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- Pierre And His People, [Tales of the Far North], Volume 1. - 1/11 -
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
PIERRE AND HIS PEOPLE
TALES OF THE FAR NORTH
By Gilbert Parker
Volume 1. THE PATROL OF THE CYPRESS HILLS GOD'S GARRISON A HAZARD OF THE NORTH
Volume 2. A PRAIRIE VAGABOND SHE OF THE TRIPLE CHEVRON THREE OUTLAWS
Volume 3. SHON MCGANN'S TOBOGAN RIDE PERE CHAMPAGNE THE SCARLET HUNTER THE STONE
Volume 4. THE TALL MASTER THE CRIMSON FLAG THE FLOOD IN PIPI VALLEY
Volume 5. ANTOINE AND ANGELIQUE THE CIPHER A TRAGEDY OF NOBODIES A SANCTUARY OF THE PLAINS
With each volume of this subscription edition (1912) there is a special introduction, setting forth, in so far as seemed possible, the relation of each work to myself, to its companion works, and to the scheme of my literary life. Only one or two things, therefore, need be said here, as I wish God-speed to this edition, which, I trust, may help to make old friends warmer friends and new friends more understanding. Most of the novels and most of the short stories were suggested by incidents or characters which I had known, had heard of intimately, or, as in the case of the historical novels, had discovered in the works of historians. In no case are the main characters drawn absolutely from life; they are not portraits; and the proof of that is that no one has ever been able to identify, absolutely, any single character in these books. Indeed, it would be impossible for me to restrict myself to actual portraiture. It is trite to say that photography is not art, and photography has no charm for the artist, or the humanitarian indeed, in the portrayal of life. At its best it is only an exhibition of outer formal characteristics, idiosyncrasies, and contours. Freedom is the first essential of the artistic mind. As will be noticed in the introductions and original notes to several of these volumes, it is stated that they possess anachronisms; that they are not portraits of people living or dead, and that they only assume to be in harmony with the spirit of men and times and things. Perhaps in the first few pages of 'The Right of Way' portraiture is more nearly reached than in any other of these books, but it was only the nucleus, if I may say so, of a larger development which the original Charley Steele never attained. In the novel he grew to represent infinitely more than the original ever represented in his short life.
That would not be strange when it is remembered that the germ of The 'Right of Way' was growing in my mind over a long period of years, and it must necessarily have developed into a larger conception than the original character could have suggested. The same may be said of the chief characters in 'The Weavers'. The story of the two brothers--David Claridge and Lord Eglington--in that book was brewing in my mind for quite fifteen years, and the main incidents and characters of other novels in this edition had the same slow growth. My forthcoming novel, called 'The Judgment House', had been in my mind for nearly twenty years and only emerged when it was full grown, as it were; when I was so familiar with the characters that they seemed as real in all ways as though they were absolute people and incidents of one's own experience.
Little more need be said. In outward form the publishers have made this edition beautiful. I should be ill-content if there was not also an element of beauty in the work of the author. To my mind truth alone is not sufficient. Every work of art, no matter how primitive in conception, how tragic or how painful, or even how grotesque in design --like the gargoyles on Notre Dame must have, too, the elements of beauty--that which lures and holds, the durable and delightful thing. I have a hope that these books of mine, as faithful to life as I could make them, have also been touched here and there by the staff of beauty. Otherwise their day will be short indeed; and I should wish for them a day a little longer at least than my day and span.
I launch the ship. May it visit many a port! May its freight never lie neglected on the quays!
So far as my literary work is concerned 'Pierre and His People' may be likened to a new city built upon the ashes of an old one. Let me explain. While I was in Australia I began a series of short stories and sketches of life in Canada which I called 'Pike Pole Sketches on the Madawaska'. A very few of them were published in Australia, and I brought with me to England in 1889 about twenty of them to make into a volume. I told Archibald Forbes, the great war correspondent, of my wish for publication, and asked him if he would mind reading the sketches and stories before I approached a publisher. He immediately consented, and one day I brought him the little brown bag containing the tales.
A few days afterwards there came an invitation to lunch, and I went to Clarence Gate, Regent's Park, to learn what Archibald Forbes thought of my tales. We were quite merry at luncheon, and after luncheon, which for him was a glass of milk and a biscuit, Forbes said to me, "Those stories, Parker--you have the best collection of titles I have ever known." He paused. I understood. To his mind the tales did not live up to their titles. He hastily added, "But I am going to give you a letter of introduction to Macmillan. I may be wrong." My reply was: "You need not give me a letter to Macmillan unless I write and ask you for it."
I took my little brown bag and went back to my comfortable rooms in an old-fashioned square. I sat down before the fire on this bleak winter's night with a couple of years' work on my knee. One by one I glanced through the stories and in some cases read them carefully, and one by one I put them in the fire, and watched them burn. I was heavy at heart, but I felt that Forbes was right, and my own instinct told me that my ideas were better than my performance--and Forbes was right. Nothing was left of the tales; not a shred of paper, not a scrap of writing. They had all gone up the chimney in smoke. There was no self-pity. I had a grim kind of feeling regarding the thing, but I had no regrets, and I have never had any regrets since. I have forgotten most of the titles, and indeed all the stories except one. But Forbes and I were right; of that I am sure.
The next day after the arson I walked for hours where London was busiest. The shop windows fascinated me; they always did; but that day I seemed, subconsciously, to be looking for something. At last I found it. It was a second-hand shop in Covent Garden. In the window there was the uniform of an officer of the time of Wellington, and beside it--the leather coat and fur cap of a trapper of the Hudson's Bay Company! At that window I commenced to build again upon the ashes of last night's fire. Pretty Pierre, the French half-breed, or rather the original of him as I knew him when a child, looked out of the window at me. So I went home, and sitting in front of the fire which had received my manuscript the night before, with a pad upon my knee, I began to write 'The Patrol of the Cypress Hills' which opens 'Pierre and His People'.
The next day was Sunday. I went to service at the Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury, and while listening superficially to the sermon I was also reading the psalms. I came upon these words, "Free among the Dead like unto them that are wounded and lie in the grave, that are out of remembrance," and this text, which I used in the story 'The Patrol of the Cypress Hills', became, in a sense, the text for all the stories which came after. It seemed to suggest the lives and the end of the lives of the workers of the pioneer world.
So it was that Pierre and His People chiefly concerned those who had been wounded by Fate, and had suffered the robberies of life and time while they did their work in the wide places. It may be that my readers have found what I tried, instinctively, to convey in the pioneer life I portrayed--"The soul of goodness in things evil." Such, on the whole, my observation had found in life, and the original of Pierre, with all his mistakes, misdemeanours, and even crimes, was such an one as I would have gone to in trouble or in hour of need, knowing that his face would never be turned from me.
These stories made their place at once. The 'Patrol of the Cypress Hills' was published first in 'The Independent' of New York and in 'Macmillan's Magazine' in England. Mr. Bliss Carman, then editor of 'The Independent', eagerly published several of them--'She of the Triple Chevron' and others. Mr. Carman's sympathy and insight were a great help to me in those early days. The then editor of 'Macmillan's Magazine', Mr. Mowbray Morris, was not, I think, quite so sure of the merits of the Pierre stories. He published them, but he was a little credulous regarding them, and he did not pat me on the back by any means. There was one, however, who made the best that is in 'Pierre and His People' possible; this was the unforgettable W. E. Henley, editor of The 'National Observer'. One day at a sitting I wrote a short story called 'Antoine and Angelique', and sent it to him almost before the ink was dry. The reply came by return of post: "It is almost, or quite, as good as can be. Send me another." So forthwith I sent him 'God's Garrison', and it was quickly followed by 'The Three Outlaws', 'The Tall Master', 'The Flood', 'The Cipher', 'A Prairie Vagabond', and several others. At length came 'The Stone', which brought a telegram of congratulation, and
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