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Windsor,  Nova  Scotia, Canada – c. 1800
by Garth Vaughan © 2001
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T.C. Haliburton

Alter Ego
Sam Slick
Go Ahead
NS Railroad
Holding up the Mirror
Other End of the Gun
Sam’s Popularity



Nature and Human Nature – Holding Up the Mirror
by Thomas Chandler Haliburton

From Cumberland, Squire, the eastern coast of Nova Scotia presents more harbours fit for the entrance of men-o’-war than the whole Atlantic coast of our country, from Maine to Mexico. No part of the world I am aquainted with is so well supplied, and so leetle frequented. They’re "thar," as we say, but where are the large ships? Growin’ in the forest, I guess. And the large towns? All got to be built, I recon. And the mines? Why, wantin’ to be worked. And the fisheries? Well, I’ll tell you if you promise not to let on about it. [We Americans,] We’re a-goin’ to git ‘em by treaty, as we now have ‘em by trespass. Fact is, we treat with the British and the Indians in the same way. Bully ‘em if we can, and when that wun’t do, git the most valuable things they have in exchange for trash, like glass beads and wooden clocks.

Still, Squire, there is a vast improvement here, though I wun’t say there ain’t room for more; but there’s sich a change come over the people as is quite astonishin’. The Bluenose of 1834 ain’t no longer the Bluenose of 1854. He is more active, more industrious, and more enterprisin’. Intelligent the critter always was, but onfortunately he was lazy. He was asleep then; now he is wide awake and up and doin’. He never had no occasion to be ashamed to show himself, for he’s a good-lookin’ fella; but he needn’t now be no longer skeered to answer to his name when the muster is come and his’n is called out in the roll, and say, "Here am I, Sirree." A new generation has sprung up; some of the drones is still about the hive, but there is a young, vigorous race comin’ on who will keep pace with the age.

It’s a great thing to have a good glass to look in now and then and see yourself. They’ve had the mirror held up to them. Lord, I shall never forgit when I was up to Rawdon here wunst. A countryman come to the inn where I was, to pay me for a clock I’d put off on him; and as I was appassin’ through the entry I see’d the critter standin’ afore the glass, awfully horrified.

"My good gracious," said he, a-talkin’ to himself, "my good gracious, is this you, John Smiler? I ha’n’t seen you afore now, goin’ on twenty years. Oh, how shockin’ly you are altered; I shouldn’t ‘a know’d you, I declare."

Now, I’ve held the mirror to these fellas to see themselves in, and it has skeered ‘em so they’ve shaved slick up and made themselves look decent. I wun’t say I made all the changes myself, for Providence scourged ‘em into activity, by sendin’ the weavel into their wheatfields, the rot into their potatoes, and the drought into their hay crops. It made them scratch round, I tell you, for to arn their grub, and the exartion did ‘em good. Well, the blisters I’ve put on their vanity, stung ‘em so they jumped high enough to see the right road; and the way they travel ahead now is a caution to snails.

Now, if it was you who had done your country this sarvice, you’d ‘a spoke as mealy- mouthed of it as if butter wouldn’t melt in it. "I flatter myself," you’d ‘a said, "I had some leetle small share in it. I’ve lent my feeble aid; I’ve contributed by poor mite," and so on, and looked as meek and felt as proud as a Pharisee. Now, that’s not my way. I holds up the mirror whether, when folks see themselves in it, they see me there or not. The value of a glass is its truth. And where colonists have suffered is from false reports: ifnorance and misrepresentation. There ain’t a word said of ‘em that can be depended on….British travellers distort things….They land at Halifax, where they see the fust contrast atween Europe and America, and that contrast ain’t favouable, for the town is dingy-lookin’ and wants paint, and the land round it is poor and stony. But that is enough; so they set down and abuse the whole country, stock and fluke, and write as wise about it as if they’d see’d it all instead of overlookin’ one mile from the deck of a steamer. The military enjoy it afore anythin’, and are far more comfortable than in sodjerin’ in England; but it don’t do to say so, for it counts for foreign sarvice….Governors who nowadays have nothin’ to do, have plenty of leisure to write, and their sufferin’s and sich, their pens are inadequate to the task. They’re very much to be pitied…

An Excerpt From –
Nature and Human Nature – Holding Up the Mirror
by Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Originally published by Hurst & Blackett, London, 1854
Edition consulted
The Sam Slick Anthology
Selected and Introduced by Riginald Eyre Watters
Edited for modern readers by Walter S. Avis
Clarke, Irwin and Company Limited, Toronto and Vancouver 1969
HRL SG 819.7 H17sa

pg 256
Holding Up the Mirror



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