The EHS Library offers whole books for reading and research, but for lighter, and shorter pieces we have the reading room. This is a new addition to the website. We hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you'd like to read about in the reading room, and we'll do our best.
Anna Jameson (17 May 1794 – 17 March 1860) was an art historian, travel writer and early feminist. Starting as a governess at the age of 16, Anna found her way to places few 19th Century women ever dreamed of going. An unhappy marriage to a British Army officer took her to far flung places, and with the freedom and courage to explore them.
In 1833 Anna's husband was posted to the muddy town of York as attorney general of Upper Canada. After three years she joined him in 1836. She was quickly bored with the small provincial town and determined to take a tour of the wild's of Upper Canada.
A woman traveling alone in the 1830's was beyond unusual, especially if that travel was not of the utmost necessity. Mrs. Jameson did so, and wrote about her adventures which were then eagerly read by all those women who longed for similar experiences.
Our local interest in Anna Jameson comes from her visit to both St. Thomas, and Port Talbot as a guest of the Colonel.
Here are her first impressions of St. Thomas,
“About five o'clock we reached St. Thomas, one of the prettiest places I had yet seen. Here I found two or three inns, and at one of them, styled the "Mansion House Hotel,"I ordered tea for myself and good entertainment for my young driver and his horses, and then walked out.
St. Thomas is situated on a high eminence,to which the ascent is rather abrupt. The view from it, over a fertile, well-settled country, is very beautiful and cheering. The place bears the christian name of Colonel Talbot, who styles it his capital, and, from a combination of advantages, it is rising fast into importance. The climate, from its high position, is delicious and healthful; and the winters in this part of the province are milder by several degrees than elsewhere. At the foot of the cliff or eminence runs a deep rapid stream, called the Kettle Creek, (I wish they had given it a prettier name,) which, after a course of eight miles, and turning a variety of saw-mills, grist-mills, &c, flows into Lake Erie at Port Stanley, one of the best harbours on this side of the lake.”
-from Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada vol II, London: Saunders and Otley, 1838
Her observations are among the earliest recorded by someone from outside the community. St. Thomas had few visitors in those days, and none with the literary reputation of Mrs Jameson.
Below is a fuller excerpt detailing her visit to St. Thomas and Port Talbot.