Settlers of the Marsh Essay - Critical Context

Felix Paul Greve

Critical Context

Grove published two books of sketches and impressions, Over Prairie Trails (1922) and The Turn of the Year (1923), before he published his first novel, Settlers of the Marsh. It was the outcome of a long labor in which the novel was first written as a trilogy which Grove intended to entitle “Pioneers.” Publishers told him that it was impossible to sell works of this length, so he painstakingly reduced the three volumes to one, skillfully indicating the passing of years and compressing the action of the plot.

The novel caused a furor on publication and did not sell well, for it outraged the morality of the period. Settlers of the Marsh was a complete break from previous Canadian fiction, which had been dominated by sentimental romanticism. Reviewers branded the novel obscene and filthy because Grove dealt with sexual matters and passion in a fashion that for its time was exceptionally frank and revealing. Grove suffered from being a writer in a critical climate that was not ready for passion and frankness.

Recent research has revealed that in Europe, Grove had been a writer and translator named Felix Paul Greve. He had had financial difficulties and had been imprisoned for fraud. To escape his past, he had faked his death and migrated to Canada, and he lived and wrote under an assumed name. He could not, however, change the literary climate of his adopted land, and he never achieved the success he deserved. He is now seen as one of the true pioneers of Canadian literature.