Early Settler Storybook
Contains Illustrations, Index
Sheila Martindale is poetry editor of Canadian Author and Bookman and
author of No Greater Love, her sixth collection of poetry.
The introduction to this book states that the stories written in the nineteenth century were for the purpose of teaching rather than entertainment. This fact is very apparent; time after time the moral comes across — good behaviour will be rewarded and bad people will be punished. The pieces are mostly sanctimonious in tone; perhaps the children for whom they were written enjoyed them, but I doubt it. Youth does not change so much, and I imagine the young people of a hundred years ago did not enjoy being preached at.
As if that were not depressing enough, much of the prose is badly written, and the poetry is of the unimaginative “rhyme for its own sake” variety. Only one story, “Hunting for Predicates and Calves,” is really interesting reading, and by coincidence this is the only one where subtle humour is present.
However, despite the heavily didactic nature of the work, this is an interesting collection. It gives us an insight into how life was lived in pioneer times and into the conventions and social problems with which the early settlers had to contend. The excellent reproductions of etchings, prints, and other pictorial materials add an interesting dimension.