LePAGE, JOHN, teacher, businessman, and poet; b. 28 Dec. 1812 at Pownal, Queens County, P.E.I., third child of Andrew LePage and Elizabeth Mellish; m. first in 1847 Alice Foster, and they had three children who died in infancy; m. secondly in 1852 Charlotte McNeill, and they had five children; d. 8 or 9 Jan. 1886 at Charlottetown, P.E.I.
John LePage, whose father had immigrated to Prince Edward Island from the Channel Islands about 1807, was educated in Island schools and then became a teacher. He taught first at Lot 49, Queens County, and then for many years at Malpeque, Prince County, before becoming third master of the Central Academy in Charlottetown about 1848. His last post, in which he taught students at the elementary level, was abolished in 1860 when the Central Academy began restricting itself to post-elementary education. He then joined the newly formed Bank of Prince Edward Island as a clerk, but soon left to become secretary-treasurer of the Charlottetown Gas Light Company, a position he held until his retirement in 1883.
LePage was best known publicly for his poetry, published in two substantial volumes: The Island minstrel, a collection of the poetical writings of John LePage (1860) and The Island minstrel . . . volume II (1867) . The 1867 edition reprints a number of poems from the earlier book, but the two volumes contain substantially different material. LePage also published at least two pamphlets and a number of poetic broadsheets, and frequently contributed verse to the local press under the initials P.L.I. or P.L.J.
He was very much a public poet in that his verse generally dealt more with subjects drawn from the world he and his readers knew from personal experience than with the exploring and articulating of his personal feelings and values. He wrote verses for special occasions, odes, eulogies to military heroes, and elegies on local notables, but his most interesting poetry lies in his comic-satiric treatment of certain social and political aspects of Island life. In these poems, he often employed doggerel rhythms and verse patterns to help deflate the inherent pretentiousness and pomposity of public figures and events. The most striking poem of this sort is his pamphlet (Flies in amber): an authentic history of the land commission and other stirring events in Prince Edward Island (1862) which deals with the ineffectual efforts of the royal commission of 1860–61 established by the government of Edward Palmer to solve the land tenure problem in Prince Edward Island. In the poem, LePage uses an Indian maiden (his muse) as a narrator and, in describing the activities of the commission, parodies the style of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. By structuring the poem this way, LePage is able to use the perspective and pseudo-Indian dialect of the young Micmac girl to insinuate devastating satiric commentary into her ostensibly innocent narration of events.
LePage did not pretend to write “great” poetry, but described his efforts as “homemade verse,” which “if not so fine as some of the imported articles . . . may nevertheless be considered passable.” This description appears to be a just estimation of his poetic talents, but to it one must add LePage’s observation that “trifles help to form the sum of human things.”
John LePage was the author of Shipwreck of the “Fairy Queen,” in Northumberland Strait, October 7th, 1853 [and] Fate of Sir John Franklin . . . (Charlottetown, 1853); The spirit of English poetry: a lecture delivered before the Mechanics’ Institute, Charlottetown, on the evening of Tuesday, 21st April, 1857 (Charlottetown, 1857); The Island minstrel: a collection of the poetical writings of John LePage . . . (Charlottetown, 1860); Rhymes for the times and reason for the season; or, a rhyming rhapsody on American revolutions (Charlottetown, 1861); An address to America (Charlottetown, 1862); Farewell to 1862 (Charlottetown, 1862); (Flies in amber): an authentic history of the land commission and other stirring events in Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, 1862); Rifle shooting at Truro, N.S., Friday, Sept. 12, 1862 (Charlottetown, 1862); The calling out of the posse comitatus (Charlottetown, 1865); The Island minstrel: a collection of some of the poetical writings of John LePage . . . volume II (Charlottetown, 1867); Visits of distinguished personages to Prince Edward Island, duly chronicled (Charlottetown, 1869); Loss of H.M. ironclad turret-ship ‘Captain,’ off Cape Finnisterre, on the night of 6th September, 1870 (Charlottetown, 1870); Choral symphonies, at an entertainment given in the basement of the Wesleyan Chapel, Charlottetown, P.E. Island, February 3rd, 1871 (Charlottetown, 1871); The Island minstrel, miscellaneous papers (Charlottetown, 1885).
Examiner (Charlottetown), 9 Jan. 1886. Islander, 16 Sept. 1859, 27 Dec. 1861. Patriot (Charlottetown), 9 Jan. 1886. Wallace, Macmillan dict.