The purser on the Allan Line's Polynesia out of Liverpool, westbound for Quebec and Montreal, September 11, 1890, Captain R. G. Barrett, master, had "Dr. Douglas Hyde" on his list of saloon passengers. Hyde's destination was Montreal. He had paid eighteen guineas for his passage—"six too much," he complained to his sister, as he made his customary pre-trip reckoning of anticipated costs and money already expended. Easily singled out in the crowd of passengers boarding the ship, most of them more concerned about the whereabouts of their belongings than each other, Hyde was, at thirty, tall, dark-haired, broad-chested, and attractive, with eyes that sparkled with an intense intellectual curiosity and a demeanor that bespoke energy, enthusiasm, and a genuine liking for people. Fellow voyagers who became better acquainted with him during the crossing later remembered him as altogether a pleasant young man, courteous, well mannered, and well informed; an amusing conversationalist; an inveterate reader.
If Hyde seemed confident and self-contained to his traveling companions, he himself was filled with excitement to be aboard a ship on his way to Canada. Stockley's warnings that life in Fredericton might be dull after a decade in Dublin did not trouble him. Dull? With all of Canada and the United States to explore, in whatever time he would be free from his teaching duties? His only concern was his sister Annette. He worried that she might face a difficult time in the months ahead; he felt guilty about leaving her home alone to cope with his father's tantrums and recurring attacks of gout. They had agreed before
his departure that they would stay in close touch. She would send him all the domestic news, personal and political; he in turn promised to provide her with a full picture of life in the New World. He hoped that in his absence his brother Oldfield would offer some support.
But all that was now behind him—the question was, what lay ahead? Stockley had told Hyde that in the few years that he had been in Canada he had taken the opportunity presented by the Christmas holidays to go to Boston, where John Boyle O'Reilly—one of the Fenians who had escaped from Australia to America in 1869—presided over a lively circle of old revolutionaries and young nationalists. He had suggested that Hyde do the same. It had been an interesting prospect: he and Boyle O'Reilly were acquainted by mail: several of Hyde's poems had been published, in the respectable company of work by T. W. Rolleston, Katharine Tynan, and W. B. Yeats, in the newspaper Boyle O'Reilly edited, the Boston Pilot . Boyle O'Reilly was, moreover, a staunch Parnellite. It was he who had presented the welcoming address when Parnell visited New York. But just weeks before Hyde's departure, word reached Ireland of Boyle O'Reilly's unexpected death at the age of forty-four. Hyde was dismayed by the loss yet sure that he would still be able to count on a warm welcome in Boston, if he chose to follow Stockley's advice. He was not yet certain that he would go to Boston. He knew that winters in Fredericton had not always been so dull as Stockley now professed. Until recently, in fact, Stockley had written enthusiastically of his Canadian life, enlivened as it was by a young Fredericton woman. But then Stockley had proposed, and the young woman had refused him. It had been such a blow that in order to recover he had decided to take the year's leave of absence from which Hyde was now profiting. Remembering his brother Oldfield's unhappy affair of the heart some twelve years before, Hyde was sympathetic. Oldfield had loved the girl dearly but had been without prospects, so the father of the girl had forbidden him to see her. Oldfield's disappointment had been bitter. He was still unmarried. It was only with difficulty that Hyde himself had avoided entangling alliances, following his rejection by Frances Crofton, for he was a man who greatly enjoyed the company of women. In Dublin even now there were eligible and attractive young ladies whom he counted among his closest friends. He had been fiercely attracted to more than a few. But without being settled in any profession, without adequate independent means of support, he could not risk losing either his heart or his head. Discreet notes in his diary suggest that only recently he had been in danger of losing both. That
had been another good reason, he told himself, for accepting the invitation to Canada. If, as he hoped, the year's interim professorship led to a more permanent position in an Irish university—if not in Dublin then perhaps in one of the Queen's colleges established in 1845 in Belfast, Cork, and Galway—it would improve his future prospects. For now there was only the present and the coast of England fading behind him.
The Polynesia bucked mountainous seas and September gales of near hurricane force on the westward crossing. Again and again the call went out to batten down the hatches. For a time many of the other passengers were seasick. Watching through the windows of the passenger lounge as wave after wave rose and crashed against the ship, or reading or writing in the smoking room, Douglas rejoiced that he was not afflicted. When the weather improved and the others emerged from their cabins, he spent much of each day on deck, often in the company of two fellow passengers, Miss Ede and Miss Nicholls, watching the roll of the ocean, alert for signs of iceberg, whale, and porpoise, delighted with each sighting. Evenings he read, smoked, played quoits and cards, sang an Irish song at a shipboard concert, learned to drink "that most insidious but excellent drink," the cocktail—and enjoyed a shipboard flirtation with Miss Ede (the romance all from her side, he insisted). His drinking companions included a German ("generally drunk") who, finding that Hyde spoke German, "unbosomed himself" with "awful lies" and stories of slave-dealing in Constantinople; an elderly English general traveling with his daughter who set up his headquarters in the smoking room; and "a fool of a young conceited idiot" who became the good-natured butt of everyone's jokes. The consensus with which Hyde heartily agreed was that never had anyone struck a pleasanter crowd.
The Polynesia docked at Quebec on the twentieth of September and at Montreal on the twenty-second. Hyde had arranged to stay at the Windsor Hotel—the equal of the Metropole or the Grand, he assured Annette—with the Tayleurs, a "curious couple," brother and sister, who were friends of Maud Gonne. After some time at the railroad station, seeing off several of his new acquaintances, he joined others who were celebrating their safe arrival in Canada with cocktails. The next morning he himself set out on the 430-mile journey by rail through dense forests to Fredericton, seat of the Province of New Brunswick and home of its university.
Then as now, Fredericton lay on the banks of the St. John, at a point where the river, a half-mile broad, flowed in wide, sweeping turns to-
ward the Bay of Fundy. By European standards it was a new city, but already the various architectural styles of its houses, which ranged from pre-1820 Georgian to Queen Anne Revival, gave it a sense of history. The town's dominant structure, the decorated Gothic Christ Church Cathedral, was the mother church for the Anglican diocese of Fredericton. In the center of town on Phoenix Square, built of red brick and granite, stood Fredericton's city hall. Its 115-foot tower housed a clock and bell; its second floor was called the Opera House. Nearby on neatly laid out streets were the shops Hyde visited almost daily: Chestnut's Apothecary, Hall's bookstore, and James Hawthorne's confectionary.
Hyde spent his first three weeks in Fredericton at the old officers' barracks on Queen Street. Built in 1825, it was an imposing reminder of the British military presence before Confederation. The location suited him for a number of reasons, not the least being that, as the Scott Act prohibiting the sale of alcohol was "rigorously enforced" in Fredericton, Colonel Maunsell (a Limerick man and a relative of Stockley's who had strong nationalist sympathies) had thoughtfully placed Hyde's name on the officers' mess list so that he could purchase an occasional glass of rye whiskey. At the edge of the city—easily reached on foot, as it was no great distance from the center—rose dense timberlands, "the endless Canadian woods" of his letters to Annette, that were virtually uninterrupted except by isolated small farms with wooden houses and checkerboard fields outlined by wooden snake fences. The forests of Ireland might have been just so dense and tall before they were cut down by the Elizabethans, the landscape as majestic. Along picturesque gravel roads that led out of town, timbered bridges spanned fast-running creeks and small rivers in which the tops of the tall trees were reflected.
The people of Fredericton were for the most part Protestants of English birth or background. French Canadian farmers, called "habitants," lived in outlying areas, where there was also a scanty but significant population of native Americans of the Milicete tribe. Other Milicetes lived in nearby settlements or in the forests. Taking his attitude, no doubt, from that of the townspeople with whom he soon became acquainted, Hyde ignored the Milicetes for the first several months of his stay. Not until late December did he make the fascinating discovery that they had a tenacious commitment to their separate language and culture and to an oral tradition through which they kept alive their native lore.
Before the first of October—the first day of Michaelmas term—Hyde
moved from the officers' barracks to Willie Stockley's "nice and comfortable" rooms in the Arts building. There he could prepare his own breakfast and lunch and keep on hand some items appropriate for tea or a late evening snack. The prices of some of his purchases surprised him. In a letter to Annette he listed those that struck him as excessively high: 25¢ for marmalade, 15¢ for a piece of soap, $3.50 for 100 cartridges. Apples, however, were both cheap and good. For dinner he arranged to go every evening at six o'clock to the home of one of his colleagues who lived but a ten-minute walk from the university. This very satisfactory arrangement, he told Annette, cost him $1.75 a day. As after he had moved from the barracks the officers continued his membership in their mess, he often joined them evenings in the bar they called the Caserna, the only place in the city where he could get a proper nightcap.
In 1890 the University of New Brunswick had three buildings—Arts, the Jack Observatory, and the Neville homestead. The eighty-six students enrolled for the academic year were boarded in private houses in town. Although described as nondenominational, it offered elective denominational religious classes taught "by those whose proper province" it was "to give such instruction." There was a faculty of eight. The president was Thomas Harrison, a man Hyde both liked and admired, who in turn was both friendly and encouraging to him. In general Hyde did not find his fellow faculty members quite so congenial, but with Alexander William Duff, professor of mathematics and physics, he formed a close and lasting friendship. To Annette he wrote that Duff was "the only person around here who thinks and has a mind of his own; being educated in Edinburgh as he was, he is, like all Scotchmen, a real thinker and I can exchange thoughts with him." That Hyde felt inhibited about expressing some of his ideas in the company of other members of the faculty is evident from his repeated statements in his diary and in his letters to Annette that Duff was the only man with whom he could "exchange a thought freely."
By the tenth of October, Hyde was well settled in. He noted with pleasure that his name appeared on the faculty roster of the 1890–1891 calendar. His schedule required that he give three lectures a day, on French, German, and English literature, five days a week, between nine and one o'clock. His German classes, he reported to Annette, were made up chiefly of "ladies who know nothing." His second-year French classes were "ditto," although some of the ladies were "very pretty indeed, but not clever or in any way intellectual like the girls in the Mosaic Club, for example." His third- and fourth-year students in French and
English seemed brighter but nevertheless "troublesome" in terms of their lack of preparation. English was his largest class, because it was compulsory. His lectures were attended by upwards of fifty students. Consequently it was difficult to provide unprepared students with the special attention they needed. Responding to Hyde's complaints, James Sheehan, writing from Dublin, puckishly advised that Hyde forget trying to educate his women students and concentrate simply on amusing them. "Take them on shooting expeditions as a group," he said lightly, yet with a warning based on long acquaintance: "never solus cum ."
New Brunswick skies were often blue at the beginning of October, very different from the high white overcast and dark scudding under-clouds of Frenchpark. Hyde marveled at the frequent full days of sunshine, the absence of lashing rain, and the brightly colored fall leaves, so different from the gray skies and yellow and brown foliage of Ireland and England. Within a short time fall was over. A relentless cold crept stealthily across the land. In letters to Annette he expressed his astonishment at finding that by late October the birds had gone and the woods were silent. At night he watched the northern lights, vast flickering bands of forest-green, orange-red, and cloudy white that played across the Canadian sky. All through the fall and into the winter he spent his free hours at the end of almost every week fishing and shooting. Although he was often joined by other friends from town or barracks, his usual companion was Forester, an English officer who formerly had been a banker, "a good decent man . . . without much knowledge of literature," whose companionship Hyde enjoyed. At home during fall and winter Hyde often fished and shot the bogs and skated on Lough Gara with Annette. He now filled his letters to her with details of his New Brunswick experiences, plodding through swamps thick with alder and lignum vitae, breaking through bushes fifteen feet high, seeking elusive game. Dismissing the Canadian preference for hunting the ruffed grouse (to him, he said, it was no sport at all), he regarded snipe and woodcock as the greater challenge. His best bag, on "one of the pleasantest days of my life," he declared, was eleven birds, which he proudly displayed to his admiring friends. He encouraged Annette to go out shooting also, in the fields where they had learned their gunsmanship as children and often had hunted together, and he urged her to be sure that in general she was getting sufficient outdoor exercise: "Fresh air seems to be the great secret of health. No one here seems to get old. The bishop is 86, the chief justice 80, the judge, 75."
Hyde's principal concern, in the cold weather that now gripped New
Brunswick, was "to keep my blood in motion," he wrote, in temperatures to which he was not accustomed. His regimen included taking a cold bath each day; walking for at least an hour; protected from frostbite by a fur or sealskin cap; and skating. On the twenty-fifth of November the St. John River froze solid, and there was a whole week's "capital skating" before the first heavy snowfall. He regaled Annette with descriptions of the scene: "A lot of people went down through the thin ice the first day or two, some had miraculous escapes. I skated for miles up the river and it was delicious." A friend froze his ear. For Douglas the cold surpassed anything he had ever felt, the temperature falling to seventeen below zero at night and rarely rising above ten degrees below in the daytime. By early December, travel was possible only by sleigh since wheeled vehicles could not move in the eight inches of snow. To Annette he wrote, "It is rather exciting when a number of sleighs come tearing through the town, the bells jangling and the horses trotting madly." With his usual penchant for keeping records, Hyde noted in his diary that after early December the snow cover remained at between one and two feet, drifting to three or four, until nearly the middle of March, while temperatures remained below freezing nineteen days out of twenty. Snow fell on the average about once or twice a month, he observed, often changing to rain that melted the upper layer which then hardened to ice, forming a strong crust. Before February he recorded "three cold 'snaps' as they call them here" in which "the thermometer fell to 35 below zero." The winter of 1890–1891 was proving "exceptionally cold," he was told.
Between the start of the Michaelmas term and the beginning of the Christmas holiday, Hyde's weekdays were fully taken up by preparing for and presenting his lectures. At times these were interrupted by incidents of a curious kind that both startled and amused him. One morning a skunk wandered out of the forest that half-circled the school. As everyone watched from the windows it waddled across the quadrangle, directly toward the Arts Building, bringing all lectures to a halt. Another morning, to the consternation of some of his students, a "giant of a man" appeared in the hall in which Hyde was lecturing, held out a piece of paper containing a mysterious string of words, and insisted that Hyde explain them. In as many languages as he could muster, since the man's English seemed limited, Hyde tried to tell the man that he had no idea what the words on the paper said—or even in what language they were written. He could only explain which languages they were not. The man vanished, never to be seen again, but the incident
surfaced years later in a similar scene involving a giant of a woman who pushed her way past porters to confront a group of Trinity professors in Hyde's satiric Pleusgadh na Bulgóide, or The Bursting of the Bubble .
Except for Sunday school in Roscommon, Hyde had had no prior teaching experience, so it was with enormous pleasure that he listened to President Harrison's assurances that all his classes liked him. It was important to him that his first job go well. But he also discovered that he enjoyed teaching and that in fact he had been quite well prepared for it by his presentations and debates in meetings of the College Historical Society at Trinity and by his stint on the Dublin amateur stage. When he realized how earnest his naive students were, his Pygmalionlike role no longer troubled but simply amused him. For Annette he compiled a list of the howlers he found in their written work: "Portieres," wrote one, "a street on which the aristocracy walked"; "A chignon" wrote another, "is a leg of mutton." An instruction to his English literature class to list some of Milton's archaisms garnered "arch-enemy" and "arch-fiend." Asked to comment on Abbot Sampson's linguistic accomplishments, one student offered, "He said little but kept up a great thinking." To the question, "What is the regular habit?" another replied, "an ordinary coat." One essay he received contained the statement that "Milton had studied the writings of Homer whose plays he much admired," because "he had an apithy for the stage." But they all were learning, Hyde assured Annette, even as he too was learning to be more tolerant of their inexperience. Early on he had written his sister that the college magazine, the University Monthly, was "a detestably edited clearly dull little affair," but when the students who published it, members of the Literary and Debating Society, elected him honorary president, he was sufficiently flattered to accept their invitation and even to contribute some poems and essays to future issues. His first contribution, a satiric poem, was published at his request under a pseudonym, because "any little thing creates a furor here." Expecting that there would be "great canvassing as to the author," he did his best, he declared, to "screen" himself "from knowledge." In December his name did appear under the title of a short story, "The Knight of the Trick," which he had translated from the Irish as he had taken it down "from the telling of an old peasant." The January number contained his translations of "The Judgment Day," a poem by Tadgh Gaolach Ó Suiliobhain, and "Eachtra Chloinne Lir" (The children of Lir). To Annette he sent copies of all three issues of the University Monthly in which his work appeared.
All through November and December Hyde impatiently awaited author's copies and newspaper notices of Beside the Fire, his collection of stories told in Irish that was scheduled to be published in London by David Nutt before the end of the year. It was almost Christmas when he finally received the issue of the London Daily Express that contained a very satisfactory lead review article, a full column and a half in length, but to his frustration books themselves did not arrive. He was of course eager to see a copy himself but he also wanted to give copies to the university and to friends. The book may have been available in Boston bookstores, but he could not be sure, as he had decided against following Stockley's advice on how to spend his holidays. Instead he set out on St. Stephen's Day in the company of two young Fredericton traders and three Milicete hunters for what was to be one of the memorable trips of his life—a shooting expedition in the Gaspereaux, a region some "forty to fifty miles from Fredericton where there were said to be lots of caribou."
On the first day of their journey, enthusiastically described by Hyde in both letters and diary, he and his companions were pulled forty-two miles in a large sleigh by a team of horses. With them they brought food and other necessities, a tent, and toboggans. So tricky were the rutted, icy drifts along the snow-covered roads that although they started at eight o'clock in the morning it was midnight before they reached their destination—the home of an old Irishman from Kilkenny who came out to greet them "stark naked without a screed on him." The next day, despite a snowstorm, they again set out early for the location deep in the woods where they made camp. There they remained for twelve days while the temperature remained at ten or fifteen degrees below zero. Yet, wrote Hyde,
in the woods where I was camped I never felt it cold. We pitched a beautiful tent and left about three inches of snow on the ground, then covered it thickly with spruce boughs, spread our blankets and skins, and slept as soundly and comfortably as if we were at home.
There was no question of roughing it, Hyde assured his sister, as they had brought "quantities of provisions" with them.
Unfortunately for the hunters, there was also no chance of getting a caribou, although plenty were sighted. The crust on the snow was too thick. Moreover, "rain had fallen and made the top of the snow like ice." Consequently, "the sounds of . . . snowshoes clattering on it and crackling could be heard a mile away." They were unable to creep
up on the herd or otherwise get close enough to any of the animals to shoot. In the twenty-five to thirty miles that they snowshoed, however, hoping their luck would change, Hyde did bag a couple of partridge, a ruffed grouse, and three large porcupines "weighing 25 or 30 lbs. each."
In the evenings Hyde, the two traders, and the three Milicete hunters sat around their campfire smoking and telling stories. It was then that Hyde first heard Milicete tales, among them "The Story of Heb-a-da-hone." It was a true tribal tale, insisted the tellers, but as Hyde remarked in his notebook, in his opinion it had filtered into local native American lore from a Gaelic source, perhaps through one of the Irishmen or Scotsmen who worked for the Hudson Bay Company and who had taken a native American wife. The story was, he acknowledged, "clad in Indian or rather Canadian dress," by which he meant that descriptions of such activities as log cutting, traveling by sled, driving a team of horses, building a camp, and duck hunting reflected Indian life. Other features of plot, character, event, and narrative style were to him recognizably and indisputably Gaelic. During the twelve days of his trip Hyde heard and discussed with traders and guides other Milicete stories that also struck him as Irish and acquired "a couple of hundred" Milicete words—not enough, he regretted, "to reduce the language to any kind of grammar, or even to learn the conjugation of its verbs," but a sampling that at least gave him an idea of phonemic patterns. He would have stayed longer had he been able, but as the new term began on January 8, he had to return to Fredericton.
Back in Fredericton, Hyde discovered that two of his friends, Colonel Maunsell and a government surveyor, Edward Jack, were able to provide a fair amount of information about the Milicetes. From them he learned that Milicete stories were so well known in the Lake Superior region as to raise speculation that the tribe originally had come from there. Although the tribes had not clashed for a long time, he was told, an old feud between the Milicetes and the Micmacs was still smoldering. He heard that, once numerous in New Brunswick, the Milicetes had declined in number to fewer than seven hundred, yet the tribe had remained so fiercely protective of its language and cultural traditions that these were not only alive but in constant use. Both Maunsell and Jack agreed that the squaws represented the strongest force for the retention of the language. Many refused to speak English. Working men picked up English for use on their jobs, but at home and among themselves they spoke only their own language. In his notebook Hyde noted
the analogy to Connacht, where the women kept Irish alive in the cabins while the men who went out to work learned English. In his letters to Annette he remarked other similarities: As in Ireland Irish-speakers learned English but the English living in Ireland did not learn Irish, so in New Brunswick the Milicetes learned English but no one of European stock in or around Fredericton seemed competent in the Milicete tongue. As in Ireland when the English-speaking government adopted an Irish place-name, it frequently blundered, so in New Brunswick the Milicete word for camping ground was erroneously used in a text in which the reference was to the St. John River. Between Ireland and New Brunswick there were also differences: the Irish regularly absorbed common English phrases and even English syntactical structures into their language, but listening to the Milicetes, Hyde "could never catch an English word being used amongst them when conversing with one another, unless occasionally, the name of a place." It impressed him particularly that they had their own words "even for such imported articles as guns and stoves and whiskey and never seemed to have to fall back on English words, as . . . people do when conversing in Welsh or Irish."
So fascinated was Hyde with the Milicetes that he set for himself the task of learning more about their stories, in order to compare them with Irish tales that he had collected and published in 1889 in Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta and most recently in Beside the Fire . The very strength and endurance of their language handicapped him, however, for most stories were circulated only in Milicete. Concentrating on "The Story of Heb-a-da-hone," otherwise known as "The Adventures of Closkarp and the Great Turtle," Hyde asked a Milicete whose father was French Canadian if he would recite it in English. The man agreed, although he told Hyde that he himself had never heard the story "except in Indian," and there were those who maintained that it could not be told properly in any other tongue. Hyde wanted to take notes as he listened, but he was concerned that his storyteller might be discomfited by the idea of having his words written down on paper. His solution was to seat himself behind a caribou skin. He regretted that he could not take fuller advantage of the cooperation of the Milicetes, who would have told him more stories had he but had a better grasp of their language. "I could not follow them," he wrote, "so lost something that promised to be very interesting. It is only one more proof that the folklorist must know the language of his victims if he is to draw any reliable harvest from them."
Two things apparently puzzled Hyde about "The Story of Heb-a-da-
hone." One was the matter of the name of the central character. In the first part of the story he was called Heb-a-da-hone but in the last part he was given the name of Closkarp, a figure so "known and reverenced all along the St. John River" that there was at least "one place sacred to him" where the native Americans of the region flung "a bit of tobacco or some other small propitiatory offering" when they passed. Another was the matter of the story's origin. Hyde's first theory was that Milicete elements had been woven into the fabric of an essentially Irish or Gaelic story. But as he was unable to find a single identifiable Irish source that matched "The Story of Heb-a-da-hone," he concluded that the Gaelic elements he had recognized in it were prototypical rather than specific, very likely absorbed over a period of time from a number of sources rather than from one story taken whole from a single "story-telling Gael":
I imagine that some of the Milicetes travelling to the northwest to the Hudson Bay country on a hunting or furring expedition picked up this story and brought it back with them and that in process of time the national hero of the Milicete race, this Closkarp or Glus-cap, was made the hero of this tale too, by the natural enough infection or "association."
Within weeks of Hyde's return from his caribou hunting expedition he wrote an essay on Milicete folklore that appeared on April 12, 1891, in the Providence Journal, a publication that previously had printed other examples of his work.
Meanwhile, with holidays over and classes again in session, the Fredericton winter social season had become hectic. As Douglas Sealy notes in his summary of Hyde's New Brunswick diaries, there were dances and balls (despite the disapproval of "the confounded Puritans and Methodists"), card parties, dinners, teas, lectures, concerts, tennis in the drill shed at the barracks, moonlight sleigh rides, and snowshoe parties, all enlivened by flirtations. Early in the fall Miss Ede of the Polynesia had written and sent her photograph from Vancouver; at first Hyde had responded, even sending his photograph in return, but after a few weeks he had let the correspondence lapse, in part because his interest had been lukewarm at best, but mostly because he was enjoying the company of a good many agreeable young Fredericton women who, in contrast to women in Ireland, seemed remarkably independent and unchaperoned. Shortly after his arrival he had noted in a letter to Annette that Canadian women were "as far as society goes . . . quite emancipated." He was astonished, he told her, that one young woman, quite
on her own, had invited him to come to see her. "You can go driving with a girl here, alone, or visit her, or I think go out walking with her (but of this last I am not sure) at nearly any hour." Although Hyde deplored their lack of intellectual interests (he complained that, unlike Annette, they knew nothing of Spencer's First Principles ), he found New Brunswick women "very pretty, . . . lively, and talkative." To his Dublin friends as well as his sister he declared that they would create "quite a furor at home." With them, he avowed, he had "danced, talked, laughed and flirted more in a month" than "in six months in Dublin."
By the third of December, Hyde's letters suggested that he was concentrating his attentions particularly on one young woman, "an interesting oddity in her way" whom he referred to as "the Italienerin," but his diaries make clear that this was by no means to the exclusion of others. In January he wrote Annette that, after the holidays, in addition to the circles in which he continued to be in demand, he had "come on a new stratum of Fredericton society" that consisted of "half a dozen families who seem to mix chiefly with themselves." Like other Europeans accustomed to a more easily identified social stratification, he was struck by the ease with which he himself was accepted, on an intimate basis, in such groups. To Dublin friends and to his diary he reported dancing with pretty girls, squeezing their hands, feeling his own hand squeezed in return, and exchanging significant glances and photographs. So many pictures were pressed upon him, in fact, that he was obliged to sit for his own photograph in order to have a sufficient number of copies on hand to go around in return. Often he was out until three or four in the morning in subzero temperatures; rarely did he go to bed before one or two. At times he chided himself for having been carried away in a "vortex of dissipation."
By mid-February Hyde had found still another way to keep his blood in motion during the long cold New Brunswick winter. Out of the round of dances, parties, and teas there emerged a young woman whom he referred to in his diary as "the Fräulein." She was first mentioned in January 1891 after she and Douglas had spent several hours together, talking and reading. Better acquainted with books and far more intellectual than the other young women with whom he had flirted, she was also less coy. By early February their meetings had become longer and more frequent; by mid-February visits that had begun sedately, over a cup of tea or a book that they took turns reading to each other, were ending in ever more ardent embraces. Afraid that she was falling in love with him, Hyde sometimes scolded himself for treating her dishonestly,
as he knew he was not in love with her. Sometimes he excused himself: if he could just get his old Dublin love out of his head, perhaps he would feel more deeply for the Fräulein. Sometimes he was callous and flippant: he could like her more, he was sure, if only her feet were smaller or her breath less unsweet. The affair intensified, with less resistance than ever on her part and less restraint on his, even as he continued his round of parties and lighthearted flirtations with others, berated himself for acting like a cad, and blamed the late Canadian spring for the state of his emotions, poured out in a poem as unpunctuated as the alternating melting and freezing ground cover of late March:
O dreary weary wintry snow
The dreary weary months go round
And thou art yet upon the ground
More white more bright and more profound
Will nothing make thee go
I dream of green the livelong night
Of wavy woods, of grassy wold
I wake and what must I behold
Ah Canada thy breath is cold
Thy face is cold and white
As always, Hyde's inner troubles were soon accompanied by vague complaints of developing illness. He felt fine after an innocent tussle with Miss Gregory or a playful party on snowshoes, squeezing Miss Fisher's fingers; his sick headaches and sore throats became most severe after his evenings with the Fräulein. It was nearly April before he acknowledged to himself that the hot encounters which were now stopping just short of a full sexual relationship were the cause of his weakness and exhaustion. On April 1 he felt quite ill after a late night in which he had come closer than ever to "going too far"—so ill, in fact, that he cancelled all other commitments that he made, refused invitations that he wanted to accept, and simply stayed in his rooms. There would have to be an end to the affair, Hyde told himself. It could go on no longer. His year in Canada was nearly over.
On the sixteenth of April after no mention of the Fräulein for nearly two weeks, Hyde accepted her invitation to afternoon tea but did not tempt himself by staying beyond teatime. On the seventeenth he noted that he was feeling better. On the twenty-fifth they went out walking together in the morning but he returned to his rooms after midday dinner with her and her family. On the sixth of May after an emotional
day in which he and the Fräulein had talked frankly to each other, he trying to explain himself, she railing bitterly against her father, he felt really well for the first time in months. He had taken a load off his heart, he declared; "he had shown her clearly that he was only a man of the wind." Yet one more dangerous encounter occurred on May 10, before the end of the semester, during a walk that ended with Hyde feeling frightened and unhappy, aware that she loved him, aware that he had compromised himself, regretting his foolish behavior.
Hyde's on-and-off struggle to extricate himself from his affair with the Fräulein had implications and temptations unrelated to his emotional and sexual turmoil. Her father was influential: she was said to be rich. If he allowed the relationship to take its course, inevitably they would marry and he would remain in Canada, no doubt in a post arranged by his father-in-law. In one diary entry he chided himself for not being thankful to have won such a gentle, well-off girl; in another he wondered if what he had heard was true, if in fact she did have substantial financial assets of her own. If she was as well-off as everyone said, could he make his home in Fredericton? He was enjoying his academic year—of this he had no doubt—but there were aspects of life in the capital of New Brunswick (tactfully confided only to letters to Annette, to his diary, and to his friends Alexander Duff and Colonel Maunsell)—that troubled him.
Hyde's biggest objection to Fredericton was its "absolute want of cultured and literary people." He longed for the long talks about books and history and European travel that were so much a part of life at home. He missed Annette, his friends, Frenchpark, Dublin. But he also tried to present a balanced picture: He contrasted the generosity of the Canadians, who seemed to look on hospitality to strangers as a duty, with that of the Anglo-Irish "who live in sets and cliques and think only of themselves." He enjoyed Fredericton's dinners and balls, sumptuous by Irish standards, but could not get used to the idea that the only drink served at them was ginger beer. It was pleasant to be in a "free country where rank counts absolutely nothing and efficiency is everything"; unfortunately what it produced, in his opinion, was a "contented lot of Philistines." At first it had seemed to him that the people of Fredericton were deeply religious. To Annette he wrote, "I don't think the spirit of Rationalism has touched them at all. They . . . have no thoughts on unpleasant subjects of the soul but follow their good bishop and go to church and sing, oh sing, hymns on all occasions possible. . . . It is quite refreshing to be among them." After a few months it troubled him that
in Fredericton he never heard discussions of Huxley, Darwin, or Spencer. He suspected that most people had never heard of them. Still later, complaining of the way in which the president of the university, Tom Harrison, had censored an essay he had written, striking "passage after passage . . . lest it give offence somewhere," he concluded that most of the people were in fact not religious but only "grandmotherly stick-in-the-muds who cling to the outside husk, the dry form" while others made Fredericton "a very hot-bed of religious prejudices." Creeds, Hyde insisted, made absolutely no difference to him. "I have been living on terms of intimacy with Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists and everyone but Catholics who are almost non-existent in the higher classes here, and I never know the difference," he wrote in his letters to Annette. "If a man is good and kind it is all you want—and for that matter all that God wants."
But if Hyde did not want to remain in Fredericton, what of some other place in North America? With a teaching record, the prospect of good references, and a growing reputation as a scholar, poet, and essayist, he felt more confident about obtaining a post. Earlier he had been approached about an appointment paying one thousand dollars a year at McGill University in Montreal. In April, O'Neill Russell wrote to tell him that a new university was being established in Chicago: if he applied for a post there, he might earn three thousand dollars a year. When his sister protested at the idea of his not returning home, he pointed out that, after all, "one must do something and one cannot very well spend the rest of one's life idling and starving." Yet knowing only too well the situation in which he had left her, he felt guilty at the thought of abandoning her. He tried to respond with sympathy to the continuing gnawing, nibbling problems that she faced. The old trouble with housemaids arose periodically, after each tirade by the Reverend Hyde against servants that he accused of being two-faced and backbiting. With genuine concern he urged her to play vigorous tennis with John French, to ride, and to break the "terrible monotony" of the glebe house with visits to neighbors. He encouraged her literary efforts. Warning that Canadian newspapers "are insufferably bad and do not pay," he promised to try to place a story in one of them and speculated that he might manage to get others into the American papers when he went to the States. In his letters to her he included passages in Irish, French, and German and encouraged her to keep up her language skills by doing the same. He repeatedly recommended new books for her to read and asked for her opinions on Spencer, Cellini, and Emerson. He
appraised frankly for her confidential information what he considered to be negative aspects of the social and cultural structure of Fredericton and the university that he dared write to no other.
Throughout the year Annette had been responding to her brother's letters not only with details of household affairs and discussions of literature but also with news of Irish politics, particularly the rise and fall of Parnell, which both followed with similar concern, as the O'Shea divorce case proceeded through the courts. On this subject Hyde of course also received both information and comments from friends in Dublin. In a letter dated December 20, 1890, Charles Oldham had described the effect of the Parnell affair on the people he knew: "The dividing line runs through all one's acquaintances. . . . Everybody feels under a fierce unavoidable pressure to take sides ." If he were in Ireland, Oldham had assured Hyde, he too would feel the pressure, and "like all the purely national elements among the Irish people," he would be for Parnell. "All purely national Ireland," Oldham avowed, was looking to Parnell. "as the only hope of an independent party for Ireland in our generation." "He must win," declared Oldham, "if his health does not break down." The only Irish force against him, Oldham reported, was the power of the priests. December letters from James Sheehan were less sanguine. He suggested that "if Parnell had had the decency in the face of this strong feeling to retire," the whole thing would have blown over, "and he could marry Mrs. O'Shea all the time directing the party though not nominally leader." Hyde wrote to Annette:
I am greatly cut up over Parnell's business. I think I would support him if it were not for the clergy proclaiming against him. My sympathies were strongly aroused by his manifesto, but if the priests remain hostile to him I do not see what is to be done except to sacrifice him.
In Fredericton, Hyde discussed the situation with Fred St. John Bliss and Colonel Maunsell, both Parnell supporters. Often the three men spent long evening hours in the barracks over a glass of whiskey discussing alternate strategies that Parnell might follow. With others mindful of the strong pro-English history of the city, the damage a pro-Parnell position could inflict on his aspirations, the power of rumor, the speed with which it can be inflated, and the nature of New Brunswick politics, he was cautious. A potential confrontation was avoided when a St. John newspaper published an article accusing him of having refused to drink the queen's health at a public dinner. He denied the
charge and succeeded in convincing the Fredericton newspaper not to copy the item.
Observing a political campaign in New Brunswick in March 1891, Douglas declared himself appalled at the corruption. "The bribery is shameful," he wrote Annette, describing an incident in which, having learned of one man whose vote was purchased for fifteen dollars, he was assured that such spending was proper, for victory for the Liberals would mean free trade with the States and taxes on English goods. Even Hyde's own friend Captain Forester saw nothing wrong with canvassing votes for his father-in-law ninety miles up the St. John River, bribing one hundred people and returning with the votes of sixty or seventy. The local newspaper condemned bribery and voters who took bribes—but in the same article it reproached those who failed to stand by their promises and voted on the "wrong" side. Meanwhile in Ireland, the price of a vote was being paid in a very different currency. When Annette's letters and clippings detailing Parnell's "great defeat at Sligo" reached Hyde in April, he could only say "I am sorry."
New Brunswick was greening early in May; the red buds of the maples were swelling, the birches beginning to leaf, when Douglas wrote Annette that following the end of the semester he was planning to spend two weeks in Boston, New York, and Niagara, and then sail home. "Have the tennis ground sown and well-rolled," he instructed, promising that he would stay close to home for most of the coming summer.
On the twentieth of May, to his students' applause, Hyde gave his last lecture at the University of New Brunswick and turned to the reading and marking of 130 examination papers. In his spring report to President Harrison he summed up his year's pedagogical achievement: "I beg to report that since the opening of the University in October I have delivered an average of fifteen lectures a week on English, French and German literature and have found all my classes made satisfactory progress." His task had not been easy, however, as half his freshmen studying French and all his freshmen studying German had proved "utterly ignorant" of these languages. With the latter, he said, the situation had been so bad that he had been unable to do anything except work on grammar. On occasion, however, he had departed from the prescribed readings in the calendar to "intersperse the course with occasional lectures on topics of literary interest." Years later in a reminiscence prepared for the editor of the University of New Brunswick
yearbook, Hyde, who never himself found any language less than fascinating, still recalled with exasperation the difficulty he had had with his first foreign language classes: "I used to divide the students into the Sheep and the Goats! i.e. Honours and Pass students," but "I liked them all very much."
The students liked Hyde, too. The Literary and Debating Society held a night meeting to which he "went unsuspiciously." There he found "the whole college, ladies and all," who presented him with pipes, stems, a case, and other items, then "crowded round . . . and shook hands and said good-bye most cordially." The Alumni Society invited him to their banquet where "healths were drunk in air or water until one o'clock, the chairman saying each time, 'now gentlemen I want you to fill up your glasses and drink,' which was adding insult to injury." To Annette he confided, "I have probably been the most popular professor amongst the students who was ever there! At least so people said. You see I have become Americanised sufficiently to blow my own trumpet." His commencement address drew tears from his women students. "Henceforth," he said, "you face life no longer as a body, but as units. Your May is before you still, but when the diplomas were handed to you I distinctly and with a feeling of sadness heard the clock strike the last hour of your April."
Unofficial farewell parties, with plenty of whiskey, followed, the last on May 31. He staggered home, he wrote in his diary, falling "200 times before I got into bed, where I lay without taking my coat or anything else off. It is years since I was as bad as that." Then finally, on the third of June, with all Fredericton good-byes said (including a tearful but not yet final good-bye from the "Fräulein"), Hyde boarded the train for Boston. He had been pleased with the cheap rail fare he had managed to obtain and the dollar-a-night room he had reserved at the Crawford House, he wrote to Annette, until he was charged two dollars for the transfer of his luggage from the Boston railroad station to his hotel. The flippant note hid deeper feelings. Until the end of his life, his grandsons remember, he always kept on display a photograph of himself in bearskin hat and fur coat, holding snowshoes, along with some items that had been made by the Milicetes. He continued his friendship with Alexander Duff by mail. And even after his departure the University Monthly printed items that he had submitted to the Literary and Debating Society. One, a fondly if wryly sentimental poem entitled "To Canada," published in 1892, was reprinted in a number of Canadian newspapers, both in New Brunswick and in other provinces.
The ravaging winter is over,
The Wizard of Silence is fled,
And violets peep from their cover,
And daisies are raising their head.
Earth blushes to life like a lover,
And wakes in her emerald bed,
And she and the heavens above her
In torrents of sunshine are wed,
Forgetting the swoon of the snow.
By the pole slope that Canada faces
The ice giants hurtle and reel,
For her seven months winter she cases
Her land in a casket of steel.
Yet I pine for her mighty embraces
In the home of the moose and the seal,
And I pine for her beautiful places
And sad is the feeling I feel
When snow flakes remind me of her.