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William Cobbett

Emigrant's Guide One of the early descriptions of PEI, often quoted and very early was that of William Cobbett from his book The Emigrant's Guide [London 1829-30]. And here is what he said:

"The English colonies in North America consist of Lower and Upper Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward's Island .... the whole is wretchedly poor: heaps of rocks covered chiefly with fir trees. These countries are the offal of North America; they are the head, the shins, the shanks and the hoofs of that part of the world; while the United States are the sir-loins, the well covered ribs and the suet .... From Glasgow the sensible Scots are pouring out amain. Those that are poor and cannot pay their passage or can rake together only a trifle, are going to a rascally heap of sand, rock and swamp called Prince Edward Island, in the horrible Gulph of St. Lawrence ... that lump of worthlessness ... bears nothing but potatoes...."

Emigrant's Guide

The English Gardener So there that is how we were perceived my our friend Mr. Cobbett. Now who was Mr. Cobbett? I just happened to find out recently having purchased a reprint of his work The English Gardener; published the same year as the Emigrant Guide. In the introduction of the reprint he is described as a man - blunt, full of common sense, able to write with great clarity and yet with humor ... with amazing self-confidence.

William Cobbett Cobbett was born in 1762 and at age 21 he enlisted in the army, and rose to the rank of Sergeant major. He served in North America, bought his discharge and went to France. In 1792 he sailed for North America where he became a political publisher. He returned to England in 1800 and bought a farm and continued his writing. He ran into trouble of some sort and took off to America again and ended up farming in Long Island. He was back in England by 1819 running a seed farm , writing and at some point became a Member of Parliament. He published about 50 books and was died by 1835.

No record that I have ever seem tells us of his visit to PEI other than what is recorded in his book. A.H.Clark in Three Centuries and The Island thinks that that he visited about thirty years before the book was published and I would suggested he never made it to the south side of the Island, but just saw a few of our wonderful sand dunes.

I like this quote of his "It is far better to be in the greenhouse than to be blubbering over a stupid novel or, worse still, to be trapped in the injurious enjoyments of the card table"

Written Monday, May 21, 2001 at 12:47 AM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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