May 25 , 2009

Imperial Eden

Victoria BC in Verse c. 1858-1920


“Imperial Eden” is a collection of poems written mainly by citizens of Victoria, British Columbia, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries about that city. Established in 1843 as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, Victoria became the capital of the province in 1866. Before the opening of the Panama Canal and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, however, its inhabitants were relatively isolated from the rest of North America. The city’s beautiful location and its semi-Mediterranean climate inspired visitors, locals, and poets to describe it as a “paradise”. But this remote “Eden”, surrounded by mountains, forest and the sea, was deeply loyal to Great Britain, believing that its far-flung empire was the repository of “freedom” and many civic and moral virtues. As well, local writers exhibited a militarism usually associated with Prussia. Eager to defend the British Empire, many of its citizens enthusiastically supported England in the remote South African War (1899-1902) and volunteered for service in the Great War (1914-18). Both wars were seen as a defence of decency and civilization embodied by Britain.This book shows how local poets lauded the beauty, the Britishness of Victoria and the imperial connection, but also how, confronted with the realities of modern warfare, their loyalty to the Empire waned c. 1920.
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