Both an adventure-laced captivity tale and an impassioned denunciation of the marginalization of Indigenous culture in the face of European colonial expansion, Douglass Smith Huyghue’s Argimou (1847) is the first Canadian novel to describe the fall of eighteenth-century Fort Beauséjour and the expulsion of the Acadians. Its integration of the untamed New Brunswick landscape into the narrative, including a dramatic finale that takes place over the reversing falls in Saint John, intensifies a sense of the heroic proportions of the novel's protagonist, Argimou.
Even if read as an escapist romance and captivity tale, Argimou captures for posterity a sense of the Tantramar mists, boundless forests, and majestic waters informing the topographical character of pre-Victorian New Brunswick. Its snapshot of the human suffering occasioned by the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians, and its appeal to Victorian readers to pay attention to the increasingly disenfranchised state of Indigenous peoples, make the novel a valuable contribution to early Canadian fiction.
Situating the novel in its eighteenth-century historical and geographical context, the afterword to this new edition foregrounds the author's skilful adaptation of historical-fiction conventions popularized by Sir Walter Scott and additionally highlights his social concern for the fate of Indigenous cultures in nineteenth-century Maritime Canada.
About the authors
Samuel Douglass Smith Huyghue (1816-1891) was born in PEI but educated in Saint John, New Brunswick. An 1830s-50s contributor of poetry, fiction, and essays to the Halifax Morning Post, the Saint John Amaranth, and London’s Bentley’s Miscellany, he emigrated to Australia in 1851. There he was known as an artist and author of The Ballarat Riots.
Gwendolyn Davies is an emerita professor of English and dean of graduate studies at the University of New Brunswick. She has published or edited six books and over sixty articles and book chapters on pre-1940 Atlantic literature and on the history of the book in Canada. Books include Studies in Maritime Literary History and a scholarly edition of Thomas McCulloch’s The Mephibosheth Stepsure Letters.
An inherently fascinating read from beginning to end, "Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac" is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as both community and academic library Early Canadian Literature collections.
Midwest Book Review
Other titles by Gwendolyn Davies
The Creative City of Saint John
Fiction Treasures by Maritime Writers
Best-selling novelists of Canadas Maritime provinces 1860-1950
Myth and Milieu: Atlantic Literature and Culture 1918-1939
A Detached Pirate
The Romance of Gay Vandeleur