Cases 5-6 David Thompson

Case 1 | Case 2 | Case 3 | Case 4 | Cases 5-6 | Case 7 | Case 8

'Thompson's is not an easy manuscript. There is some order to the work—certain pages are obviously meant to be sequential, and three indices describe arrangements of parts of the work—but the forces of textual incoherence dominate. Pages have been clipped, numbered and renumbered, sewn into gatherings and taken apart again; passages have been excised and paste-ons affixed, some pages identified in the indices are no longer extant, while pages exist which can be found in no index.' (William E. Moreau, "'To be fit for publication': The Editorial History of David Thompson's Travels, 1840-1916", Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 39:2 (Fall 2001):17)

thompson p1 ' Hudson’s Bay extends from latitude 52 degrees north to 60 degrees north. It is in the shape of a horseshoe and covers an area of 192,770 square miles' is the text at the beginning of one draft of the 'Travels'.

Written by the seventy-five-year-old Thompson, it may be a condensation of a later-written text, or perhaps an earlier draft of the first part of the 'Travels'.

The inter-linear manuscript annotations are by J. B. Tyrrell, added when preparing the narrative for publication.

Thompson fold31p1 'In the month of May 1784 at the Port of London I embarked in the Ship Prince Rupert belonging to the Hudsons Bay Company, as apprentice and clerk to the said company, bound for Churchill Factory, on the west side of the bay.'

The opening lines of David’s Thompson’s 'Travels', written in about 1850, when the explorer was eighty years old.

Thompson fold31p7 'Hudson’s Bay, including James Bay may be said to be an inland sea, connected to the Atlantic Ocean by Hudson’s Straits: it is in the form of a Horse Shoe, and in Latitute extends form 52 degrees to 60 degrees north, and from 70 degrees to 95 degrees west of Greenwich in the northern part; and covers an area of about 192, 770 square statute miles.'

Another new beginning to the text; this version was published as part one of Tyrrell’s edition of the Narrative in 1916.

Thompson fold31p9a 'I was fortunate in passing my time in the company of three gentlemen the officers of the factory, Mr Jefferson the deputy governor, Mr Prince the captain of the Sloop that annually traded with the Esquimaux to the northward, and Mr Hodges the Surgeon. They had books, which they freely lent to me, among them were several on history and on animated Nature. These were what I paid most attention to as the most instructive. Writing paper there was none but what was in the hands of the Governor, and a few sheets among the officers. On my complaining that I should lose my writing for want of practice, Mr. Hearne employed me a few days on his manuscript entitled “A Journey to the North”, and at another time I copied an Invoice.'

Thompson’s account of his work on what was later to be published as Hearne’s A Journey From Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay (London, 1795).

Thompson p22 On the verso of one of the pages of the 'Travels' Thompson has inserted a little mnemonic, listing a series of names of animals he wished to ensure would be included in his text

Bigsby mapBigsby, John J., 1792-1881. The Shoe and Canoe, or , Pictures of Travel in the Canadas. London: Chapman and Hall, 1850. Map of Lake of the Woods

An assistant staff surgeon with the British army, John Bigsby arrived in the Canadas in August 1818. His interest in geology led to his appointment the following year as the assistant secretary and medical officer to the British party of the international boundary commission provided for under terms of Treaty of Ghent (1814). The Commission was to survey border from Lake of the Woods to the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The principal surveyor of the Commission, highly regarded by both the United States and Great Britain, was 'Mr. Astronomer Thompson.'

Bigsby writes: 'I was well placed at table, between one of the Miss M---‘s and a singular-looking person of about fifty. He was plainly dressed, quiet, and observant. His figure was short and compact, and his black hair was worn long all round, and cut square, as if by one stroke of the shears, just above the eyebrows. His complexion was of the gardener’s ruddy brown, while the expression of his deeply-furrowed features was friendly and intelligent, but his cut-short nose gave him an odd look. His speech betrayed the Welshman, although he left his native hills when very young. … He was astronomer, first, to the Hudson’s Bay Company, and then to the Boundary Commission. I afterwards travelled much with him, and have now only to speak of him with great respect, or, I ought to say, with admiration. No living person possesses a tithe of his information respecting the Hudson’s Bay countries, which from 1793 to 1820 he was constantly traversing. Never mind his Bunyan-like face and cropped hair; he has a very powerful mind, and a singular faculty of picture-making. He can create a wilderness and people it with warring savages, or climb the Rocky Mountains with you in a snow-storm, so clearly and palpably, that only shut your eyes and you hear the crack of the rifle, or feel the snow-flakes melt on your cheeks as he talks.'

Thompson’s interest in natural history, geology, flora and fauna, and the native peoples of North American can be seen in the essays attached to his 'Travels', including Essays on water, Native North Americans, Mountains, and the Aurora Borealis.

essay on water
Native North Americans
essay on mountains
Aurora Borealis