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IntroductionBanner: Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill
BiographiesBanner: Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr TraillManuscripts and JournalsLettersBanner: Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill
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About Transcribing the Moodie-Traill Letters

Source Letters
Principles of Transcription
The Writer's Style
Letter Headings

Source Letters

The letters you will find in this section are transcriptions of originals that exist in two forms: (1) manuscript letters, drafts or fragments written in the hands of Susanna Moodie, John Moodie, Catharine Parr Traill or Thomas Traill; and (2) transcriptions or copies of letters for which no original handwritten versions exist. These early transcriptions were made by family members, descendants, and by 19th-century Suffolk antiquarian and collector John Glyde. All footnotes are extracted from secondary sources. Please go to the Resources section for full bibliographical references.

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Principles of Transcription

In preparing them for this presentation, we have tried to preserve the flavour of the "originals" by altering them as little as possible. Thus, you will come across unusual punctuation, sentence fragments, irregular spellings and other idiosyncrasies typical of the letter writer.

Some changes, however, are unavoidable when transcribing from handwritten to typed script. They were dictated by the difficulty of printing such manuscript features as inserted or crossed-out phrases, or cross-written lines, where the writer has made economical use of paper by writing both horizontally and vertically on the same page. We have used italics where the original letter shows underlining. We have also occasionally found it necessary to insert our best guess at words made unreadable by folds in the fragile paper, seal tears, or the careful cutting out of a signature by former owners of the letters. Such insertions are indicated by square brackets.

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The Writer's Style

The Moodies and Traills were educated people, who all wrote for publication or penned business letters in which their grammar, punctuation and spelling are correct. But when they were writing informally to family and close friends they often used dashes instead of punctuation; sentence fragments were common, and sometimes words were spelled incorrectly, especially words new to them such as Canadian place names like "Otonabee" or "Katchewanook." John Moodie, for example, suffered from a problem many of us can identify with — he often misspelled words with "ie" in them: "[E]migrants and travellers have generally allowed themselves to be decieved into too sanguine expectations of the country in respect to the profits of farming" (John Moodie to James Traill, March 8, 1836, our italics). Susanna Moodie was fond of indicating an ironic or comic meaning by underlining the phrase concerned. Catharine Parr Traill peppered her informal correspondence with dashes instead of more formal punctuation.

We have tried to ensure that such habits remain in the transcriptions in order to provide the reader with as close a sense of the writer as possible. Occasionally, however, unclear grammatical references made it so difficult to understand what was being said that we have silently clarified the text, or provided an explanatory footnote, to help the reader.

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Letter Headings

Because the letter headings and salutations in the original letters sometimes appear at the end rather than the beginning of the letter, we have moved all dates and places of writing to the beginning of the letters.

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