“Of the Irritable Genus”:
The Role of Susanna Moodie in the Publishing of Roughing It in the Bush

Alison Rukavina
Simon Fraser University

1 WHEN ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH was first published in 1852, it was advertised as a “glowing narrative of personal inci- dent and suffering,” which would “no doubt attract general attention” (CEECT 669). 1 While publisher Richard Bentley’s announcement portrayed Susanna Moodie as a strong woman whose “warmth of feeling … beams through every line,” many other versions of the author’s relationship to her work have since been constructed. Most recently, in The Work of Words: The Writings of Susanna Strickland Moodie, John Thurston argues that “Moodie is one hand among many involved in the production of this text” (134). This essay discusses how Roughing It in the Bush was transformed through successive editions as new collaborators, through excisions and additions, recreated the text to meet their needs and those of their audience. Before considering the book’s complex publishing history, however, I need to reconstruct the relationship between the author and her publisher that underscores Moodie’s profile as Canada’s foremost author of the 1850s.

2 In the mid-nineteenth century a restructuring of the publishing industry led to conflict between publishers and authors over their respective positions regarding publication. As Norm Feltes, in Literary Capital and the Late Victorian Novel, argues, “authors and publishers were deeply divided over whether ‘property’ or ‘process’ was the dominant feature of literary production. The publishers obviously tended to recognize book production as an extended process over which they alone should have control” (15). Whereas authors believed they created, “publishers simply acted as administrators, or distributors and collectors, as agents, in short” (13). In 1851, Susanna Moodie sent a manuscript to an acquaintance in London, part-time literary agent John Bruce, and instructed him to find a publisher for Canadian Life, which would later, after extensive textual changes, be retitled Roughing It in the Bush. 2 John Bruce then engaged Richard Bentley in negotiations on behalf of Susanna Moodie. Thurston privileges Bentley’s role in the publication of Roughing It, arguing that as a publisher, Bentley was ultimately in control of the text. Moodie is silenced by Thurston’s argument, and reduced to a minor character who supplied the basic materials for Bentley and her agent John Bruce to mold into a coherent work.

3 As Susan Glickman observes, “Thurston is only taking to its logical extreme Carl Klinck’s argument in the introduction to his 1962 New Canadian Library edition of Roughing It that each generation of readers deserves a new version of the book” (76). While Glickman acknowledges that “contemporary editors have more patience with Moodie’s story, and more respect for her text” (77), Moodie’s role in the initial publishing of Roughing It in the Bush needs to be recovered in order for modern readers, editors, and publishers alike to fully appreciate the complexity of the text and its publication record.

4 In Literary Capital, Feltes argues that the relationship between publishers and authors was “a structure, determined not only by the practice of the publisher and the author, but by the practices of publishers’ readers and authors’ agents…. Publishing is best seen … as a distinctive, determinate set of interlocking, often contradictory practices” (16-17). While Bentley’s role in the creation of Roughing It was crucial to the position it assumed in the marketplace, the first three editions of the text were created in dialogue with Susanna Moodie. Richard Bentley, with the participation of Susanna Moodie and others, engaged the reading public with successive editions of Roughing It, which were all edited to attract the largest audience possible. Feltes offers a theoretical framework that counters Thurston’s erasure of Moodie and his contention that Moodie “did not write Roughing It in the Bush…. Susanna Moodie and Roughing It in the Bush are interchangeable titles given to a collaborative act of textual production whose origin cannot be limited to one person or one point in time” (“Rewriting Roughing It” 195). Considering the publication of Roughing It as a negotiated structure re-establishes Moodie as the author of the text, and Bentley as an important contributor to the publication of Roughing It, but not privileged as the only figure involved.

5 The papers that are the remnants of Susanna Moodie and Richard Bentley’s relationship yield a remarkably well documented account of the publishing history of Roughing It in the Bush. For instance, clues to why Moodie wrote Roughing It are found in a number of letters. In 1832, just prior to the time John and Susanna Moodie — both experienced authors — emigrated to Canada, John wrote to her saying that the firm which had just published her book of poems, Enthusiasm, was “still much inclined” to accept a work from him “on Canada” (Work of Words 134). Later in November 1834, when this idea resurfaced, John Moodie wrote to Richard Bentley, who was then considering his Ten Years in South Africa, and offered Bentleya plain unaffected narrative of the progress and proceedings of a new settler in [the] colony whether he settled in the cleared and improved parts of the country or went into the back woods. I have tried both these kinds of settlement myself — hitherto successfully — and can therefore form a tolerable estimate of their respective advantages and disadvantages. 3 (British Library 46612, ff. 120-21)Although Bentley at first refused the proposal, he was still inclined to see a manuscript (Bentley Archives 39, 81, 135). Roughing It was then primarily composed in the 1840s and assembled from the written materials, many of which had previously been published by the Moodies in periodicals such as The Victoria Magazine, The Literary Garland, and The Canadian Literary Magazine. Along with the opening poem for the chapter titled “The Whirlwind,” contributed by Samuel Strickland, Roughing It became a loose and dynamic composition: full of colourful characters, different insights, and shifting voices. By the time it reached London two-thirds of the manuscript sent to Bentley had appeared in periodicals. Between the time the original manuscript was sent and Roughing It in the Bush was first published in 1852, a series of editorial changes were implemented at the Bentley house to maximize the book’s appeal to a variety of audiences. While Moodie was not present to oversee these changes, the material evidence of her relationship with Bentley and the documents of the publishing history of her book reveal a Susanna Moodie who was a distant yet active participant in the publishing of Roughing It.

6 Thurston constructs a Moodie who is distanced not just literally from the publishing process but figuratively as well. Moodie, according to Thurston, left the business of editing and preparing the text for publication to Bruce and Bentley: “Moodie abdicated authorial responsibility” (138). However, despite her absence from the editing process, one finds upon examining her letters that Susanna Moodie was indeed aware, on a very practical level, of publishing and marketing practices. On November 26, 1842, for example, she wrote to John Lovell, editor of The Literary Garland, saying: “If I had time, I would try Moodie’s publisher, Bentley of London. My sister Agnes’ name would be a great help to me now in selling a book of my own” (Ballstadt et al. 97). Moodie reveals in this statement her aptitude for marketing — acknowledging that her sister’s famous name would increase book sales. While Richard Bentley was the principal figure behind the assembly of the text in London, it was in negotiation with Moodie and others that Bentley orchestrated a series of editorial changes in order to capitalize on the inherent appeal to different audiences of a work that is part travel narrative, part settler/immigrant guide, and part autobiography.

7 In the years leading up to the 1852 publication of Roughing It, Richard Bentley’s position in the publishing world of England was challenged on a variety of fronts. Most notably, some of the authors upon whom he had come to rely had begun to disappear from popular favour, thus diminishing his revenue. In A Victorian Publisher: A Study of the Bentley Papers, Royal A. Gettmann elaborates: “some of the older authors — such as G.P.R. James, Mrs. Gore, Thomas Chandler Haliburton, and James Fenimore Cooper — disappeared from Bentley’s lists or waned in popularity, and although newcomers included such good and promising writers as Herman Melville, Charles Reade, and Wilkie Collins, their works were not remunerative” (24). Bentley also began to inform his authors that he could publish their works only “on a profit-sharing basis” — though only when convenient for him to do so. 4 Roger P. Wallins, in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, states that during this period “increased competition, legal machinations, and [Bentley’s] own failed ventures” contributed to the decline of the Bentley house (49). What resulted was an obvious need for a work that would be both a financial and critical success.

8 Roughing It in the Bush offered Bentley the opportunity to publish a work with great possibility at minimum cost. Susanna Moodie was initially advanced “£20 on account of half profits” in exchange for Bentley’s command of the copyright for ten years (Bentley Archives 40, 82, 189). In December of that same year, her sister Agnes Strickland secured a sum of £100 for their brother, Major Sam Strickland, for the first edition of his settler narrative Twenty-Seven Years in Canada West, with a promise of another £100 should the work go to a second printing (Bentley Archives 29, 57, 184). 5 Moodie’s agreement was certainly the one with the greater risk, especially for the author, in that no further payment was guaranteed unless the book sold well, whereas Strickland’s contract guaranteed a larger sum regardless of sales. Due to the distances involved, Moodie’s agent John Bruce, three weeks before the January 29 publication date, had to sign the contract on her behalf on January 9 (Bentley Archives 29, 57, 81). However, a second agreement was signed by Bruce on February 7; it extinguished the first contract and sold Bentley the entire copyright to Roughing It for £ 50 — a larger sum, but still considerably less than what was offered to Sam Strickland (Bentley Archives 29, 57, 83). 6

9 As the intermediary between author and publisher, the literary agent, according to Feltes, “functioned to mediate the contradiction[s], distributing advantage according to the circumstances of his hiring” (23). In other words, the agent was “a man of business to make … arrangements for [the author] … with a man of business [the publisher]” (21). Thurston regards John Bruce, an antiquarian scholar who dabbled in publishing, as an agent who worked more for Bentley’s benefit than Moodie’s (136). However, the two surviving letters between Bruce and Bentley, written on December 27 and 29, 1851, make clearly evident the negotiating between Moodie, via her agent, and Bentley. Bruce may have mixed feelings about his employer but she is the one directing him in negotiations for the most part. In the second letter to Bentley, Bruce opens by referring to Moodie as “one of the irritable genus,” undercutting the comment, however, with an insertion above the sentence that Moodie was also “unquestionably extremely kind and placable” (Bentley Archives IU 23). 7 However, in both letters Bruce mentions his author’s “instructions” to him to get the best contract possible with Bentley or to take the book elsewhere. In the first letter Bentley writes, “My instructions are to obtain money from you or to offer the work to a periodical where I have not the slightest doubt it would be accepted and paid for, with liberty of subsequent republications.” And while Bentley did tell Bruce to excise the “softnesses” from the text, Moodie also tells Bruce what she wants edited, which he reports in the December 29 letter: “she did indeed send me another paper and asked for the suppression of Michael Mcbride.” The actual changes effected for the first edition of Roughing It will later be examined in more detail, but for now it is enough to say that the changes Bruce made to the text were initiated by both Moodie and Bentley.

10 The second agreement for Roughing It, however, did favour Bentley and indicates an attempt on Bentley’s part to control the publishing of the work for his benefit. With an original agreement that offered Bentley only partial profits, and a publishing firm desperately in need of funds, one can surmise that his actions to secure copyright at such an opportune time were an attempt to guarantee himself the largest returns possible. Bentley had done this before with R.H. Barham’s The Ingoldsby Legends. Published as a series in 1840, 1842, and 1846, the works comprised what Gettmann refers to as “exceptional books which brought to the publisher profits quite out of proportion to his investment” (80). Having paid Barham £100 for the entire copyright in January 1840, “a fortnight before the publication of the first series,” Bentley successfully obtained the rights to what would eventually become “one of his three most valuable properties” (81). 8 Consequently, one could argue that because sales were likely to increase based upon the early reception of Roughing It, Bentley wanted to create a similar opportunity for profit: the day Bentley signed the second contract the first review was published in The Spectator.

11 The timing of the second contract is extremely interesting in view of Bentley’s possible foreknowledge of the early critical response to Roughing It. Reviews in The Spectator (February 7, 1852), the Literary Gazette (February 21, 1852), and the Athenaeum (February 28, 1852) were favourable and focussed on the appeal of the appeal of the text as an account of a woman’s struggle in the backwoods. Furthermore, Carl Ballstadt argues in Letters of a Lifetime, “The extremely positive character of the review[s] undoubtedly did much to promote sales of the book in Britain” (xxxii).

12 Bentley was a known puffer, who would pay reviewers to extol the virtues of a book. Puffery, according to Gettmann, was viewed by many publishers in the early nineteenth century as a necessary practice since “there were many who were on the point of becoming readers and even, with a bit of pressure, book buyers … here was sufficient reason for puffing — to cause these people to read and to ask for a given title when they entered a circulating library or bookshop” (60). While a number of publishing houses and periodicals refused to have anything to do with puffing, an equal number, including Bentley, indulged. Bentley, according to Gettmann, found puffing necessary in a time of “acceleration in the changes in popular taste and the competition among literary forms” (58). Bentley may well have bought out the copyright for Roughing It not only because of The Spectator review but because he knew the review “Forest Life in Canada West” in Blackwood’s Magazine 70 (March 1852) would be stellar. Written by Frederick Hardman, the review praises Roughing It and calls to the “Ladies of Britain … [to] look forth into the desert at a sister’s sufferings … transport yourselves, in imagination’s car, to Canada’s backwoods, and behold one, gently nurtured as yourselves, cheerfully condescending to rudest toils, unrepiningly enduring hardships you never dreamed of” (24). Beginning in 1852, Hardman was a regular contributor to Blackwood’s who frequently reviewed books published by Bentley, 9 and who was also a freelance journalist writing reviews and articles for other magazines, including Bentley’s Miscellany. A receipt dated 1845 indicates payments to Hardman for contributions to Bentley’s Miscellany (Bentley Archives 44, 92, 640). The Bentley Archives contain documents indicating not only that was there a business connection between Bentley and Hardman, but that Blackwood’s and Bentley were also doing business with each other. 10 While Blackwood’s was not known as a magazine that allowed puff pieces, the review may have been part of a deal between Bentley and Blackwood’s, or an arrangement between Bentley and Hardman, but more research is necessary before this claim can be verified. 11 However, the foreknowledge of good reviews, which would sway the public in favour of the novel, would explain Bentley’s sudden desire to buy out the copyright of Roughing It. Also, such an arrangement would explain why 2250 copies of Moodie’s book were printed, a number inconsistent with the print runs of other books published in 1852, and why Bentley would take the risk of producing a relatively expensive book in such a large quantity. 12

13 Regardless of whether Bentley took over the publication process, he still had to work with Susanna Moodie, who expressed her dissatisfaction with the second agreement, stating in a letter dated April 16, 1852 that she was “deeply disappointed; as [she] could have commanded far more liberal terms both in the States and in the Colony” (Ballstadt et al. 124). 13 Based upon her knowledge of the early reviews of Roughing It, she then offered Bentley the manuscript of another work, Mark Hurdlestone, leaving the “terms of publication or sale … to [his] own liberality,” but at the same time making it known that “The first agreement … was [to her] far more agreeable than the last.” In addition, she hints at her readiness to explore relations with other publishers:Your answer upon this subject before the month of June, would greatly oblige me; as in case of a refusal, a gentleman who is going to Edinburgh during that month, has offered to try and effect a sale for me with the Mess’rs Blackwood, to whom he is personally known and who publishes for my sister Agnes. But, I thought it only fair to give my first European publisher the choice in the matter. 14Richard Bentley promptly responded to this letter on May 13, 1852, declaring she would receive from him, with regard to Mark Hurdlestone, “the best offer which it is in my power to make, based upon a sincere desire to maintain a literary connection which I trust will be materially beneficial” (Bentley Archives 40, 82, 222). It was in Bentley’s interests to negotiate with Moodie and make a concerted effort to satisfy her requests. As Feltes argues, Victorian publishing produced “a commodity either [as] an addition to a publisher’s ‘list’ or a book to be ‘boomed’ as a ‘bestseller’” (16-17). If Bentley wanted to publish and promote other Moodie manuscripts as potential sister “bestsellers” to Roughing It, he needed to gain Moodie’s cooperation as she threatened to go elsewhere. Consequently, Bentley issued payment for the chapters that arrived too late for insertion in the original edition of Roughing It and later, on June 29, offered Moodie £50 on advance of half profits for Mark Hurdlestone — addressing her initial argument that such an arrangement would be more in her favour. 15 Moreover, Bentley wrote to Moodie again on August 11, further offering an additional £50 for Roughing It as a “compliment beyond the consideration for the copyright” (Bentley Archives 40, 82, 237). Moodie’s response to these new concessions was, “The liberal and gentlemanly tone it breathes, inspires me with a confidence towards you, which I feel certain, will never be abused. I am perfectly satisfied with the terms of remuneration you propose” (Ballstadt et al. 125).

14 In The Work of Words, John Thurston states that it was Richard Bentley and his unnamed editors who decided what was to be included in the final text. Moreover, Thurston, along with Julie Beddoes, also believes these decisions extended to creating an appropriate title for the work. Beddoes states that the choice of Roughing It in the Bush “suggests a harsher experience than what would have been conveyed by Canadian Life, the title on the manuscript sent to London … [and that generally] Bruce and Bentley made their changes without Moodie’s approval” (370). Moodie herself, however, did not seem to mind. In a letter to Richard Bentley dated April 16, 1853, she seems concerned primarily with audience reaction, negotiating future payments, and creating a name for herself, rather than with any of the actual changes that were made:if I may judge from the reviews that have reached the Colony, [the book] has met with favorable reception in England … The very great popularity which some of these tales have enjoyed in the Colony, and in the United States, as published in the Montreal Literary Garland, leads me to hope, that as human nature is the same everywhere, they may chance to meet with as much, or greater favour at home. (Ballstadt et al. 123)According to Thurston, Bentley waited until the book was favourably received in England before publishing a “Second Edition, With Additions” later in 1852 — only nine months after the appearance of the first. A third edition followed in 1854. 16 Thurston argues that “[the] varied evidence of editorial intervention suggests that the Moodie manuscript handled by Bruce needed work. Bentley’s belief in its marketability must have been solid for him to expend so much time on it” (137). Bentley worked on Roughing It, Thurston argues, not just supplying “the patina to an inchoate work,” but producing three different editions, which underscored his belief in the worth of Moodie’s text.

15 Thurston’s contention, though, that Bentley spent a lot of time on Roughing It, is at odds with John Bruce’s letters to Bentley on December 27 and 29 1851, which indicate that a month before publication, editing was just beginning. In his first letter to Bentley, while still negotiating the contract the contract, Bruce offers to “see it through the prep and can give immediate attention to it if it be gone on with now” (Bentley Archives IU 23). A month before publication, the contract had yet to be finalized and the manuscript edited. These two letters suggest that little time was spent on the text, as Bruce in the December 29 letter further asks Bentley to “put me in communication with the printer and I could then send in the copy to them from time to time as it is ready.” In an industry considered a “fiction mill” (Feltes 22) that constantly churned out new books, the editing of a text was rarely a protracted event. A month or less of preparation was about average for books published in the mid-nineteenth century (Dooley 36). Therefore, while Roughing It may have been viewed as a “bestseller” that Bentley could “boom,” it was not necessarily edited any more carefully or differently from other books being published around this time — though this does not in any way change the fact that many alterations were made to the manuscript in the first and subsequent editions. 17

16 On December 27, 1851, Richard Bentley asked John Bruce to revise the text with “the view of omitting some of the poetry” (Bentley Archives IU 23). Two days later Bruce refers to “softnesses” he is eliminating at Bentley’s request. The poetry is replaced with John Moodie’s “Canadian Sketches,” a factual chapter on Canada, in the second edition. Bentley may not have been sure which genre the book belonged to: “[he] may have thought it was either an informative immigrant tract, an exotic travel narrative, a wilderness romance, or all three” (Thurston 138). He may have seen a chance to draw a different set of readers to the book by adding a chapter belonging to the genre of “immigrant tract[s].” Consequently, “Canadian Sketches” was added to the second edition because “it broaden[ed] the market appeal to attract serious immigrants and speculators” (136). “Jeanie Burns,” on the other hand, was not added to the other editions because it represented “softness,” which complicated the more masculine voice Bentley wished to add to the text. The Backwoods review of March 1852 emphasizes the appeal Roughing It had for both men and women, referring to the factual information contained in the book for would-be-emigrants, yet also calling to the “Ladies of Britain, deftly embroidering in carpeted saloon, gracefully bending over easel or harp, pressing with nimble finger, your piano’s ivory” (355), to read a fellow sister’s work. Other changes to the second and third editions were the reinsertion of some of the missing poetry and a reordering of the poetry in the text. For example, the first edition of Roughing It originally ended with the poem “The Maple Tree,” whereas a new poem entitled “God Save the Queen” concluded the second edition. The effect is that this edition of Roughing It ends on a decidedly more British tone than does the previous edition. Moreover, the inclusion of “Canadian Sketches” and other changes to the text permitted the description of the “‘edition[s]’ as ‘with additions’” in order perhaps to attract not only new readers, but also repeat customers (CEECT 624).

17 In The Work of Words, Thurston argues that “The correspondence between Mrs Moodie and Bentley contains no evidence that any of these changes was made on the express wishes of her or her husband” (136). However, alterations to the three Bentley editions of Roughing It did take place with Moodie’s written consent. She states in a letter dated April 16, 1852 thatMr. Bruce wrote to me, requesting me to add a concluding chapter to the work, upon the present state of the country, and likewise to supply a chapter in the place of ‘Michael Macbride,’ which I had suppressed, on account of the Catholics … Mr. Moodie wrote a long and able chapter, on the present condition of the Colony, and I sent a true and pathetic narrative, entitled ‘Jeanie Burns.’ (Ballstadt et al. 124)Here, Moodie is quick to respond to the request transmitted by John Bruce. Indeed, she explains to Bentley that “My distance from England, and the necessity of being explicit, in order to save time, will I hope … prove a sufficient excuse for the unceremonious manner in which I have addressed you.” She takes the suggestions offered by both Bruce and Bentley very seriously, acknowledging that “These [new] chapters would have proved a very useful, and almost necessary addition to the work,” and that “should it be so fortunate as to reach a second edition,” they should be appended at that time. Moreover, Moodie in a letter dated July 20, 1852 makes editorial suggestions regarding the placement of chapters:I have … caught sight of the book … [and] I have gone carefully over the work, and enclose you a few corrections, should the book ever go into a second edition. In such case — and you should deem it advisable, to insert the chapters we sent you; and which I think would add greatly to the general interest of the book, the Sketch of Jeanie Burns, should be placed between the VI and VII chapters of the first volume, and the portion written by my husband, should end the work. (Ballstadt et al. 126)

18 Another example of Moodie’s participation in changes to the text can be seen in “A Visit to Grosse Isle,” in which Moodie writes of being left on the ship alone with her newborn as everyone else went ashore: “My husband went off with the boats I was left alone with my baby…. Even Oscar, the Captain’s Scotch terrier … became possessed of the land mania, and was away with the rest” (CEECT 16). What is interesting about this chapter is not so much sympathetic image of mother and child but the fact that this chapter was edited to manufacture such an image. Originally having appeared in The Victoria Magazine, the first version presented the reader with a very different scene: “The ship soon emptied of all her live cargo. My husband alone remained to bear me company” (15), whereas in the Roughing It version of events, she is left alone. Neither Moodie’s nor Bentley’s letters speak of the desire to superimpose the image of mother and child onto the text, leaving the reader to presume its appearance is part of Moodie’s own revisions to the chapter, evidence of agency on her part. The image of mother and child is sympathetic, and likely served as a symbol that was easy to grasp by a European audience. As the primary author of Roughing It in the Bush, Moodie possibly inscribed the image of mother and child on the text in order to gear the book toward its intended audience.

19 Both Moodie and Bentley were concerned with the marketability of this “literary capital”; Roughing It was a commodity that both wanted to see well placed in the literary marketplace. In June 1852, Bentley wrote to Moodie:If you could render your picture of the state of affairs in the large towns [and] cities of Canada, interesting to the idle reader, at the same time you make it informing to those who are looking for facts it would be acceptable. Present them to the reader’s eye as they were years ago and as they are now, [and] are still every year. I imagine … it might form a good work as a pendent to “Roughing It in the Bush.” I would, if I liked it, purchase the copyright of it and it should appear first in the Miscellany. (Bentley Archives 16, 40, 82)From this, it is clear that Bentley is aware of his audience, considering the work’s appeal to the “ideal reader” and suggesting how this new “picture” should appear to “the reader’s eye.” He is also directly requesting what he would like to see Moodie create as a sequel to Roughing It. Furthermore, in the same letter, he states that when preparing a work for publication, one must consider the timing of its appearance. In regard to Mark Hurdlestone, the work to follow Roughing It, he writes, “I think it would not be advisable to publish it as we shall have the election throughout the country, occupying public attention exclusively.” It becomes evident that Bentley wanted a great deal of attention placed on Mark Huddlestone and did not care to risk the work becoming obscured by a larger event. Many of the changes to the three Bentley editions of Roughing It, then, demonstrate the importance placed by all involved on the marketing of the text and on its profitability.

20 Thurston’s argument that, when it came to the business side of writing and publishing, Moodie negated her “authorial responsibility” is contradicted by the overwhelming evidence found in the letters that support the idea that Moodie was a businesswomen, as much aware of the publishing market as Bentley. For example, in a letter to Bentley in 1853, she says in regard to her novel Mark Hurdlestone:I would sell the copyright out and out, for £300. If you think this is too high, and wish to publish it, we can do so, on the same terms as we have done the two last. I still have my heavy doctor’s bills to settle; and to pay for my son’s going down to the Montreal college, to pursue his medical studies, which will involve much outlay of our small means. Labour and attendance in sickness, cost so much here that my nurse claimed all the last remittance, received from you in June. (Ballstadt et al. 131)In Roughing It, Moodie recounts her “tears of joy over the first twenty-dollar bill… [she] had earned… with [her] own hand” (CEECT 441). While dramatized for the book, this scene reveals a women who recognizes the value of her writing for her family. In the letter about Mark Huddlestone, Moodie indicates she wants to sell copyright in order to pay family expenses. It was in Moodie’s best interests to work with Bentley and follow her works through the publication process, as not to do so could jeopardize the value of the writing for her and her family.

21 Moodie’s connection with Bentley and her practical business streak are further illustrated in her reaction to the publication of a pirated edition of Roughing It. In July 1852, George Putnam brought out a cheap American edition “published in two Parts … in Putnam’s ‘Semi-Monthly Library for Travellers and the Fireside series’” (CEECT xxxii). Moodie, after receiving a letter from Putnam, wrote to Bentley on July 20 of that same year, informing him about this new edition:From the publisher, of the American edition, of the work, Geo. P. Putnam, I received a few days ago, the following very polite offer, of sending me some of the stolen brooms. Now, I believe, in strict justice, that the said brooms, should belong to you, as the rightful owner of the work. However, I mean to take in good part, his splendid donation, of my own goods and chattels. 18 (Ballstadt et al. 126)Moodie includes with her letter to Bentley a copy of the one she received from Putnam, and while offering Bentley a couple of the “stolen brooms,” or copies of the American edition, admits that she plans to use a number of the copies for herself. She also recognizes that success for her means success for Bentley: “The American press speaks most highly of the work…. The work bids fair to be as popul[ar] in the States, as I hear, it is at home. This will no[t] [bring] any pecuniary benefit, on either you or me, but it may help to win me a name, and in this way, serve us both” (Ballstadt et al. 127). 19 Neither Moodie nor Bentley received any money for the American edition, but Moodie quickly recognized the possibilities for both herself and Bentley of an increased readership. 20

22 Moodie, however, did often defer to Bentley in publishing matters, and she often requested advice from a man she described as “liberal and gentlemanly.” For instance, in her letter to Bentley on September 3, 1853, she asks him for permission to accept an American offer for her next work: “Mess’rs Dewitt and Davenport offer me 200 dollars for the first chance of republishing my next work; and they have written to me, to try and make some arrangement…. If the thing could be done, you would confer upon me a great favour, by allowing me this privilege” (Ballstadt et al. 132). Bentley, in a letter sent December 9, 1853 encourages this action: “It is advisable for Mrs. Moodie to make arrangement direct with the American publisher. This will not affect copyright here” (Bentley Archives 40, 82, 343). She would ask Bentley for advice, but as with the “stolen brooms” she would make use of her “own goods” for her own benefit. Similarly, as long as she was paid for subsequent editions of Roughing It, or at least saw the potential for pay, Moodie was unlikely to have argued against any of Bentley’s or any other publisher’s actions — including alterations to the text. In his letter to Moodie, George Putnam “trust[s] [she] … will not be displeased with the liberties taken by the Editor, if sins, they are sins of omission only” (Ballstadt et al. 127). Moodie’s response to Bentley is only that she is “very curious to see the Yankee omissions.” As already stated, Moodie exhibits no anger in the letter over “the liberties taken” by Charles Briggs, Putman’s editor. On the contrary, Moodie was practical enough to recognize the opportunity an American edition offered her and Bentley. Charles Briggs “deleted Dunbar’s ‘Ould Dhragoon’ from the second volume, omitted many of the epigraphs to chapters, and retained only six of the thirty-seven poems included in the Bentley edition” (CEECT xxxii).

23 Similarly, sections were removed from “The Wilderness and Our Indian Friends” chapter in order to emphasis what Carl Ballstadt refers to as “‘far-west’ romance,” with the intention of “play[ing] down the features that made it an emigrant handbook” (CEECT xxxii). As Bentley did with British editions, Putnam and Briggs used the excisions to create a version of Roughing It that would appeal to the American public. For instance, one passage removed from the American edition deals with the character of the Natives and European treatment of them:The cunning which they display in their contests with their enemies … the strictest honour … the genuine Indian never utters falsehood, and never employs flattery…. His worst traits are those which he has in common with the wild animals of the forest…. It is a melancholy truth, and deeply to be lamented, that the vicinity of European settlers has always produced a very demoralizing effect upon the Indians. (CEECT 306)For whatever reason, Briggs felt it necessary to remove this and similar passages in order to better focus the work as a “far-west romance,” a non-fiction account of a pioneer woman’s struggles. The American edition introduced Moodie and Bentley to a new readership, suggesting future prosperity in the United States as “The Putnam edition [achieved] a very considerable popularity … [keeping] the work in print at least until 1854, when an issue dated that same year included the statement “9th thousand” on its title page (CEECT xxxii). Moodie, trying to capitalize on the success of Roughing It, attempted to publish other books in the States, always referring back to Bentley for advice. However, the potential riches both she and Bentley sought never materialized: Putnam and other American companies continued to publish pirated editions throughout Moodie’s life, often without any payment to her. There is some evidence, however, in Moodie’s letter of September 13, 1853, that Bentley may have received money from Harper’s for Mark Hurdlestone. 21

24 Moodie participated in the editing of the 1871 Canadian edition of Roughing It, where again changes were made in direct in direct response to the market. Moodie first, however, had to obtain permission from Richard Bentley in June of 1871 to reprint the work, stating:You my dear friend, could do me a very great service, if it does not interfere with you own business. I have a prospect of publishing a Canadian Edition of all my works, in a series, or library. And you most kindly restored to me all the Copyrights of those works published by your house but that of Roughing It in the Bush, and The World Before Them. But these two, are just the ones most required for the speculation. Could you grant me the privilege of using these, strictly confining the sale of the books to the Dominion, I shall be greatly indebted to you for this great favour, though I feel that it is too much to ask of you. Yet, the proceeds which we expect from the intended publication would place me beyond that chilling grasp of poverty. (Ballstadt et al. 289-90)Bentley agreed to Moodie’s request, to which she then responded: “I can scarcely find words to express my thanks for the very great favour you have so generously conferred upon me. May God reward you a hundred fold” (Ballstadt et al. 291). Working with the company Hunter Rose, she then set out to reprint her Canadian works, “as a sort of experiment.” George Rose wanted to begin the series with Roughing It, because it had “received the sanction of the public” (293). Whether she was successful or not, Moodie wrote to Bentley, “my gratitude and thankfulness to you will remain the same” (291). In a letter to Allen Ransome, following Bentley’s death on September 10, 1871, Moodie also expressed her appreciation for Bentley’s decision: “one of his last acts was to write a letter and such a kind of one — to me giving me the right of republishing Roughing It in the Bush” (Ballstadt et al. 299).

25 For the rights to publish an edition of Roughing It in Canada, Moodie was paid “200 dollars for the publication of 2500 copies and a Royalty of 4 cents on every copy they may require over the above number” (Ballstadt et al. 299). Moodie also took on, at the request of Hunter Rose, the responsibility of supervising the edition and reducing the manuscript to one volume while retaining the choice of which material was to be removed. While Roughing It’s initial publication in 1852 met with generally positive reviews in Britain, it was criticized in Canada for its sometimes unflattering portraits of Canadians and Canadian life (CEECT xxxi). 22 Therefore, in order to reposition the book toward a potentially hostile market, Moodie chose to edit out many of the negative, anti-Canadian comments contained in it, such as: “The simplicity, the fond, confiding faith of childhood, is unknown in Canada. There are no children here” (135). As a result, chapters such as “Uncle Joe and His Family” were cleansed of negative remarks regarding Joe’s children. Moreover, to respond to some of the negative criticism, Moodie wrote a new introduction to the book titled “Canada: A Contrast,” which compares the Canada of 1871 with that of forty years earlier, thus softening the impact of offensive material by locating it in the past: “The many, who have condemned the work without reading it, will be surprised to find that not one word has been said to prejudice intending emigrants from making Canada their home” (CEECT 528). What is interesting about this addition to Roughing It is that it bears a striking similarity to a suggestion made by Bentley to Moodie nearly twenty years earlier regarding a direction for the work’s sequel, A Life in the Clearings. By presenting Canada’s affairs “as they were years ago, and as they are now … [and] are still every year,” Moodie seems, in essence, to be acting upon Bentley’s old request (Bentley Archives 40, 82, 228). 23

26 Aside from the inclusion of “Canada: A Contrast,” the Canadian edition also eliminated all of John Moodie’s contributions to Roughing It — “Canadian Sketches” and his poems. Thurston reads these excisions as an attempt on Moodie’s part to reclaim the text for herself: “she reduces Roughing It from a collaborative production in prose and verse to a story of one woman’s trials in the pioneering past…. She is, at this last date, reclaiming her text, one that attempts, in light of the life she has lived, to speak for her perceptions of self and nation, and not for Bentley’s perceptions of market and imperial moment” (163). This interpretation of the facts seems to ignore Moodie’s own account of her motive for editing out her husband’s work. In a letter to Bentley on June 29, 1871, she raised the subject of her deceased husband’s writings:It is a singular thing, that in looking over Mr. Moodie’s papers, I found a large portion of a work on Canada, written in his very best style…. It is valuable as a perfect picture of the Colony of the period. I am surprised, that he never communicated to me, that he had commenced such a work, and yet there must be in this fragment, matter enough to fill a good-sized Octavo volume. To which might be added many interesting letters written to me during his absence on the Frontier. (Ballstadt et al. 290)As she was removing her husband’s material from Roughing It, Susanna Moodie was intending as a tribute to John Moodie the publication of his own work based on this fragment of a manuscript found after his death. Moreover, on a more practical note, she would be able to create a new work under her husband’s name that could bring in more money. Moodie wrote to Bentley on August 10, 1871, “I will write a short memoir of my dear husband, by way of preface and arrange the papers on Canada he left unfinished, and send the MSS for your perusal. His contributions to Roughing It, would come better in…[a] work entirely his own” (Ballstadt et al. 293). Even though Richard Bentley had retired from publishing at the time this letter was written, he continued his working relationship with Susanna Moodie, by offering advice and making suggestions, right up until his death on September 10, 1871.

27 Beyond Susanna Moodie’s artistic reasons for writing Roughing It in the Bush, her book was also an opportunity for her to make money “earned … with my own hand” (CEECT 441). As “literary capital,” Roughing It offered Moodie, Bentley and others a chance to make a profit. Whether it was ultimately successful or not as a commodity is not at issue here: what is important is that Roughing It provided Bentley with a badly needed bestseller and offered Moodie a possible “nucleus out of which a future independence for my family might arise” (441). Thurston constructs a Moodie who is a passive focal point around which various men, including Bentley, “shape … the manuscript” (136). Feltes observes that Victorian publishing is often viewed as a patriarchal bastion, but he argues that “To speak of a male ‘invasion’… in the mid-nineteenth century … is to reduce to purposeful action, involving clear-cut objectives and equally clear-cut objects, what is a dialectical, that is complexly interactive, struggle, one that is ultimately determined by developments in the material production of books” (53-54). Thurston to a degree victimizes Moodie, turning her into a pawn: as Feltes contends, publishing history is a “complexly” layered structure that is not solely about women being oppressed by the patriarchy. Considering publishing as a negotiative process then resignifies Moodie as the author of Roughing It, and also an important participant in the production of the text. The publishing history of Roughing It cannot be reduced simply to the work of Bentley and Bruce. The exchanges between Susanna Moodie and Richard Bentley in the surviving letters and documents illustrate that neither was completely independent of the other: they worked together and with others to publish and market Roughing It in the Bush.

This paper comes out of a joint paper written with Ryan Miller for a graduate class. A collaborative version of the paper was also presented at the Pressing Matters Conference, February 5-7, 1999, at Simon Fraser University.


Ballstadt, Carl, Elizabeth Hopkins and Michael Peterman. Susanna Moodie: Letters of a Lifetime. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1985.

Beddoes, Julie. “Changing Moodie: Author Constructions in a Canadian ‘Classic’.” English Studies in Canada 19:3 (1993): 363-77.

Bentley, Richard and Son. The Archives of Richard Bentley & Son 1829-1898. Cambridge, England: Chadwyck-Healey, 1976.

Dooley, Allan C. Author and Printer in Victorian England. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1992.

Feltes, Norm N. Literary Capital and the Late Victorian Novel. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1993.

Gettmann, Royal A. A Victorian Publisher: A Study of the Bentley Papers. New York: Cambridge UP, 1960.

Glickman, Susan. The Picturesque and the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1998.

Hardman, Frederick. “Forest Life in Canada West.” Blackwood’s Magazine 70 (1852): 355-62.

Moodie, Susanna. Roughing It in the Bush. New Canadian Library. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1989.

Moodie, Susanna. Roughing It in the Bush, or Life in Canada. Ed. Carl Ballstadt. Ottawa: Carleton UP, CEECT, 1990.

Thurston, John. The Work of Words: The Writing of Susanna Strickland Moodie. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1996.

Thurston, John. “Rewriting Roughing It.Future Indicative: Literary Theory and Canadian Literature. Ed. John Moss. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, 1987. 195-204.

Wallins, Roger P. “Richard Bentley.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Ed. Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. 39-52.


1 In this paper I cite the edition of Roughing It in the Bush published by The Centre for Editing Early Canadian Texts (CEECT), which generally follows the first 1852 edition but notes the changes made to all subsequent editions.

2 Moodie followed the practice of other colonial writers, such as Australians Catherine Spence and Marcus Clarke, in sending her text to the centre of the British Empire and the publishing trade, London, where the chance of publication and possible success was greater as few books were published in any of the colonies before the 1860s. Spence’s Clara Morison, was first published by J.W. Parker and Son, in 1854, and Clarke’s For His Natural Life was first published by Richard Bentley in 1874.

3 Documents from the Bentley Archives are indexed by reel, volume and folio, and documents from the British Library are marked by index number and folio numbers.

4 See ledgers in Bentley Archives, reel 39, volume 81.

5 Agnes Strickland did not act on behalf of Susanna Moodie as she did for Samuel Strickland. In Letters of a Lifetime, editors Carl Ballstadt et al. refer to the friction between Agnes and Susanna regarding Agnes’s assistance with Sam’s book (111).

6 In comparison with other authors who published with Bentley, Moodie was not well paid for copyright. Wilkie Collins in 1852 received £350 for the copyright of Basil, Herman Melville in 1851 got £150 for The Whale, A History of Canada by Cpt. George Warburton in 1849 was bought by Bentley for £450, and Thomas Haliburton on average got £500 for his books. While there were authors who got small payments, others who were considered potential best-selling authors received larger amounts than Moodie (Bentley Archives, reel 117B, volume 26).

7 The Bentley Archives are made up of three collections: the British Library papers, The University of Illinois papers (IU), and the University of California papers (UC). The Bruce letters are in IU reel 23, which is alphabetized. Since most of the documents are from the British Library Collection (L), I will only indicate with either IU or UC those that are not.

8 See Royal A. Gettmann’s A Victorian Publisher for additional examples beyond the Barham one included here. Also, it should be noted that, as Gettmann states, this practice on Bentley’s part was not a guarantee for success, in that he made money on some works, and lost money on others (81-83).

9 In the March Blackwood’s, Hardman favourably reviews another Bentley publication, The Cape and the Kafirs by Alfred Cole. In February 1852, Hardman also reviewed two books for Blackwood’s, one published by Colburn and the other by Bentley, A Ride Over the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and California by Henry Coke.

10 Bentley purchased a number of copyrights from Blackwood’s in 1835 (Bentley Archives 39, 81, 231), and had other dealings with the Scottish publishing firm.

11 David Finkelstein in “‘The Secret’: British Publishers and Mudie’s Struggle for Economic Surfival 1861-64” (Publishing History 34, 1993), details Bentley’s involvement with other publishers, including Blackwood’s.

12 While the publication lists are not complete (some books lack print-run numbers), they do give a rough idea of how many books were published and the average number in a print run. In 1850 the average size was 700, and in 1851 it was 530 per print run. In 1852 the print runs jump to just over one thousand. This number is probably enhanced since it was in 1852 Bentley starts printing the cheap Railway series of books. These are relatively low-cost books printed in large quantities (2000+). Compared with other books not a part of that series, the 2250 print run for Roughing It is impressive. While this number may also be inflated because the ledger includes the second edition copies, Thurston argues that the second edition was just a modified first edition. In other words, the remainders were repackaged as second editions with additions.

13 Susanna Moodie also states in this letter that her agent, John Bruce, is ill. Consequently, she assumes his duties, acting on her own behalf. Whether he was ill or just fed up with Moodie, this is the excuse she gives for taking over the negotiating process (Ballstadt et al. 123).

14 John Bruce, in the second letter sent to Bentley on December 27, 1851, also threatened to send Roughing It elsewhere (Bentley Archives IU 23).

15 See the letter on February 26, 1854, in which Susanna Moodie later changes her mind in regards to half-profits (Ballstadt et al. 148).

16 While the CEECT edition of Roughing It considers the 1854 printing to be the Second Issue of the Second Impression, I have adopted Bentley’s own designation of the two 1852 printings and the 1854 copy as separate editions. Consequently the 1854 Roughing It is the third edition (624).

17 Allan Dooley in Author and Printer in Victorian England, in the chapter on proofing (23-48), argues that it was in fact quite common for writers to proof read books in a piecemeal fashion, sending each new section proof read straight to the printers so the book could be run off.

18 Italics are from Letters of a Lifetime, likely based upon underlined phrases in the original letter.

19 Alterations to this quotation were made by editors Carl Ballstadt et. al.

20 Bentley had dealings with Putnam starting in the 1830s, even though this fact never comes up in the correspondence with Moodie surrounding the pirating of Roughing It. In a letter to George Putnam, Bentley accepts three books that Putnam consigned to him (Bentley Archives 40, 81, 99), and remarks on their profitability.

21 I have not found anything in the Bentley ledgers to support this, although in a letter written on September 3, 1853 (Ballstadt et al. 131), Moodie does allude to Bentley profiting somehow.

22 See the CEECT edition (Introduction) and Letters of a Lifetime (105-10) for examples of and references to criticism of Roughing It.

23 In a letter to Moodie written in June 1852, Bentley advises her on what should be included in future editions and sequels: “Present them to the reader’s eye as they were years ago and as they are now, [and] are still every year. I imagine … it might form a good work as a pendant to Roughing It in the Bush” (Bentley Archives 40, 82, 228).