Posted in Book Review

Eccentrics in Paradise

In 1926, William Inglis Morse self-published a limited edition book, Eccentrics in Paradise and Other Essays. Besides short descriptions of some of the characters in the village, it also offers a description of the village itself.


‘In the Notes of 1888 (Ticknor and Company, Boston) Paradise is sketched as a ‘pleasantly situated village of about 400 inhabitants, with several sawmills, grist mills and tanneries. The principal exports are lumber and cheese, though there are also large deposits of merchantable granite in the vicinity’. p.8.

With reference to the Mi’kmaq:

‘their habitat was a government grant on the south side of the Annapolis River, at the head of the tide, from which vantage ground they witnessed the passing of the years and the river flowing to the sea.’ p.12

The book’s appeal, besides the title, is the relationship between the author and a specific place. Today, we still have the Morse estate and Burnbrae Farm.

A second example of author and place is between Elizabeth Bishop and Great Village. This week, Sandra Barry gave me a copy of Elizabeth Bishop’s Great Village. A Self-guided Tour. This is a beautiful combination of maps, history and images linked to Bishop’s writing.

‘ Bishop’s childhood in Great Village had a profound effect on her and years later her memories found their way into poems and stories. The village and its people were not merely subjects in Bishop’s work, her experience with them fundamentally shaped her worldview and artistic sensibility’. p 1.

A third example can be found in the writing of Kent Thompson, Getting out of town by book and bike. Thompson describes a bicycle ride from Annapolis Royal to West Dalhousie, and then back to Lequille on the old Dalhousie Road.

” Some 65 kilometres. Great day; one of the great rides in Nova Scotia. I almost hate to tell anyone about it. Might want to keep it a secret” p.98

En route, he visits Ernest Buckler’s gravesite at Gibson’s Lake.

” The graveyard sloped upward on one side, and on the other, the lake lapped softly in the sun, like the breathing of someone asleep”. p 91.

The original quote is from The Mountain and the Valley p. 89. For the full context, read Thompson, Chapter 6 Secret Road to the Lost Village. p. 83-98.

There, we have three very different examples of the relationship between literature and geography. I am not sure whether the self-guided tour format produced by Sandra Barry for the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia could be transferred to a self-guided bicycle tour of West Dalhousie for the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society. What is evident, is that there are ‘eccentrics’ in many small rural communities. Their observations on rural life continue to sustain us, or in Sandra Barry’s words:

” Great Village is a place where roads converge. Each road (each travelled by Bishop) is followed to the edge of the village with hints of what lies beyond’ p. 1.

or Kent Thompson:

‘You can even capture passing time, a way of life with all its implements and terms, which is escaping. And is gone to the eye, now. Not a farm left on this road.” p.98.

The last word is with David Canaan (aka Ernest Buckler)

‘Suddenly he knew how to surmount everything….. (And all that time the key to freedom had been lying in these lines, this book) There was only one way to possess anything: to say it exactly. Then it would be outside you, captured and conquered.” MV p.195.

Discussions with Edward Wedler reveals that economic development has sprung from connecting literature/film to place (including Nova Scotia), as noted in his blog post “What do the Films Outlander, Titanic and Def-Con 4 have in Common?”


Thanks to Edward Wedler, Sandra Barry and Heather Stewart.


There is a screening of Climate Change and the Human Prospect on Wednesday, November 28th at Kings Theatre, Annapolis Royal at 7:30 pm. It will be followed by a Question and Answer session with Timothy Habinski, Gregory Heming and Robert Cervelli.


Willam Inglis Morse. 1926. Eccentrics in Paradise and Other Essays. Nathan Sawyer, Boston.

Sandra Barry 2005. Elizabeth Bishop’s Great Village. A Self-Guided Tour. Gaspereau Press.

Kent Thompson. 2001. Getting out of town by book and bike. Gaspereau Press.

Ernest Buckler. 1952. The Mountain and the Valley. McClelland and Stewart.(MV)



One thought on “Eccentrics in Paradise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s