ASLE-Canada Newsletter
Issue 2: Spring 2006


As I thought about writing the introductory note to the spring issue of The Goose, a passage from Frances Brooke’s epistolary novel The History of Emily Montague (1769) kept coming to mind. In his letter to the Earl of --- dated April 20, 1767, William Fermor, a character in Brooke’s novel, describes the breaking of the ice on a stretch of the St. Lawrence River:

Before I saw the breaking up of the vast body of ice, which forms what is here called the bridge, from Quebec to Point Levi, I imagined there could be nothing in it worth attention; that the ice would pass away, or dissolve gradually, day after day, as the influence of the sun, and warmth of the air and earth increased; and that we should see the river open, without having observed by what degrees it became so.

But . . . [s]ublimity is the characteristic of this western world; the loftiness of the mountains, the grandeur of the lakes and rivers, the majesty of the rocks shaded with a picturesque variety of beautiful trees and shrubs, and crowned with the noblest of the offspring of the forest, which form the banks of the latter, are as much beyond the power of fancy as that of description . . .

The ice before the town . . . being of a thickness not less than five feet, a league in length, and more than half a mile broad, resists for a long time the rapid tide that attempts to force it from the banks.

We are prepared by many previous circumstances to expect something extraordinary in this event, if I may so call it: every increase of heat in the weather for near a month before the ice leaves the banks; every warm day gives you terror for those you see venturing to pass it in carioles; yet one frosty night makes it again so strong, that even the ladies, and the timid amongst them, still venture themselves over in parties of pleasure; though greatly alarmed at their return, if a few hours of uncommon warmth intervene.

. . . From the time the ice is no longer a bridge on which you see crowds driving with such vivacity on business or pleasure, every one is looking eagerly for its breaking away, to remove the bar to the continually wished and expected event, of the arrival of ships from that world from whence we have seemed so long in a manner excluded.

. . .We stood waiting with all the eagerness of expectation; the tide came rushing with an amazing impetuosity; the bridge seemed to shake, yet resisted the force of the waters; the tide recoiled, it made a pause, it stood still, it returned with redoubled fury, the immense mass of ice gave way.

A vast plain appeared in motion; it advanced with solemn and majestic pace: the points of land on the banks of the river for a few moments stopped its progress; but the immense weight of so prodigious a body, carried along by a rapid current, bore down all opposition with a force irresistible.

There is no describing how beautiful the opening river appears, every moment gaining on the sight, till, in a time less than can possibly be imagined, the ice passing Point Levi, [sic] is hid in one moment by the projecting land, and all is once more a clear plain before you; giving at once the pleasing, but unconnected, ideas of that direct intercourse with Europe from which we have been so many months excluded, and of the earth’s again opening her fertile bosom, to feast our eyes and imagination with her various verdant and flowery productions.

I find Fermor’s purple prose and his portrait of the timid ladies venturing forth in “parties of pleasure” endearing. Although the piece is dated, it nonetheless captures the sense of anticipation that will always, I hope, herald the arrival of spring.

Fermor’s description of the landscapes of Quebec is inflected by the aesthetics of sublimity, but Canadian weather, as it transitions from the iron grip of winter to the spectacular thunderstorms of spring and on into the sultry days of summer, is indeed a study in contrasts. Those contrasts are more insidious now: the winter of 2005 was the warmest on record according to a NASA study, and the season of, in Fermor’s words, “uncommon warmth” continues: The Weather Network forecasts temperatures exceeding historical average daily highs in Quebec, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and St. John’s over the next two weeks.

Thaw may no longer be an accurate indicator of seasonal change, but April remains a time for celebrations, migrations, and correspondences. Like the first ship of the season freighted with goods and news—or, more accurately, like one of the Centreville swan rides featured in one of The Tragically Hip’s videos—The Goose sets afloat its second issue.

In this issue we continue to offer a selection of calls for submission for national and international journals, conferences, and symposia. In the interests of expediency, we have omitted calls for American conferences. We would direct readers who are interested in learning about American conferences to the “Conferences and Events” page of the ASLE website (

We also continue to offer a bibliography of new books by Canadian publishing houses that might be of interest to our readers; a provincial feature (in this issue: the Northwest Territories); a listing of current events of interest to our readers; and The Graduate Network (this month’s feature: the University of Calgary) containing, in addition to a faculty directory, thesis abstracts from graduate students at the U of C.

Highlights from this issue include reviews of Karsten Heuer’s Being Caribou by Cindy Spense, Birk Sproxton’s Phantom Lake: North of 54 by Angela Waldie, and John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by Diane Guichon; an essay on the importance of land and mobility to the Dene of the Northwest Territories by Jonquil Covello; a travel memoir and photos by Paul Huebener, who recently traveled to Venezuela and reports on his experiences as a volunteer with the Peace Villages Foundation; and previously unpublished poems by award-winning writer Anne Simpson. I would like to extend sincere thanks on behalf of Lisa, Mike, and myself to our contributors.

Plans to create a membership directory are still underway; please send us your contact information (name, e-mail address, research / artistic interests, academic affiliation, and location—city and province) to the editors. We also continue to welcome suggestions and letters (send them to:, and contributions (contact the editors at the e-mail addresses listed on the acknowledgements page).

Hoping to see many of you at the proposed Congress / ACCUTE meeting in May!

--Ella Soper-Jones