 199-206, Montmorency Falls in 1, 301-3 10 and the “dreamy waste[s]” in II, 1-18 and later) is the vividly authentic account of the sublimity of light and darkness that begins with the stark grisaille of “Winter”, 45-48:

How black appear the dark dismantled woods,
In striking contrast to the frozen floods;
These, clad in snow, reflect a dazzling light,
Those, wrapp’d in gloom, relieve the wrong sight.

The extremes of winter gloom and winter glory are treated by Mackay, not merely as sublimely beautiful (“radiant beams. . . / Blaze on the ice, and glitter on the snow” [II, 53-54]) and sublimely stirring (“Terrific grandeur! when dark show’rs descend... [II, 527]), but as physically threatening in a quite mundane and scientific manner: the eyes of strangers can actually be damaged by “bright beams snow-reflected” (II, 50), he warns (and offers in a footnote some helpful hints about ways “to blunt [their] splendour"[II, 49n.]), and the lives of the Indians are potentially endangered by a loss of energy and consequent inability to hunt during the dark, cold months of winter. Only when Mackay can absorb the sublime into a larger whole, a picturesque tableau in which its extremes are off-set or neutralized, can he be entirely comfortable with it. For example, though relatively uninviting in themselves on account of their expansiveness, the “descending floods”, spreading forests and “distant mountains” of the poem’s first detailed description of the romantic scenery” of Lower Canada (I, 11-22) are apparently acceptable to Mackay for the reason that they are picturesquely balanced by objects of more human scale or origin—"glitt’ring hamlets”, a “winding vale”, “lovely bow’rs” and, in a phrase, “culture’s charms". To assist the integration of these various landscape items into the harmonious and “pleasing whole” that calls forth “Admiration’s genial glow” are two of the stock devices of picturesque description: the “On either hand” which opens the description and the “Here” I “There” direction which gives rhythm to its central lines (I, 13-18). In addition to giving a description the composed quality of a painting (complete with the illusion of three-dimensional space: “Here . . . There . . .”), these devices render the landscape in terms of an order centered on the percipient, an achievement which replicates the process that is everywhere admired in such products of the baseland mentality as Quebec Hill: the process of bringing a (European) man-centred order to the Canadian wilderness.58

     Nowhere in Lower Canada was such a man-centred order more evident, more established and more insulated from the wilderness than in the town of Quebec itself and on the “verdant” (1, 147, 268) islands of Montreal and Orleans. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that each of these three locations is the subject of a picturesque paean by Mackay, who invests the islands especially with Edenic resonances that echo back in English literature to Milton’s Paradise and Shakespeare’s England (in Henry V) and forward in the Canadian continuity to the Prince Edward Island of Lucy Maud Montgomery and the Vancouver Island of Jack Hodgins. (Canada’s islands seem always to have appealed to the baseland mentality and to those seeking a paradise in the western seas.) Kaim’s description of the Ile d’ Orléans in Travels as “well cultivated, and nothing but fine houses of stone, large cornfields, meadows, pastures, woods of deciduous trees, and some churches built of stone. . .”59 makes perfectly understandable Mackay’s attraction to the island and his affectionate treatment of its thoroughly humanized landscape as an “Enchanting” and “delightful” (I, 269) combination of natural abundance (“smiling plenty”, “golden grain”, “the well-stocked garden”, “waving orchards”, and the like) and picturesque elements (“Autumn, in his best attire”, “purling streams”, “tuneful nightingales”, the “noisy mill”, “stately cedars” and so on). All the hallmarks of the picturesque are here (including several trigger-phrases of the aesthetic: “Enchanting prospect!" I, 269], “sweetly varied” [I, 275] and, almost inevitably, the “Here” I “There” [I, 276] direction), as are the nightingale and the cuckoo, two birds which, like “the oak” (I, 285) towards the end of the passage and, indeed, like the picturesque quality of the passage as a whole, would have given the poem’s original British audience the sense that, in some places at least, the landscape of Lower Canada is little different from parts of Britain. One small (and slightly exotic) exception to this occurs with the reference to “maple-trees” and their “liquid treasure” (I, 283)—a rare instance in the poem of the “rural scene” in Canada being more “sweetly varied” (I, 275) than any in the British Isles. That the maples actually “increase” by “imparting” their “store” (1, 284) of syrup is perhaps as close as Mackay comes to stating explicitly his view, evident in all the picturesque passages in Quebec Hill, that cultivation (a not unproblematically heroic activity for the baseland mentality)60 works to the mutual advantage of both man and “nature” (I, 282).

     In the passage that follows Mackay’s picturesque paean to the humanized landscape of the Isle d’Orléans, the word “Yet” (I, 287) introduces both a shift in thought and a change in perspective. It is almost as if, in Wordsworthian fashion, Mackay has allowed his happy memory of being “charm ’d with Nature” (I, 282) on the Ile d’Orléans to push his mind in the opposite direction—towards the sadness engendered by an awareness of some unnamed “chang[e]” in “prospects” (1, 297). (Here, as in other Pre-Confederation poems such as The Rising Village and Adam Hood Burwell’s Talbot Road, the word “prospect(s)” can be seen to carry two meanings, one scenic—a view of a physical landscape—and the other anticipatory—an expectation of something to come.) In any event, the word “Yet” is followed by a passage in which Mackay uses two of his characteristic tropes: mundane life as a “chequer’d (II, 227) admixture of good and bad and the penetrating gaze that dispels illusion and unveils truth. The Isle d’Orl6ans has only been partially described, and only from the distance that lends enchantment. When seen in full and more closely, its “chequer’d” nature is “Unveil’d” (II, 319):

Yet, as the landscape, thus, in part pourtray’d,
Admits of light, it will admit of shade:
Tho’ gay the scene, with varied foliage shows,
And, view’d from far, in richer verdure glows:
More near, is seen the harvest-choaking tare,
And pointed thistles on each hand appear;
I see by orchards, crabs for apples borne,
And greedy locusts blast the springing corn.
(I, 287-294)

In this passage, written, as it were, through a zoom lens with a darkening filter, there is a step by step revelation of the “Enchanting prospect” that had previously “charm’d” the poet with its picturesque qualities (“varied foliage,” “richer verdure”), and a correspondingly counter-picturesque deployment of pictorial devices: the ordering “Here” / “There” direction collapses into the revelatory “More near . . ."; the differential use of “On either hand. . .” to point up “varied” landscape elements (I, I If.) gives way to the ubiquity of ..... pointed thistles on each hand.. ."; and, consistent with these shifts, the retrospective pleasure of “I was wont to rove” (I, 282) near the end of the previous description of the Ile d’Orleans becomes the abrupt and knowing present of “is seen” and “I see.” When the human presence upon whom a picturesque order is centred is as darkly one-sided in its dualism as the one behind Quebec Hill, the balance at the heart of the aesthetic inevitably disintegrates, leaving only chaos or disorder to be “seen.” Perhaps it is also inevitable that after this disintegration has occurred, and after Mackay has moralized his disenchantment in terms of enslaving “ambition,” “groundless hopes,” “airy views” and “chang ’d prospects” (I, 295-297), his attention is turned to “Montmorency’s Falls” (I, 301), a sublime sight that is treated as less dangerous than Niagara Falls, but still troubling and “troubled” (I, 310)—not unlike Mackay himself, to judge by the “landscape[s] poetically [and psychologically] described” in Quebec Hill.

     Whereas Cary confesses to no difficulty in finding subjects in Lower Canada with which to embellish Abram’s Plains with the second of Dr. Johnson’s requirements for “local poetry,” “historical retrospection,” Mackay characteristically moves towards this component of his poem by stressing the limitations that are to be encountered in finding any history at all in Lower Canada At the time of the Persian wars with Greece in the fifth century B.C., and, later, during the rise to power of Rome between that time and the second century A.D., North America was “unknown to foreign fame or rage, I Nor felt their sway, nor swell’d the poet’s page” (I, 34-35). Because the Indians have left no written literature or history, they have, to all Mackay’s intents and purposes, no culture or past. Not until the ’discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus, did a disclosure or unveiling of the Indians along the lines valued by Mackay occur.

No musty record can the curious trace,
Engross’d by annals of the savage race:
Involv ’d in darkness their achievements lay
Till fam ’d Columbus sought a western way
(I, 37-40)

It is one more symptom of Mackay’s orientation towards the baseland, towards the history of European civilization in Canada, that he allows the past “achievements” of the native peoples to remain in “darkness” rather than attempting, like Adam Kidd some thirty years later, to gain from the oral traditions of the Indians at Lorette (or Caughnawaga, which is also mentioned in Quebec Hill, I, 229n.) a sense of their lengthy history and great heroes. To Mackay, the Indians of Lower Canada remain unnamed either as individuals or, indeed, as tribes: they enter Quebec Hill primarily as adjuncts to European civilization who are to be admired or pitied in so far as they have either succeeded or failed in adapting to ’civilized’ life:

There [in Lorette], tam’d and staid, the Indian seeks repose,
Nor still imagines all the world his foes;
With art and care, he cultivates his lands,
And gathers in their fruits with willing hands.
Yet ’mong the few who shun the forest’s gloom,
And Europe’s garb and languages assume,
Still sloth and ignorance our pity claim,
And fiery draughts debilitate their frame.
Destructive liquids, Britain’s cherish’d bane.
(I, 229-237)

In these and ensuing lines, the Hurons at Lorette are little more than a pretext for Mackay’s moralizings. Elsewhere in the poem, the “shiv’ring savage” (II, 63) becomes one of several creatures at various points on the lower end of the scale of being, from European workmen (II, 29-34) to the “sleepy bear” (II, 77), who exhibit the debilitating effects of winter. Predictably enough, Indians who do not “shun the forest gloom” but remain “deep involv’d in woods” (I, 81f.) are given sublime treatment by Mackay, while those who, for historical reasons quite outside his interest,61 have found their way to the Europeanized baseland, become colourful items in a picturesque tableau:

The reapers slowly from the fields retire,
And curling clouds announce the ev’ning fire.
The yellow Indians gather on the strand,
And push their slender canoes out from the land;
With gentle strokes their paddles cleave the flood,
True to the touch their nimble barges scud:
Hark! how in native strains they wildly yell. . . .
(1, 329-335)

Either admirable or pitiable, sublime or picturesque, the native peoples of Canada are not, for Mackay, a usable source of the “historical restrospection” that is usually present in a topographical poem. Nor is the only reason for this the failure of the Indians to leave a written record of their history and culture.

     In the passage immediately following his remarks near the beginning of “Summer” on the “darkness” surrounding past Indian achievements, Mackay laments the fact that in Lower Canada

The Antiquarian.. . may search in vain
For walls erected in Severus’ reign;
Or lofty towers that their declension show,
Or cities built some thousand years ago....
(I, 4l-44)

"For arts and antiques visit Eastern ground,” he advises; “Here, Nature simple and sublime is found.. .” (I, 4546). The connection between these comments and the earlier passages concerning the lack of written records in North America may not be immediately evident without the following passage from Kalm ’s Travels (where the castigating tone of such words as “ignorant” could also account for Mackay’s subsequent comment that “the human, sunk in folly, strays” among the sublimity of Canadian nature [1, 47-48]): “The Indians have ever been as ignorant of architecture and manual labour as of science and writing. In vain does one seek [in North America] for built towns and houses, artificial fortifications, high towers and pillars, and such like . . . which the old world can shew, from the most antient times 62 As well as making Kalm’s remarks a little more specific by reference to the Roman Emperor Severus, Mackay’s evident regret at the absence of ancient “tow’rs” and “cities” in Canada elaborates the picturesque possibilities of its original in the word “declension” which, in its meaning of deterioration or decay, looks towards the vogue among landscape painters and writers of the day for mouldering ruins, a vogue which, of course, spawned numerous “ruin-poems” and “ruin-piece[s]"63 in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The reverberations of Mackay’s lament over the lack of such ruins in Canada are not, however, restricted to his own day or, indeed, to the subject of ruins but, rather, echo well into the latter part of our own century in the regrets expressed by numerous Canadian writers concerning the country’s supposed lack of ghosts, history and mythology.64

     With neither Indian history nor ancient architecture furnishing him with a usable past for “historical retrospection” Mackay could turn only to what, in any case, his heart probably desired: a contemplation of the fairly recent evidences of the European, particularly the British, presence in Quebec. Whereas Cary focuses in Abram’s Plains on the battle that gives his poem its name and refers several times to the fortifications of the old town of Quebec,65 Mackay—perhaps reflecting the increasing anti-French and anti-war sentiments in Europe and Britain in the mid-seventeen nineties—relies almost entirely for “historical retrospection” on General Wolfe’s victory and follows his brief account of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (ten lines versus Cary ’s twenty nine) with a marginally longer meditation on the cruelty of “War” and the destructiveness of “Martial Fame” (1, 187-198). Like Cary, however, Mackay uses as a point of departure for his description of Wolfe’s victory some still-visible evidences of the seige of Quebec:

Nigh yonder fence, that, high, the prospect bounds,
Where deep-dug trenches intersect the grounds;
Close by a stone, that swells upon the heath,
’Twas WOLFE, victorious, clos’d his eyes in death!
Beneath the gloom of night his navies weigh’d,
And pass’d these threat’ning turrets on the tide;
He cimb’d the frowning mountain’s lofty side;
He fought, and bled! he conquer’d, and he died!
Short was his span on this terrestrial vale,
And when he fell, how many warriors fell!
(I, 177-186)

Mackay’s ambivalence about war and military heroism is especially apparent in the final lines of this passage, where echoes associating Wolfe with the Walter Raleigh of Thomson’s “Summer”66 exist in tension with an evident concern for the carnage of war (“how many warriors fell!”) and a sense, gleaned from the use of occlusion / disclosure trope elsewhere in the poem, that the forces that slipped by Quebec in the “gloom of the night” partook of the powers of darkness, albeit to a laudable end. This tension may also be evident in what appears to be a partly ironical echo towards the end of the passage of the famous and laconic words of another victorious and ill-fated general: the “veni, vidi, vici”—“I came, I saw, I conquered”—of Julius Caesar after his defeat of Pharnaces in Asia Minor.

     The third component of the topographical poem as defined by Johnson—the embellishment of “incidental meditation”—has to a great extent already been covered in previous discussions of Mackay’s moralizing tendencies—his habit of following a passage of landscape description or, as just noted, “historical retrospection”, with an elaboration of its moral significance. Such homiletic lucubrations follow, for example, the descriptions of Niagara Falls, the bounty of the St. Lawrence and the bloody Battle of the Plains of Abraham in “Summer” (see I, 117-122, 139-142 and 187-198). And, as will be seen in due course, they close both “Winter” and the poem as a whole. By no means all of the “incidental meditation” in Quebec Hill is grindingly moral in nature, however, in fact, more interesting to the modem reader and probably unique in early Canadian poetry are the “scientific... excurses” that occur at various points in the poem, sometimes, as in the case of the “dread diseases [that] rise from [the] foetid fens” (I, 87) of Upper Canada, in conjunction with an expansive footnote (in this case explaining that the “swamps” of what is now Ontario “emit vapours highly pernicious to the human condition” [I, 87n.]). Very much a man of his time (and earlier) in his beliefs about such matters as the miasmal origins of diseases (their transmission, that is, in the effluvia or fine particles of decaying matter) and “the vital heat” (II, 34) of the sun (the source, for him, of the energy “vital” to life), Mackay also appears from certain passages in Quebec Hill to have been interested in various phenomena of the nearctic regions that either confound ordinary logic or demand scientific explanation.

     A nearctic phenomenon that confounds ordinary logic and, indeed, puts pressure on the accepted perspectival principle of optical minification (distant objects seem smaller) is the paradoxical appearance of the mountains on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. The pertinent passage begins as a description of the sublime “gloom” (I, 312) that frequently envelops the Canadian “forests,” “floods” and mountains, but, after one of Mackay’s characteristic moments of disclosure or unveiling, it moves into the realm of post-Newtonian optics:

The lofty hills, that, onward, rise in crowds,
Oft hide their summits in the bending clouds.
But now, nor dusky shades obscure the sky,
Nor pregnant clouds portending tempest nigh;
Unveil’d the mountains show their lofty heads,
Which form a contrast to the humble meads:
Save, that, from far, the intervening space,
Th’ unequal swellings of their sides deface;
That, richly cloth’d, in colours of the air,
Increas ’d in size, and more remote appear.
(I, 3 15-324)

Exactly to the extent that the Age of Newton was well-past by the time of the publication of Quebec Hill, the original readers of the poem would have taken for granted what that era’s greatest man of science had long-since proved in the Opticks: that light, though “glorious [and even sublime] in itself,.., was most immediately and obviously beautiful when... refracted into color.. ~"67 being, as will have been observed, the rich clothing of Mackay’s otherwise markedly unbeautiful (because disproportionate or asymmetrical)68 mountains. The original readers of Quebec Hill might also have known that in northern latitudes problems of scale and depth-perception are caused by effects of reflection and refraction that are not present in more temperate regions. Thus the same mountains to the north of the St. Lawrence could appear both more substantial (“Increas’d in size”) on account of the breaking up of sunlight into prismatic colours on their surfaces and, depending on such factors as the position of the sun and the density of the atmosphere, either closer (on an overcast or misty day, when refraction is greater) or farther away—"more remote"—on a day that is sunny and clear.69

     A nearctic phenomenon that apparently seemed to Mackay to demand scientific, or, at least, logical, explanation was the freezing of the ocean by the “northern winds” (I, 81) in the North Atlantic near Greenland. Possibly taking as his points of departure Carver’s conjectures concerning the “link[ing] together” (I, 88) of severe winter winds in his Travels (see Explanatory Notes, II, 8 1-90) and the hypothesis of Thomas James concerning the formation of sea-ice in his Dangerous Voyage (see Explanatory Notes, II, 91-102), Mackay offers the following account of the action of the “northern winds” on the “mighty oceans” (II, 104):

Now link’d together, howling, they rush forth
To where, as yet, the agitated main
Disowns the bonds that Greenland’s shores enchain:
A while, the ocean, mindful of defence,
With shifting billows blunts the cold intense:
Its surface thicken’d by the chill around,
More heavy, sinks into the depth profound;
And, as the billows from the wind recede,
Still warmer draughts the empty space pervade:
But when, in course, the waters all ascend,
And all confess the action of the wind,
More slow the surface from the blast recedes,
The cold the action of the tide impedes,
The restless floods become a solid plain,
And frigid fetters bind the torpid main.
(II, 88-102)

This description of wind-action and convection may strike the modern reader as obvious to the point of being primitive; to Mackay’s credit, however, it is largely accurate and, in terms of what was popularly known about hydrography at the time,70 fairly sophisticated. As poetry, needless to say, it leaves much to be desired, and, like much else in Quebec Hill, provides illustration of what, on the evidence of his Preface (14-16), Mackay apparently knew—that “the Poem might have been rendered.., more poetical, if less attention had been paid to veracity

     If, as suggested, the point of departure for Mackay’s “scientific ... excursus” on the freezing of the northern ocean was James’s Dangerous Voyage, then it is also worth mentioning and pondering the fact that the same work, with its repeated references to mast-high icebergs and its continual insistence on the providential scheme of things, provided part of the inspiration for Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”71 More than merely an indication of the great gulf that separates a major poet from a minor one [let alone the creator of the Romantic imagination from an eighteenth-century versifier who writes “imagination” as an afterthought to “Muse” (I, 325n.)] the vastly different uses to which Coleridge and Mackay put the same source can be taken, multum in parvo, as symptomatic of the relationship between English Romanticism and the bulk of Colonial Canadian poetry, a relationship not dissimilar to that described by John Richardson’s Wacousta with reference to himself and Colonel de Haldirnar: “He, [the neo-classicist], all coldness, prudence, obsequiousness and forethought. I, [the Romantic], all enthusiasm, carelessness, impetuosity and independence.”72 As even romantic mythographers of Canadian literature regretfully recognise,73 the typical writer in early Canada is less a blood-brother of Wacousta than a godson of de Haldimar: cautious, rational, order-loving, community-oriented and, in Cary’s words, more inclined, like Mackay, to “descriptive poetry”—poetry that exhibits a picture of the real scenes of nature"—than to “any thing of the fabulous kind, whose fabric is the sole work of imagination and where fancy has full play.”74

     It is perhaps for its realism, its hard-nosed assessments of the Canadian physical and social environment, that Quebec Hill will, if at all, command the attention of twentieth-century readers. Clearly wishing to deprive his original audience (some of whom he probably assumed were potential emigrants to Canada) of their illusions about the life and landscape that he had seen with his own eyes in Quebec, Mackay sprinkled the body of his poem and his footnotes with comments that do much to take the gloss off whatever attractions Lower Canada may offer in terms of its “remarkable. . . romantic scenery”, Preface (21), a phrase which, as the preceding discussion should have shown, deserves to be taken with the pinch of salt supplied by Mackay’s frequently negative and ambivalent descriptions of the country’s “physical displays” (I, 48). The reader has to go no further than Mackay’s first footnote to detect his reservations about Canadian nature: it has its attractions (mainly to others, the tone suggests), but it is for the most part devoid of agricultural potential: “The country around Quebec abounds in prospects in a high degree delightful to such as have a relish for romantic scenery; but the soil is, in general, poor, and unproductive of corn. Few parts of Canada are remarkable for their fertility in this respect; and it is the quantity, and not the quality, of their lands that enables the inhabitants of this country to export wheat and flour” (I, 22n.). Subsequent footnotes (which, like this one, frequently exist in a state of tension with more positive, if ambivalent, descriptions in the body of the text) comment on various aspects of the Canadian environment that make it largely unsuitable for settlement and commerce—the prevalence of disease in Upper Canada (I, 87n.), the sporadic navigability of the St. Lawrence at Montreal (I, 146n.), the debilitating effects of the summer heat, especially on “strangers” (I, 160n.) and, above all, the intemperate Canadian winter which, from Mackay’s moral perspective, is both inimical to commerce and conducive to vice (indeed, intemperance): “Of all the English who have chosen Canada as the seat of their endeavours to acquire opulence and independence, few have been successful. This may, in some measure, be owing to the situation of the country, inaccessible in the winter season, except by land: and this circumstance, as it procures for the man of reflection leisure to prosecute his studies, is taken advantage of by the profligate, for the ignoble purposes of riot and dissipation” (II, 141n.). In the aggregate, Mackay’s many negative comments about the agricultural and commercial prospects for the English emigrant to Canada lend to Quebec Hill a strikingly counter-bucolic tone. As if addressing Frances Brooke’s naif Edward Rivers, who has “studied [Virgil’s] Georgicks” and, with due modesty, plans to be “the best gentleman farmer in the province of Lower Canada” in both “theory” and “practice"75, Mackay punctures such illusions by repeatedly pointing out that, contrary to certain appearances, Quebec offers very few good prospects (in both senses of that loaded word) for potential farmers and entrepreneurs.

     As well as contributing to the sense of realism that our own century values in Quebec Hill, Mackay’s counter-bucolic tone clearly casts the epigraph of his poem, a quotation from Horace that emphasizes the pleasures of rural life by praising “the lovely country’s brooks, its grove and moss-grown rocks”76 in an ironic light. Far from being the locus amoenus or “pleasance”77 implied by an unironical (or straightforwardly bucolic or pastoral) reading of its epigraph, Lower Canada is a place in which the soil and the climate militate against the ideal of the pleasant life, conceived by Mackay, as by Cary (and a host of Augustan, Renaissance and classical writers before him) as a condition of “elegant Sufficiency”78, a “happy middle scene” of “easy labour”, that places its fortunate beneficiary “Beneath.. . ambition” and luxury but “above want” and enslavement.79 To the extent that it appears to encapsulate this humanist ideal and, with it, the “moral vision”80 that lies behind Quebec Hill (as behind all topographical poems), Mackay’s description of the French Canadian peasants (“swains”, "hind[s]”) in “Summer”, 241-248 is crucial to a full understanding of the poem:

Lower, what landscapes meet my wand’ring eyes!
How gay the rural villages arise,
The rip’ning corn, slow wavers in the breeze,
’Midst lawns, enrich’d with tufts of nodding trees;
The pointed fence each peasant’s right contains,
And forms a barrier to the neighb’ring swains:
Here, easy lives the hind, rich, void of pelf,
For freedom’s ease, and competence is wealth...

Here, it would appear, the happy middle way has been achieved in a landscape that both sustains the “easy” life with “rip’ning corn” and exhibits the ingredients of a classical pleasance (meadows, shady trees, a gentle breeze).81 But the passage also contains a hint that the community it depicts is less than ideal (the “pointed fence[s]” both contain and protect the “peasant’s right” from his perhaps covetous neighbours), and it is followed, moreover, by Mackay’s lengthy diatribe, already examined, on the “papal mists” that seem destined to “obscure the peasant’s mind” (1, 257) until they are fully burned off by the warming light of Protestantism. And in case these qualifications are insufficient to puncture the illusion that Canadian peasants possess the “peace secure, life without disapointments [and] manifold riches"82 attributed to bucolics at least since Virgil’s Georgics, Mackay adds a note which impugns the beatus vir himself: “The Canadian peasantry might live very independent were they but industrious; this, however, is by no means generally the case, and hence, some of them are in indigent circumstances” (I, 247n.). To be lazy in a country as devoid of amenities as Canada is to double the likelihood of failing to create a “pleasance” on the banks of the St. Lawrence.

     As already intimated, no factor increases more the odds of making in Quebec a locus amoenus of the sort extolled by Virgil, Horace and their neo-classical heirs than the Canadian winter, a season whose extreme cold, like the extreme heat of the Canadian summer, ensures that the temperate centre that the poet values, both in landscape and in life, simply cannot be sustained. And neither, where outside work is virtually impossible for half the year, can the industriousness valued by Mackay. True enough, the long Canadian winters afford “leisure” for the “man of reflection” to work at his “studies”, but they also open a “wide ... field for those who love to err, “ whether by gambling or dallying, cavorting or intemperate drinking (I, 145-154), and they do so, it may be assumed, by preventing constructive activities out of doors. A sense of Mackay’s sadness at the devastation wrought by winter can be gained from the elegiac note that sounds through the repetition of “No more” in lines like the following, which, in effect, chronicle the body-blow delivered by winter to the “pleasance” that just might exist in Canada were the climate more hospitable to natural beauty and human activity:

No more the roses glow along the mead,
No more the groves their wanton odours shed...

No more these fields the charms of culture know,
Nor joyful peasants guide the friendly plow.

... no more is heard, around,
The grating saw, or hammer’s pond’rous sound;
No more their strokes reverb’rate on the ear,
Or, borne by echo, murmur in the air:
In shelter’d sheds the drooping artists meet....
(II, 13-14, 17-18, 29-33)

A certain intertextual gravity is lent to Mackay’s chronicle of winter’s detrimental effects on man and nature by the recognition that the repeated “No more” and “Nor” of these elegiac lines echo back to Oliver Goldsmith’s lament for the desolated Auburn in The Deserted Village and forward to Archibald’s Lampman’s vision of the final cessation of all activity in “The City of the End of Things”.83

     Doubtless the most sinister aspect of “Stern Winter” (II, 25) that is described in Quebec Hill is the frightening ability of the “northern winds” (II, 81) to penetrate even man’s clothing and shelter, and thus to deprive him of very much more than his bucolic illusions. In a footnote to the first of two passages detailing the debilitating effects on man and beast alike of the absence of “vital heat” (I, 34), Mackay observes that “In the winter season many of the inhabitants of Quebec amuse themselves by riding on the ice in carioles”, adding that “On these occasions they are accommodated with warm skins, sometimes lined with flannel, or green baize, with which they may, if necessary, cover their whole bodies, while their heads are equipt with fur caps” (II, 37). A passage later in the poem recounts in macabre and forensic detail (and with a considerable debt to a similar account in Thomson’s “Winter”), the dreadful consequences of prolonged exposure to the cold for someone who is not “accommodated” by sufficient clothing. As “piercing Boreas” penetrates the “scanty vestments” of such a person, “the keen etherial flood / Pervades his skin and thickens all his blood” until “livid red gives way to deep’ning blue” in his “frigid limbs"; then, “cold, intense, his active pow’rs enchains” and, unless he is fortunate enough to find shelter, reduces him to a “frozen corse, / That lies, perhaps, unheeded in the snows” until the spring “thaws” (II, 109-124). The sense here, not only of a climate that does to people what it does to things (for Mackay surely intends a parallel between the “enchain[ing]” of his “wand’rer” and the “fetter[ing]” of the ocean a few lines earlier [I, 89-102]), but also, of a climate that creates the conditions in which a corpse may be “unheeded” (undiscovered or, worse, unnoticed) perhaps for months cuts to the very quick of the Christian-humanist ethos, calling into question both the Christian view of a providential universe and the humanist belief in a responsible community. That the deadly and deadening “northern winds” are subsequently shown to be capable of penetrating the walls of houses—the “shelter’d” “sheds” and “domes” of “shiv’ring” artisans, Indians and strangers (II, 33, 63. 127, 129)—may furnish surprises for these strangers and amusement for the reader, but it does nothing to silence the implication of many passages in the “Winter” portion of Quebec Hill that in precious few places in Canada, and then only really in summer, can a belief in an orderly and benevolent world be easily maintained. On this point Frye, possibly for the temperamental reasons discussed earlier, offers a pertinent gloss on Mackay’s response to the Canadian winter: “The human mind has nothing but human and moral values to cling to if it is to preserve its integrity or even its sanity, yet the vast unconsciousness of nature in front of it [in Canada] seems an unanswerable denial of those values".84 Little wonder, then, that, following further instances of winter’s assaults on human “integrity” and “sanity” (the depiction of the “unmindful” merchant in II, 133-140 and the catalogue of various forms of mental and moral derangement in II, 144-149), Mackay is moved to observe how “very few [people] the right from wrong can scan, / Or, knowing, prize this privelege of man!” (II, 153-154).

     “Does Winter, then, no soothing charms display? / Are all departed with th’ autumnal ray?” (II, 155-156). With these questions, Mackay promises the reader relief from his chronicle of the mind-boggling (not to say soul-destroying) honors of winter and, in effect, initiates the final movement of Quebec Hill towards the new light and new life of spring. As the phrase “autumnal ray” in the second of his questions perhaps intimates, Mackay at various points in the earlier portions of “Winter” implies that the remembrance of warmer weather past may provide a means of negating the hideous present of winter and anticipating the revitalizing light of spring. For example, in the midst of describing the suggestively perverse activities of “Stern Winter”—his suffocation of the “sleeping earth” with his “hoary robe” (II, 27) and his shackling of the “breast” of the St. Lawrence with “frozen fetters” (II, 43)—Mackay permits himself a nostalgic memory of happier days:

There, once, the barges skimm ’d along the stream,
And fishes glitter’d in the solar beam:
There, late, the ships the yielding current cleave,
And swiftly bounded o’er the swelling wave. ...
(II, 39-42)

These couplets show Mackay at (or near) his best and worst—at his worst in allowing the need for a rhyme with “wave” to drive him towards an inappropriate present tense (neither clove nor cleaved nor cleft would have done) and at his best in sounding a repeated elegiac note with the long vowels of “once” and “late” and in achieving the appropriately sprightly alliteration and trochaic variation of “And swiftly bounded o’er the swelling wave.” (Here, as elsewhere, Mackay exhibits both his failure and his success in finding “numbers to proclaim / . . . St. Lawrence’ Stream.”) At the conceptual level, and more to the present point, the lines just quoted are also effective for their use of various words—“skimm’d”, “glitter’d”, “swiftly"—that call to the mind’s eye in memory the light and movement made possible by the “solar ray.” In a “waking dream”, the “merchant” of “Winter”, 133-140 can become temporarily forgetful of the weather that only the “wealthy” in their “furs” and carioles (11,159-160) actually seem able to enjoy. But by exercising the art of memory, the poet (whose surrogate in the poem is surely “the man of reflection” who uses the winter to pursue85 his studies in II, 161-162 and II, 141n.), can remember forward with pleasant anticipation the light and life of seasons past:

Now, soothing Hope fresh offers to the view,
Those rural charms that Summer’s flight withdrew,
Again to bloom when some short months revolve,
And vernal thaws the Winter’s weight dissolve....

Then shall the dreary woods again look gay,
And fleecy flocks on flow’ry meadows play;
Then, shall the groves their balmy odours send....
(II, 163-166, 169-171)

With spring return also the birds (including Philomela), the British navy and “Trade” (II, 173-178)—the natural, imperial and economic components of the mercantilist pleasance which the extremes of the Canadian climate render only sporadically possible on the banks of the St. Lawrence.

     Bracketing the final, summary movement of Quebec Hill are references to the “higher hopes” (II, 229) of the “wise man” for the “eternal spring” (II, 181-182) of the life to come. “Ev’n in the bosom of domestic joy, / We ever trace a mixture of alloy” observes Mackay before concluding the poem by turning his dualistic gaze away from the saddening mixture of light and dark in the “chequer’d” world and towards the unalloyed radiance of eternity:

More proofs unite, in teaching chequer’d bliss,
From aught below, is all we can possess:
And, thus, invoke our higher hopes to rise,
Beyond the world, and centre in the skies.

With its” temp’rate” climate, its insular position, its unsurpassed economic strength, and much else besides (including soil that is “generous” but not to a fault: it requires the “Exertion” and “toil” valued by the work ethic), Britain is unquestionably the land of Mackay’s heart’s desire, but it is not a heaven on earth. As much as in “western climes”, the “chequer’d bliss” is evident in Britain—in the greed, selfishness, and disorder which are present in every “state” (II, 203) and in all men, and which prompt Mackay to deliver himself for the benefit of his British audience of the traditional moralist’s warning against “luxury . . . / And selfish pride, the common foes of all” (II, 195-197). In the final analysis, Mackay’s gloomy account of Canada is thus assimilated to a larger and essentially religious attack on the idea that any place, any part of the world, any portion of fallen nature, can ever be all in all sufficient to the “chasten’d mind”, the mind seeking the purity that cannot exist this side of Paradise or Heaven, let alone in the land God gave to Cain:

Yet small delight in local views we find,
Compar’d to that arising from the mind:
The chasten’d mind, where purer pleasure glows,
And joy receiving as it joy bestows.
In ev’ry region habitable made
Are local comforts still commix’d with shade;
Fair fragrant flow’rs the lurid heath adorn,
And tender roses ripen on the thorn.
(II, 213-220)

By insisting on seeing always the “thorn” behind the “roses”, the “shade” in any scene, Mackay denied himself an unmitigatedly pleasurable experience of nearly everything that Canada had to offer, and left for Canadians in the tellingly dualistic form of Quebec Hill an enduringly engaging and unlikeable example of the dangers of preferring to see the bad in the good rather than the good in the bad. To his credit, however, Mackay also left in Quebec Hill a meditation on the Canadian physical and social environment at the end of the eighteenth century which continues to intrigue both as a document from a particular period in Canada’s colonial past and as a distant echo of issues that are still very much with us—issues of history, language, religion, nature and culture in a country where extremes still exist and where the thorn is often all-too-evident behind the roses.


The First Edition


To judge by reviews and excerpts in the periodicals of the day, one of the most popular books in the winter of 1796-1797 was Samuel Heame ’s A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort. in Hudson’s Bay. to the Northern Ocean,86 which was published in London in 1795 and, according to its title page, “Sold by T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies.. . in the Strand”87 (i.e. the street famous for booksellers, that runs east from Trafalgar Square towards the legal and financial areas of the City). Perhaps attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Heame’s book, and on the interest in Canada and its inhabitants (both human and animal) that this popularity probably both reflected and encouraged, Mackay arranged to have Quebec Hill; or, Canadian Scenery printed at his own expense by “W. BLACKADER, TOOKE’S COURT, CHANCERY LANE"88 (just off the Strand) and sold by bookdealers in the Strand itself and in the Royal-Exchange, two locations that would, presumably, have made the poem accessible to a good cross-section of London’s readers, not least those with financial interests. The cost of Quebec Hill—"TWO SHILLINGS AND SIXPENCE” (again according to its title page)—was usual for a pamphlet of its size (thirty-six quarto pages),89 and, interestingly enough, the same as the price charged for Cary’s Abram’s Plains by booksellers in Montreal and Quebec in 1789.90

    On the back of its title page, the first edition of Quebec Hill carries the inscription in an Old-English-style typeface “ENTERED IN STATIONERS HALL.” A search of the Registry (or Records) of the Stationers’ Company in London reveals an entry for February 3, 1797 stating that the “Author” delivered “Nine Copies” and “Then Entered for his Copy [that is, copyright] Quebec Hill, or, Canadian Scenery, a Poem, in two Parts.—By J. Mackay.”91 That February, 1797 was the month of the publication of Quebec Hill is confirmed by an entry in The Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Miscellany for March, 1797, where the poem is included among the “Books and Pamphlets Published in London [in] February l797.”92

     As intimated at the beginning of this Introduction, the first edition of Quebec Hill was not well received by the reviewers. The only entirely positive response to the poem was a one-sentence notice in The British Critic, a New Review for July-December, 1797: “This poem was written in Canada, or at least the greatest part of it, and will be found to contain some animated descriptions, and much true poetic spirit.”93 The other and more extensive reviews of Quebec Hill were less charitable. In the September-December, 1797 issue of The Monthly Review, James Bannister, a frequent contributor to that journal of reviews of “original English poems,”94 observed that Mackay “does not appear to be greatly animated by poetic genius” and that the “versification of [his] poem . . . is throughout uniformly cold and spiritless.”95 After commenting on the “languid strains” of the description of Montmorency Falls in “Summer,” 299-310, Bannister quotes a lengthy passage from “Winter” (45-102) and observes that “The rimes. . . are in most parts incorrect; and Mr. M[ackay] seems to think himself authorised to alter the accentual quantity of syllables as it may suit his convenience, of which the following line [I, 339] is an example, “A while respiting the unwary brood 96 Mackay’s “scanty” talents and “prosaic versification” are also the subject of comment in the September, 1797 number of The Critical Review, where the anonymous and patronizing reviewer quotes three passages from Quebec Hill (1, 1-22; I, 3 1-40; and II, 35-44, this last “to exhibit our poet in his strongest point of view”), and concludes scathingly:

Before we part, we would advise the author to be more attentive to his rhymes, —now and then to his English,—and avoid that tame monotony which gives a sleepiness to his numbers. Should he start at our advice, we most solemnly protest, that, when we came to the end of his poem, we experienced all the somniferous effects of a dose of opium.97

The fourth and probably final98 review of Quebec Hill appeared in the January-June number of The Analytical Review, where another anonymous, but at least tactful, reviewer quotes the first forty-eight lines of “Winter” as a “favorable specimen” of Mackay’s work while also observing that “many lines in [Quebec Hill] are extremely prosaic, and that the accent is not unfrequently placed on the wrong syllable.”99 If Mackay had ambitions beyond the publication of Quebec Hill, they would have survived with difficulty the very negative reception of his poem by the Monthly, the Critical and the Analytical—three of the most important and powerful reviewing journals of his day. Needless to say, a comparison with John Keats would by entirely inappropriate (except that Keats, too, was censured by the literary establishment for his “incorrect” rhymes); rather, the critical response to Quebec Hill represents an accurate, albeit, in one instance, unnecessarily caustic, assessment of the merits of a poem which remains of interest to Canadian readers much more for its content than for what the anonymous writer in The Critical Review calls its “author’s pretensions to the favour of the Muse....”100


The Present Edition


The present text of Quebec Hill and its Preface is based on the first edition of Mackay’s work, which, as its title page states, was printed by W. Blackader “FOR THE AUTHOR” in London in 1797. Several copies of the first edition of Quebec Hill (in the Metropolitan Toronto Library, the Library of Congress, the Houghton Literary at Harvard University and elsewhere) have been examined and no variations discovered among them.

     The present text follows the first edition in nearly all respects. A few attempts have been made through minor changes in punctuation to clarify certain passages in the poem and to eliminate some possibly confusing inconsistencies, notably in the realm of compound adjectives. In all but one instance, however (see Editorial Emendations, 1, 86), the idiosyncrasies of spelling, vocabulary and grammer in Quebec Hill have been respected, and may prove interesting, not merely for their bearing on the responses of the poem’s original reviewers, but also as evidence of a demotic or vernacular quality in Mackay that could well have important social and poetic ramifications. All changes to the first edition of Quebec Hill in the present text are contained in the list of Editorial Emendations that follows the poem.

Notes to the Introduction

  1. For a discussion of the various reviews of Quebec Hill in English periodicals, see the present Introduction, pp. xxxvi-xxxvii.  [back]

  2. See Three Early Poems from Lower Canada (Montreal: The Lawrence M. Lande Foundation, 1969), pp. 39-68.  [back]

  3. See Literature in Canada (Toronto: Gage, 1978), I, 68-75.  [back]

  4. See James J. and Ruth Talman, “Settlement: III. The Canadas 1763-18 12,” in the Literary History of Canada, ed. Carl F. Klinck (1965; rpt. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), pp. 86-87.  [back]

  5. W.J. Keith, Canadian Literature in English, Longman Literature in English Series (London and New York: Longman, 1968), p. 26. See also D.M.R. Bentley, “A New Dimension: Notes on the Ecology of Canadian Poetry,” Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 7 (Fall/Winter, 1980), pp. 1- 2 and “Poetry in English,” The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1985), III, 1431.  [back]

  6. Literary History of Canada, p. 86.  [back]

  7. See the present Introduction, p. xxxvi.  [back]

  8. See John Parker, “Introduction,” The Journals of Jonathan Carver and Related Documents, 1766-1770 (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1976), pp. 21 and 55.  [back]

  9. See Kalm’s Account of His Visit to England..., trans. Joseph Lucas (London and New York: Macmillan, 1892), passim for the Swedish author’s visits to England on his way to and from America in 1748 and 1751.  [back]

  10. This quotation, and most of the other information given here about Lieutenant James McKay, is taken from his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 88 (November, 1818), II, 473. A Military Knight of Windsor was the officer’s equivalent of a Chelsea Pensioner—a soldier of long service who had a pension and lived in the Chelsea Hospital. To date, no corroborative evidence has been found of James McKay’s wound at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which probably means that he was an enlisted man rather than an officer at that time. It is worth noting that the Biographical Dictionary of the Living Authors of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Henry Colbom, 1816) includes the author of Quebec Hill among the living in 1816.  [back]

  11. Ibid.  [back]

  12. A duplicate copy of this journal is held by Public Archives Canada.  [back]

  13. Briefly summarized here is extensive research in the published records of Lloyd’s of London and in Lower Canadian (and some Scottish) newspapers. One example of what can be pieced together from such sources may prove interesting. Between January 22 and April 7, 1798, the Caledonia Mercury contains various announcements of the imminent and actual departure of the Fanny under the captaincy of “McKie” from Greenock for Canada, a departure corroborated by the Lloyd’s Register for 1799, which has the Fanny, master “J. McKie,” surveyed at Greenock in April, 1798 prior to a voyage to Montreal. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Quebec Gazette for June 1, 1798 contains the following notice under “Port of Quebec—Arrived”: “June 1st. Ship Fanny, John McKie, Master, sailed 12th April from Greenock, Cargo, Bale Goods and Wine [a probable indication that McKie, has come by way of Madeira or Teneriffe], addressed to Messrs. Parker, Gerranl and Ogilvie Montreal [a large importing companyl—Passengers, Messrs. John Munn, James Munn [and so on] Later in the summer of 1798, the Quebec Gazette contains an advertisement for passage on the Fanny in July (June 14, 1798) and an announcement of the clearance of the ship (again with the master’s name) through Customs at Quebec for departure to Greenock (August 16, 1798).

         For obvious reasons, research has concentrated on Captain Mackie’s comings and goings in the period surrounding 1797—that is, between 1792 and 1805. It is worth noting, however, that prior to 1792, J. McKie, as master of the Queen of Naples, sailed principally from London into the Mediterranean (twice to Venice) and that after 1805 he continued on the Greenock-Quebec circuit, though on vessels other than those mentioned above (and see also note 17, below). The first of these later vessels, interestingly enough, was a new, Canadian-built ship, the Lord Gardner, which left Quebec for Greenock in the late summer of 1805 (Quebec Gazette, August 1, 1805) and arrived on the Clyde in December of that year (Lloyd’s List, December 10, 1805). The Sisters and the Commerce are among the other vessels apparently captained by J. Mackie after 1805. It is tantalizing to think that “our” Captain John Mackie is the same man as the “Cap[tain] John Mackay,” “late master of the British brig Gen[eral] Brock,” whose death in Boston in December, 1816 is recorded in the Columbian Centinal for January 1, 1817 (see the Index of Obituaries in the Massachusetts Central and Columbian Centinal, 1784-1840 [Boston: G.K. Hall, 1961], III, 2942). According to the Lloyd’s Registers (1816, 1818), the General Brock was taken over by a “I. Mackie” in 1815 for the Liverpool-Nova Scotia run and, consistent with the Centinal obituary, taken over from “J. Mackie” in 1817 by another master. Unfortunately, however, the Commerce, according to the same Lloyd’s Registers, continues to be captained by a “J. McKay” on the Greenock Quebec run through 1815-1817, when it, too, is taken over by another master. The Lloyd’s List[s] and Register[s] of Shipping are multi-volume series reprinted respectively in Westmead, Faruborough, Hants. and London, England by Gregg.  [back]

  14. In April, 1796 the Caprice, master J. McKie, was surveyed at Greenock prior to departing for Teneriffe (Lloyd’s Register [1797]). On July 24, 1796 the Caprice, master John McKay arrived in Quebec, having taken only forty-six days to cross the Atlantic from Teneriffe (Quebec Gazette, July 28, 1796). In February, 1797, the Caprice is again surveyed in Greenock, and again with J. McKie as master, but this time prior to departing for Gibralter (Lloyd’s Register [1798]), where it is reported as having arrived in the May 9, 1797 number of the Lloyd’s List.  [back]

  15. See the preceding and subsequent notes.  [back]

  16. The Lloyd’s Register for 1794 shows that the Queen of Naples, master “Mackie,” was surveyed in London in March, 1793 prior to departure for “C[a]n[a]d[a]” and the Lloyd’s List for May 17, 1793 records her sailing for “Madeira, with the Fox Frigate, bound for Quebec” and other vessels. The Lloyd’s List for September 24, 1793 notes the safe arrival of the “Queen of Naples, Mackay” in Quebec from Madeira, a fact confirmed by reports of the ship’s arrival and departure on August 7 and 27, 1793 in the Quebec Gazette. The Quebec Gazette for December 5, 1793 reports a letter remaining in the Post Office at Quebec for Capt. [John?] Mackie.  [back]

  17. Both the Army Lists and the Lloyd’s Registers (neither of which are easy to search) contain a number of J. Mackays (or variations). The former show five J. Mackays who were on full pay in 1797 (though none in a regiment that had been in Quebec in the period 1787-1794) and three who were on half pay, including two, another Lieutenant James Mackay (Fanning’s [King’s American] Regiment of Foot, disbanded in 1783) and a Captain John Mackay (Simcoe’s [Queen’s American] Rangers, also disbanded in 1783), who could well have been at Quebec. (Captain John Mackay, however, appears to have settled in New Brunswick in 1783 and lived there until his death in 1822; see W.J. Rattray, The Scot in British North America [Toronto: Maclear, 1880], 1, 317.) The latter show a number of ships’ masters named J. Mackay, including one, the master of the Galen, who sailed regularly between London and Boston in the I 790s and another, the master of the Betsy, who sailed regularly between Greenock and Newfoundland. Moreover, the Quebec Gazette, in passages not hitherto cited, refers to several J. Mackays: the John Mackie who, as master of the Neptune, sails from Quebec to London in 1765 (May 23 and September 26, 1765); the James Mackay who arrives as a passenger on the Joseph (June 27, 1794); the James Mackay who signs a declaration of loyalty towards constitutional government (July 10, 1794); the John Mackie (just possibly our ships’ captain) who signs a supplement to that declaration (July 24, 1794); the John Mackie (again possibly our ships’ captain) who signs an address to Governor Prescott at his departure (July 18, 1799); and the John Mackay of Bouchervilie who signs the same address to Governor Prescott (July 25, 1799). The censuses of Quebec in 1792, 1795, 1798 and 1805 (Rapport de l’Archiviste de Ia Province de Quebéc [1948-1949]) include one John Mackay (again, variously spelled)—a “tonnelier” (cooper), a Protestant and—but for the resemblance between the wooden couplets of Quebec Hill and the staves of a barrel—an unlikely candidate for the authorship of any poem, let alone one published in England. Mention may also be made of the John—alias Jean—Mackay (1765-1821) who was the son of Captain Francis Mackay (the surveyor), himself the son of General Francis Mackay, who came to America in 1756 and to Canada in 1760 (Memoires de Ia Société Généalogique, n.d., p. 101). And what about the John Mackie who appears in the list of “New Members” of the Lloyd’s Society in 1798 (Lloyd’s Register [1798]) and remains on the “List of the Members of the Society” between 1799 and 1801? Or the James Mackay who worked in the Foreign Department of the British Government prior to his death in 1819 (see Gentleman’s Magazine, 89 [July, 1819], 11, 91)?  [back]

  18. See Thomas Cary, Abram’s Plains: A Poem, ed. D.M.R. Bentley (Canadian Poetry Press: London, 1986), p. [1] for Cary’s use of this phrase in the Preface to his poem. Hereafter references to Abram’s Plains and its Preface are by line numbers in this edition.  [back]

  19. An Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry (1777; rpt. New York: Garland, 1970), pp. 4, 101 and 140.  [back]

  20. Ibid., pp. 145 and 141.  [back]

  21. Ibid., p. 148.  [back]

  22. Specifically military or navigational charts? See also, amongst other things, the knowledgeable and sympathetic treatment of ships and sailors in I, 345-350 for internal evidence that could be used to support the candidacy of Captain John Mackie for the authorship of the poem.  [back]

  23. Essay, pp. 148-149.  [back]

  24. Ibid., p. 148.  [back]

  25. Given his heavy reliance on Kalm and Carver, the very remote possibility exists that Mackay was never in Canada, but merely made that claim in his Preface to establish the authority of his poem.  [back]

  26. See Explanatory Notes, I, 61-64, 65-80 and II, 73-80.  [back]

  27. Essay, p. 146.  [back]

  28. Ibid., p. 22.  [back]

  29. Ibid., p. 126.  [back]

  30. See especially James Thomson, “Autumn,” The Seasons, ed. James Sambrook (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 836-870. Hereafter references to The Seasons are by line numbers in this edition.  [back]

  31. “Spring,” 576-581.  [back]

  32. The Deserted Village, 349 in The Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith, ed. Arthur Friedman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), IV. Hereafter references to Goldsmith’s poems are by line numbers in this edition.  [back]

  33. In The Emigrant; see The Poetical Works of Alexander McLachlan, intro. E. Margaret Fulton, Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose in Reprint (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), p. 224.  [back]

  34. Ibid., p. 225.  [back]

  35. “Denham”, Lives of the English Poets, ed. George Birkbeck Hill (1905; rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1967), I, 77.  [back]

  36. Robert Arnold Aubin, Topographical Poetry in XVIII-Century England, the Modem Language Association of America Revolving Fund Series, VI (1936; rpt. New York: Kraus, 1966). p. 86.  [back]

  37. See ibid., pp. 77-110 and 298-314 (the latter, Aubin’s bibliography of hill-poems that includes Quebec Hilt).  [back]

  38. Ibid., p. 85.  [back]

  39. Ibid., pp. 237-238.  [back]

  40. For pertinent discussions of the poems of Roberts, Lampman and Klein, see Tracy Ware, “Remembering It All Well: ’The Tantramar Revisited’,” Studies in Canadian Literature, 8 (1983), 22 1-237; L.R. Early, Archibald Lampman, Twayne’s World Authors Series (Boston: Twayne, 1986), pp. 56-58; and D.M.R. Bentley, “Klein, Montreal, and Mankind”, Journal of Canadian Studies, 19 (Summer, 1984), pp. 49-52.  [back]

  41. See Aubin, Topographical Poetry, pp. 225-241 and pp. 377-385 (bibliography). [back]

  42. If the author of Quebec Hill was Captain John MacIde, it is especially plausible to speculate that he read Abram’s Plains, published in 1789, only three years before the first visit of the Queen of Naples to Quebec. See also Explanatory Notes, I, 136.  [back]

  43. The Empire of the St. Lawrence, 2nd. ed. (it was first published in 1937 as The Commercial Empire of tile St. Lawrence, 1 760-18S0) (1956; rpt. Toronto: Macmillan, 1970), p. 6.  [back]

  44. For elaborations of the terms baseland and hinterland, see D.M.R. Bentley, “A New Dimension: Notes on the Ecology of Canadian Poetry,” Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents. Reviews, 7 (Fall I Winter, 1980), pp. 1-20; “A Stretching Landscape: Notes on Some Formalistic Continuities in the Poetry of the Hinterland,” Contemporary Verse II, 5 (Summer, 1981), pp. 6-18; “The Mower and the Boneless Acrobat: Notes on the Stances of Baseland and Hinterland in Canadian Poetry,” Studies in Canadian Literature, 8 (1983), 5-48; and the “Introduction” in Adam Kidd, The Huron Chief (Lon don: Canadian Poetry Press, 1987), pp. xi-xxi. [back]

  45. See Explanatory Notes, I, 11-22.  [back]

  46. The seminal discussion of the sources of the sublime is, of course, Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Inquiry into tile Origin of our Ideas of tile Sublime and tile Beautiful, first published in 1756; see The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, The World’s Classics Series (1906; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1925), 1, 108-137. It is Burke who uses the word “astonishment” (I, 108) to describe the most intense effect of the sublime.  [back]

  47. The Pleasures of the Imagination (1744: rpt. London: T. Cadell, 1825), p. 115. My attention was drawn to this quotation by a study which has also been very helpful in other respects: Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s Newton Demands the Muse: Newton's Optiks and the Eighteenth- Century Poets (Hamden, Conn. and London: Archon Books, 1963). The same author’s Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: tile Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite (1959; rpt. New York: Norton, 1963) has been of similar help.  [back]

  48. Other instances of this feeling can be found in I, 228, 300 and elsewhere.  [back]

  49. See John Robert Colombo, Canadian Literary Landmarks (Willowdale, Ont.: Hounslow, 1984), p. 280 for Frye’s response to a view of Vancouver’s North Shore mountains: he “went a little pale, turned and walked back into the house, saying: ’Those mountains make my blood run cold!  [back]

  50. See “Conclusion,” Literary History of Canada, p. 830 and The Bush Garden: Essay on the Canadian Imagination (Toronto: Anansi, 1971), pp. 138 and p. 225. For a detailed refutation of the generalization of this perception by Frye and others, see Mary Lu MacDonald, “The Natural World in Early Nineteenth-Century Canadian Literature,” Canadian Literature, 111 (Winter, 1986), pp. 48-65. [back]

  51. The Rising Village in Nineteenth-Century Narrative Poems, ed. David Sinclair, New Canadian Library, No. 8 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1972), p. 7 (and see also p. 8 for “repressed by no control”).  [back]

  52. Abram’s Plains, 38-39, and p. 29n. 36-37.  [back]

  53. Quoted from the excerpt of the poem in Songs of the Great Dominion, ed. William Douw Lighthall (1889; rpt. Toronto: Coles, 1971), p. 317.  [back]

  54. “Uncurbed Passion, “ The St. Lawrence and tile Saguenay and Other Poems, Hesperus and Other Poems and Lyrics, intro. Gordon Johnston, Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose in Reprint (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), p. 235.  [back]

  55. See Abram’s Plains, 364-397.  [back]

  56. See Explanatory Notes, II, 34. On the connection between “obscurity" and the sublime (with some pertinent references to primitive religion), see Burke, Inquiry. Works, I, 110-111.  [back]

  57. See Explanatory Notes, I, 95, 96, 97-102 and ff.  [back]

  58. Cf. Cary, Abram’s Plains, 272-281 and 408-427 for other picturesque accounts of the landscape around Quebec, and the “Introduction”, pp. xxxiv-xxxvii to Cary’s poem for a discussion of the “Here” / “There” direction and related matters. Walter John Hipple, Jr., Tile Beautiful, the Sublime, and tile Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957) is still a very useful guide to its subject, particularly the picturesque, the aesthetic crystallized for many eighteenth-century readers by William Gilpin’s Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape: to Which is Added a Poem, On Landscape Painting (London: B. Sealey, 1784).  [back]

  59. See Explanatory Notes, I, 265-286. [back]

  60. As witness poems as diverse as Goldsmith’s The Rising Village, Isabella Valancy Crawford’s Malcolm’s Katie and F. R. Scott’s “Laurentian Shield,” all of which temper a belief in the advantages of civilization with an awareness of its dangers and discontents. See also Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind (Montreal: New World Perspectives, 1984).  [back]

  61. Compare Mackay’s note at I, 229 with Adam Kidd’s in The Huron Chief, 673.  [back]

  62. See Explanatory Notes, I, 41-45.  [back]

  63. Aubin, Topographical Poetry, pp. 179 and 180.  [back]

  64. For example, Earle Bimey in the frequently quoted and reprinted “Can. Ut.” and Douglas LePan in the slightly less well-known “A Country without a Mythology".  [back]

  65. See Abram’s Plains, 452-469, and pp. 39-40 n. 452f., 456, 460 and so on. It is worth noting, however, that, whereas Cary emphasizes the peace and harmony that have come to the Plains of Abraham between 1759 and 1789 (see “Introduction”, Abram’s Plains, pp. xv-xviii), Mackay (1, 199-206) depicts the “Plain” as the uncultivated haunt of an “artful swain” bent on killing “trembling game".  [back]

  66. See Explanatory Notes, I, 181.  [back]

  67. Nicolson, Newton Demands the Muse, p. 23 (and see also the quotation from Richard Glover’s “Poem on Newton” on p. 14).  [back]

  68. See Burke, Inquiry, Works, I, 139-142 for proportion as the cause of beauty in inanimate things.  [back]

  69. Further discussion of the background of this passage, including a possible point of departure for it, can be found in the explanatory note at I, 317-324. See also Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1986), pp. 239-240 (and his chapter on “Ice and Light”, pp. 204-251 as a whole) for some fascinating discussion of changes and tricks of perception in the Arctic, as well as of the formation and types of sea-ice (pp. 210-212).  [back]

  70. See, for example, Varenius, Cosmography and Geography in Two Parts, trans. Richard Blome (London: Samuel Roycroft, 1693), pp. 82, 85 and 159 and the entry on “Frost” in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1771) “Frost naturally proceeds from the upper parts of bodies downwards; but how deep it will reach in earth or water, is not easily known. . . . Water. . . exposed to the cold air.., always freezes first at the upper surface, the ice gradually increasing and thickening downwards. . . .”  [back]

  71. See Miller Christy, “Introduction”, The Voyages of Captain Luke Foxe of Hull, and Captain Thomas James of Bristol, in Search of the North-West Passage, in 1631-32, Works Issued by the Hakluyt Society, No. 88 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1894), I, clxxxix-cxciii for a survey of the early scholarship on this subject.  [back]

  72. Wacousta; or, The Prophecy, ed. Carl F. Klinck, New Canadian Library, No. 58 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967), p. 250.  [back]

  73. Looming largest, because most recent and expansive, of these (another is Margaret Atwood’s Survival) is Gaile McGregor, The Wacousta Syndrome: Explorations in Canadian Landscape (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto, 1985).  [back]

  74. Abram’s Plains, Preface, 12-15.  [back]

  75. The History of Emily Montague, ed. Mary Jane Edwanis (Ottawa: Carlton University Press, 1985), p. 24. In his Essay, Aikin makes numerous references to Virgil’s Georgics.  [back]

  76. See the note on the epigraph in Explanatory Notes.  [back]

  77. For the seminal discussion of this topos, see Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series, No. 36 (New York: Pantheon, 1953), pp. 195-200. See also Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, The Green Cabinet (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), pp. 179-205.  [back]

  78. Thomson, “Spring”, 1161.  [back]

  79. Cary, Abram's Plains, 572-577.  [back]

  80. John Wilson Foster, “A Redefinition of Topographical Poetry”, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 69 (July, 1970), 403.  [back]

  81. See Curtius, European Literature, p. 195.  [back]

  82. Georgics, II, 467, as translated ibid., p. 199.  [back]

  83. See The Deserted Village, 243-245 (“No more the farmer’s news, ... / No more the wood-man’s ballad.. . / No more the smith ) and the final lines of “The City of the End of Things”, The Poems of Archibald Lampman (including At the Long Sault), intro. Margaret Coulby Whitridge, Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose in Reprint (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), p. 182 (“Nor ever living thing shall grow, / Nor trunk of tree, nor blade of grass; / No drop shall fall, no wind shall blow, / Nor sound of any foot shall pass. . .   [back]

  84. “Conclusion,” Literary History of Canada, p. 830. By way of contrast to Mackay, the following quotation from W. Derham, Phvsico Theology: or, a Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. from His Works of Creation (1713; rpt. London: W. Innys and J. Richardson, 1754), p. 217n. reveals the mode of reasoning of a mind convinced that the world was designed by God for the benefit of man: “I take this Opportunity of adding some other Defensatives, Nature (or rather the Author of Nature) hath afforded... Northern Regions: such are their high Mountains. . . numerous Woods, which, besides their Fire, do, with the Mountains, serve as excellent Screens against the Cold, piercing Air, and Winds.... To all which Defensatives, I shall in the last Place add, the Vapours of their Lakes (some of which are prodigiously large...) also of their Rivers, [and] . . . Sea.”  [back]

  85. It is notable that in his Preface, 10 Mackay writes of the “prosecution of [his] Work” and in II, 141 n. of winter as a time for the “man of reflection to prosecute his studies.”  [back]

  86. See, for example, The European Magazine, and London Review which gave prominant coverage to Heame and his book between November, 1796 and June, 1797.  [back]

  87. A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort, ed. Richard Glover (Toronto: Macmillan, 1958), p. [xlv].  [back]

  88. No W. Blackader is listed in Stationers’ Company Apprentices, 1701-1800, ed. D.F. McKenzie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978). It is possible that the printer of Quebec Hill was a law stationer or the owner of stationary shop who owned a press and employed journeymen.  [back]

  89. The first edition of Quebec Hill has a title-page reading: QUEBEC HILL; / OR,/ CANADIAN SCENERY./ A POEM.! IN TWO PARTS./ [double rule]! J. MACKAY.! [double rule]! [epigraph]! [double rule]! [vignette]/[double rule]/LONDON:I PRINTED BY W. BLACKADER, TOOKE’S COURT, CHANCERY LANE,! FOR THE AUTHOR;! AND SOLD BY ELLIOT & KAY, STRAND, AND W. RICHARDSON,! ROYAL-EXCHANGE.! 1797.! [rule]! (PRICE TWO SHILLINGS AND SIXPENCE.) On the back of the title page there is printed in a Caslon Great Primer Black typeface: “Entered at Stationers Hall.” Collation: 4 B-K2[K2=AI] $1 signed; pp. [ii ii [1-3] 4-22[23] 24-34. The vignette on the title page is repeated above the titles of “Summer” and “Winter” on pp. [3] and 23, and a vignette also appears at the close of “Summer” on p. 22. The typeface of the Preface is Caslon Double Pica, one point leaded, and that of the poem is Caslon Great Primer, again one point leaded. That of the footnotes is Caslon Pica. A variety of Calson roman and italic typefaces, including an italic open face, is used on the title page. The catch-word on p. 8 (“In”) does not correspond to the first word of the top line on p. 9 (“Now”), suggesting that the type-setter underestimated the space required for the footnotes on p. 8 (86n. and 87n.) and was forced to begin p. 9 two lines earlier than he expected (the third line on p. 9 actually begins with “In”). The sizes of the pages (approximately 2 1cm. x 27cm.: 8 1/4’ x 10 518”) is consistent with a quarto folding of printing Demy paper (22” x 17 1/4"; see Philip Gaskell, “Notes on Eighteenth-Century British Paper,” The Library, 5th. Ser., 12 [1957], 35). In the gutter of each page of the copy of Quebec Hill in the Baldwin Room at the Metropolitan Toronto Library there are three stab holes approximately 4.5 and 5.5 cm. apart, indicating that it was sewn through sideways as is consistent with pamphlets or very thin books (see John Carter, ABC for Book-Collectors [London: Rupert Hart Davis, 1952], p. 169). Running parallel to the print on each page of the Baldwin Room copy of Quebec Hill are either nine or ten chain lines approximately 2.75 cm. apart. In the bottom right-hand corners of pp. 9(D), 17(F), 2 1(G), 25(H) and 29(I), and at right-angles to the chain lines, is a watermark “1795” indicating the year in which the paper was made. The same configuration of chain lines and watermark is visible on the tide page of the poem. I am grateful to E.J. Devereux for his help and advice on the bibliographical aspects of Quebec Hill. [back]

  90. See Abram’s Plains, pp. xxxiv-xliii.  [back]

  91. Records of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, 1S54-1920 (London: Chadwyck-Healey, 1985).  [back]

  92. The Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Miscellany, 9 (March, 1797), 209.  [back]

  93. The British Critic, a New Review, 10 (July-December. 1797), 194.  [back]

  94. Benjamin Christie Nangle, The Monthly Review Second Series, 1790-181S: Indexes of Contributors and Articles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), p. 5. [back]

  95. The Monthly Review; or Literary Journal, Enlarged, 24 (September December, 1797), 210, 212.  [back]

  96. Ibid.  [back]

  97. The Critical Review; or, Annals of Literature, 21 (September, 1797), 103-105. [back]

  98. 1 am grateful to E.W. Pitcher for the information that in the seventeen-nineties The Analytical Review often appeared considerably later—sometimes years—after the date indicated on its title page.  [back]

  99. The Analytical Review, or History of Literature, Domestic and Foreign, on an Enlarged Plan, 25 (January-June, 1797), 280 (the entire review is pp. 279-281).  [back]

  100. The Critical Review, 21 (September, 1797), 103.  [back]