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Graham, Harry.

Toronto, Methuen, c1984. 182pp,cloth, $19.95,ISBNO-458-98240-7. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

Across Canada to the Klondyke should have considerable appeal to the collector of Canadiana. It is an account, in journal form, of a ten-thousand-mile journey across the prairie provinces and through British Columbia to Dawson by Governor General Lord Minto and his entourage. The author was the Governor General's aide-de-camp in 1900, and he playfully used the pseudonym Col. D. Streamer to hint at his old regiment, the Coldstream Guards. Throughout his idiosyncratic account, Graham keeps a sharp eye on the others in the official party, and he regularly enlivens entries with whimsical remarks about their failings. Lady Minto seems to have been an especial favourite; she had spirit aplenty, and even savoured the Rockies from the train's cowcatcher. Following his stint in Canada, "H.G." became a successful writer in Britain of prose, nonsense verse, theatrical librettos and song lyrics. Unsparing in its wry, tongue-in-cheek humour, Graham's work has the lustre of truth. He is struck by the "dead level of invariable monotony" (the prairie provinces), the "mountain-goat like pests" (the mosquitoes), the "wonderful big trees" (British Columbia toothpicks) of the west coast and the rigours of the Yukon River.

From start to finish, the trip took eighty-eight days. An appendix gives the mileage of each segment. Unfortunately, charts of the journey are on such a small scale that they are extremely hard to decipher, and the black-and-white photos are often uncaptioned so that, although they are generally located to follow the prose, the casual viewer would have no way of knowing who or what was shown. There is an exhaustive bibliography of geographical sources for historians, in addition to a reference bibliography. As well, the book has an entertaining introduction by Frances Bowles, together with a smattering of serious and irreverent poetry by H.G.

The journal frequently gives evidence of the curiosity of the writer. One example is the dog team driver's command words: "Mush On!" This exhortation Graham found to be an arctic corruption of the French, "marchons." Another section deals with the processing and canning of salmon at the Alert Bay cannery. Later, the group visited an Indian longhouse (H.G.'s "habitation of the noble Red Men"), where the author viewed the day's entree, "seal head a la axle grease." Lest it be thought that Graham patronized the natives, it should be mentioned that he looked with just as penetrating an eye at the missionary do-gooders. Altogether, this refreshing book will delight readers who like their history with a dollop of wit.

Adele Case, Britannia S.S., Vancouver, B.C.
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