List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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life; and all had gone on smoothly and lovingly with us until the
birth of our first child. It was then that prudence whispered to the
father, "you are happy and contented now, but this cannot always
last; the birth of that child whom you have hailed with as much
rapture as though she were born to inherit a noble estate, is to
you the beginning of care. Your family may increase, and your wants
will increase in proportion; out of what fund can you satisfy their
demands? Some provision must be made for the future, and made
quickly, while youth and health enable you to combat successfully
with the ills of life. When you married for inclination, you knew
that emigration must be the result of such an act of imprudence in
over-populated England. Up and be doing, while you still possess
the means of transporting yourself to a land where the industrious
can never lack bread, and where there is a chance that wealth and
independence may reward virtuous toil."

Alas! that truth should ever whisper such unpleasant realities to
the lover of ease--to the poet, the author, the musician, the man
of books, of refined taste and gentlemanly habits. Yet he took the
hint, and began to bestir himself with the spirit and energy so
characteristic of the glorious North, from whence he sprung.

"The sacrifice," he said, "must be made, and the sooner the better.
My dear wife, I feel confident that you will respond to the call of
duty, and, hand-in-hand and heart-in-heart we will go forth to meet
difficulties, and, by the help of God, to subdue them."

Dear husband! I take shame to myself that my purpose was less firm,
that my heart lingered so far behind yours in preparing for this
great epoch in our lives; that, like Lot's wife, I still turned and
looked back, and clung with all my strength to the land I was
leaving. It was not the hardships of an emigrant's life I dreaded.
I could bear mere physical privations philosophically enough; it was
the loss of the society in which I had moved, the want of congenial
minds, of persons engaged in congenial pursuits, that made me so
reluctant to respond to my husband's call.

I was the youngest in a family remarkable for their literary
attainments; and, while yet a child, I had seen riches melt away
from our once prosperous home, as the Canadian snows dissolve before
the first warm days of spring, leaving the verdureless earth naked
and bare.

There was, however, a spirit in my family that rose superior to the
crushing influences of adversity. Poverty, which so often degrades
the weak mind, became their best teacher, the stern but fruitful
parent of high resolve and ennobling thought. The very misfortunes
that overwhelmed, became the source from whence they derived both
energy and strength, as the inundation of some mighty river
fertilises the shores over which it first spreads ruin and
desolation. Without losing aught of their former position in
society, they dared to be poor; to place mind above matter, and make
the talents with which the great Father had liberally endowed them,
work out their appointed end. The world sneered, and summer friends
forsook them; they turned their backs upon the world, and upon the
ephemeral tribes that live but in its smiles.

From out of the solitude in which they dwelt, their names went forth
through the crowded cities of that cold, sneering world, and their
names were mentioned with respect by the wise and good; and what
they lost in wealth, they more than regained in well-earned

Brought up in this school of self-denial, it would have been strange
indeed if all its wise and holy precepts had brought forth no
corresponding fruit. I endeavoured to reconcile myself to the change
that awaited me, to accommodate my mind and pursuits to the new
position in which I found myself placed.

Many a hard battle had we to fight with old prejudices, and many
proud swellings of the heart to subdue, before we could feel the
least interest in the land of our adoption, or look upon it as our

All was new, strange, and distasteful to us; we shrank from the
rude, coarse familiarity of the uneducated people among whom we were
thrown; and they in return viewed us as innovators, who wished to
curtail their independence, by expecting from them the kindly
civilities and gentle courtesies of a more refined community. They
considered us proud and shy, when we were only anxious not to give
offense. The semi-barbarous Yankee squatters, who had "left their
country for their country's good," and by whom we were surrounded in
our first settlement, detested us, and with them we could have no
feeling in common. We could neither lie nor cheat in our dealings
with them; and they despised us for our ignorance in trading and our
want of smartness.

The utter want of that common courtesy with which a well-brought-up
European addresses the poorest of his brethren, is severely felt at
first by settlers in Canada. At the period of which I am now
speaking, the titles of "sir" or "madam" were very rarely applied
by inferiors. They entered your house without knocking; and while
boasting of their freedom, violated one of its dearest laws, which
considers even the cottage of the poorest labourer his castle, and
his privacy sacred.

"Is your man to hum?"--"Is the woman within?" were the general
inquiries made to me by such guests, while my bare-legged, ragged
Irish servants were always spoken to, as "sir" and "mem," as if
to make the distinction more pointed.

Why they treated our claims to their respect with marked insult and
rudeness, I never could satisfactorily determine, in any way that
could reflect honour on the species, or even plead an excuse for its
brutality, until I found that this insolence was more generally
practised by the low, uneducated emigrants from Britain, who better
understood your claims to their civility, than by the natives
themselves. Then I discovered the secret.

The unnatural restraint which society imposes upon these people at
home forces them to treat their more fortunate brethren with a
servile deference which is repugnant to their feelings, and is
thrust upon them by the dependent circumstances in which they are
placed. This homage to rank and education is not sincere. Hatred
and envy lie rankling at their heart, although hidden by outward
obsequiousness. Necessity compels their obedience; they fawn, and
cringe, and flatter the wealth on which they depend for bread. But
let them once emigrate, the clog which fettered them is suddenly
removed; they are free; and the dearest privilege of this freedom
is to wreak upon their superiors the long-locked-up hatred of their
hearts. They think they can debase you to their level by disallowing
all your claims to distinction; while they hope to exalt themselves
and their fellows into ladies and gentlemen by sinking you back to
the only title you received from Nature--plain "man" and "woman."
Oh, how much more honourable than their vulgar pretensions!

I never knew the real dignity of these simple epithets until they
were insultingly thrust upon us by the working-classes of Canada.

But from this folly the native-born Canadian is exempt; it is only
practised by the low-born Yankee, or the Yankeefied British
peasantry and mechanics. It originates in the enormous reaction
springing out of a sudden emancipation from a state of utter
dependence to one of unrestrained liberty. As such, I not only
excuse, but forgive it, for the principle is founded in nature; and,
however disgusting and distasteful to those accustomed to different
treatment from their inferiors, it is better than a hollow
profession of duty and attachment urged upon us by a false and
unnatural position. Still it is very irksome until you think more
deeply upon it; and then it serves to amuse rather than to irritate.

And here I would observe, before quitting this subject, that of all
follies, that of taking out servants from the old country is one of
the greatest, and is sure to end in the loss of the money expended
in their passage, and to become the cause of deep disappointment and
mortification to yourself.

They no sooner set foot upon the Canadian shores then they become
possessed with this ultra-republican spirit. All respect for their
employers, all subordination, is at an end; the very air of Canada
severs the tie of mutual obligation which bound you together. They
fancy themselves not only equal to you in rank, but that ignorance
and vulgarity give them superior claims to notice. They demand in
terms the highest wages, and grumble at doing half the work, in
return, which they cheerfully performed at home. They demand to eat
at your table, and to sit in your company; and if you refuse to
listen to their dishonest and extravagant claims, they tell you that
"they are free; that no contract signed in the old country is
binding in 'Meriky'; that you may look out for another person to
fill their place as soon as you like; and that you may get the money
expended in their passage and outfit in the best manner you can."

I was unfortunately persuaded to take out a woman with me as a nurse
for my child during the voyage, as I was in very poor health; and
her conduct, and the trouble and expense she occasioned, were a
perfect illustration of what I have described.

When we consider the different position in which servants are placed
in the old and new world, this conduct, ungrateful as it then
appeared to me, ought not to create the least surprise. In Britain,
for instance, they are too often dependent upon the caprice of their
employers for bread. Their wages are low; their moral condition
still lower. They are brought up in the most servile fear of the
higher classes, and they feel most keenly their hopeless
degradation, for no effort on their part can better their condition.
They know that if once they get a bad character, they must starve or
steal; and to this conviction we are indebted for a great deal of
their seeming fidelity and long and laborious service in our
families, which we owe less to any moral perception on their part of
the superior kindness or excellence of their employers, than to the
mere feeling of assurance, that as long as they do their work well,
and are cheerful and obedient, they will be punctually paid their
wages, and well housed and fed.

Happy is it for them and their masters when even this selfish bond
of union exists between them!

But in Canada the state of things in this respect is wholly
reversed. The serving class, comparatively speaking, is small, and
admits of little competition. Servants that understand the work of
the country are not easily procured, and such always can command the
highest wages. The possession of a good servant is such an addition
to comfort, that they are persons of no small consequence, for the
dread of starving no longer frightens them into servile obedience.
They can live without you, and they well know that you cannot do
without them. If you attempt to practise upon them that common vice
of English mistresses, to scold them for any slight omission or
offence, you rouse into active operation all their new-found spirit
of freedom and opposition. They turn upon you with a torrent of
abuse; they demand their wages, and declare their intention of
quitting you instantly. The more inconvenient the time for you, the
more bitter become their insulting remarks. They tell you, with a
high hand, that "they are as good as you; that they can get twenty
better places by the morrow, and that they don't care a snap for
your anger." And away they bounce, leaving you to finish a large
wash, or a heavy job of ironing, in the best way you can.

When we look upon such conduct as the reaction arising out of their
former state, we cannot so much blame them, and are obliged to own
that it is the natural result of a sudden emancipation from former
restraint. With all their insolent airs of independence, I must
confess that I prefer the Canadian to the European servant. If they
turn out good and faithful, it springs more from real respect and
affection, and you possess in your domestic a valuable assistant and
friend; but this will never be the case with a servant brought out
with you from the old country, for the reasons before assigned. The
happy independence enjoyed in this highly-favoured land is nowhere
better illustrated than in the fact that no domestic can be treated
with cruelty or insolence by an unbenevolent or arrogant master.

Forty years has made as great a difference in the state of society
in Canada as it has in its commercial and political importance.
When we came to the Canadas, society was composed of elements
which did not always amalgamate in the best possible manner.

We were reckoned no addition to the society of C---. Authors and
literary people they held in supreme detestation; and I was told by
a lady, the very first time I appeared in company, that "she heard
that I wrote books, but she could tell me that they did not want a
Mrs. Trollope in Canada."

I had not then read Mrs. Trollope's work on America, or I should
have comprehended at once the cause of her indignation; for she was
just such a person as would have drawn forth the keen satire of that
far-seeing observer of the absurdities of our nature, whose witty
exposure of American affectation has done more towards producing a
reform in that respect, than would have resulted from a thousand
grave animadversions soberly written.

Another of my self-constituted advisers informed me, with great
asperity in her look and tone, that "it would be better for me to
lay by the pen, and betake myself to some more useful employment;
that she thanked her God that she could make a shirt, and see to
the cleaning of her house!"

These remarks were perfectly gratuitous, and called forth by no
observation of mine; for I tried to conceal my blue stockings
beneath the long conventional robes of the tamest common-place,
hoping to cover the faintest tinge of the objectionable colour. I
had spoken to neither of these women in my life, and was much amused
by their remarks; particularly as I could both make a shirt, and
attend to the domestic arrangement of my family, as well as either
of them.

I verily believe that they expected to find an author one of a
distinct species from themselves; that they imagined the aforesaid
biped should neither eat, drink, sleep, nor talk like other
folks;--a proud, useless, self-conceited, affected animal, that
deserved nothing but kicks and buffets from the rest of mankind.

Anxious not to offend them, I tried to avoid all literary subjects.
I confined my conversation to topics of common interest; but this
gave greater offence than the most ostentatious show of learning,
for they concluded that I would not talk on such subjects, because I
thought them incapable of understanding me. This was more wounding
to their self-love than the most arrogant assumption on my part; and
they regarded me with a jealous, envious stand-a-loofishness, that
was so intolerable that I gave up all ideas of visiting them. I was
so accustomed to hear the whispered remark, or to have it retailed

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