The finest example of two great artists working together to explore the soul of their nation.
The Journals of Susanna Moodie, arguably Margaret Atwood’s finest work of poetry, was first
published by Oxford University Press in 1970. In it, she adopts the voice of Susanna Strickland
Moodie, an English woman who came to live in the rural area near Peterborough,
Ontario in the mid-nineteenth century, and who wrote about her experiences for English
readers in her classic account of Canadian pioneer life, Roughing it in the Bush. Atwood’s
poetry, based on the Moodie prose, covers Moodie’s arrival in Canada in 1832 and ends with
a prophetic commentary by a dead Susanna Moodie on twentieth-century Canada.
Charles Pachter began illustrating the poems in 1968, when Atwood sent him a first
manuscript. Of his first reading, he has written: “It was a fateful moment. I was so stunned by
its beauty and power that I realized that every early Atwood folio I had done up until now
(there were five) must be a rehearsal for this.”
The thirty images were completed within a year, but the original folio was not produced
until 1980, when 120 copies were hand-printed in a boxed edition, which is now in public and
private collections around the world. In 1997, MacfarlaneWalter & Ross published a smallformat
edition in hard covers.