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HUSTON, JAMES – Volume VIII (1851-1860)

d. 21 Sept. 1854 at Quebec

Confederation

Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier

Sports

The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

Music and Literature
 

Alexander MUIR, a teacher and songwriter who lived in the Toronto area, wrote patriotic songs and used poetry and music to encourage an interest in Canada and its history:

“Muir is best known as the author of ‘The maple leaf for ever,’ written in October 1867 while he was living in Leslieville…. it became so popular within the country’s English-speaking population that it was often referred to as Canada’s national song. Its use, however, had diminished dramatically long before 1980, when ‘O Canada,’ by Calixa Lavallée* and Adolphe-Basile Routhier*, was approved as the official national anthem. Muir’s song had been doomed as a potential national anthem, of course, by its pro-British sentiment. Lyrics celebrating Canada as a place where ‘the Thistle, Shamrock, Rose entwine / The Maple Leaf for ever’ exclude the fleur-de-lis, and the description of Major-General James Wolfe* as ‘the dauntless hero’ inevitably alienated Canadians of French origin.”


Judge Sir Adolphe-Basile ROUTHIER of Quebec’s Superior Court made a lasting contribution to Canada in 1880:

“During his career on the bench Routhier was a prolific writer. In the spring of 1880 he wrote the words for what would become the national anthem, ‘O Canada,’ set to music by Calixa Lavallée*. It was played for the first time at the Convention Nationale des Canadiens Français, held late in June 1880 under the aegis of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de la Cité de Québec. Routhier subsequently worked on some 20 different versions and translations of the piece.”


The poet Charles SANGSTER moved from personal themes to broader topics, and his work shows the influence of Archibald LAMPMAN, William Bliss CARMAN, and other “confederation poets”:

“In ‘Norland echoes and other strains and lyrics,’ which contains 60 poems including the untitled introduction, patriotism has become the dominant theme. It is expressed with admirable openness and sincerity. The collection opens with ‘Our norland’ and closes with the same pride of country in ‘Our own far-north’; the pair enclose poems on Canadian places, historical events, and people.”


In Quebec, literary nationalism was frequently associated with an image of French Canada that was conservative and influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, but some poets, such as Louis FRÉCHETTE, wrote “in the service of radical liberalism.” For the most part, French Canadian literary nationalists operated within and accepted confederation. A conspicuous exception was the journalist and author Jules-Paul TARDIVEL:

“For ten years, from the Riel affair until 1895, Tardivel developed his plan for national autonomy. Eventually, for reasons that had as much to do with the defence of religion as with the growth and prosperity of French Canada, he came to advocate independence. His novel Pour la patrie, published in Montreal in 1895, marked the culmination of this trend in his thought, which subsequently he would merely clarify or make more explicit. For Tardivel, the religious and national solution lay in ‘founding a French Canadian and Catholic state.’”


The musician and composer Ernest GAGNON was interested in music as it related, in particular, to French Canada’s past:

“Gagnon is perhaps best remembered for his collection of folk-songs, Chansons populaires du Canada, published serially in Le Foyer canadien (Québec) from 1865 to 1867, and in 1880 in a second edition, which was reprinted at least 13 times by the 1950s. Chansons populaires contains complete renditions (text and music) of just over 100 songs. This repertory includes some songs which Gagnon notated in the field and others which he added because of their pervasiveness in the song tradition of the day.… In its historical context the collection was part of the drive to affirm the notion of a French Canadian identity by uncovering the past – for Gagnon, as for many French Canadians, folk-song was an integral and unique aspect of that past.”


The poet Emily Pauline JOHNSON drew on her native heritage for inspiration:

“[She] toured Canada from coast to coast, as well as parts of the United States.… Her second collection, Canadian born (Toronto), appeared in 1903. Reflecting Canadian experience more generally and embodying the patriotic sentiments typical of the era of the South African War, it proved less successful than the earlier volume, with its emphasis on native subjects and experience, had been. In fact, Johnson’s poetry is more wide-ranging and exploratory than the traditional focus on her lyrics of landscape and native life might suggest. Some of her poems celebrate the country’s recreational north (as in ‘Under canvas’ and ‘The camper’), others reflect the intense nationalism and idealism of Edwardian Canada (such as ‘Canadian born’ or ‘Prairie greyhounds’) or explore Christian themes (‘Brier’ and ‘Christmastide’), and still others are light or comic in tone (for example, ‘Canada (acrostic)’ and ‘A toast’). Together these themes suggest a broader and more engaged sensibility than that usually attributed to her.”


For more information on the relationship between literature, music, and national identities, please consult the following biographies.

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