North of America: Images of Canada in the Literature of the United States, 1775-1900


185 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920802-84-2






Reviewed by Margaret McGrath

Margaret McGrath was a research librarian at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.


This work continues the interest of James Doyle, of the English Department of Wilfrid Laurier University, in the view of Canada by nineteenth century U.S. writers. He pays meticulous attention to the social and political framework of the period, which was formative for both countries. The writers from which he can draw are a meagre and motley crew — travel and adventure scribes, novelists, journalists, philosophers, poets. With the exception of Francis Parkman, the most substantial authors, such as Thoreau, Henry James, Whitman, and Howells, were on all counts outstanding men of letters whose attention to Canada was passing and sometimes accidental.

The cultural differences of Quebec were analysed and found primitive, even exotic, when contrasted with the technological progress of the United States. One might look for more political analysis, particularly for English Canada, but Doyle cites little. The settlers of Ontario seem to be seen as noteworthy for being more English than the English. Western Canada figured prominently in the latter part of the century and was subsumed into the literature of the U.S. frontier with little regard for boundaries or distinctions. If there was a common quality found for all regions, it perhaps was that of a frequently forbidding, frequently glorious wilderness. It appears that our current indefinable relationship with our southern neighbor does not represent a great change from that of a century ago, as Doyle says that for the period he deals with “ambivalence and uncertainty constitute the most pervasive literary reaction to Canada.” One suspects that many of the writers Doyle cites are valuable for no other reason, but some, such as the journalists Julian Ralph, Charles Haight Farnham, and E.L. Godkin, read well. Researchers wishing to go farther, therefore, will be grateful for an outstanding eleven-page bibliography.


Doyle, James, “North of America: Images of Canada in the Literature of the United States, 1775-1900,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,