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Penguin Black Classics:The Backwoods of Canada

by Catharine Parr Traill
foreword by Camilla Gibb

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list price: $26
published: 2006

Catharine Parr Traill’s The Backwoods of Canada, first published in 1836, gives an intimate and vivid picture of life in the bush country of Upper Canada. The series of letters that make up the book cover a period of two and half years. Though most were originally written to her mother, the letters were later compiled and published for an intended audience of future female emigrants.

Traill’s account of life in the New World is cheerful and buoyant despite the hardships she relays—from the three-month journey to Upper Canada by ship to settling in the bush near Peterborough, Ontario. The letters offer remarkable insight into the skills a well-suited woman might be expected to learn, but the lasting appeal of her work is due to her astute observations of changing notions of class and economy, which reached well beyond her stated audience.

Traill typified a new type of woman—the pioneer—and contributed much to an emerging understanding of Canada and Canadian identity.

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About the Authors

Catharine Parr Traill

As one of the first voices to write from the wilds of newly-settled Canada, Catharine Parr Traill’s books continue to be considered important sources of early Canadian history. In particular, The Backwoods of Canada, first published in 1836, details the everyday life of Canada’s founding communities. Together with her sister, Susannah Moodie (who penned the equally historically significant Roughing it in the Bush), Traill became an important resource for settlers arriving in Canada during the nineteenth century. Continuing to write and publish well into her nineties, Catherine Parr Traill is celebrated as one of the first authors in Canadian literary history. She died in 1899 at the age of 97.

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Camilla Gibb

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