Page images
PDF
EPUB

shivering is once conquered, the chilly element loses half its terrors — especially if we see kind hands outstretched on all sides to encourage our attempt. That such has been my own fortune I gratefully acknowledge.

The following pages constitute rather a continuation of, than a sequel to, the slight sketches offered to the public more than two years ago, under the title of “ A NEW HOME – WHO'LL FOLLOW?” I say a continuation — not that I mean to threaten, in this day of decline and fall of annuals, a Western Biennial, — but simply to reserve my right to prate further in the same strain, if I should feel thereunto prompted.

I am credibly informed that ingenious malice has been busy in finding substance for the shadows which were called up to give variety to the pages of " A NEW HOME;" in short, that I have been accused of substituting personality for impersonation. This I utterly deny; and I am sincerely sorry that any one has been persuaded to regard as unkind what was intended to be merely a playful sketch, and not a serious history.

A landscape, however true its outline, however correct its colouring, is only a study for the artist, when something in human shape appears in the foreground to give animation to the scene; and in attempting to paint a mountain or a cathedral it is considered essential to introduce human figures as a standard by which the imagination may be aided to a just conception of these objects. For reasons somewhat analogous, it appeared to me at once the easiest mode of relieving the tediousness of mere narrative, and the most effectual means of conveying a general idea of the aspect of society in those regions where what is elsewhere mere abstraction is made the practical rule of life, - to bring on the stage a phantasm

of men and women, who should, as naturally as possible, act in illustration of my subject. If, in drawing on experience for this purpose, I have inadvertently given offence, I repeat that I sincerely regret it. I would fain “ avoid all appearance of evil” in this as in every other particular.

It has appeared to some few of our more enthusiastic western patriots, that there is something treasonable in exhibiting the settlers of a new country as deficient in some of the amenities of life and language. A recueil de pièces justificatives would be very amusing, but I shall forbear to defend myself.

I shall not readily renounce my privilege of remarking freely on all subjects of general interest. In matters of opinion I claim the freedom which is my birthright as an American, and still further the plainness of speech which is a striking charac

teristic of this western country, the land of my adoption. I shall not consider myself in the position of a foreign tourist, whose one stinging truth, though varnished over with a thick layer of compliment, shall rankle in the sensitive heart of my countrymen long after the flattery is forgotten. Who more justly entitled to the privilege of speaking the truth about us than one of ourselves, – one whose lot is cast in, for better for worse, with the settlers of the back-woods ?

Be it remembered, that what I profess to delineate is the scarce-reclaimed wilderness

- the forest — the settlers—the pioneers ; the people who, coming hither of their own free will, each with his own individual views of profit or advancement, have, as a mass, been the mighty instrument, in the hands of Providence, of preparing the way for civilisation, for intelligence, for refinement, for religion. I eschew all notice of the older settlements; the towns and villages in which the spirit of emulation and of imitation has nearly annihilated all that was characteristic of new country life. Of these I have nothing to say, for has not their aspect been painted a thousand times ? There is still a dash of western wildness about them, it is true; a freshness of colouring may still be traced by a close observer ; but my theme lies elsewhere, and this should be borne in mind.

It must be confessed that I have found, this time, scarcely even the shadow of a thread on which to string my wandering thoughts. I felt quite unequal to “ Michigan-historical, statistic, and descriptive,” and I was as little inclined to a mere fiction. So I throw myself on the indulgence of the reader, hoping he will allow me to say my say in my own fashion, and be content to gather whatever is likely to impart a

« PreviousContinue »