Adapting the SFU entry for C.A. Frazer for inclusion in our new Canada’s Early Women Writers project, I have run up against a wall; or rather, a chasm. There are holes in our knowledge that need addressing, and I am not sure the answers to my questions are known. Let me share with you.
Many sources—notably Lewis Horning and Lawrence Burpee in A Bibliography of Canadian Fiction (1904) and Henry Morgan in Canadian Men and Women of the Times (1912)—list Miss C.A. Frazer—with a “z”—as the co-author of the fairy tale collections A Wonder Web of Stories (Montreal: Grafton, 1892) and With Printless Foot: A Holiday Book of Fairy Tales (Montreal: Sabiston, 1894); the other author is Margaret Ridley Charlton. The title pages of these collections, which are now both available in the Internet Archive, list the author as Caroline Augusta Fraser and C.A. Fraser—both with an “s”—respectively. The University of Alberta copy of Atma: A Romance (Montreal: Lovell, 1891), by A.C.F., is attributed (in hand-script) to “Miss C.A. Frazer.” Internet Archive thus lists all three titles under the author C.A. Frazer, but I have questions.
The first is: where does the attribution of Atma to C.A. Fraz/ser come from? The answer may be the following convoluted path, which our earlier research followed:
In the genealogical catalogue Major Alpin’s Ancestors and Descendants (1915), a Charlotte Fraser is listed as a sub-editor for the Montreal Star. Research on Ancestry.ca reveals a great deal about this Augusta Charlotte Fraser (c1849-1896), but there is no documentary evidence on Ancestry.ca that she authored any full-length texts. Nonetheless, the date and location are correct, and how many A.C. Frasers (A.C.F.) could there be in Montreal? And isn’t Augusta C. Fraser rather similar to C. Augusta Fraser? So ran the logic, I assume (this was before my time).
So you can see how we got here, with the three titles attributed to Augusta Charlotte Fraser, who for some reason chose also to publish as Caroline Augusta Fraser. And you can see, too, where my doubts come from. It becomes more interesting as we delve deeper.
Atma: A Romance is set in the Punjab at the time of the Second Sikh War (1848-49). It is a typical novel of British India at the time, incorporating the tone and tropes common in literature produced by those who actually lived in India (although it contains no actual Hindi words, as much of their literature does). It does not feel like the work of a female author from Montreal who also wrote fairy tales for children. That being said, it is hard to judge a novel of war and spirituality against fairy tales for children, and the introduction used in both Wonder Web and Printless Foot could possibly be the same voice. Still, it is not obvious to me, given the A.C.F. / Augusta Charlotte Fraser / Charlotte Fraser / Caroline Augusta Fraser / C.A. Frazer conundrum, that we have here a single author.
Throw into the issue a text entitled In the Days of Sir Walter Raleigh (s.l.: s.n., 1900), also for children, attributed in our older entry to Margaret Ridley Charlton and C.A. Frazer—but only to Charlton in the two reference books cited above—and I become even more questioning. At the moment, our entries assume that we have here only one author, with the caveat that we have concerns; I will update the entries, and our blog audience, as more information becomes available. I am really hoping that someone out there is asking, too, and can help us out.