'I Am a Gleaner': Catharine Parr Traill and Forest Gleanings

By Floyd, Janet | British Journal of Canadian Studies, May 2004 | Go to article overview

'I Am a Gleaner': Catharine Parr Traill and Forest Gleanings


Floyd, Janet, British Journal of Canadian Studies


"I am a gleaner," replied the Doctor, "and in my path through life I have gathered up things both new and old. Among the chaff, no doubt, may be found a few grains worthy of being hoarded up."

The collection of tales and sketches that Catharine Parr Traill published in the Anglo-American Magazine as Forest Gleanings (1852- 53) remains the most obscure body of writing within Traill's mature oeuvre. A few of the pieces have appeared in anthologies, and Michael Peterman and Carl Ballstadt's Forest and Other Gleanings: The Fugitive Writings of Catharine Parr Traill (1994) includes eight of the twelve sketches alongside other short works. This latter volume produced a scattering of reviews but Forest Gleanings languishes still at the margins of the consideration of the work of Traill and her Anglo-Canadian contemporaries.1 This article is a reconsideration of the series and an attempt to reinterpret the significance of what has been artistically gleaned and critically discarded for the understanding of Traill's work and of Anglo- Canadian emigrant woman's writing in general. Indeed I want to suggest that the process and the outcomes of gleaning may provide a useful framework within which to understand the ways in which emigrant experience may be written and represented.

The reasons for the series' neglect are not difficult to understand. Even its status as a discrete work is less than secure: only seven of the pieces appeared for the first time in the Toronto-based Anglo-American; the rest had already been published miscellaneously in Sharpe's London Journal between 1848 and 1852. In its appearance as a series, the Gleanings remained incomplete: the last piece to appear, 'The Lodge in the Wilderness', was the first part of a narrative that was left without a concluding instalment. Nor, it seems, were these pieces the only collection Traill named 'Forest Gleanings'. She first used the title in 1838 for a manuscript submitted as a sequel to her successful narrative of emigrant life, The Backwoods of Canada (1836); no publisher was found and the pieces in that collection were sold to various magazines.2 It would appear, then, that the Forest Gleanings of 1852-53 were gleanings indeed: the scraps and left-overs gathered up after the first and best harvesting of writerly experience; fragments recycled in search of much-needed cash. And indeed this sense of the series is close to Peterman and Ballstadt's suggestion that the short works of Traill which have slipped from our notice - hence 'fugitive' - are the output of a writer on the colonial margins and engaged in a desperate attempt to make money.

Traill was without doubt in a difficult position as a writer and also influenced in her output by the need for cash. However, her own comments about gleaning and being a gleaner suggest that we might use the term to develop other constructions of the meaning and significance of Forest Gleanings. As Rupert Schieder (1986) points out, 'gleaning' was one of Traill's favourite words (xiv). She used it, as did many Romantic and early Victorian writers, to describe both the fruits of careful observation of small things, and the process of reflecting on them.3 Gleaning was a capacious term used to describe works which gathered, in one textual 'bag', miscellaneous fragments of information: for example, travel accounts or informal autobiography or advice for the young. But if this was a label for informal and unpretentious artistic activity, gleaning was not a term that suggested a merely casual spontaneity. As one provincial British writer of gleanings, a Mr Pratt, put it:

[I]t behoves a Gleaner to be diligent and not to hurry over his ground, like those who come to a full crop whom abundance makes careless. (Gleanings through Wales, Holland and Westphalia 1802: 7)

Here was a work evoking a literary activity consistent with the self-positioning of a writer of marginal, even meagre status, within the culture; gleanings were, after all, what the 'good farmer permits the poor to collect' ('A Lady' 1815). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'I Am a Gleaner': Catharine Parr Traill and Forest Gleanings
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.