Saturday, September 3, 2016

Salute to Harriette Taber Richardson, Ultimate Port Royal Time Traveler and "A Work All Wrought in Gentleness"


When the Acadian Ancestral tour went to the reconstructed Habitation at Port Royal we had pretty intriguing morning with demonstrations by Wayne Melanson and Judy Pearson. After the demonstrations, we wandered around replica  recreated through the efforts of Harriette Taber Richardson in the mid 20th century.  Richardson, born in 1875, was a Mayflower descendant but fascinated by the period of history we call American colonialism. She used her wealth and influence to create interest to reconstruct the Habitation. Dalhousie University Archives in Halifax hold a fundraising letter written by Harriette T Richarson in 1930.  A short bio is included in the holding's description:

"Harriet Taber Richardson was an American from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who spent her summers in the Annapolis Royal area from about 1923.  An admirer of Samuel Champlain, her interest in him broadened to include Port Royal.  In 1928 she teamed up with local historian Loftus Morton Fortier to rebuild the Habitation.  She established The Associates of Port Royal, with chapters in Massachusetts, New York and Virginia, with the goal of raising money for the reconstruction." 



There is also some biographical information about Harriette T. Richardson in Time Travel  by Alan Gordon.

In September 1927, Harriette Taber Richardson published her translation of Marc Lescarbot's play/masque "The Theatre of Neptune".  The play is often described as the first European theatre written and performed in North America.  It was quickly composed and performed to celebrate the return of Sieur de Potrincourt from explorations along the Atlantic coastline on the 14th of November 1607. The script can be read here.  The cast includes Neptune, of course, 6 tritons and 4 natives and a few other members of a chorus. Samuel de Champlain accompanied Poutrincourt on those explorations and participated in the event.  Additionally, Louis Hebert, an apothecary and ancestor of Arthur Home Mylott, was also present at the production.


Each of the four natives offer gifts to Neptune, although the fourth was unsuccessful hunting and must excuse himself to go off to a fishing area with his harpoon in hand to retrieve "something your cook can roast". The first man offers a "quarter of moose or deer" and the second offers beaver pelts. It is the third native who Lescarbot makes speak of love and his beloved and as far as I can read the only reference to the female gender: 


'Tis not alone in France
That Cupidon commands
Throughout this young new France
As in your world he stands
And lights his torch with flame,
To heat our hearts, his game.
So plants he his light wands.
My mistress heard the news that sped
As herald you were to arrive,
For very love of her she pled
That I should find you and contrive
To offer you her humble duty,
Through this small gift of dainty beauty
Her skilful hand has made alive.
Receive, kind sir, with cheerfulness
This gift to you that I address !
A work all wrought with gentleness,
In courtesy of my mistress.
She would be sad and in distress
And lose her pretty playfulness
If promptly and with nimbleness,
I may not tell her of a kindness
Shown to me, here, your noble highness.

*[Matachiaz, an Indian word for porcupine-quill or bead embroidery.]  


The words that I favor are:
"through this small gift of dainty beauty
Her skilful hand has made alive...
...a work all wrought with gentleness."

So it was very timely for visitors to see examples of this porcupine quill needlework when we visited Port Royal.  Judy Pearson from the Park Service,  a Mi'kmaq, showed us samples of this heritage "wrought with gentleness" along with other traditional items.




Here are a few more porcupine quill creations "wrought with gentleness" we saw on our trip. These were in the museum at Beaubassin.......





Returning to Lescarbot's play, it's believed "Theatre of Neptune" was performed outside the Port Royal Habitation and on the waters of the Rivere Dauphin pictured here....






More photos inside the Port Royal Habitation, a beautiful restoration.  The efforts of Harriette Tabor Richardson, her fascination and her love of the Habitation created the ultimate "Work All Wrought in Gentleness".