The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. I (Ronsdale 2004)
This unprecedented volume about British Columbia’s earliest authors and first explorers (prior to 1800) provides a fascinating range of characters, events and intrigues. The names Cook and Quadra ring a bell for most of us, as do Bering and Vancouver, but what about the first year-round European resident of B.C, the Irish drunkard John Mackay?
He voluntarily wintered at Nootka Sound in 1786 well before the more famous John Jewitt became the so-called “white slave” of Chief Maquinna in 1803. A year later the first European woman to visit and write about British Columbia was the 18-year-old bride Frances Barkley.
She circumnavigated the globe with her husband after making a lasting impression at Friendly Cove with her long red hair in 1787. And how much do we know about the Greek-born navigator Juan de Fuca? Or the Machiavelli of the maritime fur trade, John Meares?
More than 50 pre-19th century characters are presented – each with their own entry and bibliography. A few unlikely inclusions are French philosopher Denis Diderot and Jonathan Swift whose second volume of Gulliver’s Travels is situated in a region roughly equivalent to British Columbia.
Alan Twigg has researched and skilfully introduced the first people to write about the west coast of Canada, provided extracts, gathered images, taken photographs and let the composite story unravel like a mini-series.
First Invaders concludes with Alexander Mackenzie and his overland trek to the Pacific in 1793, after providing ample coverage of the many lesser-known Spaniards and Americans who arrived in the wake of Captain James Cook in 1778—and Captain Juan Pérez, the ‘discoverer’ of British Columbia, in 1774.