In the early nineteenth century, when the Hudson's Bay Company sent men to its furthest posts along the coast of North America's Pacific Northwest, the letters of those who cared for those men followed them in the Company's supply ships. Sometimes, these letters missed their objects - the men had returned to Britain, or deserted their ships, or died. The Company returned the correspondence to its London office and over the years amassed a file of "undelivered letters." Many of these remained sealed for 150 years and until they were opened by archivist Judith Hudson Beattie, when the Company archives were moved to Canada.
These letters tell the fascinating stories of ordinary people whose lives are rarely recounted in traditional histories. Beattie and Helen M. Buss skilfully introduce us to both the lives of the letter writers and their would-be recipients. Their commentaries frame, for contemporary readers, the words of early nineteenth century working and middle class British folk as well as letters to "voyageurs" from Quebec. The stories of their lives - fathers struggling to support a family, widowed mothers yearning to see their sons, bereft sweethearts left behind, and wives raising their children alone - reach out over two centuries to offer rare insight into the varied worlds of men and women in the early nineteenth century, many of whom became settlers in Washington, Oregon, and the new British colony of Vancouver Island.
Judith Hudson Beattie is the former Keeper of the Archives at the Hudson's Bay Company. Helen M. Buss, Department of English, University of Calgary, is a literary scholar who works with memoirs, diaries, and letters.
Maps and Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction Letters to Men on the Ships Letters to Voyageurs Letters to Men at the Posts Letters to Emigrant Labourers Conclusion Appendix A: Ships Appendix B: Posts Notes References Credits Index