Settler Dreams: Re-establishing Landed-Gentry Hierarchies in Catharine Strickland’s <em>The Young Emigrants</em>

  • Jackie C. Horne University of Winnipeg


In lieu of an abstract, here is an excerpt from this article: At the start of a project on early British and American settler novels written for children, I read that the majority of immigrants to Australia and Canada came from the labouring classes. With this knowledge, I imagined that stories which featured the adventures of early settlers would champion egalitarian class relations, if they mentioned class at all. I assumed that settlers, and those who wrote about them, would have no wish to replicate the social hierarchies of English gentry in the colonies. As an American who came of age during the Bicentennial, and one who was brought up with the myth of the independent, hardy, and class-disdaining pioneer, as described in such works as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House novels, the idea of a wealthy, socially prominent emigrant such as Kingston’s Mr. Collins struck me as surprising, even aberrant. Yet, as I began to read the early children’s settler novels themselves, Kingston’s comments about Mr. Collins and his family helped me to understand a pattern central not only to English, but also to early-American, settler narratives for children of the period—a pattern in which a genteel family re-establishes its endangered social position by successfully emigrating to the American West, to Australia, or to Canada.