15 JUNE 1850, Page 18


I/Pivot:as of thirty years ago, Dr. Bigsby was sent to Canada, in medical charge of a large detachment of a German rifle regi- ment in the pay of Great Britain; but this limited duty appears to have merged in a larger sphere of action, shortly after his arrival at Quebec. When a typhus fever raged at the settlement of Hawks- bury, he was selected by the Colonial Government to visit the dis- trict; and he was subsequently named secretary and medical officer to the Commissioners appointed to survey the boundary-line from the Luke of the Woods (North latitude 490, East longitude 94°) to the Atlantic ; though the latter part of the boundary was not fixed till Lord Ashburton, much to Lord Palmerston's discomfort, settled the question. These duties, combined with an active mind, a taste for geology, exploration, and the beauties of nature, with a frank and sociable disposition, took Dr. Bigsby over the greater part of Canada, in the course of the seven or eight years he remained there. Medical duty sent him up the Ottawa : science, friends, and a love of rambling, induced excursions to various places on ; and near the St. Lawrence, between Lake Ontario and the river enay : his office as medical attendant upon the surveying parties in the service of the Boundary Commissioners carried him round the great Lakes, (then but little known,) up the principal feeding rivers, to the forts of the Hudson's Bay Company, and to the river La Buie and the Lake of the Woods. Of his adventures, and the wild countries he then explored, Dr. Bigsby gives an so- count in this book, somewhat oddly called The Shoe and Canoe ; intermingling his narrative with discussions on various moot points of colonial policy, and occasionally correcting his five-and-twenty- years old pictures by incidental observations as to how matters now stand.

The plan of the book is pod. Dr. Bigsby gives a brief account of his voyage out, a sketch of Quebec as it appears to the new comer on Ins first few days' rambles, with some notice of its society : he then arranges his matter into seven excursions, or, reckoning the subdivisions of the seventh, into twelve ; four or five relating to pleasure or professional journies, the remainder to the official exploration connected with the boundary survey. By means of this arrangement, a distinct object is given to the various portions of the work, and the reader is presented with a succession of definite subjects, though perhaps at the expense of the story of a book of travels. The state of the colony at that time' and Dr. Bigsby's mode of travelling, constantly threw him into wild scenes, and among strange people, most of whom pos. sessed some force of character ; for colonization or American travel in those days was a different thing from what it is now, and any individual then encountered. iu the back-woods most likely had some strength of uhosyne racy, with probably a story attached to his

i name. Dr. Bigsby s well qualified to get along among such com- panions; having that power of readily adapting himself to his com- pany, which necessity enforces upon the medical man, with a good deal of consideration for men and circumstances, as well as com- panionable qualities. He has a plain and vivacious style, with a spice of originality in his manner. The drawback of the book is the length of time which has elapsed since the travels took place. This lessens the interest of the sketches, and throws some uncer- tainty over the accuracy of the descriptions ; as the reader knows not what changes have taken place since the text, and is some- times not quite dear as to what part is meant for old, what for new. The minuteness of the topographical descriptions is another drawback, attributable to the same cause- Extensive changes must have taken place everywhere except in the most distant and inhospitable districts ; and even they, through the action of the Hudson's Bay Company, may no longer be what they were. Some interest attaches to the contrast that steam and time have made in well-known places, as Niagara and Toronto ; and the scenery itself is well worth describing, though Dr. Bigsby is hardly artist enough to paint landscapes that are to be valued as landscapes,—which, in- deed, is not easily managed in words.

The most valuable parts of the book, as may be supposed, are those in which human nature appears especially where it is pro- bable that the circumstances still remain the same. The following Lint to intending emigrants of the well-educated class is as true now as when the opinion was formed, although the particular dis- tricts in which it was formed have long since been "filled up." "I was sorry to observe, in the more retired parts of Cairola that when the difficulties are surmounted, and all is secure and comfortable, the settler is apt to fall into a dull and moping state. There is now little to interest ; the farm and the boys work well by themselves; neighbours are distant. There is no stimulus at hand preservative of the domestic propiietie_s. All are necessarily careless of dress in summer, while in winter a whole ward- robe of old clothes is called for at once. In summery while on travel in an open boat, I have not seen ni coat for a month together.

"The females, I am bound to say, bear a woodland life far better than the men ; are cheerful, active, and tidy in their persons. I have been often very pleased with their healthy, satisfied, and smart appearance, while mounting their Dearborn spring waggon on Sundays to go to church, driven by a brother.

"Strong chink is the bane of Canada West, especially an outlying farms, and still more especially, I fear, among half-pay officers. All goes on soberly and pleasantly while the buildings and land are getting up and into order; but as soon as this is done time hangs heavily, annoyances arise, vain regrets are felt, infirm health is apt to follow; when the only resource seems to be the whisky-bottle. The man begins to remember only the pleasant part of English and military life, and laments his chair and plate at the regimental meas. He is very glad of an invitation to dine with the little garrison twenty

• The Shoe and Canoe; or Pictures of Travel in the Canada,. Illustrative of their Scenery and of Colonial Life; with Pacts and Opinions on Emigration, State Policy, and other points of public interest. With numerous Plates and Maps. John J. Bigsby, M.D., late Secretary to the Boundary Commission under Art. ir and VIL Treaty of Ghent- In two volumes. Published by Chapman and Hall.

mires off; and in the end sinks into the sot, and drags his sons, if he have any, down with him. " The gentleman settler is unfit for the gloom of the woods, and should select a ready-made farm, not more than ten miles from a town. Tine can be done any day on reasonable terms- • •

"A raw country and their population will seldom suit the great capitalist The delicate habits in which he has been educated will be subject to an end- less succession of shocks and jars—intolerable, unless neutralized by the na- tural or morbid stimulus of a darling project. Here is one great defect in Wakefield's beautiful scheme of colonizing with capital and labour combined. As a rule, capital refuses to go where the owner must accompany it; the scheme halts, and is in fact defeated. It is very unsafe to send out capital to take care of itself. I will nbt go ; for I can find in England tolerable employment for my capital, and can at the same time enjoy the thousand nameless agries. sens and conveniences of an old country.' "As a specimen of the daily small annoyances that are here met with. A large capitalist invested in iron mines and forges in Canada West. He built and furnished a house in the English style. He had occasion to advertise for tenders to clear some land. A master woodcutter, an offhanded Yankee, thinking of nothing but timber and dollars, came with his offer. He was introduced into the parlour, bright with its newly-papered walls and figured caret. The American, s he struggled for his price, balancing his chair against the wall, rubbed his wet greasy hair against the paper ; when Mr. Charles Hayes begged him to keep his head off the wall; which he instantly cricl, but soon afterwards, very unconsciously, rolled his quid, and spat on the new carpet. Mr. C. remonstrated; when the woodemn waxed warm, and said, 'Neighbour, I see we are not likely to dolnisiness. You are a hard man, and make bothers. You know I'll do cheap ; and vet we don't pro- vase.' 'Yes,' and the Englishman, we shall progress, if you will step out with me into the garden' ; where, in fact, terms were agreed upon in a few minutes."

The voyageurs appear frequently, from the nature of Dr. Bigsby's travels, and -are minutely 'described. They are not so fresh to the reading public as they were a generation ago, but they have interest still. The following introduces one in a great storm on Lake Erie.

"We were three nights and two days exposed to its fury, driving from side to side of this narrow lake' but with a general Easterly course.

"We should have perished, I verily believe, but, with God's help, for our stout commander and his brave crew. The waves swept away boats, binna- cle, deer, turkeys, &c. Ste. and strewed the sand of the lake bottom in great quantities upon the deck, :Ind the table-cloth of a sail which we ventured to hoist.

"Nobody thought of cooking, and few of eating ; I confess to a couple of biscuits. I remained much in my berth, on account of the violent motion of the vessel, with simply a shirt on, white jane trousers, and light shoes, ready for a jump and a swim. I certainly thought (with the others) that 4lar safety was very problematical. Of course, I felt for myself; but I also regretted the loss of all our surveys; and of our very valuable instruments. The shipwreck would have cost the public very many thousand pounds. "Once only was I nearly on deck to survey the scene ; but I had hardly got high enough to see—standing on the companion-ladder--when a large wave, opaque with mud, soused me on the face, and drove me down again, accompanied by not a little water. "Our Canadian voyageurs were vastly disturbed. One old fellow with a sharp vinegar face jammed himself into a corner of the hold, and broke his usual silence by giving public notice, that, if permitted to land alive, he would burn a candle one pound in weight in the nearest church, in honour of the Virgin—' the mild mother '—the star of the sea.' "He had scarcely uttered the vow when the vessel quivered under a tremendous blow, and was buried for a moment beneath a great wave. Greiner shouted 'out, that he would pay for six masses. Another shock. The poor man, in an agony, doubled the weight of the candle, set his teeth spasmodically, and never spake more until the storm had ceased; for he saw all his summer wages a-melting."

The Indians, too, are not so new subjects as they were before Cooper's novels and Irving's tales • but they still have freshness enough to excite attention, and tales; Bigsby was thrown a good deal amongst them. This is a tale that Was told in the course of the survey of the Lake of the Woods.

' "While we were purchasing bilberries, I noticed a sulky old Indian sit- ting apart on a somewhat high rock, with his arms round his legs and his head on his knees.

"I asked the little Englishman' who that we-stricken man was; when he gave me the following statement.

4' Some years ago, this Indian had strangled his lunatic son—his only son and favourite child.

." The youth, eighteen years old, for a year or more had refused to hunt, became abstracted, melancholy, and at times frenzied.

"When his paroxysms were coming on, he would warn his family to pro- tect a particular sister from his unwilling violence, as he had an irresistible propensity to kill and devour her; and, in fact, he made several attempts upon her life.

"After a time, his lunacy, for such it was, changed its object, and he de- clared that he must murder and eat the first Indian he could master in the woods or elsewhere.

"He now daily begged his father to put him to death, and so end his miseries.

"The surrounding Indians took alarm at all this. "The father, as is usual in great emergencies, called a council. It sat se- veral times, and, after much deliberation, ordered the lunatic to be strangled by his own father, the giver of his life. "The father obeyed. The youth, after listening. to a long speech, and as- senting aloud to every separate observation, bared his neck to the cord, and soon °eased to breathe. He body was burnt, lest he should rise again. " The parent never looked up more."