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Cameron of Locheil by H. C. Edwards (EBook#53154)
Manoir de Philippe Aubert de Gaspé à Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Patrimoine culturel du Québec)

Les Anciens Canadiens (ebooksgratuits.com). FR
Cameron of Lochiel (Archive.org ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN

Last weekend, I worked on Philippe-Joseph Aubert de Gaspé‘s Anciens Canadiens. The novel can be read online. It was translated twice by Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, an excellent Canadian writer, but Mr Roberts’s second and finer translation, published in 1905, is entitled Cameron of Lochiel [EN]. I had never looked for a translation of Les Anciens Canadiens [1] and this English title intrigued me. Upon due reflexion, the title Sir Roberts gave Les Anciens Canadiens seemed altogether legitimate. As the events of the Anciens Canadiens unfold, Jules d’Haberville becomes Cameron of Lochiel. Scotland fell to England at the Battle of Culloden (1746), which is discussed in Les Anciens Canadiens. As for New France, it will also fall to England, but it will have a glorious past.

After our friends complete their studies, Jules joins the French army and Arché, the British army. Archie serves in North America during the Seven Years’ War, called the French and Indian War. Ironically and tragically, Arché, a soldier, is ordered to set ablaze his friends’ manoir. Nouvelle-France is conquered by the British. Therefore, the defeat of Nouvelle-France mirrors the defeat of Scotland, a more important country, and, by the same token, it puts Jules and Arché / Archie on an equal footing. They are the two sides of the same coin. So, metaphorically, Jules has become Cameron of Lochiel. His country has been defeated and, despite the role Arché / Archie plays during the war, the friends are reunited. In 1759, the French in Canada fell to England as did the Scots, in 1746.

After the “conquest,” Blanche d’Haberville will not marry Roberts’s Cameron of Lochiel, whom she loves, but Jules will marry an Englishwoman, thereby giving himself a second and redeeming identity, an instance of the collaborator’s ideology. He is the conquered and the conqueror. As for Aubert de Gaspé, the author and a Seigneur, he will use Arché’s guided tour of a Seigneurie to consign New France to a réel absolu, that of fiction, the life and customs of anciens Canadiens. Jules familiarizes Arché with the life of a Seigneur and that of the inhabitants of a seigneurie, not to mention the life of New France’s humbler subjects and its Amerindians.

Missing are New France’s voyageurs, river drivers (draveurs), and bûcherons. Their life and their songs are chronicled elsewhere. Les Anciens Canadiens nevertheless memorializes and mythologizes the presence of the French in North America. France will live forever on the shores of the St Lawrence River because it is remembered, an anamnesis.

La Patrie littéraire

When John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham wrote his Report on the Rebellions of 1837-1838, he described the French in Canada as a people lacking a history and a literature: un peuple sans histoire ni littérature. The French set about proving him wrong. Two literary schools were instituted, one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. The people of New France quickly built a patrie littéraire,[2] a literary homeland.  

Our colleague Derrick J. Knight was correct in suggesting a link between the Scots and the French in Canada. Matters would change when Confederation occurred. However, the spirit of the Auld Alliance would persist. Our Scottish explorers worked at an early point after the Conquest of Canada, formalized by the Treaty of Paris,1763. The Battle of Culloden took place less than two decades before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, fought on 13 September 1759.

Canada’s bon Anglais is Scottish, he is both John Neilson and Cameron of Locheill. John Neilson stated that there could be a blend, un amalgame, of the two “races” in Canada, the French-speaking race, and the English-speaking race: the two sides of the same coin. There was an amalgame. Simon Fraser left Montreal accompanied by 19 voyageurs and 2 Amerindians. Explorers were guided by voyageurs and Amerindians whom they trusted.

Patriotism, devotion to the French-Canadian nationality, a just pride of race, and a loving memory for his people’s romantic and heroic past—these are the dominant chords which are struck throughout the story. Of special significance, therefore, are the words which are put in the mouth of the old seigneur as he bids his son a last farewell. The father has been almost ruined by the conquest. The son has left the French army and taken the oath of allegiance to the English crown. “Serve thy new sovereign,” says the dying soldier, “as faithfully as I have served the King of France; and may God bless thee, my dear son!”
Sir Charles G. D. Roberts’s Cameron of Lochiel (Preface)

An incident in the rebellion of 1745David Morier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Montcalm blessé à la bataille des plaines d’Abraham et ramené à Québec (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sources and Resources

[1] There are four: The Canadians of Old, Georgina Pennée (1864); Charles G. D. Roberts (1890), and Jane Brierley (1997). There are anonymous translations.
[2] Bourbeau-Walker, M. (2002). La patrie littéraire : errance et résistance.
Francophonies d’Amérique,(13), 47–65. https://doi.org/10.7202/1005247ar

Love to everyone 💕

Philippe Aubert de Gaspé (1786-1871)
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

© Micheline Walker
9 Juin 2021