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Authors: Wayne Johnston

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The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

Acclaim for
Wayne Johnston’s
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

“This fine book [is] an eloquent … tribute to a place more willful than even its toughest inhabitants. The very human story of Smallwood and Fielding and its historical counterpart … gather momentum to achieve a mesmerizing inevitability.”

The New York Times Book Review

“A spellbinding, must-read tale.… Johnston’s authentic sense of place, history and romance are woven into a magical tapestry.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“One of the year’s best novels: serious and funny, uncompromisingly original yet accessible.”

Los Angeles Times

“With the lyricism of a lost lover, Johnston presents an awe-inspiringly barren and relentless landscape. [His] skill in marrying the political and historical with the personal … is remarkable.”

New Statesman

“This one is a keeper.… A large and deeply enjoyable book, worth reading more than once, and one that deserves to last.”

The Halifax Daily News

“Rich and complex, this splendid, entertaining novel offers Dickensian pleasures.”

— Andrea Barrett

“A truly great, gripping book.”

The Calgary Sun

“Johnston reminds us that politics, for all its squalor, is fit material for passion and suspense — and even so, he’s smart enough to let a love story run off with his exceptional book.”

— Thomas Mallon

“Funny, poignant and passionate.”

The Winnipeg Sun

“I read
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
with great pleasure.… It is a magic storyteller who can impel you to read on and on, surrendering your will to such an original narrative.”

— Robert MacNeil

“What struck me about Johnston’s novel … was an immense poignance attached to both the figure of Smallwood and the society from which he emerged. It was a poignance that never sounded a false note, and that was also effectively integrated with moments of humour and high spirits.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
came alive on every page.”

— Philip Marchand,
The Toronto Star
, Choice for Best Book of 1998

“Grand and operatic.… This brilliantly clever evocation of a slice of Canadian history establishes Johnston as a writer of vast abilities and appeal.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“A great read.… Johnston is marvellous.”


“Evokes both the stark vastness of Newfoundland and its stifling political and cultural littleness. It is a dizzying feat of scale.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Resounds with a timely return to the history and the man that brought Newfoundland into Canada.…
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
has the history, the pathos, the prejudice, and the politics.”

Atlantic Books Today

“Immensely satisfying … As absorbing as fiction can be — and a marvellous introduction to the work of one of our continent’s best writers.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“A hell of a good read. The setting is entrancing, and the harsh beauty of Newfoundland and its magnetic power on its inhabitants are stamped onto every page.… Reminds me of Robertson Davies’
Fifth Business

Calgary Herald

“Intensely powerful passages of amazing sensitivity.… Sweeping historical drama, hilarious satire, mystery — this story is big both in length and scope.”

(starred review)

“An ambitious and sweeping novel, wonderfully rewarding and expertly written.”

The Times

“Irresistible … Read it, and be wondrously amazed.”

— Rudy Wiebe

“Stunning in scope, underscored by … lyricism and finely woven plot.”

The Independent

“Comical, compelling … In the figure of Smallwood’s soul mate-nemesis, Shelagh Fielding, Johnston has created a boozy, prickly, lancet-tongued seductress who could hold her own against Dorothy Parker.”

Chicago Tribune


Copyright © 1998 by 1310945 Ontario Inc.

All rights reserved under International and Pan American Copyright Conventions. Published in Canada by Vintage Canada, a division of Random House of Canada, Limited, Toronto, in 1999. First published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, Toronto, in 1998. Distributed by Random House of Canada, Limited, Toronto.

Vintage Canada and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House of Canada Limited.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, with the exception of public and historical ones, is entirely coincidental.

Johnston, Wayne
The colony of unrequited dreams

eISBN: 978-0-307-37468-4

I. Title.

PS8569.03918C64   1999    C813′.54    C98-932556-3
PR9199.3.J63C64 1999


For seven women of St. John’s:
Claire Wilkshire, Mary Lewis, Lisa Moore,
Sue Crocker, Mary Dalton, Beth Ryan
and Ramona Dearing

The history of the Colony is only very partially contained in printed books; it lies buried under great rubbish heaps of unpublished records, English, Municipal, Colonial and Foreign, in rare pamphlets, old Blue Books, forgotten manuscripts …

A History of Newfoundland



Title Page




I - The Brow

The Boot
The Feild
The Book
Mundy Pond
Harold Dexter
The Docks
Old Lost Land

II - A Continent of Strangers

The Newfoundland Hotel
The Call
A Modest Proposal
The Backhomer

III - Field Day

The Walk
I Once Was Lost
Sir Richard
The Dirt Poor and the Filthy Rich
Fielding’s Father
The Nones of 1932

IV - Interregnum

The British
Consummation Comes
The Morning Post
The Barrelman
Fort Pepperrell, 1943
The Most Intimate of Circumstances

V - Confessions

The Night of the Analogies
A Man You Never Knew
As Loved Our Fathers

VI - Two Hemispheres

We Let the Old Flag Fall
Something More Important Than Mere Blood


The Custodian of Paradise

About the Author

They had been friends and fellow students at Oxford, and in quite a natural way, as one pawns off a worthless horse on a friend, so Sir William sold a large portion of his grant at a very high price to Lord Baltimore.
— D.W. P
A History of Newfoundland

The Boot

, N
19, 1949
Dear Smallwood:
You may not know it yet, but I am back in St. John’s. Six months since Confederation. The past is literally another country now
I remember, it was in New York, I think, you once suggested that I do as Boswell did with Johnson and keep a running tally of your life. Even now, knowing you as well as I do, it seems hard to believe that you meant it, but you did. And you were so offended when I laughed
I walk as far as I ever did, though it takes me longer. The past is a place I visit on Sunday afternoons. Things I cannot remember when I have been indoors a week come flooding back
I look up at the Brow, which separates the city from the sea, and think of you. What is the name of the river, I asked my father when I was five, that runs between the city and the Brow? The Waterford? he said. No, the big river, I said. By which I meant the harbour
I go to the west end, where the coal piers and the car barns used to be. I like to remember what used to be where something else now stands, or what used to be where there is nothing now. The pastime of the old, and I am not yet fifty. Did you know that you can tell from where the mansard roofs begin how far the fire burned in 1892?
I walk along the waterfront and watch homesick fishermen from the Portuguese white fleet play soccer on the pavement of the apron, their ball bouncing off the steel hulls of ships and landing in the harbour
I have been remembering the city, Smallwood. In 1900, there were forty thousand people in St. John’s. If it had grown at the pace that other cities that size have grown at since, there would be half a million people here. Even now, no one thinks of it as a place from which nature has been crowded out
But how different it used to be, Smallwood, this city, yours and mine. More yours than mine, you would have said back then. I came from what your father called the quality, you from what my father, more fondly than you might imagine, called the scruff
Animals were everywhere. The smell and sound of them was everywhere. Cows, goats, chickens, horses, dogs
Goats wandered about at will the way cats in cities do today. If they lingered long enough in one neighbourhood, they were designated “lost” and were “claimed” by someone. But it was a rare goat who would stand for being tethered, so they more or less remained common property. Everyone milked them. For children, to go out milking was not much different than to go out picking berries. It was a common sight, children chasing goats down Water Street with buckets in their hands; children in winter thirstily gulping warm goat’s milk from tin cans

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