I S. Maclaren

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study undertakes a consideration of a century of travel writing by Britons who explored, surveyed, traded, hunted, prospected, botanized, and established missions in the British North American North and West between 1769 and 1872. Its particular concern is how Britons employed the principles and conventions of eighteenth-century British landscape aesthetics to describe and depict northern and western terrain.;An aesthetic mode of perceiving nature, as has been argued by perceptual geographers, art historians, and literary critics, constitutes one way that a society forms it understanding of reality. For the eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Briton, the Sublime and the Picturesque were the aesthetic modes of perception by which he described nature. When he travelled, these made up his aesthetic baggage. Their application to new lands told him where he stood aesthetically in relation to home landscapes just as his measurements of latitude and longitude told him where he stood spatially in relation to Greenwich.;Chapter I traces the formulation of the Sublime and the Picturesque through British aesthetic philosophy, painting, landscape gardening, and poetry. Chapter II deals with the journals of British mariners who searched for a Northwest Passage from 1819 to 1859, and includes discussions of works by Arctic fur traders. Chapter III treats the journals of Britons who travelled in the West. In each case, an attempt has been made to compile complete bibliographies of works published by the travellers or by modern editors.;Each work's narrative and pictorial descriptions of landscape are considered for their adherence to and departure from the conventions of the Sublime and the Picturesque. As well, historical and biographical details of the author's situation are considered when they impinge on his response to landscape. Although the understanding of the Sublime and the Picturesque was widespread, it was affected by other concerns. The fur trader looked for landscape qualities that promised the presence of beaver in a terrain. The prospector, the artist, the hunter, and the mariner sought particular landscape qualities as well. Taken together, the journals compile an aesthetic map of two regions in modern Canada.



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