IN THE PERIOD CENTRING on the turn of the century --say from about 1890 to 1910--Canada passed through the earlier stages of adolescence and reached the later. That prewar generation was one in which everybody in the country, from the oldest man to the youngest infant, was growing up. The essence of provincialism, to refer to Howells' words again, is having your centre of reference elsewhere. By the outbreak of the First World War, Canadians had made some progress in transferring their centre of reference to their own country. They were in about the same position as the youth who, slowly realizing himself, begins to fear--and hope--that a dark shade may be coming over his upper lip.
In the attempt to make a picture of this period, the reader's imagination must see a large map steadily unfolding. Whereas once upon a time to talk to a Canadian about 'the Red River of the North' would have been much like talking to him of the Zambesi, now in this period that straddled the centuries, men would say "Oh, yes, a neighbour of mine has gone out there to take up land." To Edward Blake in the eighteen-eighties, the Pacific coast was as remote as Tibet but by the turn of the century it had become that part of Canada where winters were mild and in which somebody in town had just decided to have a fling at fruit farming. The imaginative leap required is tremendous. The men of the forming generation--the 'Fathers of Confederation'--had not been able to adjust their eyesight quickly enough to the new scene that their efforts had brought into being and the unfortunate results had been the two armed disturbances of 1870 and 1885. But now, with the turn of the century, all that was passing away and a vast new Canada was rising. Provincial minds were being forced to become national, and in this stretching those who made a move had a natural advantage over those who stayed at home. From Toronto, only Toronto was to be seen (with a glimpse of New York), but from Winnipeg, one could see both Montreal and Vancouver.