Toronto, — such is now the sonorous name of this our sublime capital, — was, thirty years ago, a wilderness, the haunt of the bear and deer, with a little, ugly, inefficient fort, which, however, could not be more ugly or inefficient than the present one. Ten years ago Toronto was a village, with one brick house and four or five hundred inhabitants; five years ago it became a city, containing about five thousand inhabitants, and then bore the name of Little York; now it is Toronto, with an increasing trade, and a population of ten thousand people. So far I write as per
What Toronto may be in summer, I cannot tell; they say it is a pretty place. At present its appearance to me, a stranger, is most strangely mean and melancholy. A little ill-built town on low land, at the bottom of a frozen bay, with one very ugly church, without tower or steeple; some government offices, built of staring red brick, in the most tasteless, vulgar style imaginable; three feet of snow all around; and the grey, sullen, wintry lake, and the dark gloom of the pine forest bounding the prospect; such seems Toronto to me now. I did not expect much; but for this I was not prepared. Perhaps no preparation could have prepared
me, or softened my present feelings. I will not be unjust if I can help it, nor querulous. If I look into my own heart, I find that it is regret for what I have left and lost — the absent, not the present — which throws over all around me a chill, colder than that of the wintry day — a gloom, deeper than that of the wintry night. . . .
Yet am I not quite an icicle, nor an oyster — I almost wish I were!. . . . I am like an uprooted tree, dying at the core, yet with a strange unreasonable power at times of mocking at my own most miserable weakness. . . . Everywhere there is occupation for the rational and healthy intellect, everywhere good to be done, duties to be performed, — everywhere the mind is, or should be, its own world, its own country, its own home at least. How many fine things I could say or quote, in prose or in rhyme, on this subject! But in vain I conjure up Philosophy, “she will not come when I do call for her;” but in her stead come thronging sad and sorrowful recollections, and shivering sensations, all telling me that I am a stranger among strangers, miserable inwardly and outwardly, — and that the thermometer is twelve degrees below zero!
Excerpted from Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada by Anna Brownell Jameson. Copyright © 2008 by Anna Brownell Jameson. Excerpted by permission of New Canadian Library, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.