Come, bright Improvement!

Come, bright Improvement!: The Literary Societies of Nineteenth-Century Ontario

Heather Murray
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442673137
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  • Book Info
    Come, bright Improvement!
    Book Description:

    The forerunner of today's book clubs, nineteenth-century literary societies provided a lively social and intellectual forum where people could gather and discuss books, cultural affairs, and current events.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7313-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE: THE IMMIGRATION OF IMPROVEMENT
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE A LEGACY OF LITERARY CULTURE
    (pp. 3-22)

    The recent boom in book clubs as a social and educational activity has been a pronounced, if somewhat unexpected, development in an era that was predicted to be the dying day of print culture. Many thousands of North Americans find themselves feverishly finishing the month′s selection at their desks or on the subway before heading off to their discussion group, held often in a group member′s home but sometimes in a library, a church basement, or even a local bar. The meeting format ranges from informal ′book chat,′ which slides into general conversation, to a more directed discussion convened by...

  6. CHAPTER TWO EARLY SOCIETIES IN TORONTO
    (pp. 23-52)

    The Reverend John Strachan, that future bastion of establishment church and state and school, began his Upper Canadian career on more modest terms. But even while working as a tutor in Kingston in the early settlement years, he had an eye to his own, and Upper Canada′s, future. He was optimistic that instruction and its attendant virtues could easily be transplanted to Lake Ontario′s northern shore, just as Thomas Campbell, inThe Pleasures of Hope, had envisaged ′Improvement′ and the handmaid arts having a swift flight to the edges of Lake Erie. Indeed, according to these ′Verses written August 1802...

  7. CHAPTER THREE CULTURE AND CONFLICT IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT
    (pp. 53-74)

    The literary societies of Ontario, in their earliest manifestations, may seem to the contemporary viewer only incidentally literary or even educational. In the years surrounding the Rebellion of 1837-8, these organizations signified as much by their very existence as through any particulars of their programs. The principles of inclusion - and exclusion - of membership, the regulation of meetings and discussion, and the relationship of the organization to the wider social fabric were issues that involved club members in debate with one another and invoked public praise or condemnation (or both). Even as the educational mandate of these societies and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR CIRCLE TO CIRCLE
    (pp. 75-96)

    The Chautauqua Institution was one of the many artistic and idealistic enterprises that developed in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Upper New York State - the communitarian Oneida colonists, the spiritualists at Lily Dale, and the Roycrofters, who propounded the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, for example. But unlike most of its counterparts from this period, Chautauqua is still a thriving organization, a cultural summer camp for adults where the president of the United States may deliver a policy address or an avant-garde composer launch a new opera.³ The institution takes its name from the lake...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE THE RISE OF THE WOMEN′S SOCIETIES
    (pp. 97-126)

    In the early twenty-first century, so closely is a ′book club′ equated with a ′women′s club′ that it comes as a surprise to find how few societies for women (either in mixed-sex clubs or on their own terms) there were until relatively late in the nineteenth century. Undoubtedly, private or ′parlour′ reading circles existed for which no documentation remains, and opinions and recommendations must have been exchanged informally among friends and family members. But while there were several mixed-sex societies and at least two women-only groups operating in the African-Canadian community at mid-century, Euro-Canadian settler women seemed incognizant of such...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER SIX LITERARY STUDY IN THE LITERARY SOCIETIES
    (pp. 127-154)

    Throughout this book, my aim has been to identify literary societies in which some degree of literary study was either envisaged or enacted: that is, to study societies which studied texts. They may have done so directly through reading and discussion or in more mediated ways, such as a member′s essay on a novel or an author′s life. They may have studied in even more attentuated modes, such as the memorization of quotations and the mastery of the basic elements of what we might call ′literary literacy.′ Such study was almost invariably embedded in more widely ranging rhetorical or cultural...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN LITERARY SOCIETIES AS A SOURCE FOR HISTORY AND THEORY
    (pp. 155-170)

    The studies presented so far have aimed to illustrate the development of the literary society in early Ontario, the ideals and practices of different types of groups, and the reasons why individuals participated in literary societies and communities encouraged (or sometimes discouraged) them. The societies have been examined as forms of social, cultural, and political organization; for some of their demographic variations; and as an early development in adult education. While the focus has been on what was ′literary′ in these societies, an attempt has been made to show how their diverse activities related to one another and to the...

  13. APPENDIX A: LITERARY AND DEBATING CLUB PLEDGE, HAMILTON, 1893
    (pp. 171-171)
  14. APPENDIX B: READINGS AND RECITATIONS OF THE BARRIE LITERARY SOCIETY, 1881-1893
    (pp. 172-174)
  15. APPENDIX C: PROGRAMS OF STUDY OF THE BROWNING CLUB OF TORONTO, 1897-1905
    (pp. 175-182)
  16. LITERARY SOCIETIES OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY ONTARIO: A PRELIMINARY RESOURCE GUIDE
    (pp. 183-264)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 265-294)
  18. SOURCES CITED
    (pp. 295-316)
  19. ILLUSTRATION CREDITS
    (pp. 317-318)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 319-336)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-337)