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There was something extremely sublime in the whole scene: had a Milton beheld it, he certainly would have given it a place in his writings, clothed with all that fine imagery and lofty diction his wonderful genius could so well bestow.
I perceive my letter is of great length: how can it be otherwise, in talking of the largest river, the largest animals, and amongst the largest mountains in the world? Every thing around me is on the grand scale. Let us have a little respite, however. I dare say you think it is high
River St. Lawrence, off Cape Chat,
WE have been beating up against a contrary wind since yesterday, and have, in tacking, had an opportunity of approaching both sides of this immense river. The appearance of the country is very different indeed from any thing you can see in Europe. The whole, to the very edge of the water, is one continued forest. The trees, however, appearing scraggy and dwarfish, present a most desert and melancholy aspect, without the least appearance of the country being the residence of human beings.
Probably it looks pretty much the same now that it did to Jaques Cartier, when, in the year 1535, he sailed up the river St. Lawrence, and discovered Canada. The `river had its name from his having entered it on St. Lawrence's day. The etymology of the word Canada, or why the country
received this name, are equally unknown. I have heard a definition, which is more whimsical, perhaps, than true. It is said that the Spaniards had visited the country before the French did; but finding it very barren, and without gold, the grand object of their pursuit, they frequently, on the eve of their departure, mentioned in the presence of the Indians, "aca nada," signifying, here is nothing. When the French visited the country, the Indians, in hopes of getting rid of them, and supposing them Spaniards, repeated frequently aca nada, which the French, not understanding, thought, might be the name of the country; hence they called it Canada. You may take this definition till you can find a better.
To-day we have passed the isle of Bique, and we see some signs of an inhabited country. The face of the heavens appears quite darkened with smoke, arising from the burning of the woods, which is the method taken in this part of the world to clear and prepare the land for cultivation. We see the forest burning at a great distance, and in a variety of situ
ations. One cannot help regretting this. apparent waste of timber; but the fact is, there is yet as much timber to be found in situations from which it can be easily transported to the river, as the market requires; besides, the greater part of the timber we see burning is of an inferior quality, and would not be worth the expence of transportation.
When the underwood is thick, which is generally the case where the trees are of an inferior size and quality, the blaze of the burning forest is awful. It continues to burn for weeks together, and you see here and there, amongst the half consumed ordinary sized trees, the trunks of very large trees, scorched black to the very top. The fire lays waste every thing before it for many miles beyond what those who first kindled it, intended, or could cultivate; and you see a new forest grown up in many places, while the old charred trunks of lofty trees still remain nearly the same as when first burnt; for it is the quality of charcoal to preserve what it surrounds from corruption.
A few huts appear here and there on the
shore. Their mutual wants and mutual defence induce the settlers to draw near each
other. We have here the very rudiments of civil society. The inhabitants of these huts are Canadians; they have few wants which their own industry and ingenuity cannot supply; they are their own architects, carpenters, shoemakers, and taylors; and except for their hatchets, and a few simple tools, they are very little dependant on foreign assistance.
We have received a visit from some Indians; they came off to us in a birch canoe, on purpose to dispose of some fish they had caught. We took them on board, and as they were the first Indians I had ever seen, they excited my curiosity not a little. Poor, miserable looking creatures they certainly were; feeble and diminutive in form, they gave us a very disadvantageous idea of their countrymen. It is hardly fair, however, to judge of a people from the appearance of a few fishermen; at the same time, we ought to recollect that the Indians are all fishermen and hunters, and that therefore those we saw are more likely to be a fair sample of the