Some Notes on The Montreal Literary Scene in the Mid-1820’s

by Mary Lu MacDonald

     The Canadas, Upper and Lower, had produced little in the way of a native literature before 1824. There had, as yet, been no imaginative prose set in the colony and, indeed, only one volume of poetry had been published. That volume, Hours of Childhood, which appeared in Montreal in 1820 is prefaced by an “Introduction” in which the anonymous1 author apologizes for the love of his native United States which is the subject of much of his poetry. The poetic muses had not totally abandoned the Canadas, however; for many years there had been some native poetry in both languages published under pseudonyms in Canadian newspapers. It can be distinguished from the great quantity of literary material, borrowed principally from British or French periodicals, which newspapers of the day published in each issue by the appended datelines or by such headings as “Original Poetry” or “Pour Le Spectateur Canadien”. In addition to these scattered efforts, two poets, “Peter Pindar” and “A Friend to his Species” were the authors of verse pamphlets published in Kingston in 1822.2 Where literary periodicals are concerned, the output is almost equally sparse. L’Abeille Canadienne lasted for six months in 1818-19, The Enquirer was published in Quebec for a few months in 1821-22, and the Literary Miscellany lasted for seven months in 1822-23. The Scribbler, a weekly catering to lovers of gossip and light literature, commenced publication in June, 1821, and survived for six years. July, 1823, saw the first issue of the Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository. The quantity is small, and the quality variable, but it is perhaps as much literary production as could reasonably be expected from a geographically large colony with a thinly scattered population of only about 600,000.

     Suddenly in April, 1824, Montreal residents found themselves with a wealth of native literary productions to read. St. Ursula’s Convent, the first novel by a native-born Canadian, just published at Kingston, was for sale in the city, and, early in the month, The Widow of the Rock and Other Poems, “by a Lady”, appeared. On April 28, The Charivari; or Canadian Poetics, “by Launcelot Longstaff”, made its debut. And from the beginning of the month a prospectus was printed repeatedly in the English newspapers, advertising yet a third periodical in the English language — the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal. Montreal editorialists congratulated the city’s residents on their literary production and on the promise that the colony’s intellectual life was evincing. Had an indigenous literature indeed blossomed, or were other factors at work?

     In the early 1820’s Montreal was a small town of about 20,000 residents. Less than half were English-speaking; and, of these, probably only about half were literate. The potential local market for literature was thus small, and, given the predominance of commerce and trade in the English community, the number of those with intellectual interests was probably minute. What there was of an intellectual community must, however, have had a busy, gossipy Spring deciding who had written the three anonymous books, and speculating about what was taking place behind the scenes to make the editor of the Canadian Magazine leave that position to become editor of the new Canadian Review. In considering this latter question, local gossip had much to feed on, since some of the drama was played out in public — in terse newspaper advertisements, in indignant letters to the editor, and in partisan editorial comment.

     Since the situation of these two periodicals illustrates many of the problems of the Canadian literary world in 1824, some examination of their history and that of the individuals who produced them is useful. As editors and publishers, the principal actors were David Chisholme, editor of the Montreal Gazette, as well as the Canadian Magazine, and soon to be editor of both the Montreal Herald and the Canadian Review; Thomas A. Turner, owner and publisher of the Gazette; Edward Milford, proprietor of the Canadian Magazine; and A.J. Christie, Chisholme’s successor at the Gazette and the Magazine. Various others, such as Joseph Nickless, a local printer and bookseller, had walk-on parts.


     Chisholme, Christie and Turner were all Scots. The former was born in Ross-shire3 and received some legal training in Scotland before he emigrated under the sponsorship of Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-in-Chief of the Canadas.4 The first mention of him in Montreal is his marriage on May 16, 1822,5 to Rachel Cuthbert, eldest daughter of Captain John Robertson, of the Inverneshire Militia. S.H. Wilcocke implies in the Free Press6 in December of that year that Chisholme is editor of the Gazette, but there is no other evidence before mid-1823, when he was definitely in charge, to indicate the date on which he took the editorship. In 1823 he edited the Canadian Magazine, and in 1824 went from the Gazette to the Herald, where he remained for two years, while editing the Canadian Review.7 The last issue of the Review appeared in September, 1826, (dated August), at which time Chisholme left Montreal for Three Rivers, appointed by Lord Dalhousie, his patron, to a position as Clerk of the Peace. In time he also became Coroner, Post Master, and issuer of tavern and shop licences. Between 1829 and 1832 he published several books and pamphlets on political subjects, always defending the principles of Lord Dalhousie and opposing Dalhousie’s enemies in the parti patriote. His political involvement was sufficiently notorious that he was one of the few officials dismissed by Lord Gosford in 1836 in an attempt to appease the Lower Canada Legislative Assembly. The charges against him were fraud, malversion, and oppression.8 Gosford, on investigation, found enough truth in them to justify his dismissal. Chisholme’s connections were sufficiently good that his appeal was heard publicly, but the dismissal stood. Continuing to proclaim his innocence, he returned to Montreal as editor of the Gazette, now under new ownership, until his death in 1842.

     Dr. Alexander James Christie, attended Marischal College in Aberdeen and may have studied medicine in Edinburgh. He emigrated to Montreal in 1817, when he was licensed as a doctor. This evidently did not provide an adequate income since he began to supplement his funds with work as the paid secretary of several local committees, as well as editing the Montreal Herald. In 1821 he produced a handbook for emigrants, which does not seem to have been any more successful than others of the genre published at that time. Many of Christie’s personal papers have survived,9 from which we learn that in 1820 and 1821 he submitted numerous petitions for a free grant of land, anywhere in the Canadas. A note in the papers indicates that he had taken up residence on his land in March Township, near Bytown, as early as July, 1821. A dispute with William Gray, the owner of the Herald, had resulted in his imprisonment for a debt of £8.19.2 early in 1821, and this, no doubt, hastened his departure from Montreal. It appears from items in Christie’s papers, which are, of course, favourable to him, that the Herald was in financial trouble and that Gray was trying to extricate himself from debt by wrongfully claiming that Christie had defrauded him. Christie was rescued by friends and set out to farm in March Township. He returned to Montreal as editor of the Gazette and Canadian Magazine for a year and a half, beginning in March, 1824, then departed for his farm and an unsuccessful medical practice. For a brief period in 1827 he was a medical attendant on the Rideau Canal, and he seems to have served as coroner of Bytown on more than one occasion. From 1836 until his death in November, 1843, he was owner and editor of the Bytown Gazette, the activity for which he is best known to posterity.10

     Turner, a native of Aberdeenshire, was involved in much of the commercial life of Montreal. He was a partner in the large wholesaling firm of Allison and Turner, which seems to have ceased conducting business after Allison’s death. His name is remembered today because he was both the Vice-president of the Bank of Montreal at its founding in 1817, and President of the Bank of Canada a few years later. Since he seemed to disappear fairly rapidly from both these enterprises it is possible that he was acting as agent for other investors.11 It is also possible that he was a difficult man to get along with and thus was edged out by his confreres. At his death in 1834 he was Master of Trinity House (the port authority) in Montreal — one of the better-paying patronage jobs of the day. He owned the Gazette from 1822 until 1827, and the Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository from January,1824, until it ceased publication in June,1825. A letter in the Wright collection of the Public Archives of Canada indicates that Dr. Christie was married to a sister of T.A. Turner.12

     Of Edward Milford we know little, except that he was an Englishman, that he was the founding proprietor of the Canadian Magazine, and that in 1824 he left Montreal for New York, where he became editor of the Globe.

     These are the individuals who were involved in the controversy which doubled the number of serious literary periodicals in Montreal.


     Between the two neriodicals — the Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository, and the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal13 — there are no vast differences which make it easy to distinguish one from the other. The Canadian Magazine was first in the field. It was initially owned by Edward Milford, and later by T.A. Turner. The name of the printer varies from year to year, and often from issue to issue. The Magazine’s first editor was David Chisholme, who was replaced by A.J. Christie. It always carried a fair amount of locally-written matter, but this was mixed with a generous quantity of articles and literature taken from other sources. It was published from July, 1823, to June, 1825. The Canadian Review began to appear one year after the Magazine, in July, 1824. It was certainly backed by the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, and its full title bears a close relation to the name of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, founded the same year by Dalhousie. Its editor, until it ceased publication in August, 1826, was David Chisholme. Although a substantial portion of the content was also borrowed from other sources, the Review did contain, as far as can be determined, a higher percentage of material written in Canada than did the Magazine.

      Those Montrealers not directly involved became aware early in 1824 that there were changes taking place in the corporate structure of several publications. An advertisement appeared in the Gazette on January 31, 1824, announcing:

The subscribers having entered into terms of partnership, respectfully intimate to the public that the Montreal Gazette and Commercial Advertiser with the Canadian Magazine will, for the future, be Printed and Published by them under the firm of Turner and Milford.
                        Thos. A. Turner
                        Edward Milford

The corporate consolidation of one newspaper and one periodical had obviously taken place — an occurrence not surprising in a city where many businesses were marginal and capital was hard to come by.

     Nothing further bearing on the fortunes of the Canadian Magazine appeared in the advertising columns until March 20 when a notice in the Gazette stated

Circumstances totally behond the control of the Conductors of the CANADIAN MAGAZINE have delayed the February Number of that work longer than usual. It will be positively ready for delivery to Subscribers on WEDNESDAY next the 24th.

This was followed by a series of notices which indicate the rapidly shifting corporate structure of the two publications and finish with Turner acquiring sole control. First it was stated that the Canadian Magazine would for the future be published by Joseph Nickless and that “Communications for this Publication, are requested to be addressed to Dr. Christie, the Editor, at the office of the Montreal Gazette and Commercial Advertiser.”14 On May 12th a brief notice, signed Turner and Nickless, advised that Milford had disposed of his interest in the Magazine. Changes in control continued until September, when Joseph Nickless advertised15 that he had disposed of his interest to Turner. Those wondering about the fate of Edward Milford were rewarded on October 27 with a note in the Gazette congratulating him on his appointment as editor of the Globe of New York and Philadephia.

     Someone who read nothing more than the advertising columns of the Gazette (which comprised about one-half of the newspaper) between January and September would thus have been aware of both editorial and proprietorial changes in the Gazette and Magazine.

     A reader of the letters-to-the-editor columns in any one of the English newspapers during the latter part of March would have been rewarded with a glimpse of other scenes in the drama. Taking exception to a Gazette notice which had referred to the delay of the February issue of the Canadian Magazine, as well as to a more detailed notice in the Magazine stating that the delay in publication had resulted from “the late Editors refusing to deliver up some of the Papers and Documents connected with the Work”, Chisholme, the “late editor” delivered a broadside in the Courant, Herald and Times.

     As “a much injured and insulted individual” he produced a reply of full column length: “. . . having lately been entrusted with the Editorial management of a new periodical work — at the head of whose proprietary I am proud to be enabled to place the name of his Excellency the Governor-in-Chief,” he writes, “I conceive it to be a duty which I owe no less to those who have honoured me with such favour and protection in a foreign land than to the respectability of the proposed work to rebut and to crush in their infancy the crafty designs of desperate and ungrateful men.” Complaining also of the “arrogance of [his] enemies” and “the intriguing meanness of the proprietor”, he states that the manuscripts were given to him and not to the magazine:

It is true, that that part of my engagement as Editor of the Magazine by which I was bound to furnish original matter for forty pages of each number, enabled me through the medium of my literary friends and my own exertions to become possessed of many valuable articles which would do credit to any periodical publication; but those articles I never could consider as the exclusive property of the Magazine in any point of view. As they were the production, so were they the token of friendship in behalf of the arduous literary task which I had undertaken. They were not placed in my hands as pledges from the several authors of the interest which they took in the private views of the proprietor of the Magazine — whom they knew to be far beneath them in every qualification that adorns the character of man — but as contributing to the respectable performance of my duties as an Editor, and to the general prosperity of the Country. Indeed the delivery of such literary articles as I may have been possessed of at the period of my resignation to the grasp of the rapacious and uneducated “proprietor” I should consider as a breach of trust Which no virtue--no purity of intention could ever eradicate.16

Chisholme goes on — at length — to explain that the writers of the articles entirely approved of his action. Reading between the lines, it would appear that Chisholme, in departing from the Canadian Magazine, had indeed retained manuscripts which he wished to publish in the Canadian Review. The dispute between Chisholme and Milford, as it appeared in public, was concerned with the “ownership” of manuscripts, whether by writer, editor, or publisher, and the relative importance of each of the three to the finished product. Very evidently, Chisholme felt that his own presence as editor was the most important element in the success of the Magazine:

The “Proprietor” may now well blush at his brazen effrontery as well as repine at that rashness of Conduct which has precipitated to the very verge of ruin, a publication which might otherwise become a most valuable literary miscellany, and a credit to the Country.

     Chisholme’s tirade stung both Christie, as the new editor of the Magazine, and Milford to replies which appeared in the Gazette on March 31 and in the Courant on April 3. Christie is brief, defending the Magazine and leaving the proprietor to defend himself:

. . . in designing a work of which I am the conductor, by the epithet “unfortunate” and impertinently interposing your pretended talent for divination, you have overstepped those bounds of propriety which every gentleman knows how to keep. Misfortune is the child of the past or present, not of the future; and the only unfortunate circumstance attached to the Canadian Magazine, is its having been partly, and very partially, under your control for so long a period.

He concludes:

And with the assurance to the patrons of that work that its prosperity and success does not depend upon any thing within your power, and that every exertion will be made to make it an object deserving their future approbation, I remain, Sir, Yours &c.

Milford’s rebuttal is longer and more detailed. He threatens to publish Chisholme’s letters so that the public might know what had really happened, and he suggests that Chisholme’s guilty conscience had persuaded him to construe a plain statement as an attack on himself. Milford also points out that many of the contributions to the magazine had come from people unknown to Chisholme and not from his personal “literary friends.” Addressing Chisholme directly, he writes:

As to the heavy obligation the Magazine owes to your exertions, I am not inclined to look upon it in the light you are. The Selections have generally been made by myself; of Original matter you were bound by your engagement to prepare 24 pages monthly, and not 40 as you have stated; this you did by compilation from documents furnished to you with the least possible trouble to yourself. The list of Subscribers is very much owing to the friendly exertions of the Publisher, and the assistance of other friends to the publication, and even if your industry had been the means of promoting its success (an admission I make with limitation) you would have done no more than was necessary in return for the liberal remuneration you received, and what a faithful discharge of your duty towards the work and myself dictated. How far you performed this you may see by reference to your letter to me of the 28th January, wherein you admit at the very moment you were under an engagement to me, you were listening to arrangements for entering on another pursuit.

     All these accusations and counter-accusations were thus matters of public knowledge through their publication in the city’s newspapers. The key to the further motivation of the principal actors was, however, not available to public appraisal at the time. Today we can find it in a letter written on February 22 by T.A. Turner, chief proprietor, to A.J. Christie, then residing on his new farm near Bytown. The body of the letter reads:

Dear Christie
     Your letter of 17 Ult. was brought to me from the Post Office some time ago, not having had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Wright. I am sorry to find from your letter that you are reduced to the situation in [indecipherable] state yourself, but, at this moment it is entirely out of my power to render you that pecuniary assistance that would be useful; but if you think you could come down here for some time it may perhaps be mutually advantageous both to you and to me, if the proposal I am now about to make can be eventually carried into effect.

     You would see by the Gazette (which has been regularly forwarded to you) that I have made an arrangement with Mr. Milford, the proprietor of the Canadian Magazine, whereby we have formed a Partnership, by joining the two publications together, and as Chisholm was the Editor of each separately we thought it might be for our mutual advantage to do so. The sum I allowed as Editor of the Gazette was £100 per ann; and he received for the half year ending 31 Dec. £10 per month as Editor of the Magazine, but Mr. Milford had agreed to allow him at the rate of £200 per ann. for the Magazine for 6 mo. to 1st July next; provided there should during that period be 400 Subscribers, that number is now nearly compleated, and doubtless will soon be made up.

     The other day we notified Mr. C that the Salary as Editor of the Gazette would only be £50 per ann until 1 July next, but this he declines accepting and of course will no longer have anything to do with that paper after 1st prox.

     Now, as I am extremely desirous of doing something to assist you in your present situation, and as nothing could be done by correspondence, without delay that would defeat our object, I have engaged the Bearer to go up to March and bring you down, as I have a great deal to say to you that I cannot put on paper, but which it is necessary you should know. I think you might readily undertake to conduct both the Magazine and the Gazette, the latter you might enter upon immediately, upon such arrangement as may be agreed upon, and I can only assure you that every exertion in my power shall be used to place you as the Editor of the latter [sic], both I think might be made equal to £200 per annum when joined, but about that we must speak when we meet. I am aware that Jane will be put to some inconvenience by this hasty proceeding but I trust you will make such arrangements as will enable you to comply with my request in coming down now; it is of utmost consequence that you should be here as early as possible.

     I make this proposal in the confident hope, that you will pay that attention to the duties of the situation in which you may be placed, that is, absolutely necessary, and to which I know you are perfectly competent; trusting from your late misfortunes and sufferings you must be well aware that nothing else will do to get through the world, but steadiness and attention to business.

     As I cannot afford to spare much money at this time, I merely send by the Bearer as much as will enable to pay your expenses on the road. I have given him 6 dollars and he wants one or two for himself, and as I expect you will be here next Sunday, you will find everything provided for your reception at my house, to which the Bearer will conduct you.

     It is unnecessary to add anything further as everything else must be done when you come down. Mrs. Turner and the Young ladies offer their best wishes to Jane and the children about whom they are anxious to hear.
       Believe me
                    Dear Christie
                                        Yours sincerely,
                                        Thos. A. Turner17

     It was, then, a simple quarrel about money, intensified by personality conflicts, that caused Montreal to have one additional literary periodical in 1824. Publishing was a risky business, with bankruptcy always looming just around the corner. Turner, although possibly short of capital at the time, was certainly not as poverty-stricken as he claimed in his letter to Christie. It is possible that he may have been the archetypal Scottish skinflint, while Chisholme, as a young man of twenty-eight attempting to make his way in a new world, would indeed have bridled at the abrupt reduction in his salary. Where editors were concerned, however, it was a buyer’s market. Turner sent “the Bearer” a hundred and fifty miles off into the wilderness to bring Christie back to Montreal, no doubt grateful to earn two hundred badly needed pounds. Certainly, he was in harness before March 27, 1824, and remained in the city until September, 1825.

     The squabble, and its causes and effects, being for the most part a matter of public knowledge, did not pass without press comment. Since Chisholme’s patron was the Governor, and Turner was reported to be backed by prominent Tories, any contemporary commentators not directly involved, such as the editor of the Courant, were careful to offend neither. However, most were involved. The Times, which was soon to go out of business, was solidly on Chisholme’s side. Its editor, E.V. Sparhawk, was considered locally to have ties to the Governor. The Herald was also for Chisholme—not surprisingly, since he became the editor of that paper. The Gazette, of course, supported Christie, its editor. Le Spectateur Canadien was for Christie, since Chisholme was considered by the French Canadian press to be as anti-French as his patron, while Christie was without evident prejudice.18 The Magazine gave snide reviews to the contents of the Review, and vice versa. The editor of The Scribbler, who had been denouncing Chisholme’s political attitudes, pretentions to literary criticism, and bad writing style, almost from the beginning of the Magazine, doubted publicly that Chisholme had the ability to conduct a review, but wished him success. He also published under the heading “Intrigues of Editors” in The Scribbler of June 10, 1824, an account of the affair which has Davy Spasm (his name for Chisholme) say “I shall write to Old Changeling [T.A. Turner] and say that if he don’t raise my salary immediately, and enter into a long engagement with me, I shall cut him — cut him off — and cut him out of copy — and then I’ll cut a figure for myself and be a REVIEWER . . .” The dispute even extended to Quebec City, where the Governor’s Gazette, edited by Dr. Fisher, published a number of small comments praising Chisholme and a lengthy article attacking the Magazine as it appeared under is new editor.19 With the exception of the Scribbler’s references to personalities, the comments, it is evident, were based more on a political choosing of sides than on any concern for literature — either qualitative or quantitative.

     None of the participants emerge from the imbroglio as men whose principles matched the fine-sounding rhetoric of their statements of literary purpose. Both Milford and Turner seem to have acted from financial, rather than cultural motives, and Christie, despite the rather shabby treatment accorded his predecessor, was quite willing to do the same work as Chisholme at a lower rate of pay. Chisholme appears more concerned with his personal aggrandizement, and that of his sponsor, than with the literary value of the two publications.


     Whatever the motivations of the principals, the two periodicals give us our most comprehensive record of early literary production in the Canadas. From a first issue made up almost entirely of “selected” (borrowed from other sources) material, the Canadian Magazine gradually built up in its first six months to a level of about two-thirds of its literary content produced locally. If these writers were David Chisholme’s personal friends, as he claimed, they were not his friends when the Magazine first appeared, or he would have begun to publish their works in the first issue. It seems likely that the existence of a literary periodical encouraged Montrealers to dust off previously written manuscripts and submit them for publication. Certainly, after a brief flurry, the percentage of Canadian content declined in both publications, although it was artificially maintained in the Canadian Review by the publication in the last issue of Goldsmith’s The Rising Village and Adams’ Jean Baptiste, both of which had been separately published during the previous year.

     We cannot establish the actual number of writers involved, since no names were signed to any of the published works. Where initials appear they are useful in establishing connections between some works, but they are not necessarily a guide to the author’s name. “Viator”, “H”, “MPSE”, “L”, “XYZ” and others remain unknown. “Erieus” has long since been identified as Adam Hood Burwell, and “L.A.” as Levi Adams.20 This writer has identified George Longmore as the anonymous author of “Tecumthe”, “Euphrosyne”, “The Fall of Constantinople”, “Dramfed” and several short poems.21 It is quite possible that no more than a dozen individuals appeared more than once in the pages of the two magazines. It is difficult to decide whether the chicken or the egg came first, but it does not seem likely that many of these Canadian works were written because the Canadian Magazine and Canadian Review had appeared as a stimulus; however, if the two magazines had not come into being, many of the works they published might never have been transmitted to future generations.

     These two publications, as well as The Scribbler, also performed a valuable function in reviewing the three new Canadian literary works of 1824. The editors did not generally review other works unless they related specifically to Canada; consequently, reviewing was not a major activity of any of the periodicals. Of the three 1824 books, The Widow of the Rock and Charivari were kindly treated, but Canadian birth and a Canadian setting were not enough to protect the author of St. Ursula’s Convent from severe criticism.

     Of the two separate volumes of poetry printed that year, only The Charivari has roots in Canada. Most of the poems in The Widow of the Rock, which has been attributed to Margaret Blennerhasset,22 refer to places and events in England and the United States. The Blennerhassets left Montreal for England in the late 1820’s23 and Mrs. Blennerhasset does not seem to have published any other works in Canada. The Widow of the Rock chanced to be privately published in Montreal during the few years of the Blennerhasset’s residence there.

     In the case of The Charivari, it was a chance military posting that allowed Lieutenant George Longmore of the Royal Staff Corps to return to his native Canada for a brief period of time. The Charivari is set in Montreal and is too particular in its detail not to have been written by someone residing in the city and observing its social life on a daily basis. Longmore’s other works of that time, all lengthy and all published in the Canadian Magazine and Canadian Review in the space of a year could not, however, have been written that rapidly by someone who had full-time military duties to perform. Of these other poems, only the long work “Tecumthé” is of Canadian inspiration. “Euphrosyne”, “Constantinople”, and “Dramfed” are probably earlier works, long since finished and available for publication when the medium presented itself. If Longmore had been able to remain in Canada he might well have continued to produce Canada-inspired works. As chance would have it, however, only “Tecumthe” andThe Charivari were written before the British Army posted him elsewhere.

     With the exception of St. Ursula’s Convent, the 1824 productions were all more than adequate in literary quality. The volume, The Widow of the Rock, contains poems of as high a standard, and of as standard a sensibility, as the majority of British and American literary productions of the period. The qualities which were admired then have long since gone out of fashion and we tend now to dismiss works as inferior which are merely typical of a time which we no longer appreciate. The Charivari holds our interest today because it tells a Canadian story with humour and a sense of drama, not because we find the imitation-Byronic cantos to be compelling poetry.

     The Canadian material published in the Magazine and the Review covers a wide range of quality, style, and subject matter. The best of it is good second-rate quality, produced at a time when many works of much less merit were being published in the burgeoning annuals and periodicals of England and the United States. As far as content is concerned, less than half of the Canadian poetry and fiction published in Montreal in this period is Canadian in any sense other than the locale of publication. The settings are most often a literary never-never land and the sentiments derive from universal human experience rather than from a response to the Canadian environment.

     In 1824, certain conditions for publication were propitious — the existence of printing presses, of an educated class of potential readers, and of contact with a well-developed literary tradition. However, the small size of the market and the ready availability of English and American competition, had much to do with the failure to sustain any literary continuity in Canada. The sudden flowering of that year was more the result of a chance combination of circumstances, of the presence in Montreal of individuals who had written at least some of their works while living elsewhere, or who had produced a few fugitive works over a lifetime, or who saw literature as a means of achieving personal or political ends, rather than the result of a new Canadian intellectual maturity. By 1826, both the Magazine and the Review had ceased publication and Chisholme, Christie, Longmore, Milford, and probably Blennerhasset, had left Montreal. In the next year The Scribbler ceased publication, and Turner gave up on publishing and sold the Gazette. Between 1825 and 1830 only two other volumes of poetry were published, and it was not until 1833 that another literary periodical in English lasted for more than one year. Indeed, the failure of the Canadian Magazine and Canadian Review acted as a depressant on future literary endeavours. Every time an attempt was made to start a new periodical, general comment would be that the time was not yet ripe, that several very able and well-connected gentlemen had tried previously and failed. Thus, while the Canadian Magazine and Canadian Review performed a very valuable function in preserving early Canadian literary materials and transmitting them to posterity, the failure of the two had a negative effect on contemporary writers and editors. Perhaps the supreme irony is that our literary heritage was enriched by one very valuable periodical because of a quarrel over an editor’s salary.


  1. Hours of Childhood has been attributed by H.P. Gundy in the Literary History of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965), p. 176, to its printer, Ariel Bowman.[back]

  2. Gundy, ibid., p. 176.[back]

  3. Montreal Gazette, 26 Sept. 1842. There is a lengthy obituary of Chisholme, who died September 24.[back]

  4. Gundy, op. cit., p. 176.[back]

  5. Canadian Courant, 18 May, 1822.[back]

  6. Free Press, 26 Dec. 1822.[back]

  7. His resignation from the Herald is announced in an advertisement he placed in the Gazette, 4 May, 1826.[back]

  8. Vindicator, 13 Dec. 1836. The results of the subsequent enquiry were published by the Colonial Office, 2 May, 1837, as “A Report of a Select Committee of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada respecting Mr. Chisholme, Clerk of the Peace for Three Rivers, and any correspondence between the Earl of Gosford and Lord Glenelg, or the subject of the charges preferred against Mr. Chisholme.”[back]

  9. Public Archives of Canada, Hill Collection, Christie Papers.[back]

  10. Christie’s Bytown career is discussed by C.C.J. Bond, “Alexander James Christie, Bytown Pioneer” in Ontario History, LVI (1964), 16-36.[back]

  11. This is the opinion of Merrill Dennison, in Canada’s First Bank (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart,1966) p.73.[back]

  12. Public Archives of Canada, P. Wright and Sons Papers, Vol. 13, p. 4447-4451, R. Stephens to Tiberius Wright, 3 July, 1825.[back]

  13. To avoid annoying repetition, the Canadian Magazine and Literary Repository will be referred to henceforth as the Canadian Magazine, or the Magazine; the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal will be referred to as the Canadian Review, or the Review.[back]

  14. Montreal Gazette, 27 Mar.1824.[back]

  15. Montreal Gazette, 10 Sept.1824.[back]

  16. Canadian Courant, 27 Mar. 1824, Montreal Herald, 27 Mar. 1824, Canadian Times, 26 Mar.1824.[back]

  17. Christie Papers, Volume I, p.240-242.[back]

  18. There are numerous anti-Chisholme comments in the French-language press. See, for example, Le Spectateur Canadien, 24 Apr. 1824; 29 May, 1824; and 21 Aug. 1824. Christie never, in his Montreal work, wrote anything which could be interpreted as anti-French-Canadian. His Emigrant’s Assistant (Montreal: 1820) even praised seigneurial tenure as an effective means of land-holding.[back]

  19. The Montreal Gazette printed the Quebec paper’s attack, along with a rebuttal, on 7 Dec. 1824.[back]

  20. See C.F. Klinck, ed., The Poems of Adam Hood Burwell, Pioneer Poet of Upper Canada (London: University of Western Ontario, 1963), and C.F. Klinck, “The Charivari and Levi Adams”, Dalhousie Review (Spring 1960), 34-42.[back]

  21. “Introduction” to The Charivari; or Canadian Poetics (Ottawa: The Golden Dog Press, 1977), pp.3-10.[back]

  22. By Lawrence Lande in Old Lamps Aglow (Montreal: privately printed, 1957), p.115.[back]

  23. A biography of her husband, Harman Blennerhasset, appeared in the Montreal Gazette, 28 Jan. 1841, written by a son. Although the date on which the family left the city is not given specifically, from the events mentioned it was evidently about 1826 or 1827.[back]