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Ewing, Juliana Horatia.

Edited by Margaret Howard Blom and Thomas E. Blom. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, c1983. 425pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7748-0174-3. CIP

Reviewed by Catherine R. Cox

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

Juliana Horatia (Gatty) Ewing (1841-1885) came to Fredericton in June 1867 as the bride of a military officer attached to the garrison. They stayed there until the last of the British troops were withdrawn in the spring of 1869. Juliana Horatia Ewing (JHE) was a noted children's writer of the late nineteenth century (Lob Lie by the Fire (1873) and Daddy Darwin's Dovecote (1874)). Her letters home are fine vehicles for her descriptive and narrative talents. Her interests are botanical, cultural and personal, but not political. She writes home about the summer heat, the autumn colours, the winter cold and snow and ice, and the spring mayflowers. She tells her family about housing, servant and mail problems. She describes local sports such as tobogganing, coasting, snow-shoeing, canoeing and sleigh-riding. These she finds exhilarating, though at times a bit too alarming for her nervous constitution. She also describes her ball gowns, hats, knickerbockers and other apparel.

JHE's descriptions of local figures whom we know from history books add interest. Whenever studying New Brunswick artistic and cultural history, one is intrigued by the influential Rev. John Medley, first bishop of the New Brunswick see and patron of the Gothic revival cathedral in Fredericton. JHE describes her friend Bishop Medley as "very clever. . .intellectual. . .fond of music. . .a fluent Hebrew scholar and. . . one of the ablest preachers I have ever heard." Mrs. Medley was a lady of spirit who thoroughly enjoyed ice skating. She was "a motherly friend, a gardener & a botanist. . .generally clever - & well educated." These two figure in the letters throughout JHE's stay.

Some other members of New Brunswick's historical elite also appear in her letters. Charles Fisher, reformer and advocate of responsible government, was a delegate to the Quebec and London Conferences and a judge of the Supreme Court in New Brunswick in 1868. JHE knew him socially, and in addition she follows with relish the Brennan murder trial, over which he presided.

Lemuel Allan Wilmot also came under JHE's scrutiny. In 1868, he was the newly appointed Lieutenant Governor, the first native-born New Brunswicker and the first non-conformist to hold that office. He replaced the interim Lieutenant Governor General Doyle, whom JHE met when she first arrived. It is amusing to read her account of the British community's horror at the impending appointment of "a local man. . .of low birth. . .a Wesleyan and very bigoted. . .undependable. . .narrow." After she meets Wilmot and his family, she describes him as "plebeian" and "neither literary nor artistic." She never fails to mention his religious leanings, and refers to "Wesleyan entertainments" that did not include dancing but did run to "non-conformist fireworks."

Margaret Howard Blom and Thomas Blom, associate professors at the University of British Columbia, are responsible for editing, compiling, indexing and annotating these letters for publication. They include a full introduction and detailed notes that identify and explain characters and events that appear in JHE's letters. The index gives easy access to details of furnishings, gardening, housekeeping, servants, theatricals, social activities and the like, in addition to the people she mentions. JHE's sketches are included as well as some photographs of the Ewings and of Fredericton in the 1860s.

This social history would serve well as a companion volume to political histories like W.S. MacNutt's New Brunswick: A History* in any library collection. It would be a boon to the local historian and scholar but a trial for the casual high school student. It is a prime resource for the student of children's writers or the history teacher. Recommended for university and public libraries.

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

*Reviewed vol XIII/1 January 1985 p. 23.

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