Le Moine, James MacPherson 1825-1912
LE MOINE, James MacPherson 1825-1912
Born January 24, 1825 in Québec City, Québec, Canada; died February 5, 1912; son of Benjamin and Julia Ann (MacPherson) Le Moine; married Harriet Atkinson, 1856. Education: Attended Petit Séminaire, Québec, Canada. Hobbies and other interests: Ornithology (study of birds).
Lawyer, romance novelist, travel writer, and historian. Institute Canadien, cofouncer, 1847; practiced law, 1850-69; inspector of inland revenue for District of Quebec, 1869-99.
Royal Society of Canada (founding member; president of French section; president, 1894-95), various Canadian, American, and European historical and cultural societies.
Knighted, 1897, for literary services.
Ornithologie du Canada, 2 volumes, Fréchette (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1860, 1861.
The Legendary Lore of the Lower St. Lawrence (poems), Mercury (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1862.
Maple Leaves: A Budget of Legendary, Historical, Critical, and Sporting Intelligence, 7 volumes, Hunter, Rose. (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1863-1906.
Les pêcheries du Canada, Atelier (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1863.
Album canadien; histoire, archeologie-ornithologie, Press Mecaniques (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1870.
L'album du touriste, Côté (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1872.
Québec, Past and Present, Côté (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1876.
The Chronicles of the St. Lawrence, Lovell (New York, NY), 1878.
Origin of the Festival of Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Québec, Its Gates and Environs, Morning Chronicle (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1880.
Picturesque Québec: A Sequel to Québec, Past and Present, Dawson (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1882.
Monographies et esquisses, Gingras (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1885.
Chasse et pêche au Canada, Hardy (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1887.
Historical Notes on Québec and Its Environs, Darveau (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1887, enlarged, 1890.
The Explorations of Jonathan Oldbuck, Demers (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1889.
The Legends of the St. Lawrence, Holiwell (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1898.
The Port of Québec, Chronicle (Québec City, Québec, Canada), 1901.
James MacPherson Le Moine, a Canadian literary pioneer of a diverse and literary background, paid homage to his native Québec in many of his works.
Le Moine had an English-Canadian mother and a French-Canadian father. His father's family was among the few of nobility to settle in Québec, then called New France. Le Moine's father died when his son was just three years old, and maternal grandfather Daniel MacPherson adopted the young child. MacPherson, a United Empire loyalist, eventually moved with his grandson to one of Québec's aristocratic estates. Young James had access to elite schools, and despite his grandfather's English background, was instructed in French at the village school. Le Moine progressed to the Petit Séminaire of Québec. As a young man in his twenties, he apprenticed with a prominent Québec lawyer, and in 1847 assisted in founding the Institut Canadien.
In 1850 Le Moine began his own law practice, which lasted for the next nineteen years. However, struck by the majesty of the Canadian countryside, his boyhood interest in bird life and the little-documented history of his beloved homeland, Le Moine spent much of the 1850s indulging his personal passions. He then published two volumes on Canadian bird life, titled Ornithologie du Canada. Le Moine lived at Spencer Grange, a large, rural estate outside Québec City, where he established a private museum, meticulously gathering appropriate specimens, artifacts and natural and historical writings relating to bird study and naturalist fields.
The Legendary Lore of the Lower St. Lawrence, a collection of poems, signified Le Moine's shift from birds to history, and he went on to produce other chronicles reflecting his love of Québec. He followed with the first installment in a seven-volume series, Maple Leaves: A Budget of Legendary, Historical, Critical, and Sporting Intelligence. The volumes, which spanned forty-three years, contain various anecdotes, sketches, musings, travel guides and folklore. The volumes feature a wide range of information and entertainment, including tales surrounding the St. Lawrence seaway for travelers and natives and recollections of the heroes and founders of Canada's eastern region.
Le Moine exposed the romanticism of French Canada to an English-speaking audience. In 1865, for example, author William Kirby bought one of Le Moine's volumes while on an excursion from his home in Niagara, New York, to Québec City. According to Carole Gerson in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Le Moine's "book of sketches and essays" inspired the author's "ponderous historical romance," The Chien d'Or. Kirby, apparently, was "excited by Le Moine's chapters on Chateau Bigot, The Golden Dog, and La Corriveau," and The Chien d'Or, published in 1877, was ultimately "praised in nineteenth-century Canada as the finest Canadian novel."
After Le Moine abandoned his law practice to accept an appointment as inspector of inland revenue for the district of Québec, novelist Gilbert Parker approached him. According to Gerson, Parker "was searching for a suitably romantic subject for a historical novel on Québec. Le Moine directed Parker to the fourth volume of Maple Leaves, which contained a sketch of the adventures of Maj. Robert Stobo." Inspired by Le Moine's book, Parker published The Seats of the Mighty in 1896, which became a best seller. One year later, after cultivating a friendship with American Francis Parkman, Le Moine was knighted.
Le Moine retired as inspector of inland revenue in 1899, but remained busy. Some critics have dismissed Le Moine's works as sporadic and inexact; others even accused him of plagiarizing the works of other historical and travel writers. However, most have recognized the significance of his contributions.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 99: Canadian Writers before 1890, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Canadian Magazine, April, 1913.*