L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia
Professeur à l'Université Laval,
[For the full citation see the end of the text]
We are happy to present to readers the Récit and Chronique of French Canada by Dr. Charles Frederick Ward, professor at the University of Iowa . These pages which we have perused with lively interest contain very clear analyses, judicious observations, a sort of general picture of one of the most living chapters in the history of French Canadian literature.
We thank Mr. Ward for having had the generous thought of making known to the English speaking public of Canada and the United States our French Canadian literature. We know that a too high barrier separates the intellectual life of the two races which dominate Canada . Doubtless the two literatures English and French ought to develop according to the genius peculiar to each one of the races the thought and life of which they express, but it would be desirable that cultivated minds in both peoples of this country should know better the numerous works written both in English and in French which are published each year and which represent the higher and deeper of the two principal elements of our population.
At the time when by so many efforts it is being sought for to bring these two elements together, to make known to each other and to make penetrate each other these two mentalities, the work of Mr. Ward will contribute in great measure to assure the success of these praiseworthy attempts.
Mr. Ward could not have chosen a better subject to make English speaking readers acquainted with the soul of French Canada. The chroniques , the contes , the légendes , are the habitual and intimate expression of the thought of a people. History has undoubtedly, in a sense, more importance : it relates the events which constitute the essential texture of national life. But, beneath la grande histoire , there is la petite . And this latter is composed precisely of all those little facts, of all those popular sentiments, of all those récits , of all those légendes , in which is marvellously reflected a life more intimate, occasionally more profound, which is the very life of the people, which is the free expression of the soul of the race. La grande histoire is made on the summits, in the light of the peaks, to which at certain hours the national life ascends; la petite , is made at the bottom of the valleys, where the picturesque villages are hidden, by the intimate hearths of families, in the discrete light in which the scenes of popular life are unrolled and nowhere does one find more exactly than in the homes of the people the realization of the thoughts and aspirations of a race.
Professor Ward has, therefore, been well inspired when he thought of analyzing for the English speaking public the récits and chroniques of French Canadian literature.
After having made known in a good introduction the larger outlines of the history of our French Canadian literature, the obstacles which long prevented its expansion, the general spirit which animates its works, he follows in each period of this history the development of the genre , which he is studying and analyzing. From the abbé Casgrain, who wrote our first légendes to our most recent chroniqueurs , he gives to each author the place which is befitting to him in the history of the genre , and he accompanies his analyses with appreciations, which have seemed to us, in general, very judicious.
The names of Casgrain, of Taché, of Buies, of Faucher de Saint-Maurice, of Fabre, of Legendre, of Ernest Gagnon, of Routhier, to speak only of the dead, will remain among the most representative of the literary genre , the development of which in Canada had been studied in this book.
We wish the best success for Mr. Ward's work. We dare to hope that it is the first of a series in which one will see studied successively all the literary genres , which have developed in French-Canada. Mr: Ward will have accomplished a work both artistic and patriotic in composing by sections a tableau général of our literary life.
Already, he deserves for this first essay the encouragement of the public and particularly the gratitude of my French-Canadian compatriots.
Source: Camille Roy, "Introductory Preface", in Charles Frederick WARD, The Récit and Chronique of French Canada , Montreal , Librairie G. Ducharme, 1921, 44p., pp. 5-6.
© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College