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Abstract

During the “Settler Revolution” of the pre-Confederation period (1759–1867) in Canada and for some time afterwards, perceptions of the Canadian landscape were filtered through the aesthetics of the sublime and the picturesque. In addition to seeking out and describing sublime and picturesque sites such as Niagara Falls and the Thousand Islands in what is now Ontario, writers used and adapted the two aesthetics to suit the needs of settlement, deploying the sublime to depict, for example, the clearing fires that were deliberately set to deforest large tracts of land, and the picturesque to identify areas of “profitable beauty”– that is, areas whose fertility, terrain, and climate were amenable to successful agricultural settlement and, hence, to the eventual realization of the utopian ideal of independence and freedom based on prosperity. Works such as Thomas Cary’s Abram’s Plains (1789), John Howison’s Sketches of Upper Canada (1821), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Rising Village (1825), Catharine Parr Traill’s The Backwoods of Canada (1836), and Susanna Moodie’s Roughing It in the Bush (1852) contain passages in which the picturesque aesthetic especially is used to give shape to the landscapes of central and eastern Canada and, indeed, to the country that emerged in 1867.