The Attaché; or, Sam Slick in England — Complete
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Of the three series of The clockmaker , the first was undoubtedly the best. Not only does a writer tell his best stories first but he usually tells them best if he tells them in his own good time. In the first series Haliburton worked at his own pace as the book ripened naturally out of the milieu in which he found himself. His principal biographer, V.
These were tasks of increasing difficulty which Haliburton failed to surmount completely in the second and third series of The clockmaker. A crisis in his personal relations with Joseph Howe in the s is a further confirmation that Haliburton was rapidly losing the balance with respect to the political and economic realities in Nova Scotia that was one of the strengths of The clockmaker , first series.
In it he tried to improve on his reputation as a satirist by turning his examination of human foibles from their peripheral manifestations in Nova Scotia to their centre in Britain. He was unsuccessful for several reasons. In the first place, he knew Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians well, whereas his relatively facile impressions of Britain blurred the ambiguities that result when actual experience encounters idealized preconception. Secondly, when writing The clockmaker , Haliburton had a more secure position in Nova Scotia, and in the current political struggle the chances of the Tories obtaining the upper hand seemed considerable; in consequence, he was able to express himself without fear or favour and with relative objectivity and freedom from bitterness.
In England he was a small frog in a large puddle, and, in consequence, often undercut his own harshest criticisms of British society in order not to offend powerful acquaintances. In the latter work Sam Slick, as a travelling entrepreneur, could display positive as well as negative qualities and remain both the centre of interest and the moral centre of the book. Even the most condemnatory critics in Britain found much to praise in the books, and the sales, though smaller than those of The clockmaker , were quite substantial.
Haliburton still remained the seemingly inexhaustible raconteur and master of racy frontier diction and the excellence of this quality was by itself sufficient to obscure the fact that much more often in this work than in The clockmaker the gap in probability between the anecdote and the meaning which the author applied to it had become too great for ready acceptance.
In these books, Haliburton presents Sam Slick almost entirely for the purpose of entertaining his audience, and to an intelligent reader few things are quite so dreary as a set of funny stories told merely for the sake of being funny. Conversation, however dull, with a purpose is never quite devoid of interest; conversation, however witty, maintained solely for the sake of conversation inevitably becomes garrulity. Aside from Sam Slick, the book which gained Haliburton the greatest notoriety was The letter-bag of the Great Western ; or , life in a steamer , published in Smollett, a writer who in his fondness for indecorous humour and exaggeration of the eccentricities of character was a kindred spirit.
The letter-bag of the Great Western played to the gallery with cheap humour and deserved the opprobrium with which commentators almost universally greeted it. Even a modern assumption that Haliburton the punster was an unconscious metaphysician reducing the world to a universal harmony of absurdity does not help. Such a game just is not worth the candle. Traits of American humour , by native authors and The Americans at home ; or , byeways , backwoods , and prairies are compilations by Haliburton from well-known works of American humour and from obscure American periodicals and newspapers of the first half of the 19th century.
It is constructed upon the same plan as The clockmaker. Nova Scotia is seen through the eyes of an English tourist who is visiting his friend, the old judge, and who is accompanied on his tour of the province by another friend, Lawyer Barclay. To the observations and adventures of the tourist are added the memories and observations of his friends and the other personages whom they encounter during their wanderings. Through his sketches of men and women, through his recounting of melodramatic events on an isolated frontier, through his description of social life in the past, Haliburton reveals in The old judge a vein of romantic sentiment little indulged in in his other work and narrative talents which had he cultivated them might have made him the first considerable novelist to have emerged in what is now Canada.
The season ticket , published in , is made up of a series of articles previously contributed during and to the Dublin University Magazine.
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Its plan is like that of The letter-bag of the Great Western except that a train takes the place of a steamboat and conversations take the place of letters. It is also reminiscent of the Clockmaker series. There is the usual mixture of partisan politics combined with acute observation, garrulity tempered with original and apt statement, but the general effect is dull.
They ought, therefore, to be given their independence as soon as feasible and allowed to fend for themselves. Haliburton further argues for the substitution of a permanent colonial council of appointees from the colonies in place of the Colonial Office, and he raises the possibility of colonial representation in the British parliament. He would, a generation later, surely have recognized a kindred spirit in Joseph Chamberlain. In addition to the works cited above, Haliburton privately printed and distributed two pamphlets, An address on the present condition , resources and prospects of British North America , and Speech of the Hon.
Justice Haliburton , M. Haliburton was, at the time of the publication of the latter pamphlet, either too ill to see it through the press properly or so lacking in concern with respect to it that he must never have seriously proof-read it. Chittick was right, however, in his main assumption.
Yet the will to dominate against odds persisted and, in his writing at least, he by turns flattered, wheedled, bullied, and threatened the British in an almost successful attempt to enter the shrine of their hearts that Dickens and Tennyson enjoyed; it is to his credit that he came close to succeeding. Although happy in his social activities, Haliburton in his later work developed an inclination toward melancholy which cannot be entirely explained by his failing health.
It flowed from his frustrated idealism.
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Haliburton had no confidence in the British Conservative leader, Peel. He early discovered that words were more amenable to government than events and that writing could give him the quick success that his imperious and hasty nature demanded. One factor in his abandoning an active political career for a judicial one was that it gave him more leisure in which to write.
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To the sense of proportion which he had acquired through his classical studies and his reading of 18th-century prose was added an ear sensitive to the rhythms and nuances of colloquial speech at the very time on the North American frontier when the laxity of education was enabling that speech to run riot in a picturesque and racy manner not known in the English language since Elizabethan times. In this regard, he paved the way for that great democratic prose epic of America, The adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Furthermore, his gregarious and sociable nature enabled him to study at first hand the many individual and unusual types which were fostered by the isolation and social freedom of a frontier.
At the same time, his knowledge, derived from both reading and experience, of traditional propriety and genteel British behaviour gave him a frame of reference within which to place these excesses. The success and popularity of Sam Slick established at the same time the vogue of the folk hero, the man whose ability and humanity do not depend upon education, position, and ancestry but upon his own intrinsic ability to cope with circumstance.
Sam Slick, in his vices and virtues, is the epitome of Jacksonian democracy.
With him human nature is everywhere and physical nature is nowhere. There are essentially two types of humour: one which is fixed and eternal; another whose appeal is transitory. This last must be rewritten with every passing generation. Eternal humour, of which Swift is the great example, in its purest form seizes upon some dichotomy in a fundamental area of human concern between the ideal and the actual and presents it stripped of accidental or temporary circumstances.
A classic example of this genre is vaudeville humour. Although the proportions are mixed, there is more vaudeville humour than true humour in the work of Haliburton, and as a result many readers today find the once admired dialect dated and the anecdotes not only told in a pace and form that are strange to them but dependent upon circumstances with which they are no longer concerned. During his own lifetime, Haliburton was not valued in Nova Scotia.
His books received there the most unfavourable reviews and were not apparently popular or appreciated. A remark leads to an onslaught on the modern Conservatives by Mr. Hopewell, with his own avowal of stanch Toryism and in what it consists : the propriety of distributing Co- lonial patronage among the colonists, and of finding some outlet for their stirring spirits by a larger field of ambition, is dis- cussed by Mr.
Slick and the Squire : an interview with an Anti- Slavery man, who has travelled in America, and whom Slick bam- boozles with the story of the " Gougin' School," where refractory Negroes are sent to be practised upon to the extent of one eye, but if they lose both the pupil must pay the value, is a hit at the Exeter Hall people. There are also other topics, both British and Ame- rican, but none of great depth, or even novelty ; for we need not say that all we have indicated is not very new in its sub- stance, but must derive its novelty from the new forms into which it may be thrown.
The Attache; or, Sam Slick in England, vol 2
These are not so telling as we expected when Slick, at the close of the third volume of the Clockmaker; received his appointment of Attache and was preparing fo'r a start. The style of Mr. Hem- BURTON has great clearness; and long piactice, with the advantage derived from the slang and other peculiarities of Slick, has given him the power of "making points" which often tell with a happy effect. But there is no inherent novelty in the subject- matter or in the views; and the style has degenerated into mannerism, and a mannerism all the more unpleasing from the original manner being so strongly marked.
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Apart from this, we suspect that the diction of Slick, upon trial, is unadapted to English modes of life ; not to mention that all continuations fall oft; and this work is not a second but a fourth continua- tion. But, whether the fault arises from the paucity of the matter or our previous familiarity with it, or from the style not being adapted to the theme, or from the too frequent repetition of peculiarities whose effect was exhausted at their first exhibition, the fact is clear enough that Sam Slick attraction has sunk consider- ably, and Mr.
Perhaps the best points in the volume are those relating to America ; but, looking at the subject of the work, we shall take in preference those things that refer to England. Why, if it ain't land ahead, as I'm alive!
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That critter that's a claw in' up the side of the vessel like a cat is the pilot : now do, for goodness gracious sake, jist look at him, and hear him. The critter don't say a word, even as much as ' by your. That ain't in the bill, it tante paid for that ; if it was, he'd off cap, touch the deck three times with his forehead, and 'slam' like a Turk to his honour the skipper.
They are as cold as Presby- terian charity, and mean enough to put the sun in eclipse, are the English. They haute set up the brazen image here to worship, but they've got a gold one, and that they do adore and no mistake; its all pay, pay, pay; perquisite, perquisite, perquisite ; extortion, extortion, extortion. There is a whole pack of yelpin' devils to your heels here, for everlastinly a cringin', fawnin', and coaxin', or snarlin', grumblin', or bullyin' you out of your money. There's the boatman, and tide-waiter, and porter, and custom-er, and truck-man, as Boor as you land; and the sarvant-man, and chamber-gall, and boots, and porter, again at the inn.
And then on the road, there is trunk-lifter, and coachman, and guard, and beggar-man, and a critter that opens the coach-door, that they calls a vraterman, cause he is infernal dirty, and never sees water. They are jist like a snarl o' snakes, their name is legion and there ain't no eend to 'em. If you could buy an Englishman at what he was worth and sell him at his own valiation, be would realize as much as a nigger, and would be worth tradin' in, that's a fact ; but as it is, he sin' worth flotilla,' there is no market for such critters, no one would buy him at no price.
A Scotchman is wns, for he is prouder and meaner. Pat ain't no better pother: he ain't proud, cause he has a hole in his breeches and another in his elbow, and he thinks pride won't patch 'em; and he ain't mean, cause he hante got nothin' to be mean with.
The great guns and big bugs have to take in each other's ladies; so these old ones have to herd together.