A 19TH Century Canadian Time Capsule

Fictions that are written to entertain our generation may inadvertently provide the future with a small window into our world as well.

You can find such a time capsule hidden just below the surface of a story that was designed as an educational fiction, titled “ Little Grace; or Scenes in Nova Scotia“.The story was written by a Miss Grove in the 1840’s to teach the young students about the earlier history of Nova Scotia. It was published by C. Mackenzie and Company in 1846.

The main character of this story is Grace Severn, an eight year old girl witha keen interest in the history of her “Native Land” – Nova Scotia.

My historical adventure (the discovery of ‘Time Capsules in Fiction’) began as a simple genealogical look into the life and times of the author who was one of my ancestral aunts.

There were four sisters and two brothers who were all born in England between 1812 and 1821, who then moved to Philadelphia in the early 1830’s with their parents (John James Grove and Penelope (nee Smith)).

They were schooled in the U.K. and U.S., and later moved to Halifax. None of the sisters ever married and all became teachers.

One of them was the author of this incredible treasure of Canadian history. When the book was published in 1846 the sisters were between the ages of 30 and 34 years.

My interest in early Canadian living grew with the first reading of ‘Little Grace’. With each subsequent reading I discovered more about Canadian history through the eyes of a 19th century teacher.

Although Little Grace covers several centuries of Nova Scotia’s history my goal was to focus on the author and the period 1843-46. The author presented us with a typical English family in such a manner that you can garner the commonly excepted political opinions of the time as well as individual views on the same topics.

She is quite outspoken against discrimination while at the same time accepting certain ‘normal’ behaviours that we would find to be pure signs of prejudice today.