The Evolution of French Canada

By Jean Charlemagne Bracq | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
FRENCH CANADIAN LITERATURE

IT is difficult to fix a date for the birth of French Canadian literature, a bond of continuity, or a correlation of growth uniting every part to the whole. It is amazing that this people, with their colonial disabilities, should have produced so much that has real value, though their literature is a concomitant of their life rather than its expression. For a long time, few in number, absorbed as they were by the tragedies of their history, what time had they to write? All along, the supreme problem for them was not to create literature or art, but to live. At the Cession they lost the best elements of a possible literary class. For nearly a century they were cut off, by England, from the books of France, and the French Revolution detached them from all interest in the writers of the old home land. Even news came to them through translations of English papers.1 It is of more moment that they lacked popular education and ideas.2 They never had printing presses under French rule. Later, the first books were alphabets, catechisms, the prayer-book of the Jesuit Labrosse, a book of travels by Chevalier Lacorne de St. Luc, and books by their able jurist, Cugnet.3 Creative literary gifts of a popular character were not lacking even among the peasantry. M. de Gaspé speaks of an unlettered poet moving the people to tears by his complaintes.4

____________________
1
R. A. Benoit, Le Canada français, May, 1922, p. 253.
2
Abbé C. Roy, Nouveaux Essais sur la littérature canadienne, p. 284.
3
Bibaud, Tableau historique, p. 33.
4
Les anciens Canadiens, p. 65.

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