If there’s one thing you’ll find in a bookstore it’s connections…like the one made here
in Thea’s Books and Violins in Peterborough. I’m was in town to do a literary audit of the region, and what a delightful segue from my recent trip to Wales the owner provided.
Turns out his father, just like Dylan Thomas’s father, read Shakespeare to him at an early age, instilling in him a life long love of poetry. Bill gave me a copy of “A Book Lover’s Guide, Antiquarian, Rare & Out of Print Books in the Kawarthas…Peterborough, Lakefield, Cavan” and as warm a welcome to the area as anyone could wish for. Reminded me of the time I arrived in Dublin late one night. Cutting through a darkened park on the way to my hotel I encountered an old man lying on the grass. As I walked past him he raised himself up and exclaimed ‘Welcome to Dublin!’ the last thing I’d expected to hear. Set the tone for the entire trip.
Thea’s is a lovely, tight mess of a shop. Just the way I like it. Lots of interesting older titles. I found this one, Shapes & Sounds, Poems of W. W. E. Ross.
Ross was born in Peterborough in 1894 and is credited as Canada’s leading Imagist of the time, taking as his subject matter the Canadian landscape – birds and trees and such – describing them in short lines, with direct diction, movement, clear images. Interesting coincidence that one of the world’s great Ezra Pound scholars, Hugh Kenner, also hailed from Peterborough.
Okay, so the birth dates are off, but only by 11 years, making Percy a year or two too young to father anyone. Don’t think he ever made it over to Canada, but stay tuned for more details on Moodie, chronicler of the quintessential Canadian experience, and her connection to Peterborough and the Kawarthas. Susanna was born in Bungay in Suffolk, England, the youngest sister in a family of writers that included Agnes Strickland, Jane Margaret Strickland and Catharine Parr Traill. She wrote her first children’s book in 1822, the year Percy Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while sailing in Italy. Susanna was later involved in the Anti-Slavery Society, transcribing the narrative of former Caribbean slave Mary Prince.
I visited Lang Pioneer Village just outside of Peterborough for a glimpse of what life looked like in Ontario at around the time Susanna Moodie and her sister Catharine Parr Traill emigrated from England.
This cabin was the home of David Fife, of Red Fife wheat fame – it represents what a Canadian settler’s dwelling was like circa 1820.
The sisters arrived in the early 1830s. Conditions, particularly during the winter months – on days like today for example – were wicked; with snow blowing in through cracks in the walls and little food to eat, life wasn’t easy. Seeing this cabin really brought home how challenging it must have been just to survive back then. But they made do.
“The flesh of the black squirrel is equal to that of the rabbit, and the red, even the little chipmunk, is palatable when nicely cooked.” (from Roughing it in the Bush).
For information on visiting Peterborough and the Kawarthas, click here.
As a result of a trip to Peterborough & the Kawarthas, and exposure to the works of Catharine Parr Traill
and Susanna Moodie
I’ve been reflecting lately on the immigrant experience in Canada.
I was born in Toronto, but moved to England with my British parents when I was five years old. We returned by ship seven years later on the S.S. Maasdam. Although I’d already been here, my memory is of having arrived in Canada as if for the first time. I’ll never forget the experience of coming up on deck early one morning with my father and sighting land – a collection of tiny, sun-lit Canadian islands. Everything seemed bathed in gold.
Moving to a new country is an emotion-charged experience, one that, while different in each case, shares certain common characteristics. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, people who immigrate typically go through the following stages:
Yes the breakfasts were great. Yes, it’s on the same street as a house (Marchbanks) that Robertson Davies used to live in, and yes, Davies used to hang out here in the basement ‘theatre’ watching the home movies of Dr. Agnes Moffat, Peterborough’s first female doctor, and her husband Dr. Rusty Magee, the original owners of the place, but the thing that charmed me most about Moffat House in Peterborough, was the lovely flora