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Life in Canada
Susanna Moodie had four children (Agnes, Dunbar, Donald and John) while living in the backwoods and still managed to pursue her writing career. She sent poems and stories to several newspapers and magazines in North America, notably the Albion (New York), the Cobourg Star, and the North American (Quarterly) Magazine. A vital opportunity came when, after several of her patriotic poems appeared in a Toronto newspaper called the Palladium of British America and Upper Canada in 183738, she was asked to write for a new monthly Montreal magazine, the Literary Garland. Beginning in the spring of 1839 and through the 1840s, while living in Belleville, she became its major contributor.
Susanna's personal response to the difficult demands of a settler's life appeared as a collection of sketches and poems entitled Roughing It in the Bush, published in two volumes in London (Richard Bentley, 1852). Some of the poems had appeared in the 1830s, and several of the sketches were first published in the Literary Garland and in the Victoria Magazine, which was edited by John and Susanna Moodie in Belleville in 184748.
The Moodies moved to Belleville when John Moodie was appointed the first Sheriff of the newly formed Hastings County. Their life there was often difficult due to strident local politics. As a town, Belleville had strong, pro-British tory leanings, while John Moodie, an outsider, made little attempt to hide his commitment to moderate reform and responsible government. As newcomers, the Moodies endured attacks from the conservative press (George Benjamin's Belleville Intelligencer) and persecution from local tory lawyers. The much improved living conditions of town life were thus overshadowed by problems of a different kind and dampened their enjoyment of social life.
In the 1850s Susanna's writing career took brief but heady flight. With the great success of Roughing It in the Bush (1852) in England and the United States (where a pirated edition was published within months of the English edition), her English publisher Richard Bentley asked for a sequel. Life in the Clearings versus the Bush was published in 1853. A year later her fictionalized account of her preparations for emigration appeared as Flora Lindsay (1854). Novels and stories based on her earlier work for the Literary Garland were also published by Richard Bentley and her opportunistic American publisher, DeWitt and Davenport. These included Mark Hurdlestone (1853), Matrimonial Speculations (1854), and Geoffrey Moncton (1855).
Eventually, however, Susanna tired of literary prominence and the criticism she received for her views of Canada and emigration. She gave up writing, turning to the painting of still-life watercolours. This was a skill she passed on to her daughter, Agnes, who would later collaborate with Catharine Parr Traill on Canadian Wild Flowers (1867). For a time Susanna also dabbled in the cult of spiritualism with the encouragement of her husband. Their home on Bridge Street in Belleville, where they lived for over twenty years and held séances in the late 1850s, is an historic site today. Her final novel, The World Before Them, was published in 1867 when the Moodies' weakened financial position called for a new effort at money-making through writing.
John resigned from his job as Sheriff in 1863 and died in Belleville in 1869. Susanna spent her remaining years visiting her children and passing a month each summer with her sister, Catharine, in Lakefield. She passed away in Toronto in 1885.