Charlotte Taylor Her Life and Times
Statement of Disclaimer
I do not endorse the fictional novel entitled The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor.
Statement of Disclaimer by Mary Lynn Smith
Reference: The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor
After a period of deliberation I have decided to place this Disclaimer Statement within my website, Charlotte Taylor Her Life and Times. This comprehensive work was e-published by me in the year 2000, and contains my original copyrighted Story of Charlotte Taylor, with an accompanying Foreword.
I was not a knowing helper on Sally Armstrong's The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor, although the impression has been conveyed by Sally that I was. Since the novel’s publication I have had to repeatedly explain my position to individuals questioning my connection to it. It is important that I make public my perspective on this matter for the benefit of those who have visited my website since its introduction, and for future readers to consider. I feel strongly that my reputation has been harmed by this implied ‘association’.
In her novel Sally Armstrong expressed “gratitude” for my “meticulous research” that was “invaluable” to her. But neither Sally nor her publisher has yet acknowledged the fact that my website has always contained an original copyrighted story, entitled The Story of Charlotte Taylor. That Story was my own interpretation of what I had gleaned about the life and the times of my ancestor. The ‘mention’ of my work in The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor is included in the “Acknowledgments” of the novel where Sally expressed appreciation for help she received from individuals who voluntarily aided in bringing her project to fruition. I should never have been placed within that group for I did not purposely help Sally in any way, nor would I have participated in fictionalizing the life of my ancestor. For some reason my work/website was incorrectly identified twice in the Armstrong novel. It has had only one title since its release, Charlotte Taylor Her Life and Times.
Although we are related I have never met Sally Armstrong, and my first of only two email communications from her occurred in January of 2004 sometime after she had spent days “buried” in my website. (Note: Charlotte Taylor Her Life and Times was unveiled at Tabusintac Old Home Week years earlier in the summer of 2000). Sally “gathered” that I had no further information other than what I had already e-published, and informed me that she was planning to write a book about Charlotte Taylor. I have to say that I was surprised at her lack of historical understanding about the life of our ancestor, given her intention. Her reference to Miscou Island, and how the mention of it within my “research” intrigued her, was also surprising to me. I had actually included that location in my Story of Charlotte Taylor because of an article that Sally had herself written and published years earlier in HomeMaker’s Magazine. In Charlotte’s Saga she vividly described the runaway Charlotte’s arrival there on May 6, 1776 in a “raging storm” as her lover slipped from their landing craft and perished. I searched diligently to find documentation of the Miscou incident, found none, and clearly distanced myself from Sally’s account.
In my reply to her email I mentioned that Charlotte Taylor was a British infant during the Expulsion of the Acadians, and not a young woman fleeing with a group of them to the Caribbean and a serendipitous rendezvous with Captain John Blake. That would have been highly unlikely had Charlotte been an adult, considering the geopolitical realities of those times. Sally Armstrong’s email is provided below in its original form for reader reference:
From: Sally Armstrong
Hello Mary Lynne,
The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor was published in 2007 after several delays and a change of title. I received my second email from Sally on April 22nd of that year with information about her upcoming book launch and a notification that my name and work were included in her acknowledgments and references. She advised me that her novel was “fiction after all” and that she had “reshaped” her “manuscript” because her editor had pushed her “farther and farther” from “creative non-fiction”. When I purchased a copy from the biography stacks of my local bookstore it was being disingenuously marketed as a “true story."
I discovered that The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor was very like my original Story, spliced with ‘imaginings’ and “fictional bridges”. A fleshed out account of what Sally had presented back in 1992 was what I had more or less expected, and not a fictional novel that was much more faithful to my storyline than her own. When I brought this matter to the attention of Random House an explanation was provided to me by her publisher Anne Collins, in a letter dated June 30, 2007. She did concur that the two works were very similar and her rationale was that since Sally Armstrong “did her research very well”, not surprisingly “events and interpretations” that I “also reached” appeared “in Sally’s work, too.” According to Anne Collins the story of Charlotte Taylor belonged “to all the thousands of descendants who have told and retold it since her death…” That statement is not factual, as is evidenced by an examination of the few brief tracts written or 'told' over the years about Charlotte Taylor, including Sally’s own Charlotte’s Saga, published in HomeMaker’s Magazine in 1992 (see transcription below). Hers certainly differed from what I had written in the year 2000:
Her story is recorded in bits and pieces; a deed here, a letter there, tales passed from mother to daughter through more than 200 years … Young Charlotte had been 'keeping company' with the butler. Her father, General Howe Taylor, found out about the alliance and forbade his daughter to ever see the young man again. When Papa sailed for Australia on army duty Charlotte decided to flit off to Canada, butler in tow. They arrived on May 6, 1776, in a raging storm on the rugged coast of Miscou Island in northern New Brunswick. While attempting to reach shore in a small landing craft, Charlotte's lover fell overboard and drowned. The daring Charlotte began her life in Canada alone. Well, not exactly alone. She had a child soon after arriving in the New World, a daughter named Elizabeth.
In 1777, Charlotte married Captain John Blake, had two sons, adopted a daughter and moved to the Miramichi area. When the Captain died in 1785, she married William Wishart, had one son, and moved to Wishart's Point. Wishart died a year later, and in 1787 she married Philip Hierlihy, whose farm was in the Tabusintac area and had five more children. Today, almost everyone in the vicinity can trace their lineage to Charlotte.
Every time one of her husbands died, she claimed his land, . . . And she never changed her maiden name. Once, she tramped on snowshoes 238 km to Fredericton to demand the deed to a piece of land she insisted was hers. She often marched off to Chatham, the local seat of government 53 km away, to settle disputes within the community, and she was known for travelling on horseback to Micmac camps to help the women when they were ill.
She died in 1840 and was carried by her Micmac friends in a canoe down the river to the burial ground. . . ."
It is important to emphasize here that there is no documentation for “General Howe Taylor”, his tour of “army duty” in “Australia”, the unfortunate drowning of Charlotte’s lover on “May 6, 1776 in a raging storm on the rugged coast of Miscou Island”, or of Charlotte Taylor’s aristocratic lineage. The final paragraph of Charlotte’s Saga is inaccurate in its timeline of events, placing Charlotte in Tabusintac years before she actually arrived there with her husband Philip Hierlihy and their extended family. It is well documented that Charlotte Taylor did change her maiden name more than once, and that she died in 1841, not 1840. This was confirmed by both the St. Andrews Standard and the Royal Gazette (Fredericton) when they published obituaries of "Charlotte Hierlihey."
In Charlotte’s Saga there was no mention of the West Indies or Great Britain’s “most famous privateer.” Years later in 2007 Commodore Walker was featured prominently within the first few passages of The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor. On pages ix and x of her Preface (The Bay 2004) Sally Armstrong described her surprise July encounter with a “newly installed bronze plaque” while cycling along the “boardwalk on the Baie de Chaleur.” She stated that its inscription sent “shivers” up her ‘spine” as it “line by line” spilled out details of “a connection” that she had overlooked between the Commodore and Charlotte Taylor. This ‘revelation’ occurred six months after Sally notified me in a January 12, 2004 email that she had been “buried” in my website Charlotte Taylor: Her Life and Times "for days” and was “intrigued” by “pieces of information” about the “Caribbean and Miscou” in my “research.” This confirmed that she had read my material about Commodore Walker because the celebrated mariner was well documented within the Caribbean/West Indies passages of my original Story of Charlotte Taylor.
Cited excerpts from numerous sources in my Commodore Walker Sidebar provided in-depth biographical information about the man. Detailed descriptions of his trading operations and ‘opulent’ dwellings at Alston Point/Youghall on the Baie de Chaleur were provided. Even George Gilbert’s description of the ruins at Alston Point, “charred foundations … in a fairly regular row across the point … the remains of his (Walker’s) business buildings”, in his Bathurst 1891-1951, was transcribed in my website. I clearly stated my belief that Charlotte Taylor had perhaps arrived and/or spent time at the Walker compound before American privateers leveled the place.
WALKER TRADING POST
In 1768 Commodore George
This skeletal statement on the “marker at the end of Youghall Beach” ostensibly provided Sally Armstrong with “the missing notes" of the Charlotte Taylor "symphony." But this was at least six months after she had seen the wealth of Commodore Walker material within my website that provided all of the information displayed on the historical plaque, and much more. I included this content largely because of information provided by Horatio Lee (the first postmaster of Tabusintac, N.B.) to W.F. Ganong. He revealed a link between Commodore Walker and Charlotte Taylor in his June 5, 1905 letter and that nugget of information was later incorporated by Ganong into his History of Tabusintac. I found his hand-written notes within the Ganong Papers at the New Brunswick Museum where they had lain undisturbed for years. Those invaluable letters were transcribed word for word in my website and shed light on the early history of Tabusintac and its female co-founder. Horatio Lee was the individual who related that "Miss Charlotte Taylor" had been conveyed across the seas to the "Restigouche River" in a ship "under Commodore Walker and commanded by Captain Skinnear."
In her 1992 Charlotte's Saga (see above) Sally Armstrong described a purposeful Charlotte Taylor snowshoe journey to Fredericton. Years later, in The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor, she stated on Page xiv of the Preface that she had "learned" about Charlotte's "winter trek" through letters from "far-flung relatives" in the aftermath of her 1995 HomeMaker's Magazine article. I've not found any verification of the snowshoe trek tales about Charlotte Taylor. There are, however, references to the treks of two other women from the area, Charlotte Sutherland and Sarah Davidson (William Davidson). Both were transcribed and cited in my website Sidebars. W.H. Davidson, in William Davidson 1740-1790, recorded that "Sarah Davidson . . . the first winter after her husband's death" travelled "on snowshoes with only an Indian guide to Fredericton . . . to obtain some settlement of her husband's affairs." In The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor Sally 'imagined' a snowshoe trip by the widow Charlotte Blake and a fictional Mi'kmaq that was, at its core, markedly similar to the widow Sarah Davidson's journey.
Additionally, the Miramichi was quite notably given little emphasis and very brief mention in Sally Armstrong’s Saga. But in The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor she radically moved away from what she had presented to HomeMaker’s Magazine readers in 1992, and made that area the focal point of her new book. The jacket of the novel, above the title, heralded Charlotte as “The First Woman Settler of the Miramichi”. The paperback edition, with a completely revamped cover, made no mention of that controversial claim.
My interpretive work, an original copyrighted Story of my own construction and design, was completed in the year 2000 and e-published in five chapters along with a Foreword that explained my intent. Throughout more than a decade of preliminary research, I methodically sifted through and analyzed a wealth of published and unpublished material stored within the archives, libraries and museums of four Canadian provinces. I also communicated with knowledgeable individuals in Great Britain who sought out for me in England and Scotland what I was unable to access myself. I had rare books brought in on inter-library loan, and read/transcribed them inside sealed rooms to increase my understanding. My challenge after that lengthy process was deciding what and who to include or leave out of the original Story of Charlotte Taylor that I had conceptualized, given the eventful hundred year timeline that framed her largely undocumented life.
I would also like to discuss my concern about historical revisionism in The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor, a practice that I have labeled “manipufiction." The most egregious example is Sally’s portrayal of Philip Hierlihy, Charlotte’s husband of some fifteen years. They had five children together and he was documented as “an industrious man with a handsome improvement," one who in addition to his own care took on the onerous responsibility of raising five stepchildren. From the Ireland of his youth he migrated to a new life in prosperous colonial Connecticut but he was not destined to remain there either. During the American Revolutionary War years he stood for the Crown as a soldier in the Prince of Wales American Regiment. After that conflict he made his way north with the tide of disbanded provincials and eventually settled in Miramichi where he met and married the widow Charlotte Blake (nee Taylor). Years later the pair migrated further north to found (with several others) the village of Tabusintac, New Brunswick.
Mr. Hierlihy was never documented as a drunkard within any public records of those days including the Court of Quarter Sessions, but he has been portrayed as a cantankerous one in The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor. Sally Armstrong, in an undefined ‘imagining’, painted Philip as a pugilistic, alcohol-fueled Irishman who was habitually the object of his wife’s scorn. The reputation and legacy of a real individual has been damaged by this unwarranted characterization. In due course I will provide an analysis of what is fictional, imaginary, and provably false in the Armstrong novel, both to preserve historic integrity and as a response to the many requests that I have received on the subject.
In closing I reiterate that I am not connected to The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor and did not knowingly contribute to it. I had nothing whatsoever to say about Sally Armstrong’s reference to my work, her inaccurate identification of it, and where she placed that mention within her novel. When Sally thanked me for my “meticulous research," notably without any mention of my original five chapter Story of Charlotte Taylor, she conveyed the impression that I voluntarily assisted in her project, like others who had transported her “up river” or snowshoed alongside her. This collaborative implication is reinforced by virtue of the fact that the works are so similar, something Anne Collins (Random House publisher) has acknowledged. The inclusion in both works of such disparate elements as the diarist Simeon Perkins, the mouth cancer/sores of a male Murdoch neighbour, the entrepreneurial and mysterious Wishart brother, and even the manner in which Micmac females chewed food before placing it into the mouths of their young underscores my concern.
In this Statement of Disclaimer I have provided a brief timeline of events as I seek to disentangle myself from any association with The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor.
Charlotte Taylor continues to pique our collective interest in no small measure because full understanding of her life story is not yet realized. Fortunately she revealed something of herself in her January 7, 1788 appeal for legal ownership of “Mirimichie” Lot 53 South Side. She stated: “ . . . he means to try to get located for it himself after he Selling of it and Giving a Deed which Sir you have in your Office which is Drawn by Mr. Ledurney (Delesdernier) and Signed by John Wilson Esquire. Honorable Sir I hope you will see me Justifyed in this affair and have me Registrate for said Lot as it seems to me that he have a mind to try cut me out of it after I buying of and paying for it.” While she was unsuccessful, the invaluable Memorial has revealed a determined and forceful personality. It is fitting and proper that she should have the last word here.
From my perspective it is unthinkable that the bluntly assertive Charlotte, who petitioned for justice from the Honorable Jonathan O’Dell (poet, staunch Loyalist, Church of England clergyman, Provincial Secretary of the Province of New Brunswick) of Frederick Town, would sanction a posthumous fictional reconstruction of her life. I believe she would fight it tooth and nail.
Mary Lynn Smith