Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The History of Emily Montague

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The History of Emily Montague

Article excerpt

Frances Brooke, The History of Emily Montague, ed. by Laura Moss. Canadian Critical Edition (Ottawa: Tecumseh Press, 2001), xiii + 500pp. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 1-8961-3329-0.

Frances Brooke holds a noteworthy position in the early history of the novel, and enjoyed a varied career as a journalist, playwright, translator, and novelist. Her second self-penned novel, The History of Emily Montague (1769) draws on Brooke's experiences of Canada, where she joined her husband, who was serving as chaplain to the British army garrisoned in Quebec. Brooke's residence there (during 1763 and 1765-8) provided enough material for her to prepare what has been claimed as the 'first' Canadian novel. The novel employs the typical eighteenth-century plot-motif of paired lovers thwarted by social convention, but remains remarkable for its sustained blending of sentimental melodrama with realistic travelogue. In an intriguing and often contradictory combination (at least, to modern readers), Brooke oscillates between persuasive feminist argument (mainly through the voice of the novel's coquette) and colonialist xenophobia (in her accounts of the habits of the Native American nations).

The version under review forms part of Tecumseh's Canadian Critical Editions series, whose aim is to provide authoritative texts of key works of Canadian literature: other notable titles in the series include John Richardson's Wacousta (1832) and Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush (1852). Laura Moss's edition is based on the first edition, collated against the 1985 Scholarly Edition issued by The Centre for Early Canadian Texts. The Tecumseh edition is fairly robust, and the editorial principles have been clearly laid out in the Editor's Preface: the text has been standardised throughout, and errors in the base text have been corrected systematically and logically. Nevertheless, there are a number of minor typographical slips that should really have been caught early in the proofing stage; additionally, there are more egregious errors in some of the critical material supplied: for instance, we are told that one of Brooke's more subversive characters is notable for her 'flaunting of conventional wisdom' (p. …

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