Bibliotheca Canadensis; Or, a Manual of Canadian Literature
By G. E. Desbarats.. Ottawa:
IT is easy to see the great industry that goes to tire completion of such a work as this, and all who, from taste or necessity, have to do with bibliography, must feel their indebtedness to Mr. Morgan. It has evidently been a labor of love and of patriotism with him; and while it has made him acquainted with more worthless books, probably, than were known even to the not wisely but too well read friend of Charles Lamb, it is a real service rendered to literature. The contributions to the material of local and provincial history, from both French and English sources, form a very large portion of the works and authors cited ; and herein the manual of Canadian literature is of very obvious use. As to the multitude of sermons, pamphlets, poems, and novels, likewise carefully remembered, their record here can at least serve as a monument of untiring perseverance in our colonial neighbors, and as proof of that desire for something original and authentic in literature which goes before — often a long while before—a national literature. Looking over the titles of the poems and romances, and glancing at the criticisms on them, an American beholds the image of his own Republic of Letters as it was thirty or forty years ago. A celebration, at any cost, of Canadian scenes and incidents is praised as the promise of a Canadian literature ; and those people over the St. Lawrence and the great lakes appear still guileless enough to believe that a national literature is to be coaxed into existence and nursed into prosperity.
Mr. Morgan’s method in his work is much the same as Mr. Allibone’s in his famous Dictionary of Authors. Each writer’s name is given, with a brief biographical statement, where the leading facts of his life are known, and then the titles of his works are cited, with criticism from the best authorities, and generally without comment where quotable criticism is wanting. The French authors stand in about the proportion of one to eight of the English, and they treat commonly of historical and scientific topics, while their Anglo-Saxon fellow - colonists are the novelists, poets, and preachers. Of literary clergymen, there is indeed an extraordinary number mentioned, and the names of many writing officers of the British service go to swell the lists of Canadian authorship. From the prevailing obscurity and oblivion, such a name as John Foster Kirke’s shines out with remarkable effect; there are others, like Haliburton’s, which are also familiar, though scarcely of the unfading kind.