"The Casket of Truth": the Social Significance of Susanna Moodie's Spiritual Dilemmas

By John Thurston

"A Message From The Dead"

In 1881 Susanna Moodie "had a strange visit" from a woman who had "a message from the dead" for her.  This message is from an old friend who had died four years earlier, and to whom Moodie had written a poem in 1827.  Thoughts of what "a wonderful photographer memory is," imprinting "images . . . on the heart and brain" which must have some purpose, flood over her, and she recalls another old friend, Anna Laura Harral, to whom she had also addressed poems in 1827.1   Anna, who had died in 1830, had already sent Moodie messages from the dead.  Kate Fox delivered the first of these, through the medium of spirit rapping which she had discovered with her sister.  Her truly strange visit in 1855 opened the channels of this medium for Moodie.

     Moodie's repeated partings from loved ones left her with life-long emotional and spiritual yearnings.  Emigration was the consequence of an early severance from her father in 1818 who had, before he died, been parted from his money.  Indeed, all her social and spiritual dilemmas were largely due to this message from the dead about the separation of the family from their gentry status.2  Before his downfall, Thomas Strickland had educated his eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Agnes, in a way befitting their newly-risen social position.3  Unable to perform the same duties for his youngest girls, Catharine and Susanna, they had their sisters for school mistresses.  Agnes disputed the legacy of the Glorious Revolution with her teacher.  Susanna writes that "the Father and his child politician seldom agreed on historical subjects.  He was a Whig and a great admirer of William III, whom she detested being a devoted champion of the unfortunate House of Stuart."  For her books on the Queens of England, Agnes was accused of being a closet Catholic and supporter of absolute monarchy.4  It seems she took her gentry status to its logical conclusion — further than her father wished — cleaving to Tory, Royalist and High Church allegiances.

     Elizabeth and Agnes were in their twenties when their father died, Catharine and Susanna were adolescents.  The latter two and a middle sister, Sarah, were less secure in identifying, socially and religiously, with the landed gentry.  In the mid-1820s they became friends of the Childses, Nonconformist printers who campaigned for disestablishment of the Church of England.  Sarah married Robert Childs and Susanna fell in love with another Nonconformist.5  These involvements brought a social cloud over the family, but the younger girls must have felt more at home in an atmosphere of middle-class Nonconformity than in an artificial High-Church gentry greenhouse.6

"Foolish Fanaticks"

Susanna's parting from her older sisters over social and religious allegiances was a positive step in her search for viable identity.  It was, however, accompanied by doubts and insecurities which culminated at the end of the 1820s in a nervous prostration she was only able to resolve by a more extreme and explicit rejection of the social position she had been raised to inhabit.  In April 1830 she joined a Nonconformist chapel, a move which, according to Catharine, "was very distasteful to our mother and sisters, and for a while, was the cause of disunion and a withdrawal of the old harmony and confidence which had hitherto existed in the family" (TFC 9884).

     Susanna's literary career began in parallel with her elder sisters', but they achieved their ambitions, while she grew uneasy with hers.  From the early 1820s, Agnes and Elizabeth spent much of their time among the London literati.  Although Susanna also made trips to London later in the decade, one of her best contacts, that with Thomas Harral, was broken off before its end.  For "several years" Harral was "Editor of La Belle Assemblée" (letter 59), a magazine addressed to that segment of British society untroubled by the moral and political vagaries of George IV.  Appearing in it as early as 1825, between 1827 to 1829 Susanna published more than forty items of verse and prose in the magazine.  By the end of this period, however, she had begun to have difficulties with Harral, her literary fame in his magazine and her own spiritual and moral state.

     While her letters to Harral have not been found, Susanna mentions him in almost half of those recovered from 1827-1830.  In the spring of 1829 her cordiality towards him is replaced with anxiety: "My communications to Mr. Harral were of that nature which made me dread his displeasure and his silence had wound up my feeling to a pitch somewhat beyond anxiety and I fear even now to open his letter when it shall arrive" (letter 14).   A possible explanation of her anxiety is that her "communications" to Harral had been in the "nature" of unfavourable comment on the moral tone of his Belle Assemblée.  This explanation suits what can be pieced together of her moral and spiritual life in 1829.  Susanna pours out her religious anguish about literary fame to another correspondent that summer.  She distances herself from Agnes and her circle, claiming to be but a "plain, matter-of-fact country girl" who is "totally unfitted to mingle with the world."  She disavows her "desire for fame" which had been a "criminal passion," and confesses she has "employed those abilities with which heaven had endowed me, doubtless for a wise and useful purpose, entirely for my own amusement." She intends to "withdraw entirely from the scene of action, and, under another name, devote my talents to the services of my God" (letter 19).  She had already begun to contribute to a new periodical, the Ecclesiastic.7   She appears that fall in the annuals, noted for their piety, over the pseudonym "Z.Z."  In The Iris: A Literary and Religious Offering she published a biblical paraphrase, "The Overthrow of Zebah and Zalmunna," about the chastening of worshippers of Baal.  Perhaps the initials of their leaders suggested the pseudonym to Susanna who had decided to worship the false god of literary fame no more.

     During this period Susanna's letters to James Bird are preoccupied with spiritual and religious problems.8  In early 1829 she confesses to Bird that she is no longer writing poetry, except for "a couple of sacred pieces."  She includes a poem about "the Bridegroom," intended for a book of hymns for the Childs press, which concludes, "To Him! be praise and glory given / To Father! Son and Holy Ghost!"9  In the next months, Bird, perhaps with the fervour of a recent convert, confronted her with his opinion on the Trinity by sending her "Unitarian Tracts."   Unitarians were heterodox Dissenters, associated with radical reform, Utilitarianism and disestablishment.10  In June she tells him she would not "regard any sect of Christians with indifference because they did not agree with me on doctrinal points," so excusing him of his Unitarian heresy.  To relieve her "mental struggles," she will procure "a place in a mission abroad" (letter 17).  In light of her next letter reminds him that she "expected to lose some of my friends in consequence of the step I had taken."  She has been called "a mad woman and a fanatic" and has "forfeited the good opinion of the world to claim" her "despised faith" (letter 18).  Her entry into a dissenting chapel almost a year in the future, it is possible that, in the step referred to, she joined an evangelical group within the Established Church.

     Catharine tells how her sister was "suddenly awakened" by "the energetic preaching of an enthusiastic Clergyman of the English Church rousing her sensitive nature to a consideration of the importance of her spiritual state — A great conflict was going on in her mind at this time."  Susanna, awakened by "the first truly gospel sermon" they had heard in the local church, seems to have crossed the rationalism/enthusiasm axis which cut through both the Church of England and Nonconformism.11   This step would have made her critical of the morals of the Belle Assemblée and jeopardised her friendships.  It would have contributed to, perhaps caused, her uneasiness with fame and made her family, particularly its High Church members, uneasy about her.

     During this period, Susanna frightens her sisters "by fainting . . . by the fire" (letter 20).  She burns some verse tragedies, persuaded "by foolish fanaticks" that it was "unworthy of a christian to write for the stage" (letter 61).  Friends had been concerned about her health from early 1829.  "Hymn of the Convalescent," published late in 1830, describes no specific symptoms: the cure had come the previous spring when "light from heaven, like April's ray, / Broke through the stormy sky!"12  In April of 1830 she had entered the local Congregationalist chapel.

     Upon leaving the area, the itinerant clergyman Catharine mentions commended Susanna "to the care of a worthy Nonconformist Pastor" (TFC 9884).  With restored equilibrium, Susanna relates her welcome by the Congregationalists.  She feels tied to them "by the indissoluble bonds of Christian union," having received "the right hand of fellowship in the name of the whole congregation."  She rejoices in being "the member of a free church and blessed with such a friend and spiritual adviser" as her new pastor, Andrew Ritchie.  She is, simply, "happy now" (letter 22).  In her sister's account, she received "rest and comfort" from Ritchie, but for the family, "staunch adherents of the English Church, . . . to enter that of a nonconformist was regarded . . . as bordering on heresy" (TFC 9884).  Susanna banished her own concern that Congregationalism might make her "an alien" to her friends.

     Congregationalism provided the community of independent believers Susanna needed.  It was among the sects active for disestablishment.  Congregationalists stress the autonomy of individual congregations and the equality of all members.  They believe that God's spirit, as it manifests itself to each believer, is the active agent drawing members together.  Ritchie's chapel drew on local farmers, despite his reputation for cultivation.13

     Susanna curtails her account to Bird of her conversion, fearful of seeming "a mere visionary enthusiast" (letter 22).  A defence of her religious experience, she did not likely write "Enthusiasm" while an enthusiaSt. In this poem, she ratifies religious enthusiasm by associating it with secular engagements:

      Parent of genius, bright Enthusiasm!
Bold nurse of high resolve and generous thought,
'Tis to thy soul-awakening power we own
The preacher's eloquence, the painter's skill,
The poet's lay, the patriot's noble zeal,
The warrior's courage, and the sage's love.14

But enthusiasm is only condoned for worldly purposes: "Zeal in a sacred cause alone is deemed / An aberration of our mental powers" (49-50).  She justifies past experience by giving it poetic form.  The poem portrays the vanities of the unredeemed, including the poet, whose "lovely dreams" and "earthly hopes" (115, 116) will end in "penury and dire disease, / Neglect, a broken heart, an early grave!" (117-18).  If he followed the example of the poem itself and tuned his "harp to truths divine" (119), he would, as she has vowed she will, avoid this end.

     The equation she makes of fanatical "Zeal" (411) with sincere Christian faith does not fit either definition of enthusiasm extant at the time.  One meaning, possession by a god, by the eighteenth century connoted misdirected, extravagant religious emotion.  She had been an enthusiast in this sense.  Current with this definition was the modern meaning of enthusiasm as intense involvement with something.15  In her transformation from evangelicist to Congregationalist, she transformed her enthusiasm from the eighteenth-century sense to the current sense, from extravagant religious emotion to intense faith in Christianity.  She rationalizes her past fanaticism with the depth of faith she salvaged from it by causally relating them.  Through the polysemy of enthusiasm, she condemns past critics and affirms present grace.  In her closing lines she leaves traces of her trek from inspiration to faith:

Never, while reason holds her steady rein,
To curb imagination's fiery steeds,
May I to joyless apathy resign
The high and holy thoughts inspired by thee!

Reason now reins in her imagination, controlling her visionary religious opinions and sanctioning her deep but regulated faith.

     Only when her religious crisis had receded was Susanna able to produce this poem and the collection for which it provides the title.  Enthusiasm absorbed her social, literary and religious conflicts.  Ritchie managed business affairs between the publishers and the Childs press.  Published by subscription, she sent prospectuses to Unitarians, Quakers and Congregationalists, but also to literary acquaintances.  She was worried about its reception in the fashionable periodicals and connected it to her economic predicament.   She attributed its "deep tone of melancholy" to "the sorrows of a very unhappy home" (letter 54).  She dedicated the book, "Jan. 1st. 1831," to a Nonconformist Anti-Slavery poet.  It was published the following spring.  She claimed that "the edition of 500 copies, sold, paying its own expenses, and leaving . . . a profit of some 25 or 30 pounds."16

     As Enthusiasm was being printed, Susanna was marrying J.W.D. Moodie, a Presbyterian Scot.  A year after her conversion to Congregationalism she had to marry in the Church of England because, before a civil register was established in 1836, Dissenters were not allowed to marry in chapel.  She met Dunbar through Thomas Pringle, for a time her de facto literary agent and surrogate father.  In a letter written at the Pringle home, she describes working under him for the Anti-Slavery Society, re-entering the London literary world and hearing "the celebrated Edward Irving preach."  Her mockery of Irving shows that no matter how extreme her religious views, they could not match the follies of religious fashion in London.17


Love, marriage and motherhood left little time for spiritual angst, but did lead almost directly to emigration.  By the fall of 1832, Mrs. Moodie was in Upper Canada, still a Congregationalist as far as any evidence shows, although without a congregation.  She was free of the religious strictures of England, but in the spiritual vacancy of the backwoods, independence of conscience could itself become oppressive.  This oppressiveness was compounded by her suspicion that, bowing to circumstance and her husband's arguments, she may have been mistaken in believing duty to her children required emigration.18   On the eve of departure she was plagued by "bad omens" and "mysterious warnings."  The fear that she had disobeyed her "inward monitor," voice of her true fate, nagged her for at least twenty years.19

     Within reach of the Cobourg Church of England during their first year and a half in the colony, after they joined family and friends near Lakefield, the Moodies would only have encountered Methodist itinerants, seen as Yankee republicans.20  Independence to follow the dictates of conscience had long been one of her prime moral values.21  During the stress of conversion, her "only cheering conviction was that [she] was obeying the dictates of conscience" (letter 22).  With only those religious services settlers could supply themselves, however, Moodie might have missed the controls and reinforcements to moral independence provided by a religious institution.

     This lack of a formal religious community perhaps contributed to Moodie's feeling that in the bush she was expiating some unknown guilt: "What heinous crime had I committed, that I . . . should . . . pine out my joyless existence in a foreign clime?" (RI 73).  Her books on Canada chastize the settled for profanity and intemperance, and warn genteel emigrants of the depths of drunkenness and depravity they will encounter and likely succumb to, but do not judge the crimes of characters like Brian and Malcolm, suicidal and homicidal, respectively: these characters illustrate her warnings to others of her class not to come.  Her own crime may have been to ignore "the mysterious warnings" of Providence that neither should she have come.  With no figure of spiritual authority to contradict that thought, with so many examples of English gentry degraded by the bush, and with her values insulted by all she saw of the colony, there were no more guarantees of moral choice, and the "right reason" of individual conscience had little to support it.  She discovers the necessity of social forms and church rituals to guard against the dangers of a self-reliant conscience.

     Those dangers were apparent in the dispirited gentry in the backwoods and the irreligious "low-born Yankee, or the Yankeefied British peasantry" on the front (RI 198).  These latter seemed to be setting the moral tone of the colony — at least until the 1837 rebellion.  In righteous poems against it, she urges "Brave children of a noble race, / Guard well the altar and the hearth," and wonders the rebels think they can sever "one sacred link / That binds our country fair / To that dear isle."   These lines seem to support an established church.  Mackenzie's is an "impious hand," the British cause "sacred."22   Moodie was among those who saw this civil strife as a battle between the United States and England, democracy and monarchy, atheism and religion.  After the enemy has been routed and the colony re-routed onto a secure British path, she feels liberated from guilt:

      O this is freedom! — this is to be free —
Secure in conscious worth to stand the shock;
To feel no self accusing foe within,
No spirit whispering to the guilty soul.23

The republican infidels had been wrong after all; the colony would be inherited by sons of gentry, once lost and ignored in the spiritual and social wilderness of the Upper Canadian woods.  Apart from this spiritual rejuvenation through political events, in her last months in the bush she received consolation from an Anglican clergyman who had bought her brother-in-law's farm.24

     The rebellion brought the Moodies out of that wilderness and once more within reach of the established churches of their homelands.  It led to J.W.D. Moodie's appointment as sheriff.25  Writing from Belleville, however, he forecast the divisiveness ahead:

But for this miserable petty party and national feeling we might be very comfortable here . . . I go to both Churches, and most of my countrymen go to the English Church when Mr Ketchum is absent.  The Episcopalians, however, are not liberal enough to follow this laudable example.26

This ecumenism was difficult to maintain.  The polarized politics of the early 1840s, the resentment of the local elite of an outsider appointed to a status position, and the contentious elections for Hastings in 1841 and 1842, made for conflict which ceased only with his resignation in 1863.27  This conflict articulates readily with organized religion in Belleville.  When Mrs. Moodie joined her husband on New Year's Day 1840, the four main religious denominations in Upper Canada (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic) had churches in town.  They would not have attended St. Michael's Catholic church in its impressive stone cathedral.  Nor would they have gone to the Methodist Chapel which remained tainted with republican associations.28

     The Moodies' relations with the Churches of England and Scotland in Belleville need more consideration.  St. Thomas's Anglican Church was one of the endowed rectories Lieutenant-Governor Colborne created before he was recalled in 1836, an act which, from opposition to Anglican claims to establishment, contributed to the unrest expressed in the rebellion.  This benison would have heightened the priest of St. Thomas's sense of belonging to the colonial elite.  The Rev. John Cochrane was a staunch Tory who associated himself with the militia during Moodie's tenure as paymaster in 1839.29   Many of Cochrane's parishioners did belong to the local elite.  Moodie innocently offended them by getting the job they felt belonged to their own Thomas Parker.  He further offended when, as returning officer in the elections, he oversaw the defeat of Edmund Murney by Robert Baldwin in 1841 and disallowed on a technicality Murney's comeback win in 1842.  Add to these enemies George Benjamin, publisher of the Intelligencer, and Judge Benjamin Dougall, both prominent citizens associated with St. Thomas's who clashed with Moodie, and it is clear the Moodies would have felt distinctly unwelcome inside the Church.30

     While the Moodies were made uncomfortable in the local Church of England, they may have themselves become uneasy with the local Church of Scotland.  St. Andrew's began services in 1831 under the ministry of the Rev. James Ketcham, sent out by the Glasgow Colonial Society.  The Society chose known Calvinists for their ministry.  Recommending "our worthy and truly Christian Minister" to his wife, Moodie admits he is "somewhat of a Calvinist," but "he never alludes to their divers doctrines either in the pulpit or in conversation." In the early 1850s she declares herself "no convert" to "the soul-fettering doctrines of John Calvin."31 Ten years before, Moodie attempted to "influence Mrs. M. as to Presbyterianism," but they both "den[ied] the doctrine of absolute Election, or predestination."32

     Without a Belleville congregation amongst which to feel welcome, the Moodies in 1844 helped found their own.  The minute-book of the Congregational Church of Belleville opens with a constituent preamble stating that, "The undersigned . . . have resolved upon forming themselves into a Church of Christ."33  The Moodies are among the twelve signatories.  Little is known about the others.  If, as with other Congregational churches in Canada West, the members of the Belleville branch came mainly from the lower middle class, this would help explain their absence from the historical record.34 Susanna may have vainly sought a Congregationalist body since her exile.  A founder of one, she reached again for "the right hand of fellowship."

     The most frequent items of business in this minute-book are the proposal and reception of new members.  Still, membership never reached thirty before the last meeting recorded.  The religious background of most new members is not specified, but five are noted to have come from either Presbyterian churches in New York State or from American Presbyterian churches in Canada West.  This detail points to the early link between Presbyterians and Congregationalists which continued into the nineteenth century in North America.35  The reunion of two denominations which began together in England is one reason why J.W.D. Moodie was willing to leave the church of his homeland and join his wife in founding a church for her sect in the new world.

     The Congregationalist Colonial Missionary Society in 1836 sent an agent to Montreal who realized that the potential for the church in the Canadas, largely due to the presence of Congregationalists like Moodie in the 1830s wave of immigration, required a second agent.  In October 1837 John Roaf arrived in Toronto to manage church affairs west of Kingston and to become pastor to a Toronto church founded in 1834.  With funds coming from England and New England, Upper Canadian Congregationalism was set to burgeon, but the rebellion occurred before Roaf could become oriented and the American connection became a liability: "The cause was popularly called 'the radical chapel' and hence the congregation was almost scattered."36  To survive, Congregationalists, as Methodists before, had to cut their ties to the United States.  Despite Roaf's resentment of "the ascendant party and their laws" and belief that Congregationalism "must for some time retain much of the political character given to" it, he oversaw the opening of a score of sister churches in the province in his first two years.37  One of these was in Belleville, over the first meeting of which, on 23 September 1844, "Mr Roaf by special invitation presided."

     Roaf was requested "to procure ministerial supplies, and the visit of some clergyman whom he may think likely to assume the office of pastor" (23 September 1844).  Two months later, the Rev. Thomas Isaac Hodgskin arrived "as a supply for a few weeks," but was soon asked "to accept the Pastoral Office" (22 November, 4 December).   Hodgskin was ordained in February 1845 at a service conducted by ministers from Norwood, Whitby, Cobourg and Markham, with Roaf giving the charge.  The minutes note that the service was "held in the usual place of meeting, the Court House, which was crowded with an attentive audience," but also note that a building committee was appointed to provide a more permanent home.

     Moodie had taught in the Sunday School of her Congregationalist chapel in England (letter 22), but was not present when the Belleville body "unanimously resolved to hold a Sabbath School in connection with the Church" (7 March 1845).  These same minutes record that a committee was appointed "to visit Mr & Mrs Moodie with reference to their disorderly walk and neglect of Ch. Fellowship."  The next month's deal with the sequel, again referring to the Moodies as among "those who walk disorderly," citing as authority an epistle in which Paul commands his listeners to "withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." In the tradition referred to, Paul showed his willingness to share the labour of his flock.38  The Moodies were being charged with neglect of church activities.

     On the authority of Matthew 18.15-18, Congregationalism requires that members submit to the discipline of their brethren.39   This chapter contains the first principle at Congregationalism's foundation: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (18.20).  Hence, when the Moodies "refused to allow the deputation . . . to wait on them," as Hodgskin reported, they compounded their sins by striking at the core of the church.  The congregation unanimously resolved not only to withdraw from them, but, since they "refused to hear the Church," they declared them "excommunicated from Church fellowship and privileges, in accordance with the direction of Our Lord in Mat 18.17" (2 April 1845).  "Expelled" was added to their signatures at the front.

     From the minute-book it cannot be told who first withdrew the hand of fellowship.  The Moodies had been in need of religious consolation after their six-year old son drowned in June 1844.  Helping to form this church two months later, they may not have met their needs in it, and withdrew once more into private mourning.  That they had become lax in performing their duties and then "refused to hear the Church" suggests their own disenchantment.

     In early 1846 a Congregationalist minister at Cobourg named Joseph Harris took over the Belleville church.  A year later Moodie reports in the Literary Garland that a Joseph Harris she knew from Cobourg, "although he does not know a letter in the book, has turned travelling preacher."40  She is here summing up Uncle Joe H — , whom she dramatizes so disparagingly in Roughing It in the Bush.  Having lost his land to the Moodies, had he travelled as preacher from Cobourg to Belleville, learning his letters along the way?  This identification would explain much about both the Moodies' relations with Congregationalism and about a major part of Roughing It.

     Moodie, following her latest information on Uncle Joe, ironically asks, "After this, who can doubt the existence of miracles in the nineteenth century?"  A few years after repeating this question in Roughing It she was in the midst of an experience which at first seemed to her miraculous, but in the third quarter of the nineteenth century was almost as common as going to church, and more common than being expelled from one.  The Moodies became engaged in the broad social movement of spiritualism.

"A New Revelation From God To Man"

For the census of 1851 the Moodies reported they belonged to their respective national churches, but lacking long-standing commitment to any other, they may only have had the churches within which they were raised in mind.  Commenting on Belleville church architecture around the same time, she praises the Catholic cathedral and the Free Church; that they both exemplify the voluntary principle of financing through congregational support augments her blessings (LC 24, 34).  On interiors she has most to say about the Wesleyan Methodist church, with its "numerous and highly respectable congregation in this place.  Their church is always supplied with good and efficient preachers, and is filled on the Sabbath to overflowing" (35).  The decrepit St. Thomas's is physical proof of how poorly state support works in the colony.  If the Church of England accepted voluntarism, "the ever-vexed question of the Clergy Reserves" would be settled.  Her husband asserts that the state should not support or favour "any particular sect or sects, to the prejudice of others."41

     Had the Moodies been extreme voluntarists, only the Congregationalists would have satisfied them in the mid-1840s.  Roaf actively promoted an anti-church-state position.  Not until 1848 did the Free Church find it expedient to support voluntarism, and in 1850 it joined the Episcopalians, Seceders and Congregationalists in an alliance to lobby for abolishing the reserves.  The Wesleyans remained neutral until coming out for voluntarism in 1851.  In her allegory on this "vexed political question," Moodie favours "equal division" of reserve funds (LC 57-58).  After their excommunication, she and her husband may have adapted his earlier practice, attending both the Free Church and the Wesleyan, as they saw fit.42

     Moodie preserved the bloom of her Garland days after it folded in 1851 by beginning a book publishing career with the British firm of Richard Bentley in 1852.  Her six books published from refurbished periodical material over the next four years were also published in New York, but when sales of the later ones were poor on both sides of the Atlantic, her publishers could no longer accept her work.  The height of her career coincided with her husband's increased difficulties with his career, and, not coincidentally, with his first experiences of spiritualism.  In an apologia written shortly before his death, he describes his condition after fifteen years of harassment by the Belleville elite: "I was poor, and the tear and wear, and anxiety, were undermining my naturally robust constitution."  In 1855 he hired a deputy in order to obtain "some peace and quiet in [his] old age"; a suit concerning this deputy, brought against him in 1858, concluded after five years with his resignation.43   But from 1854, he was being consoled by the spirits of departed dear ones who spoke to him from their new world.  In one message, he saw "a direct reference to an unprovoked attempt . . . to deprive me of my office": "Be not discouraged by the machinations of bad men, but trust in God . . .  He will not forsake you in your hour of need, nor let your enemies triumph."44

     Moodie had scorned his wife's omens, as well as "animal magnetism, Mesmerism and Clairvoyance to say nothing of Phrenology."45   Always intrigued by these subjects, she seems likelier to have initiated their spiritualism.  Catharine and Susanna Strickland, long before Kate and Margaret Fox, attributed mysterious noises emanating from the attic to a deceased former inhabitant: "as for rappings — we heard enough of them."46   The girls believed the "[h]orrible tales of ghosts" told by servants, and reciprocated with "horrible tales of witch craft and apparitions."47   In "Old Hannah; or, The Charm," Susanna records superstitions and spells taught her by a maid (17-19).  She turns a local legend of a dead suitor summoning his unfaithful lover to the spirit world into a sketch and a poem.  "Ghosts were her familiars, and with witches and fairies she was well acquainted," she writes of Rachel Wilde, her autobiographical heroine (148).

     Telepathy is a ruling metaphor in poems Susanna wrote to Anna Laura Harral in 1827, but spiritual communion is more than poetic conceit in her correspondence from the same period:

Oh do you believe in Sympathies?  Did you never feel a secret intelligence which unites the thoughts of one friend with another?   This belief is to me the greatest happiness I enjoy and reconciles me to the absence of those who are dearer to me than life.

She describes an experiment conducted with Anna, proving to the scorn of "philosophy" that telepathy exists, and quotes another poem to "an absent friend" which asserts that the soul can "hold communion with a kindred spirit" even in "the tomb" (letter 4).  She later communicated spiritually with her husband.  While he was militia paymaster, his letters were often "written at the very time" when she felt "irresistible impulses to hold communion with him."48   She follows this assertion with a discussion of the spiritual communications of the living, attributing them to "[t]he holy and mysterious nature of man . . . yet hidden from himself" and to "capabilities and powers" of which "he . . . knows little" (RI 469).  Only shame inhibits "our belief in this mysterious intercourse between the spirits of those who are bound to each other."   Despite participating, her "husband was no believer in what he termed [her] fanciful speculative theories" (468).

     Moodie's writing is also dotted with allusions to oneiromancy and "the truth of phrenology."49   Among "Amusements" in Belleville, she mentions lectures "on mesmerism, phrenology, biology, phonography, spiritual communications, &c."50   These are "half-supernatural sciences on which so much is advanced, and . . . so little is at present understood" (97).  Mesmerism and phrenology, once treated as empirical sciences, became connected with spiritualism.51   Animal magnetism and electro-biology, other terms for mesmerism, reveal its perceived relation to another invisible force, electricity, the secrets of which were being unlocked.  Traill connects spiritualism with "wonderful inventions and discoveries" she had witnessed, and writes of "that mysterious wire, that now conveys a whispered message from one end of the Province to the other with lightening swiftness"; in J.W.D. Moodie's "The Magnetic Telegraph,"

The world is now alive, — filled with a living soul,
With veins and nerves far stretching thro' the whole,
The Railroads — veins — the nerves — the Telegraph.52

"Mechanical genius" for Mrs. Moodie "comes nearest to the sublime Intelligence that framed the universe, and gave life and motion to that astonishing piece of mechanism, the human form" (LC 277, 278).  She was enthralled by the first locomotive in Belleville: "The spirit of man seemed at work in the wondrous machine, as the spirit of God works in us.  What will not mind accomplish, when it can perform wonders like this" (letter 65).  She was even more awestruck after being pulled by the "iron horse" (letter 67).

     Millenialism, integrating science and religion, filled the breach in belief made by science on its own.  In Moodie's poem on "the Bridegroom," a pre-millenial apocalypse heralds the second coming, and this motif of other early poems reappears in the late 1840s.53   "The Maple Tree" ends with the line, "Till the nation's heart is dead!" (78).  When European civilization has reclaimed the earth's "waste places," she believes, "the world . . . will be struck out of being by the fiat of Him who called it into existence" (LC 282).  During the same period, an optimistic post-millenialism absorbed her apocalypticism, encouraged her to see scientific progress as coadjutor of religious progress and prepared her for spiritualism.  In "Canada" her "prophetic glance" focuses on "Visions of thy future glory" (2, 3).  The weight of "Nations old, and empires vast," all "darkly past," is upon the colony, "the last — not least" to be born (47, 48, 50).  Future Canadians

Shall hail a purer, brighter day,
When peace and Christian brother-hood
Shall form a stronger tie than blood.

Canada will usher in the millenium: "Joy! to the earth — when this shall be / Time verges on eternity!" (115-16).  She voices this post-millenialism in Roughing It, after discussing the "mysterious intercourse" of spirits.  "Man" will know his "mysterious nature" when "the leaven of Christianity" has "transformed the deformed into the beauteous child of God":

Oh, for that glorious day! It is coming.   The dark clouds of humanity are already tinged with the golden radiance of the dawn, but the sun of righteousness has not yet arisen upon the world with healing on his wings; . . . man stumbles on to the fulfilment of his sublime and mysterious destiny.54

Dreams of the millenium reconcile her with her imperfect present.

     Spiritualism derived part of its appeal from its ties with millenial expectations.  It was presented as both a new science and a new religion, able to reorient insidious materialism towards a renewed vision of heaven on earth.55   The Moodies read the Tribune and the Albion from New York, both of which carried news of the spread of spiritualism.56   They covered the conversion of Judge Edmonds in 1851 and his resignation from the New York Supreme Court, and the Albion reviewed his Spiritualism, one of the faith's early sacred texts.  In April 1854 she observed: "It is a strange time this.  I have been reading Judge Edmond's strange book . . . There are some beautiful things in it, and some too absurd for a maniac with his eyes open to credit."57  By this time she knew that spiritualism was heralded as the commencement of a new stage of evolution, fully in accord with her millenial hopes and technological optimism.  It augered the unlocking of humanity's "mysterious nature," the development of a unified theory linking electricity and animal magnetism, telegraphy and telepathy, the dead and the living.  She remained ambivalent.  When her husband — derider of all her "speculative theories" — converted she resisted his imprecations for three more years.

     The qualities required of mediums were those conventionally attributed to women: sensitivity, passivity, spirituality.  Spiritualism, as a voice for the powerless, was connected to women's rights.  By the early 1850s Susanna Moodie, a published author throughout the western hemisphere, had her voice.  J.W.D. Moodie, in his own words poor, needed his wife's money to keep afloat the family economy.  He was oppressed by his enemies and found the performance of his duties physically draining.  She was the success, he the failure.  Socially, he was a womanly man; perhaps also psychologically, for in his later years his wife found him "so gentle, so kind and so sweet" that she loved him more than ever (letter 83).  Spiritualists in the 1850s write about the feminine man:

The medium may be man or woman . . . but in either case, the characteristics will be feminine — negative and passive . . . [S]ome males are comparatively feminine . . . as indicated by a lack of muscularity of organism, and of force of character.58

In his beleaguered position, Moodie was susceptible to finding in spiritualism the power which belongs to the powerless.

     Loss of a family member was common among spiritualists.  When in 1854 Dunbar Moodie accepted the invitation of Mayor Benjamin Davy to witness the mediumship of his wife, Moodie hoped to hear from his father.  He got his sister instead (SA 4).  In the fall of 1855, during "several visits from Miss Kate Fox the celebrated Spirit Rapper," she put both Moodies in touch with their fathers.  Anna Laura Harral also communicated through Fox, asking Mrs. Moodie, " 'Why did you not keep your promise.' " Mrs.   Moodie remained sceptical, if "bewildered," speculating that Fox "may be Clairvoyant, and able to read unwritten thoughts."59   In the last months of 1855, she was "in constant correspondence with Kate Fox."  She read three more books on spiritualism, commenting on one: "I am no friend of spiritualism, but I cannot doubt for a moment the truth of this wonderful book . . . .  I cannot describe the delight it has given me."  The book may have delighted her by encouraging hope that her drowned son lived on in the spirit world, a world not subject to the Calvinist punishment for the unelect.  Another son had died an unbaptized infant and spiritualists believed that such unfortunates matured as spirit children.  Still, she found "these modern miracles" harder to credit than those in "Holy Writ" and of the other books wrote, "I cannot believe in them."  Meanwhile, her husband had pursued suggestions in one of them for making a machine for spirit messages and was avidly following Mrs. Davy's use of it.60   With a medium in Toronto in late 1856 he finally talked with his dead son (SA 14).

     Moodie was told by a spirit that to fulfil his longing to be a medium, he must reveal his belief in spiritualism to the world; his dead brother told him he must rid himself of doubts (SA 18-19).  He had few doubts by this time, but his wife's remained.  In the summer of 1856 he went to New York where he met the Fox sisters.  He and his wife began attending seances at the home of John Tait, engineer with the Grand Trunk Railroad, whose servant "was a very powerful medium." Mrs. Moodie witnessed levitations and table rappings at the Taits, but "still persisted in [her] vain unbelief."61   The Moodies began to summon spirits to their own home.  The first entry in the regular record of communications in the Spiritualist Album is headed, "19 June 1857 Media JWDM and Mrs M," but two days later the spirit of their old friend, Thomas Pringle, complained she was "too doubtful."  Addressing the husband, the spirit added domestic politics to his coercion: "Your wife is no medium.  She has no faith: — You would do better alone."  Moodie may have considered pursuing spiritualism without his partner, for he thought she was "quite unreasonably" incredulous "after all she had seen," but, as with Presbyterianism before, he wanted his wife to share his faith.62

     The Moodies spent July and August 1857 in Maine.  Moodie had thought his wife's doubts gone, but upon their return home they arose once more.63   She writes that he "had become an enthusiastic spiritualist and was much hurt by my obstinacy in refusing all the evidence offered to me":

we had several sharp mental conflicts on the subject, which grieved me much, and one evening . . . after he had left me to go to the house of another spiritual friend, I went upstairs and wept very bitterly, over what I considered the unpardonable credulity of a man of his strong good sense.

Alone at her table, "feeling very angry . . . at all spiritualists," she taunts the spirits to prove, " 'If there be any truth in this doctrine.' "  Much to her "surprise, not to say, terror," they comply.  She then gets out Moodie's "Spiritoscope" to determine what spirit it was that answered her taunt, finds out that it was Thomas Harral, and has a conversation with him (letter 68).  Although doubts recurred, she became a medium.  Her first direct message from a dead relative came in November 1857, when her father told her how to develop her powers (SA 57).

     Moodie had been trying since mid-1856 to get an old serialized novel published by Bentley.  Late in that year she realized her writing "belongs like me to the past" (letter 65).  A year later she confesses to Bentley, "I have not written one line for publication since I last wrote" (letter 67).  In the letter to Bentley which reports her conversion to spiritualism, she has given up on the older serial and feels him out about two other stories, published in the mid-1840s and "founded upon magic and witchcraft."  Yet when a supplement to her husband's income was "most needed, [her] pen failed to add its mite . . . and [she] felt in no spirits for the task" (letter 68).  Only when the medium for her own voice dried up, did the voices of the dead begin to flow through Moodie as medium.

     Declaiming her new-found faith, she describes spiritualism as "a mystery, solemn and beautiful, . . . nothing more nor less than a new revelation from God to man."  Apart from communications with dead friends and family, she has received religious messages from a "guardian angel."  Against the possibility that "the whole is an operation of [her] own mind," she asserts that this spirit has her write out "whole pages of connected and often abstruse matter, without knowing one word about it" (letter 68).  He will not give his name so, since he was "born in London in the year 1025," the Moodies dub him the Anglo-Saxon Spirit: "It appears as if the Mediumship of Mrs. M were reserved for the especial service or teachings of this Spirit, who obviously belongs to a very high order of Intelligence."64   These teachings tell of God in His heaven, appointing the momentous changes of the nineteenth century to His ends.65

     The Moodies held regular seances for two years following her conversion, less regularly up to the summer of 1862, and, after a lapse of a year, recorded their last seance in June 1863.  Their circle included substantial Bellevillians and family members.  Mrs. Traill, spending much of the winter of 1857-1858 with them, developed as "a very powerful Medium," receiving communications "in foreign languages."66   Thomas Traill died in 1859 and Benjamin Davy in 1860: their bodies were barely cold before their spirits were talking with their wives.  The consolation offered can be gathered from one communication from the Moodies' drowned six-year old to his father, saying that he still loved him and that he forgave him.  The father had at least six more messages from his son, but Mrs. Moodie, despite having been promised that, if she relied on her husband's greater faith and cultivated her "purity of heart and spiritual gifts," she would be allowed to talk to her dead children, did not receive any.67

     Spiritualists had connections with homeopathy, hydropathy, and the laying on of hands.  In the spring of 1858 the spirits began to tell J.W.D. Moodie that they wanted him to become a "Healing Medium."68   One of his first patients was his wife, whose hand had been "roughly handled while it was rendered rigid by the spirits" (SA 117).  Following this success the spirits promised him continued guidance and predicted that his healing power would "very soon be greatly developed" (118).  He cured what seems to have been a schizophrenic, and cases of diarrhea, headache, respiratory complaints, neuralgia, rheumatism, toothache and hysterics.69

     Moodie's healing power was conditional upon his promotion of spiritualism.  His mother told him he had "a great duty to fulfill . . . Have confidence in your power" (111).  "Why believe you are in earnest when you are not taking any pains to spread your opinions," another spirit chided (150).  Besides showing spiritualism's truth through his healing, Moodie also began to send extracts from the Spiritualist Album to the Spiritual Telegraph, the most popular spiritualist newspaper in the United States.70  He was considering giving lectures on spiritualism in mid-1860 but the spirit of Davy, while encouraging, told him he "must move carefully" (173).  His dead brother congratulated him on his proselytizing and thought that spiritualism "will convert the whole world" (179).  Mrs. Moodie, too, was invited to put her name behind spiritualism.  The Anglo-Saxon Spirit suggested she was the chosen vehicle to convey his messages to humanity: "This volume shall be called 'The Casket of Truth' and the name of the aged pioneer shall be gazed upon in days to come, as a name worthy of angel account" (100).

     The Moodies' active spiritualism declined in the 1860s.  In July 1861 a stroke partly paralysed him.  The spiritual physician could not heal himself, even though he was dictated a "Prescription for Paralysis" (SA Index).  His wife's ailments were also becoming too chronic for effective laying on of hands.  The last message they recorded is yet another confirmation of the truth of spiritualism (236).  Age and infirmity, and their refractoriness before spirit healing, may have led J.W.D. Moodie to doubt the spirits, and his wife's persistent doubts would have met his.  Writing to Mrs. Traill in late 1862, her complaints lead her to speculate:

The time draws near, when I trust, we shall be no more separated, but can hold sweet converse together, unfettered by time or circumstance — making endless discoveries in the wonderful works of the great Creator — deriving wisdom from the fountain of all wisdom, and perfecting our being in his Divine Light.
                                                                                                  (letter 73)

A subdued spiritualist glow lingers in these twilight words, but not brightly enough to suggest she still saw spirit radiances.

"A Messenger Of Mercy"

J.W.D. Moodie died in October 1869.  In her letters Mrs. Moodie yearns deeply for her husband, but that she never tried to contact his spirit is further evidence that she had lost faith in spiritualism.  In early 1871 she confronted the "sad time" of sorting his papers, burning "hundreds of letters" and passing the rest on to her eldest daughter, Catherine, the father's favourite child until estranged from her parents in the mid-1860s.71   Catherine, married to a Toronto businessman a month before the first visit of Kate Fox, had not participated in her parents' seances.  On receiving her father's papers, her attention latched on to the Spiritualist Album, from which she cut forty leaves and to which she appended a note from "Catherine Mary Moodie Vickers eldest child," signed and dated, "Toronto — April 2nd":

Having carefully read over the foregoing pages and having seen with my own eyes the perfect faith my dear father had in Spiritualism, am convinced that he was in every way truthful and sincere. . . .  I entended destroying this book but have refrained from doing so in toto.  But have cut from it certain communications . . . relating to private family matters. (237-38)

Catherine claimed that her "dear Father lived to see the fallacy" of both spiritualism and his special healing powers.

     Mrs. Moodie missed most "talk[ing] over the books" they read together and "speculat[ing] on subjects which interested" them (letter 97).  At his graveside she held "sweet communion with the beloved" (letter 101).  Mrs. Rous, an old friend in spiritualism, offered to board her and she gladly accepted.  The Rouses lived close to the cemetery where Moodie was buried and "every fine day," Susanna would "go alone and spend some time in communion with the dear spirit, who seems to meet me on that spot" (letter 102).  In the Rouses' conversion from the Quakers to the Unitarians and emigration to Colorado in 1870, she would have seen sects and events from her youth curiously refracted.

     Even before spiritualism, Moodie believed that death was "but the change of one mode of being for another" and "[t]he death angel" was "a messenger of peace" to the dying (LC 163).  After her husband's demise, she relied on her "own individual idea of Death" as "the angel of life and . . . A Messenger of Mercy" (letter 101).  Having settled into a broadly Christian faith, and finally able to ignore the social articulations of that faith, she gained a degree of peace: "I feel that my spiritual nature has progressed and is progressing, that in patience I am learning to possess my soul" (letter 99).  She even achieved rapprochement with Anglicans, if not their church.  After the Rouses she boarded with "devoted Adherents to the Church of England," acting "as Chaplain" at their daily family services (letter 106).  In 1882 Moodie apologized for being unable to attend a granddaughter's wedding: "though absent in person I shall be present in spirit" (letter 137).  She attained this status for all her heirs when three years later her death finally brought "rest from all the trials that wore and wearied her too active brain" (Traill, quoted in Letters 355).

     It is difficult to specify the relations between Moodie's spiritual and creative experience.  Her spiritual crises seem related with declines in her creative output.  On the eve of her evangelicist moment, she "discarded the Muses"; during her religious isolation in the bush, she was unable "to turn [her] thoughts towards literature"; while struggling with the pull of spiritualism, she did not write "one line for publication."72   The energy she expended on writing may have been absorbed by or have issued in spiritual quandary.  After spiritualism she never recovered that energy sufficiently either to be as prolific, or to be as spiritually and socially anguished as she once had been.


I am grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the support that enabled me to research and write this paper.

  1. Letters of a Lifetime 346, letter number 134; subsequent quotations from Moodie's correspondence will be keyed to the letter numbers assigned by its editors, Carl Ballstadt, Elizabeth Hopkins and Michael Peterman. Information supplied by the editors will be cited with the short-form, Letters.[back]

  2. On Thomas Strickland's bankruptcy and death, see Roughing It in the Bush 196 (hereafter RI), "Rachel Wilde" 99-100, the Traill Family Papers 8187-96, 8486, 9965 (hereafter TFC), Strickland 1-14, FitzGibbon vii-xii, Pope-Hennessy 7-15, Letters 1-2, Morris 17-19.  Moodie connects her father's financial loss and her emigration in RI (195) and "Trifles from the Burthen of a Life" (160-63), and in less explicitly autobiographical works (see Thurston ix-x).[back]

  3. On the Strickland's education, see "Rachel Wilde" 100, letters 77, 117, TFC 8196, 8200-01, 8288, 8412-13, 8422, Strickland 2-5, FitzGibbon viii-ix, Pope-Hennessy 5-7, Letters 4-5.[back]

  4. Letter 117; for evidence that not only Agnes, but Elizabeth and Jane were High Church and Royalist, see TFC 8208, 8211, 8311-12, 8495, Strickland viii, 5, 12, 39, 85, Pope-Hennessy 181-82. Writing to the Moodies, Agnes complains of being accused of "tory and high church principles" by reviewers."People have let about that I am a Catholic which is a great mistake," she continues, but in relation to Presbyterianism she "prefer[s] of the two extremes Rome to Geneva" (Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection, Series I, Correspondence, No. 120; collection hereafter PHEC).[back]

  5. On the Stricklands' relationship with the Childses, see Pope-Hennessy 20, 45, Letters 14-15, 71. On the Nonconformist campaign for disestablishment, see Perkin 349-50, Davidoff and Hall 98.  During a visit to an aunt when she was sixteen, Susanna displeased her host by falling "in love with a young man, who was not at all her equal.  He was a nonconformist" (TFC 9885).[back]

  6. On the relation of religion and class in early nineteenth-century England, see Perkin 35, 196-97, Davidoff and Hall 77-82. Distaste for the younger girls' Nonconformity is clear throughout Jane's biography of Agnes (see also Pope-Hennessy 45-46). Agnes, in a letter to the Moodies, makes scathing comments about her treatment by "frocked dissenters in our own church," reviewers of her books in "low church periodicals" and a particular "low church parson" (PHEC, Series 1, Correspondence, Nos. 126, 127).

         On the social isolation of the family because of their ambiguous position, see TFC 8341-43, 8486-87, Pope-Hennessy 20-21, Letters 3-4. Susanna later received this message from the spirit of their father: "Agnes . . . is not regenerated in mind. Her pride stands between her soul and heaven. Eliza bears no love in her heart to any one in Canada. Jane is proud and hateful in mind . . . .  Sarah in her heart is more Christianlike than any of the family" (Spiritualist Album 96).[back]

  7. Her contributions to this periodical are mentioned in a letter to her from Thomas Pringle, dated 6 March 1829 (Moodie-Strickland-Vickers Family Fonds, 2nd acc., letter 14).[back]

  8. On James Bird, see DNB, Letters 9-10; Agnes was also a friend of the Bird's, but in a letter he makes it clear that he was closest to Susanna and Catharine, particularly valuing "my kind friend Susie" as "an interesting correspondent" (Moodie-Strickland-Vickers Family Fonds, 2nd acc., letter 4).[back]

  9. Letter 12; there is a copy of this poem in one of her common-place books (PHEC, Series II, Manuscripts, Box 8, 100). Unlike many poems in this manuscript, it is undated, but was probably written in late 1828. Religious poems clustered at the end of the manuscript must be the "sacred pieces" she mentions to Bird.[back]

  10. On the connection of disestablishment, heterodox Dissent and radical politics, see Clark 229-30, 252-53, 281-82, 332-34.[back]

  11. TFC 9883, 9884; the motif of a lax established clergy appears in "The Pope's Promise" (5-6), "The Doctor Distressed" (46) and Mark Hurdlestone (109).[back]

  12. "Hymn of the Convalescent" ll. 55-56; in March 1829 the Pringles "regret to hear that [her] health is still so very delicate" (Moodie-Strickland-Vickers Family Fonds, 2nd acc., letter 14). She took both options tried by her contemporaries who chafed against limitation and dependency: "Daughters . . . practised a form of passive resistance by falling ill or becoming so intensely religious as to effectively withdraw from family affairs" (Davidoff and Hall 334).[back]

  13. On Congregationalism, see Jones 13-32, 187-244. On Ritchie, see Letters 15-16. Ritchie later tried to interfere with the engagement of Susanna and Moodie on religious grounds, and Moodie had an intense dislike for him, believing his "mind . . . perverted by fanaticism" (PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 57).[back]

  14. "Enthusiasm" ll. 159-60; Mark Hurdlestone's heroine speaks a prose paraphrase of these lines (154-55). For an alternative interpretation of Susanna's enthusiasm, see Peterman 69-70.[back]

  15. By the early seventeenth century enthusiasm was associated with Bacchanalians and Baptists. OED, Enthusiasm, 2: "Fancied inspiration . . . Ill-regulated or misdirected religious emotion, extravagance of religious speculation." (Definition 1 was obsolete by the end of the seventeenth century.) Enthusiasm, 3: "The current sense: Rapturous intensity of feeling in favour of a person, principle, cause, etc." Glickman, in the only extended analysis of the poem, concludes that it is "framed by rhetorical and filled with lyrical and dramatic, self-contradiction" (19).[back]

  16. Letter 54; she did, however, bring one hundred unbound copies to Canada (PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 81).[back]

  17. Letter 29; an Edinburgh graduate, Pringle was a writer and editor. In the Cape Colony from 1820 to 1826, when he returned to London he was recruited as secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society (DNB). Moodie met him in Edinburgh as early as 1813. Susanna first mentions him in 1828 (letter 6). That October, he sent her a business letter with a copy of Friendship's Offering, which he was editing, and payment for her first piece in it. She also had poems in this annual in the two following years and in the Athenaeum when Pringle edited it. By March 1829 he was addressing her as "My dear Bairn" and "My Dear Child," helping her negotiate with the Ecclesiastic and getting "Zebah and Zalmunna" published in The Iris (Moodie-Strickland-Vickers Family Fonds, 2nd acc., letter 14, PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 101). He signed some of his letters to her "Your loving papa T.P." (Thomas Pringle to Susanna Strickland, 26 May 1828, Susanna Moodie Collection, 2. Correspondence and Clippings, Folder 4, Moodie, Susanna Strickland 1828-29). On Edward Irving, see Sandeen 14-19, 23-29.[back]

  18. J.W.D. Moodie and his brothers were successful settlers in South Africa and he was in England to get a wife to take back to that colony (see Scenes and Adventures viii, xiii-xiv, RI 219, 220, Flora Lyndsay 7-8). Soon after meeting at the Pringles, Susanna and Moodie were engaged, but she broke it off over the idea of emigration and was allowed to forget it (see letters 23, 24, 26, 29, 31, 32, PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, Nos. 56, 57, 135, RI 220, Scenes and Adventures ix, TFC 9888-89, "Trifles" 160-63). She was especially averse to South Africa. The sacrifice Moodie made in agreeing on Upper Canada was a factor in obtaining her concession (see RI 220-21, Flora Lyndsay 8, Scenes and Adventures ix). Using her pregnancy and their poverty to support his argument, Moodie assumed that Susanna had accepted emigration with him (see RI 195, "Trifles" 160-61).[back]

  19. "Trifles" 197, RI 194; for a discussion of Moodie's premonitions about emigrating, see Thurston xxiv-xxvi.[back]

  20. Peterborough had both an Anglican and a Presbyterian church by the late 1830s, but the Moodies could only have resorted to them for important events. Their three children born in Douro Township were baptized into their father's church by the Rev. R.D. Roger, the minister of St. Andrew's in Peterborough (information supplied by Michael Peterman).[back]

  21. In 1827 she prides herself on her independence and agrees "perfectly" with Burns: "An honest independent Man / Is chief of men for a' that" (letter 3). In 1828 she "venerate[s] the independent spirit" of William Cowper, "a Reformer of the Vices of mankind" (letter8).[back]

  22. "Canadians Will You Join the Band — a Loyal Song," ll. 5-6; "The Oath of the Canadian Volunteers," ll. 15-17; "On Reading the Proclamation Delivered by William Lyon Mackenzie," ll.40, 77.[back]

  23. "On Reading the Proclamation Delivered by William Lyon Mackenzie," ll. 68-71.[back]

  24. She received "much kind attention from my new neighbour, the Rev. W.W. — , a truly excellent and pious clergyman of the English Church," whose "Christianity was not confined to his own denomination" (RI 474).[back]

  25. In early 1838 Moodie was made a captain in the militia drawn up to defend the colony against rebel incursions from the United States. In July his wife wrote to the lieutenant-governor, asking him to keep Moodie in the militia, but he was out of work that month (see RI 416, 424, PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, Nos. 60-64). He was appointed militia paymaster in Belleville in late 1838, a job that lasted eight months (see RI 436, 475, PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, Nos. 65, 69, 70, 87, 88). In October 1839, perhaps through connections he made as paymaster, he was appointed sheriff of Hastings County (see RI 475-76, Scenes and Adventures x, Letters 72, Morris 178). Her loyal poems led her to the Literary Garland (See RI 413, 416, PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, Nos. 81, 87).[back]

  26. PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 70; see also No. 35, a letter in which J.W.D. Moodie's correspondent refers to his account "of the conflicting state of Society in [his] vicinity arising from differences of religion." Moodie begins an essay on "Religion and Loyalty" by saying they "have the peculiar property of exciting the worst passions of mankind — when they are distorted by . . . narrow-minded and intolerant men" (104).[back]

  27. Audrey Morris's is the most thorough account of the Moodies in Belleville (167-209, 227-35), but see Letters 82-89, 121-23, Sheldon and Judith Godfrey 45-51, 128-29, Boyce 119-23.[back]

  28. In an attempt at respectability, the Canadian Methodists joined the English Wesleyans in 1833 (Grant 75-77). The Belleville chapel remained tied to the American Episcopalians until 1840, when a court battle between Wesleyans and Episcopalians was settled in the former's favour, and the latter set up a rival church (see Boyce 47, 200 n 37). Moodie comments more favourably on the Wesleyans than the Episcopalians, and derogates the latter through second-hand accounts of their religious revivals (Life in the Clearings 35, 140-48; hereafter LC).[back]

  29. On Colborne and the endowed rectories, see Grant 92. On Cochrane's politics, see Boyce, 72, 122-23. For evidence that the Moodies were against claims to establishment by the Anglicans, see PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 69, LC 35.[back]

  30. On Parker, Murney, Benjamin and Dougall, see Letters 82, 85, 87-89, 114; Morris 171-73, 176-77, 184-85, 187-203; Betsy Boyce 72-73, 86, 89-90, 172; on Benjamin who was a Jew but had his children and eventually himself baptized in St. Thomas's Church, see Sheldon and Judith Godfrey, passim.[back]

  31. PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 70, LC 54; Grant profiles ministers sent out by the Glasgow Society (123-24).[back]

  32. PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 35, George Hodson to J.W.D. Moodie; Hodson, a spiritual advisor to Moodie, was responding to his request for advice. He attempted to convince Moodie of the truth of predestination. For public rejections of particular election, see Susanna Moodie, LC, 219 and J.W.D. Moodie, "Religion and Loyalty" 104-05.[back]

  33. I am grateful to Rona Rustige, Curator of the Hastings County Museum, for bringing this minute-book to my attention. It contains a two-page preamble and eight pages of minutes for the period 19 Aug. 1844 to 2 Mar. 1847. A gap between 1 Aug. 1845 and 28 Jan. 1847 is filled by just one entry. Thomas Hodgskin's letter accepting the ministry of the church has been copied into the last pages. Accounts for the period 29 Sept. 1846 to 28 Aug. 1847 are on the inside front cover. There is no pagination so minutes will be cited using their dates. For the Congregationalist custom of keeping such books, see Eddy 26, 30.[back]

  34. John Kenyon writes that the Toronto church was founded by "people who in the English social context would be described as lower middle class" (22).[back]

  35. In a Plan of Union, American Presbyterians took charge of missions to the west (including Upper Canada), while Congregationalists controlled missions in the east (including Nova Scotia). Historians have called the American Congregationalists the "Independent Presbyterian Church" and American Presbyterians in Upper Canada "Presbygational" (Eddy 29, Grant 78).[back]

  36. Roaf quoted in Kenyon 13; see also Grant 92. On the Colonial Missionary Society, see Grant 79, Eddy 34, Kenyon 15. On Roaf, see Kenyon 12-13, 21-24, Grant 92, 138, 167, Westfall 165-66, DCB. Active in the movement for disestablishment in England, he joined anti-church-state agitation in Upper Canada.[back]

  37. Quoted in Kenyon 13; for the development of Congregationalism in the Canadas in the 1830s and 1840s, see Eddy 34-35, Smith 281.[back]

  38. 2 Thess. 3.6; Paul reminds the Thessalonians that "we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you . . . but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you" (7-8; for "walketh disorderly" the New Oxford Bible has "living in idleness").[back]

  39. On discipline among Congregationalists, see Eddy 26, 30, 35.[back]

  40. "Uncle Joe and His Family," 429; this sketch became three chapters of RI, where the same statements appear (170). Smith's Canadian Gazeteer, dedicated 1 July 1846, places "T. Hodgkin" in Vaughan, "J. Woods" in Belleville and Joseph Harris, listed as pastor in the Belleville minutes for 3 June 1846, in Cobourg (281). At Hodgskin's ordination, W. Hayden represented Cobourg (9 Feb. 1845), but does not appear on Smith's list. There is evidence that Harris moved to Rice Lake in 1833 (Martin, McGillis and Milne 44). In Canadian Crusoes (1850), Traill designates a locale on Rice Lake as "[n]ow the fertile farm of Joe Harris, a Yankee settler" (86 note). He was later involved with Methodism on Rice Lake, and was "able to write his signature and it does not appear to be that of an unlettered man" (Martin, McGillis and Milne 97).

         This same Joseph Harris could have been in Belleville from June 1846 to August 1847, when the accounts of the church, in which money given to Mrs. Harris is entered, cease. In the last minutes, Harris requested more money "to sustain his family with comfort" (2 Mar. 1847) and the congregation resolved to attempt to meet his needs. Without more evidence, that Uncle Joe Harris of Cobourg was also the Rev. Joseph Harris of Belleville will have to remain just a tantalizing possibility. [back]

  41. LC 24, "Religion and Loyalty" 104; the clergy reserves issue was complex. St. Michael's may have been built, as Moodie claims, with "small subscriptions, drawn from the earnings of mechanics, day-labourers, and female servants" (24), but the Catholic church received government money from mid-1830, and had a portion of the reserves allotted to it in the bill which was supposed to settle the issue in 1840; so too with the Wesleyans and Presbyterians. At the extremes of establishment and voluntarism from the beginning were, respectively, Anglicans and Baptists, and the latter were joined by Congregationalists (Grant 93-94, 137-40).[back]

  42. J.W.D. Moodie's spiritual advisor, George Hodson, refers to Moodie's approval of "the Presbyterian System of Church Gov't" and, an adherent of the Free Church, attempts to persuade Moodie to accept its doctrines (PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 35).[back]

  43. Scenes and Adventures xi; see also letter 81, Morris 228-34, Letters 121-23.[back]

  44. PHEC, Series II, Manuscripts, Box 5, Spiritualist Album 49-50 (hereafter SA; for other messages of encouragement, see 72, 77, 81). The Spiritualist Album has two hundred and thirty-six pages of spirit messages and a five-page index.[back]

  45. SA 1; in "Trifles," Lieutenant John M — ridicules his wife's belief in omens as "an exploded superstition" and "childish" (197; see also 212, Flora Lyndsay 90, 105)."Trifles" became Flora Lyndsay which Moodie identifies as autobiographical (letter 47). Rachel M — is Rachel Wilde, whose story had ended forecasting her marriage. These two characters are versions of Moodie.[back]

  46. TFC 8417; the Fox sisters were the first to popularize spirit-rapping and so start the spiritualist movement (see Braude 10-12, 15-19, Moore 7-8, 12-13, 15).[back]

  47. TFC 8288, 8413; they got these tales from the " 'Astrologers' Magazine' " which, with the old almanacs papering the walls of their ghost's garret, comprised their occult reading material. Middle-class parents in early nineteenth-century England feared that their children would absorb the superstitions of servants if allowed too much contact with them (Davidoff and Hall 388-89).[back]

  48. RI 468; none of his surviving letters has the words she quotes as proof of her claim, although he once mentions that a "kind of foreboding" prompted him to write (PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, no. 70).[back]

  49. In Geoffrey Moncton the narrator refers to "the mysteries of mind" as "links which unite the visible with the invisible" (322, 326). A character has a prescient dream and the chapter "Dreams" begins with a five-page digression on them as "revelations from the spirit land" (72). Moodie refers to phrenology in letters 3, 4, 47, 63, 69; the phrase "the truth of phrenology" is in both RI (315) and LC (193)."Mr. C — , of B — ," the keeper of a "large hall for casts and skulls" in "Washing the Black-A-Moor White" (164), is identified in Letters as Robert Childs, where there is a description of John Childs as "a great phrenologist" (15).[back]

  50. LC 97; at this time "biology" referred to psychology and mesmerism, but "phonography" was applied to shorthand; Moodie seems to refer to some more mysterious subject. J.W.D. Moodie later expressed the spiritualist orthodoxy on these "sciences": "Taking a wide view of these mysterious sciences, it seems to me that a kind of development and progression is observable in them all, and that they are all linked in a manner together" (SA 2).[back]

  51. On the disputed scientific status of mesmerism and phrenology, and their connection with spiritualism see Braude 5, 23, 146, Moore 9, 15, Owen 20, 22-24, 28-83, 109-10, 249 n 18.[back]

  52. TFC 8416, The Canadian Settler's Guide 17, "The Magnetic Telegraph" ll. 41-43."The telegraph was a favorite choice of those trying to explain how something once considered marvelous might be reduced through science to a completely understandable accomplishment," according to Moore (22).[back]

  53. Letter 12; pre-millenialism is apocalyptic and pessimistic, predicting that the world must be wiped out before Christ's return. Post-millenialism is optimistic and progressive, predicting that Christianity will extend its influence until Christ's kingdom is prepared for him. Pre-millenialism was prevalent in early nineteenth-century England and later in the United States (see Sandeen 4-14, Harrison 3-10). Westfall describes similar trends in Canada West and presents Roaf as a post-millenialist combatant against pre-millenialism (165-90; see also Grant 167-68, 214-18, 226-28). According to Westfall, many Upper Canadians believed that "[t]echnology and change were carrying society towards the millenium . . . secular progress led directly to sacred conclusions, and for both the golden age lay in the future" (186).

         In Moodie's work, "The Earthquake," "The Deluge" and "The Destruction of Babylon" are early poems of apocalyptic vision."Education the True Wealth of the World" (1847) affirms that education is "a heritage . . . which will survive the dissolution of the body, and the destruction of the world" (92)."The Coming Earthquake" (1848) makes natural disaster a metaphor for the end of the world.[back]

  54. RI 469; see also "Education the True Wealth of the World" 89, "Rachel Wilde" 123-24.[back]

  55. On the connection of spiritualism and post-millenialism in the U.S., see Harrison 172-73, Moore 73, 77-78, Owen 18. On the pretensions of spiritualism to scientific status, see Braude 4-5, Moore 14-15, 19-24, 27-35. On spiritualism as a new religion, see Braude 4, 19, 34, Grant 161, Moore 32-33, 42-43, 49-50.[back]

  56. Moodie may have corresponded with Horace Greeley, editor of the Tribune, which gave the Fox sisters and spiritualism wide exposure (Letters 115, letters 48, 52, 61, 69). In the Albion she read in late 1853, "a capital article . . . on table turning . . . twice with infinite glee" (letter 51). They "heard of the 'Fox Girls' and the 'Rochester Knockings' in 1848," and while this news struck them as "utterly ridiculous," they had their minds opened by the reports of "several intelligent persons" who had visited the Foxes (SA 1-2). On Greeley's promotion of the Fox sisters and spiritualism, see Braude 16,21, Moore 8, 70-71.[back]

  57. Letter 56; on Edmonds, see Moore 19-22, Ballstadt, Hopkins and Peterman 89-90.[back]

  58. Quoted in Braude 23 from an article published in 1858. Gender is here being treated within the context of the period and as social construct, not biological essence. Mary Lu MacDonald concludes, on the basis of an analysis of "all surviving books, periodicals and newspapers published, in English and French, in Upper and Lower Canada between 1817 and 1850" (10), that "all [writers] agreed . . . it was the role of the male to be active and decisive, and of the female to be passive and dependent" (13). The texts of Braude and Owen substantiate the connections between women, spiritualism and power.[back]

  59. Letter 59; see also SA 7-8. On the connection of the Foxes with the Belleville area, see Ballstadt, Hopkins and Peterman, " 'A Glorious Madness' " 90 and Letters 119. In the one surviving letter from the Moodie-Fox correspondence, Margaret Fox, no longer a spiritualist, refers to a letter about spiritualism which Mrs. Moodie had sent to another correspondent in 1860 (PHEC, Series I, Correspondence, No. 19).[back]

  60. Letter 61; the books Moodie read were all published in 1855 and among the most popular books of spirit teachings by mediums (Moore 238 n 32). Braude discusses spiritualism's rejection of Calvinism in a chapter on the spiritualist view of what happened to children at death (32-55; see also Moore 41,57). The spirit of J.W.D. Moodie's nephew told them that he had taken charge of their six-year old's education in the spirit world (SA 182); this expresses a common spiritualist belief. For Moodie's "spirit-scope," see SA 10-11, letter 68.[back]

  61. Letter 68; see also SA 24-25. Owen notes that "[m]any domestic servants were attracted to spiritualism" (57) and discusses the significance of a servant who became a powerful medium in one middle-class British home (96-102). On Moodie's first trip to New York, see SA 21 and letter 64. In 1858 he made another trip to "see Judge Edmonds and several other notable spiritualists" (letter 86; see also SA 113-14).[back]

  62. SA 46; before the regular record of spirit messages begins, there is a "Copy of Letter to Professor Gregory of Edinburgh, Scotland, 22 June 1857." This account of the development of his spiritualism was prompted by Moodie's perception of an analogy between Gregory's essay "Animal Magnetism" and his own experience of "Spiritual Manifestations" (SA 1).[back]

  63. SA 56; for the trip to Maine, see letter 67, SA 54. The Spiritualist Album contains his account of the same evening when "after a long argument," she had her conversion experience in his absence. His dating of these events to September 1857 must be accepted over her placing of them in the previous spring.[back]

  64. SA 81, 80; other mediums also had familiar spirits or guardian angels (Owen 45). The Anglo-Saxon Spirit's "high order of Intelligence" alludes to the Swedenborgian belief in spheres of spiritual development (see Braude 40, Moore 10), which appears more explicitly elsewhere in the Spiritualist Album (132). That their circle was familiar with the philosophical bases of spiritualism is indicated by a question recorded in the Album, concerning the disagreements of Swedenborg, Judge Edmonds and Andrew Jackson Davis (149). Davis wrote many philosophical texts for the spiritualist movement (see Braude 34-37, Moore 10-13).[back]

  65. On spiritualism and religious doubt, see Braude 4, 36-38, Moore 46-47. J.W.D. Moodie often asked the spirits about aspects of Christian doctrine (see SA 48, 61, 63-64, 118).[back]

  66. Letter 68; their only known critics were Samuel Strickland and his wife, who were doubtful even though Kivas Tully, their son-in law and a noted architect, was a guest medium with the Moodies (SA 101, Index).[back]

  67. SA 58; only one message from their son to J.W.D. Moodie survives in the Album; six others, on torn-out leaves, are noted in the index as specifically for him (SA 117, Index).[back]

  68. SA 107; on alternative medicine and spiritualism, see Braude 142-57, Owen 107-16.[back]

  69. From fall 1858 to spring 1859, the Spiritualist Album records Moodie's cures in almost every entry (116-54).[back]

  70. On the Spiritualist Telegraph, see Braude 76, Moore 13. Marginal notations in the Spiritualist Album indicate that earlier sections were sent to the Telegraph in 1858-59 (see 29, 31, 47).[back]

  71. Letter 104; on Catherine's estrangement from her family and reconciliation with her mother, see Letters 115, 204, 256, 257, letters 84, 85, 89. The Ewing Collection descended through Catherine to her great-grandson, Patrick Hamilton.[back]

  72. Letter 12, RI 416-17, letter 67; it is hard to determine when any given piece was written and to enclose her religious dilemmas within precise dates, but all the evidence suggests that her two main periods of productivity were in the years immediately prior to her evangelicism and to her spiritualism.[back]

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