Monday, October 31, 2011

Mercy Coles in Montreal

“Saturday morning Oct 29
I feel quite well this morning. I went down to the Ball last night. Such a splendid affair. Mr. Crowther danced with me the first Quadrille. Sir Fenwick Williams was here looking as well as ever. ...”

Sir Fenwick Williams born in 1800 in Nova Scotia, became a military hero because of his defence of Kars, Turkey during the Crimean War. In 1861 he was sent to Canada as commander-in- chief of the British Forces in British North America. Remember, the American Civil war had just started and there were Fenian raids on Canada – all reasons to guard the border. In November 1865 he was sent to be Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia as someone who would be pro Confederation, which Britain wanted by then.
            From the London Times, October 24th, 1864
“Our colonies are rather too fond of us, and embrace us, if anything, too closely”

Saturday continued:
“ ... Ma and I have just been to the Convent Congregation Notre Dame. Mr. McDonald (stutterer) came and took Mamma and I. I have just come from Notman’s. My photograph was not good I don’t think, so I would not take it however the man said he would send me two dozen to the Island. ...”

Notman’s is William Notman’s studio, one of the most famous photographers of his day. He would colour and tint photographs and was a leader in photography techniques. He created large ‘composite photographs’ with up to 450 people and make each person clear by assembling photographs of each individual into the one scene. Sort of the Busby Berkley of still photography. See the McCord Museum of Canadian History for much more on Notman.

For a novel that explores the beginnings of photography – that history in fiction see Keith Maillard's Light in the Company of Women. It’s brilliant. Also what I found interesting, having just finished a novel that looks at the history of Canada’s confederation was Keith’s comment about writing his novel at a talk at the University of Regina a few years ago. He said an early draft was like a photography manual – and so, yes, that turning of fact into fiction and the challenges in creating fiction using history.
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