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Moorsom, William Scarth.

Edited by Marjory Whitelaw. Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1986. 152pp, cloth, $25.00, ISBN 0-88750-627-5.

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Catherine Cox

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

This book is an anthology of excerpts from letters that give various travellers' impressions of Nova Scotia between 1749 and 1856. In her introduction, Marjorie Whitelaw gives a sketchy history of the period and proceeds to comment on the writers included in the collection. Actually, only a smattering of material comes from John MacGregor, Lieutenant Coke, Sir George Head, William Dyott, Lord Dalhousie, Isabella Lucy Bird, Boston King, William Cobbett, T.C. Haliburton, and John James Audubon, who are represented mostly by one excerpt each. Most of the letters come from Captain William Scarth Moorsom's Letters from Nova Scotia published in London in 1830.

Moorsom travelled all around the colony, missing Cape Breton, and his accounts of conditions provide an entertaining view of the life of a traveller, the roads, inns, and people in Nova Scotia at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It appears that Whitelaw included the other diarists or letter-writers only to balance the collection. Therefore, we get the token woman and black, and somebody to describe Cape Breton. The excerpt from Sam Slick appears incongruous.

The introductory notes in italics before each excerpt are sometimes rather confusing, leaving the reader unclear as to who the next writer is. Headings or footnotes would have helped. There are some notes at the back of the book and a small bibliography, but no index or table of contents, so this is not a book to be used for retrieval of information. It does contain some good primary sources and descriptions of such events as the Loyalist founding and desertion of Shelburne, which might be useful to the teacher or researcher. There are no illustrations, but the production is excellent and an example of Oberon's high standards.

The material needs a Thomas Raddall to make it into a story like At the Tides Turn (McClelland and Stewart, 1959). which was based on a diarist's account of privateering on Nova Scotia's South Shore during the American Revolution. Then it would be great fun to read. As it stands, the collection is esoteric and will appeal principally to those interested in the subject or familiar with Whitelaw's other work.

For school situations the book needs an index. Recommended for public libraries and others where the curriculum warrants.

Catherine Cox, Moncton H.S., Moncton, N.B.
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