In the early nineteenth century, when the Hudson's Bay Company sent men to its posts along the coast of North America's Pacific Northwest, letters from loved ones followed in the Company's supply ships. The messages from a mother or father, a wife or sweetheart travelled for many months from London, around the southernmost tip of South America, and north to isolated trading posts. By the time a letter carrying the news and gossip from home reached its destination, it might well miss the man meant to read it. The Company returned these letters to its London office, and over the years an "undelivered letters" file built up. Many remained sealed for 150 years. Beattie and Buss invite us into the lives of the letter writers, threading together their words with contemporary explanations. This unique collection of letters will be compelling reading for social historians, literary scholars, genealogists, students of the fur trade, and anyone interested in British and North American culture of the period. The news of everyday life -- from parents on farms and in towns, sisters in domestic service, brothers and friends in trade -- reaches out across two centuries to speak to us with startling immediacy.
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