November 11, 2008

The Log School-House on the Colombia, Hezekiah Butterworth

Butterworth actually visited Seattle - talked to Yesler, Denney [sic], and to "Old Angeline" Seattle; and still he shows the local tribes with feathered war-bonnets and tipis. Apparently there was only a little stretch in the mind of an 1890 Bostonian.

All his goal was to show the glory of the mission work that brought the Oregon Territory into the United States; the blurring of religious and economic conversion is pretty dire, especially since we were really fighting with England. I can't even comment on the lackadaisical acceptance that a successful missionary might convert the natives but not mind that obviously they're all going to die because of colonization. The other world is better for me but not for thee, etc. And even then people would say so:

"As a missionary," said the old hunter, "you would teach the Indians truth; as a pioneer, you would bring colonies here to rob them of their lands and rights. I can respect the missionary, but not the pioneer. See the happiness of all these tribal families. Benjamin is right—Mrs. Woods has no business here."

Mrs. Woods defends herself on the grounds that she works, and to my sorrow no-one points out that the Indians work nor suggests that she pioneer on the inherited estate of an East Coaster who doesn't... Consciousness-raising is not enough; the past knew what it was doing, so I suspect knowledge won't do good by itself in the present either.

It was already obvious that the US wanted the Sound as a gateway to trade with the Far East.

The story is clunky, and full of painful dialect from poor Mrs. Woods and a lot of article-free imagery from the 'noble savages'. Strangely, the final violence of the locals is prevented not by Christian prayer, but by a German immigrant girl playing Traumerei on her violin. I know Jacques Barzun, for instance, was greived that high aesthetic culture had not guaranteed high moral culture in Germany; but I'm always a little surprised when I run across the old belief that it would.

I was delighted when I realized that this is a multi-media work. On the left-hand page, '...then the Traumerei lifted its spirit-wings of music on the air'; on the right:

Sheet music for Traumerei

And, since many nineteenth-century readers were fluent in written music as well, they would have heard the strains.

I am indebted to the Project Gutenberg HTML version of the book which not only has the scans of the music in the right place, but will play it as a MIDI file for those of us who aren't sufficiently skilled, and have translated it into Lilypond! I started this blog entry a couple years ago, didn't get the scan right, moved away from the Seattle Public Library that has the book in the stacks, and only just discovered that it's now available online to all.

Find in a Library/OCLC/Worldcat:The Log School-House on the Columbia; or the Project Gutenberg HTML version with dubious illustrations and music and all, The Log School-House on the Columbia.

So wrote clew in History (19th c.).
And thus wrote others:
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