Letters from Nova Scotia
Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality.
The joys and rigors of travel in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Nova Scotia are vividly portrayed in this delightful short book. Those who have experienced the charm of Nova Scotia’s principal historic towns — Halifax, Shelbourne, Digby, Annapolis, Bridgetown, Windsor, Picton, Guysborough, Sydney — will relish the contrast afforded by these travel accounts collected from the preindustrial era. Before the advent of the railway, trips by paths or boulder-strewn roads were almost as turbulent as voyages by the unpredictable sea. The leisurely pace of travel, broken by rests at country inns, afforded time to record impressions that provide an authentic source for historians.
In this book, Nova Scotia’s towns are viewed through the eyes of a century of travellers. Editor Marjorie Whitelaw has wisely chosen those accounts that are most readable and revealing in rich anecdote. Not all the letters, as suggested by the title, were written by William Scarth Moorsom. Rather, the editor has compiled a composite portrait of accounts that breeze through a period of history when circumstances did not change as rapidly as in our own day. While her selection is commendable, her editing is not quite as consistent. At one point, King’s College in Windsor is discussed vaguely by a traveller before that important institution of higher learning is introduced by the editor.
This slight peccadillo does not detract from a laudable effort. Letters from Nova Scotia is a rare gem of an historical book, a light and breezy glimpse of a past that is as remote as the future is uncertain.