LETTERS FROM A YOUNG EMIGRANT IN MANITOBA
Volume 10 Number 4.
Originally published anonymously in 1883, the current edition of this little book has been given a comprehensive introduction by Ronald Wells that attempts to set the original publication in context with similar accounts of the time. The letters, which occupy 109 pages, were written between October 1880 and September 1882 and illustrate the young author's original introduction to farming in Ontario and subsequent settlement in southwestern Manitoba.
As the editor remarks "ffolkes is interesting because his letters are among the best examples of the genre of emigration literature," which he characterizes as frequently of greater importance than the pamphlets of government agencies and railways (which had vested interests) or the "light" books of holiday travellers. Certainly, ffolkes's is remarkably vivid in describing the day-to-day hazards of prairie summers (the mosquitoes, horseflies, searing heat) and winters (frostbite, bitter cold, and isolation). Such a piling on of detail gives the reader a remarkable impression of what it must have been like to be on one's own in a strange land and doing work for which one was barely trained. The fact that the author was scarcely twenty when his account ends should provide additional interest to readers close to his own age. More than the details of physical discomforts, however, the recurring account of the necessity of money reveals one of the most real problems in prairie settlement.
The book is well bound and printed, although the end-papers—an 1882 map of Manitoba post offices—are unfortunately almost illegible. The letters reveal a young man concerned with the practicalities of homesteading, frequently lonely, and worried about what the future holds. They should be of particular interest to older high school students who would benefit from the human dimension added to the bare facts of western settlement in the 1880s.
Patrick Wright, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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