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Champlain: A Short Story of the Founding of Quebec, Annie Robertson (MacFarlane) Logan

Annie Robertson Logan

Annie Robertson (MacFarlane) Logan was born on 9 March 1851 in Saint John, New Brunswick, to Mary Ann (Cameron) and James MacFarlane, a Scottish immigrant who ran a business in town (Canada’s Early Women Writers; “Death of an Old Resident” 3). Two of her three brothers, William Stuart and Wallace, attended the University of New Brunswick and Harvard before moving to New York along with their other brother Ewan (Cusack; “Death” 3). Because of her gender, Logan was not admitted to UNB, and instead went to the Provincial Normal School in Fredericton, where she housed with the Reverend Mr. Brook. Later, Logan moved to New York where she kept house for her brother, Wallace, who was appointed the US District Attorney by his personal friend Theodore Roosevelt. During her stay in New York, she wrote for various periodicals, including Scribner’s Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and most notably for The Nation (as a literary critic). Her only novel, Children of the Earth, was published under her maiden name in 1886. Sometime later, she was sent to Montreal to write a series of sketches on French Canadians for Scribner’s Magazine (“Logan”). There she met John Edward Logan, a poet commonly known as “Barry Dane,” who was instantly “entranced” with her (“Renowned Resident Dies” 11). They married in September 1889 and permanently relocated to Montreal.

In Montreal, Logan continued to write for The Nation. In 1908, she also published her sole work of history—An Account of the Exploration and Discoveries of Samuel de Champlain, and of the Founding of Québec—in celebration of Quebec’s 300th anniversary. The chapbook was published under the name Mrs. J.E. Logan and was dedicated to Governor General Earl Grey. Part of its purchase price (twenty-five cents) was donated to the Quebec Battlefields Fund (Dagg 172).

During her life, Logan held positions of honour in various organizations and social circles. She was the Honorable English Secretary of the Women’s Antiquarian Society, as well as appointed secretary of the Committee of the Ladies of Montreal in 1895 (Morgan, 1898 587). She also hosted the prestigious Pen and Pencil Club and lectured at Montreal’s Women’s Club on “The Significance of Fiction and Other Subjects” (Canada’s Early; Morgan, 1912 662). During both the Roosevelt and Wilson presidencies, she and her husband were frequent guests at the White House, where “her intellectual ability...[and] personal charm” enchanted both President Wilson and his wife (“Renowned” 11). She was also acquainted with many prominent writers in the United States, including Henry James.

With the death of her husband in 1915, Mrs. Logan frequently travelled between Ireland, Bermuda, and her Montreal home. In 1930, she donated eight thousand dollars to the University of New Brunswick in the name of her brother to establish the William Stuart MacFarlane Classics Prize, which is still in existence today. Logan died in Montreal on her 82nd birthday, 9 March 1933.

Logan’s sole novel, Children of the Earth, is a Romantic work that centres on the themes of love and fidelity, set against the backdrop of coastal Nova Scotia. At the heart of the novel is the love triangle between sensitive Vivien Langstreth; her deceased father’s protégé, Ned Brownlow; and the “imperfect,” flirtatious Brooks Eastman, to whom Vivien is engaged. Spanning more than a decade and divided into four sections, the novel is told through both a third-person omniscient narrative and epistolary fragments that provide genuine voice, realism, and a deeper understanding of the characters.

The novel opens with Vivien’s loving relationship with her father, a captain in the navy whose tragic death at sea devastates the fourteen-year-old girl. The second part takes place five years later at the introduction of Brooks Eastman, a suitor for Vivien’s hand, whose charming, unaffected manner contrasts with Vivien’s other love interest—the passionate Ned Brownlow. While Vivien eventually accepts Eastman’s proposal, the unsuitability of her choice is revealed when a crazed, jealous woman who is in love with Eastman attempts to murder Vivien but accidently kills herself. After Eastman dismisses the tragedy as the actions of a madwoman he “made meaningless love to,” Vivien breaks the engagement in a fit of rage akin to a mythological “fury” (MacFarlane 131, 138). In the wake of Eastman’s forced departure, Vivien is accused of murdering the young woman by the surrounding village and its priest, and she subsequently leaves the country for England. The third part of the story picks up half a decade later, with Vivien’s return to North America and her stay with Ned in New York. While Ned makes his own feelings clear, Eastman’s return to the continent brings about a passionate reunion between him and Vivien, even though he is now a married man. As the novel nears its conclusion, however, a misunderstanding between Eastman and Vivien leads her to run home rather than face him. Both Eastman and Ned pursue her, but a shipwreck leads to the predictably tragic demise of Eastman, who dies in Vivien’s arms. At the end of the novel, Vivien decides to burn her family home as a result of the hardship and tragedy wrought beneath its timbers.

Children of the Earth has been called both “clever” and “carefully constructed,” but it has also been dismissed as the sort of story “forgotten” as quickly as it is read (Payne 67). While neither the plot nor its characters are “unique,” Logan’s characters are highlighted again and again by critics as having been “drawn with such decisive strokes” that they drive the novel and its reader forward with their powerful, though overly dramatic, emotions (“Recent Novels” 101). However, as one critic points out, these “intense feelings” place strain upon the reader’s “indulgence” to feel sympathy toward the characters (Payne 67). Despite this, Logan is able to genuinely represent human fragility and immorality with what another critic lauds as a “subtle psychology” (“Children of the Earth” 315).

Sin is one of the most predominant themes in this novel. As the title indicates, the children of Logan’s earth are tempted again and again to fall to their baser passions and emotions. Being the novel’s main character, Vivien is subjected to these temptations, as are Ned and Eastman, who resist and succumb, respectively. Vivien’s decision to leave Eastman at the end of the novel is the ultimate symbol of her resistance to sin, while his death at sea is a consequence of his own sinfulness. In many ways, Eastman’s death is also a symbol of God’s wrath against Vivien, as it echoes the death of Vivien’s father, who loved and indulged his daughter more than the town of Farquhard thought proper (MacFarlane 17).

As a Romantic work, Children of the Earth celebrates the emotions and aesthetics of love in an elemental setting. Although the novel doesn’t rejoice in the sublimity of nature like many Romantic works do, Children of the Earth uses paranormal motifs as metaphors that allude to the popular literary genre of the period. In spite of these generic conventions, the novel’s setting and conclusion have uniquely Canadian significance. In her novel, Logan portrays a harsh and decidedly isolated people in the fictional town Farquhard, which Vivien can never wholly be a part of. The burning of her family home in Farquhard is thus the ultimate rejection of the town that her British grandfather immigrated to but could not fully integrate into. In a Canadian context, these plot elements seem to remark on the immigration situation in the late nineteenth century and, in particular, are a swipe against genteel, upper-class British newcomers, who were considered detrimental to the nation-building years of Canada. That Logan picked up on these biases of class in Saint John is significant to our understanding of nineteenth-century New Brunswick.

Carissa St. Amand, Spring 2012
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Logan, Mrs. J.E. An Account of the Exploration and Discoveries of Samuel de Champlain, and of the Founding of Québec. Montreal: The Montreal News Company Limited, 1908.

MacFarlane, Annie Robertson. Children of the Earth. Leisure Hour Series 192. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1886.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

“About New Books.” Rev. of Dr. Luke of the Labrador, by Norman Duncan; Dr. Grenfell’s Parish, by Norman Duncan; The Lure of the Labrador Wild, by Dillon Wallace; Historic Sites and Scenes of England, by Great Western Railway Company; Stingark, by E. W. Hornung; Rose of the World, by Agnes and Egerton Castly; and Children of the Earth, by Annie Robertson MacFarlane. The Canadian Magazine May 1905: 182-6.

Children of the Earth.” Rev. of Children of the Earth, by Annie Robertson MacFarlane. The Critic 26 June 1886: 314-5.

Cusack, Ruby M. “Upcoming History of Saint John High School by Richard Thorne and The Macfarlane Children Make their Parents Proud.” Rubycusack.com. Ruby M. Cusack, n.d. 28 Feb. 2012 <www.rubycusack.com/issue283.html>.

Dagg, Anne Innis, ed. “Logan, Annie Robertson MacFarlane.” The Feminine Gaze: A Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and Their Books, 1836–1945. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2001. 172.

“Death of an Old Resident.” Saint John Globe 5 Aug. 1895: 3.

Donor Card. “Logan.” [Scholarships and Prizes]. UA 126. Section 3. Archives and Special Collection. Harriet Irving Library. University of New Brunswick. Fredericton, NB.

“Logan, Annie Robertson MacFarlane.” Canada’s Early Women Writers. Version 3.1. N.p., n.d. 28 Feb. 2012.

Morgan, Henry James, ed. “Logan, Mrs. Annie Robertson.” The Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Hand-Book of Canadian Literature. 1st ed. Toronto: William Briggs, 1898. 587.

---, ed. “Logan, Mrs. Annie Robertson.” The Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Hand-Book of Canadian Biography of Living Characters. 2nd ed. Toronto: William Briggs, 1912. 662.

Payne, William Morton. “Recent Fiction.” Rev. of Whom God Hath Joined, by Elizabeth Gilbert Martin; A Victorious Defeat, by Wolcott Balestier; East Angels, by Constance Fenimore Woolson; Children of the Earth, by Annie Robertson MacFarlane; Fellow Travellers: A Story, by Edward Fuller; Living or Dead, by Hugh Conway; Court Royal, by S. Baring-Gould; The Mark of Cain, by Andrew Lang; The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy; The Wind of Destiny, by Arthur Sherburne Hardy; Midge, by H.C. Bunner; Mr. Desmond, U.S.A., by John Coulter; A Vital Question; or, What is to be done?, by Nikolai G. Tchernuishevsky; The King’s Treasure House: A Romance of Ancient Egypt, by Wilhelm Walloth; and Aliette (La Morte), by Octave Feuillet. The Dial July 1886: 65-70.

“Recent Novels.” Rev. of Aspirations, by Helen Hays; The Man Who Was Guilty, by Flora Haines; Children of the Earth, by Annie Robertson MacFarlane; Fellow Travellers: A Story, by Edward Fuller; Who is Guilty?, by Philip Woolf; Marion’s Faith, by Cpt. Charles King; The Destruction of Gotham, by Joaquin Miller; A Moonlight Boy, by E.W. Howe; and Marc le Wihiliste, by Gontcharof. The Nation 29 July 1886: 101-2.

“Renowned Resident Dies.” Montreal Star 10 March 1933: 3, 11.

Rhodenizer, Vernon Blair. “Chapter XII: Biography.” Canadian Literature in English. Montreal: Quality Press Limited, 1965. 473-522.

---. “Chapter XV: Fiction.” Canadian Literature in English. Montreal: Quality Press Limited, 1965. 704-817.

Watters, Reginald Eyre. “Logan, Annie Robertson (MacFarlane).” A Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials: 1628–1960. 2nd ed. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1972. 329, 533.