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La Rivière Magog par Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, 1913 (Ontario Art Collection)


Trente Arpents (Thirty Acres)

I am forwarding links leading to a discussion of a novel entitled Trente arpents (Thirty Acres). Ringuet’s Trente arpents was published in 1938, at the very end of the period of French-Canadian literary history labelled “régionaliste.” (See Philippe Panneton, Wikipedia). Unlike earlier régionaliste literature, Trente arpents is characterized by its realism. A farmer, prosperous in his youth, “gives himself” (his land) to one of his sons. Everything goes wrong. This novel reflects the difficulties habitants faced when they had to divide the ancestral thirty acres among sons. It is also an excellent depiction of an habitant’s family

One presumes Euchariste Moisan, an habitant, owns his thirty acres. When the Seigneurial system was abolished, in 1854, “habitants” who could purchase the thirty acres they had farmed since the beginning of the 17th century. Those who couldn’t buy had to pay a rente for the rest of their life, as though they still had a seigneur. As noted in an earlier post, the rente was a form of debt bondage which ended in 1935, when Alexandre Taschereau was Premier of Quebec. Whenever the priest arrived at their door, these “habitants” no longer wanted to pay thite (la dîme). Trente arpents was published in 1938. At that time, the United States and the world were nearing the end of the Great Depression and migration was less frequent. It should be noted that the exodus started at the time of the Rebellions of 1837-1838. It endured. Trente arpents was discussed in two parts.

Forthcoming: John Neilson on Canadiens, and the potatoe famine

Alexis de Tocqueville’s inverviewed John Neilson, a bilingual polititian in Lower Canada. I have translated this interview. In 1831, John Neilson, Scottish, praised Canadiens and looked upon French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians as compatible. The interview took place six years before the Rebellions of 1837-1838. The French had friends. Among them were the Irish who had fled their country because of the potatoe famine. When they arrived in Quebec, they were very sick, which caused a cholera epidemic. Canadiens had survived various blows and survived again. In fact, Canadiens bonded with the Irish, many of whom went to work in factories but were never promoted. So, we know why the music of Ireland and Scotland exerted a great deal of influence on Québécois music. We also know why my grandfather, on my father’s side, had an Irish mother.


To a very large extent, Quebec entered Confederation because Confederation pleased Quebec’s bourgeoisie, French and English, as well as the Clergy. The Clergy feared dissention. My source is Denis Monière‘s Développement des idéologies au Québec[1] and the sources he quotes. For a very long time, the bourgeoisie, including Quebec’s bourgeoisie and the Château Clique, attempted to minoritize and assimilate French-speaking Canadians. The Clergy sided with the British. The Clergy was in favour of confederation. Moreover, several Englishmen and United Empire Loyalists, who were given the Eastern Townships, les Cantons de l’Est, now l’Estrie, wished to absorb French-speaking Canadiens. The Townships were home to Abenaki Amerindians. I have Amerindian ancestry.

French-Canadian literature is a subject I taught for several years. In 2001, I gave a lecture on La Patrie littéraire at the University of Stuttgart. As you know, I had huge workloads, so many subject-matters. A mission impossible is the only accurate description of the tasks expected of me when I taught at McMaster University. Yet I was elected to the presidency of the Canadian Association of University and College Teachers of French, l’Apfucc and to the Fédération des Études humaines, and to its Executive. But let us call these years an epiphany.

The image above shows la Rivière Magog. It crosses la rivière Saint-François in Sherbrooke.

The Magog River and the Saint-François River

We may have seen the video I have embedded. It tells a story.


[1] (Montréal: Québec/Amérique, 1977)


Love to everyone 💕

Music video of “A la claire fontaine” (By the clear fountain/spring) performed by Vancouver choir musica intima, arrangement by Stephen Smith. My own urban re-interpretation of the traditional French folk song.

Director/producer: Nigel Hunt. DOP: Terry Zazulak, Editor: Brian Nemett. Actors: Jerry Prager, Sigrid Johnson. Funding: Bravo!FACT. Video copyright: Garrison Creek Productons, 2000.
Allégorie de l’automne par Suzor-Coté (paperblog.fr)

© Micheline Walker
10 May 2021