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This report is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

The Radical in Canada Roger Burford Mason
It was small beer as causes for memorializing go, but two hundred years ago, the young William Cobbett left Canada after a few years soldiering, and returned to England, and fame, if not fortune.

That the author of Rural Rides, who lived from 1763 to 1835, was ever in Canada was a mistake. Being a footloose teenager in 1784, he took the king's shilling in a London tavern one evening out of a mixture of boredom and bravado. Thinking he had joined the marines, he was surprised to discover that he had been tricked into joining 'a marching regiment, the 54th Regiment of Foot', whose main force was stationed in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

After some shore service and training, he was shipped out to Halifax, where his first sight of the province was less than auspicious.

'When I first beheld the barren, not to say hideous, rocks at the entrance to the harbor,' he wrote in The Life and Adventures of Peter Porcupine, his quasi-autobiography, 'I began to fear that the master of the vessel had mistaken his way.'

Though only in Halifax for a few weeks, it was long enough for Cobbett to note that the province 'had no other charm for me than that of novelty.

Everything I saw was new: bogs, rocks and stumps, musquitoes and bull-frogs

Even so, he was impressed by the egalitarianism of a community where, he reported, 'though I was but a ...


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