Fonds MSG 1078 - James Denoon Fonds

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James Denoon Fonds

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  • 1850-1890 (Creation)
    Denoon, James 1802-approximately 1890

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Physical description

40 notebooks
1 photograph ; 5.4 x 3.9 cm

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Name of creator

(1802-approximately 1890)

Biographical history

James Denoon was born in Elgin, Scotland in 1802. The earliest mention of him in Canada is in 1832, in Kingston, where he wrote a poetical work titled, Lines on the Death of Sir Walter Scott who had passed away in September of that year. At the end of the poem Denoon remarked that he had seen Sir Walter Scott. Denoon, who served with the Royal Artillery was likely stationed in Kingston with his battalion. It appears his stay in the city was brief as in May of 1833 he wrote Impromptu. Farewell to kind friends in Kingston, which was published in the Kingston Chronicle. Denoon appears in Quebec city in October of 1833, as exemplified by another of his works titled David’s Lamentation over Saul & Jonathan in two versions. In March, 1834, he laments the loss of his young son in Lines on the death of Little Jamie, the first of two great losses for Denoon as his first wife, Bethia died a year later. In September, 1835 Denoon was still in Quebec as he wrote Impromptu on the embarkation of the 79th Cameron highlanders from Quebec for home in 1835, and this was also published, this time in The Quebec Gazette. Denoon’s location can again be traced to Quebec in January of 1838, by a letter (not part of this collection) formerly in the Steinhart collection written by him as Sgt. of the 14th Battn., Royal Artillery, to an acquaintance in England, giving his views on the disturbances of 1837-38 and describing some of the events. By 1841 Denoon was preparing to leave Canada for England but payed a last visit to the graves of his wife and infant son at the cemetery located in the suburbs of St. John’s, Quebec. To commemorate the moment he wrote The farewell Visit at Quebec City on June 3, 1841. The following day he boarded the troop ship Athob for England. According to England’s National Archives, Denoon’s service with the Royal Artillery ended at this time, viz. 1841. Records of the Royal Hospital Chelsea indicate he was admitted there on October 13, 1841, his residence given as Three Rivers, Quebec. Denoon likely spent three years in the UK, according to the Encyclopedia of Massachusetts. Biographical-Genealogical (Vol. 12) after which he returned to Canada and Three Rivers where he lived the rest of his days. In 1850 another of his works titled The Young Soldier’s Dream -a reminiscence of his youth in the old country, was published in the Kingston Chronicle and between November 5, 1850 and April 27, 1852 he wrote a series of addresses on the opening and closing sessions of the Young Men’s Improvement Association of Three Rivers. Two were published in pamphlet form in 1852 under the pen name A Scotchman and a Soldier, and were printed at Three Rivers by George Stobbs. Both pamphlets contain some of Denoon’s other works which are present in these notebooks including The Convict and Drive to Shewanagan. The former was Denoon’s sympathetic view on prisoners held at the Royal Artillery garrison at Woolwich, England while he was in command of the Convict Guard there in 1825. In 1853 Denoon appears once again to be a part of the military as a sergeant in charge of the army barracks at Three Rivers, assisting a Capt. Beatson in 1853 in creating a Plan of the Barrack Premises &c. at Three Rivers, C.E. (LAC holdings). In 1860 Denoon wrote what he may have considered to be his most prestigious work titled Canada’s Welcome to the Prince of Wales. It was published in The Quebec Gazette that year in anticipation of the arrival of the Prince to Canada. Denoon’s poetry relates to events in his life, some are of a religious nature, and some evoke a pining for the old country, but he also wrote works of topical interest such as the one written on the ball held in Montreal in honour of the Prince of Wales on August 27, 1860; another was on the death of Prince Albert, and another was descriptive of a visit to Niagara Falls. Following this last piece is an interesting page long commentary describing Denoon’s visit to Table Rock at the Falls when he was there in 1862.

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Scope and content

Fonds consists of forty notebooks containing poetry and essays written by Sgt. James Denoon of the Royal Artillery. These are copies of his works dating back to 1832 made by him while at his residence, Maple Bank in Three Rivers, Quebec during roughly the period from 1883 to 1890 to pass on to his granddaughter, Bertha. Denoon’s notebooks contain sporadic notes and commentary giving further information on the subjects of his poems and on his activities. There is some repetition of material, but several notebooks containing duplicated works are found to differ and contain various revisions, in some cases with significant differences. An article written by Carmine Starnino in the Arc Poetry Magazine (Summer, 2007) about this group of notebooks after they were discovered in Westmount, Quebec, discusses the merits of Denoon’s poetry and how they fit into 19th-century society during a time when many newspapers were inserting the works of everyday “closet poets”. In an editorial statement soliciting amateur poetry, the Quebec Gazette which published at least a pair of Denoon’s works described their purpose: As may at once please the Fancy and instruct the Judgement.

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Deposited with Rare Books and Special Collections 23 January 2017.


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  • English

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