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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $20.95

192 pp.
60 b/w illustrations, 6.625" x 9.1875"


Publication date:
August 2013

Imprint: OUP Canada

The Elegant Canadians

The late Luella Creighton
Introduction by Don Wright

Series : The Wynford Project

Opening with the Queen Victoria's arrival in Charlottetown harbor, visitors from the Old World emerge with erroneous expectations: they are constantly surprised that the New World is a place of energy, creativity, and imagination, reflected in exuberant architecture, dress, and culture. Elegance flourishes and society blossoms in gala events where long after midnight "the crinolines swayed, multicoloured and seemingly endowed with independent life of their own." In this lively mix of fact and fiction, Creighton is fascinated by the stuff of culture, here depicted as a distinctive weave of style, sophistication, and individuality with a unique Canadian character. Her fascination is also with cultural difference. In Canada there is undoubtedly unqualified elegance, but it is an edgier, harder-earned elegance than that of the pompous, baggage-bound Old World.

Published in 1967, exactly one hundred years after Confederation, Creighton's book shows a Canada in the best of all possible worlds. Gone is pioneer poverty and environmental hardship, replaced now by thriving sophistication. At the same time, this is a world that still retains some respect for social hierarchy, decent manners, and old-fashioned inherited wisdom - the unspoken corollary here is that the Canada of 1967 has grown sloppy, noisy, and vulgar. Lovingly researched and assembled with sixty images, this depiction of Canada in the 1860s reveals much about our own history and myth-making.

Readership : The Elegant Canadians will appeal to readers charmed by depictions of sophisticated Canadian society, readers interested in Canada's cultural history in the years leading up to Confederation, and those who read Canadian literature. Accented by traditional images and coloured by historically accurate letters, The Elegant Canadians is written for lovers of history and literature alike.


  • "The most engaging and informative work of Canadian social history ever written."

    --Sandra Gwyn, author of The Private Capital: Ambition and Love in the Age of Macdonald and Laurier

Introduction to the Wynford Edition
1. Rendezvous at Charlottetown
2. The Canadians Entertain
3. The Travellers and the Towns
4. Christmas in a Village, Canada West, 1866
5. Winter Time and "The Cone"
6. Spacious Days
7. The Chatelaine
8. The Fashionable Years
9. The Sixties and the Simple Faith
10. Canadians in Paris, 1867
11. Concerning the Duty of Women
12. Literary Life
13. The Sound of Music
14. The Glamour of the Garrison
15. Summer Time
16. Mr. Lawson Comes Home
17. Old Grey City
18. On the First of July, 1867

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Luella Creighton (1901-1996) was born in Stouffville, Ontario. She studied at the University of Toronto under E.J. Pratt and the Sorbonne, and later married esteemed Canadian historian and writer Donald Creighton, with whom she had two children. A writer of fiction, non-fiction, and children's stories, she is best-known for her novel High Bright Buggy Wheels (1951, reissued in 2013), which depicts Mennonite life in rural Ontario. The Wynford edition of Elegant Canadians is introduced by Donald Wright, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of New Brunswick.

High Bright Buggy Wheels - The late Luella Creighton
Introduction by Cynthia Flood
The Road to Confederation - The late Donald Creighton and Donald Wright
Canada's First Century (Reissue) - The late Donald Creighton and Donald Wright
The Revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company - Christopher Armstrong and H. V. Nelles
A History of Canadian Culture - Jonathan F. Vance

Special Features

  • New introduction. Professor Don Wright of the University of New Brunswick introduces the text for the modern reader.
  • Various view of Canada at Confederation. The culture of the 1860s is depicted through the experience of visitors to Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, and Quebec City in the years leading to Confederation.
  • Creative mix of fact and fiction. Drawing on letters, diaries, family albums, and stories passed down through generations, Creighton imaginatively recreates everyday life, tourism, trade, and fashion in the Dominion.
  • Based on first-hand accounts. Creighton draws on well-known commentary from William Howard Russell (from The Times of London), Franches Monck (sister-in-law of Governor General Lord Monck), and Samuel Phillips Day (writer for the London Herald).
  • Lively, spirited prose. Creighton's style is readable, fun, and full of anecdotes.
  • Epistolary form. Readers are brought back into time through Creighton's fictionalized letters, which bring her characters to life on the page.
  • Elegance of high society. Canadians create elegance rather than importing it, such as hand-carved mahogany furniture from Quebec; fine milled soap; and delicate foods including chilled lobster, oysters, jellies, and fragile meringues. There was even a proper way to serve maple syrup.
  • Sophisticated Canadian culture. Visitors are surprised to find Canada more cultured than anticipated, with formal galas and dances, literary life, music, and painting.
  • Extensive visuals. Sixty illustrations, photographs, and prints depict fashion, architecture, decor, recreation, and gala events.