Our hut is small, and rude our cheer,
But love has spread the banquet here;
And childhood springs to be caress'd
By our beloved and welcome guest.
(The Sleigh-Bells, 21-24)
Born at Bungay, Suffolk, on December 6, 1803, Susanna Strickland was the sixth child in a family of eight. Educated at home, three of the Strickland children pursued literary careers. Like Moodie, Catherine Parr Traill, and Samuel Strickland went on to write of their experiences in Canada. Susanna's career began in 1822 with the publication of Spartacus, A Roman Story. Thomas Harral, the editor of the London literary magazine La Belle Assemblée, published other work by her in 1827-28. She brought out in 1831 her first and only collection of poetry, Enthusiasm, and Other Poems, at a time when she was living in London and writing anti-slavery tracts. Soon after, she married a military officer, John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie. They emigrated in July 1832 to Upper Canada, settled near Port Hope, and later moved to a bush farm north of Peterborough. By 1839, her husband became Sheriff of Victoria District, and the family moved to Belleville with their children. In Canada, Moodie contributed frequently to The Literary Garland. A decade later, Moodie gives an account of her journey, her settlement in the backwoods, and her life in Belleville in the novels Flora Lyndsay (1854) and her two autobiographical journals, Roughing It in the Bush (1852) and Life in the Clearings (1853). She found herself well-known internationally, and legendary in Canada itself, by reason of her 1850s journals. Following the death of her husband in 1869, Moodie left their Belleville home to be with her children Katie Vickers, Robert Moodie and Agnes Fitzgibbon Chamberlin, to whom the Fisher Rare Book Library manuscript journal is dedicated. Susanna died in Toronto on April 8, 1885. One hundred years later, the Moodie family papers, which contain other poetry manuscripts, were acquired by the National Library of Canada. No collected edition of her poetry has yet been published. (The RPO edition is the first for one of Moodie's poems, "The Step Mother.") Margaret Atwood's The Journals of Susanna Moodie (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1970) beautifully articulates the strangeness of Moddie's wilderness life from a 20th-century perspective.
The photograph is courtesy of the National Archives of Canada (C-7043).
Given name: Susanna
Family name: Moodie
Birth date: 1803
Death date: 1885