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Lost in the BackwoodsScots and the North American Wilderness$
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Jenni Calder

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748647392

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748647392.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

The Never-ending Forest

The Never-ending Forest

(p.31) 2 The Never-ending Forest
Lost in the Backwoods

Jenni Calder

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter describes encounters of settlers in North America with vast areas of dense forest, a traumatic experience particularly for those from Orkney or the Hebrides, where trees are few. Accounts express the fear of a hostile terrain, and in particular the fear of getting lost, the theme of Catherine Parr Traill’s story Lost in the Backwoods which is discussed as a paradigm of pioneer endeavour, in which a combination of fortitude, practical skills and Christian faith proves sustaining. The chapter goes on to look at accounts by travellers and settlers, manuals of advice to emigrants, and twentieth century responses. Although the potential fertility of virgin soil was a powerful attraction, the forest is often projected as an almost gothic landscape and a near insurmountable impediment to human activity. Other key texts here are John Galt’s accounts of attempts to transform the backwoods into viable settlements; his two North American novels Lawrie Todd (1831) and Bogle Corbet (1832) are chronicles of near failure, although the dogged persistence of the two eponymous heroes is emblematic of characteristics often described as typically Scottish.

Keywords:   backwoods, hostile terrain, emigrants, pioneers, settlement, Scottish character, Catherine Parr Traill, John Galt

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