The Eclectic Society was a literary society organized by female students of the Mount Allison Ladies' College in 1874. It used the Latin motto Vita sine litteris mors est, which translates to “Life without literature is death.” This reference originally appeared in a letter from the Roman philosopher Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) to Lucilius. A further motto was added some years after the founding: "To be and not to seem." This was adopted to counteract the impression that the weekly meetings were “mere entertainment.” With a membership composed of women from the Ladies' College, the society paralleled the Eurhetorian society which was then led by men. Among other activities, the society marked its formation with the release of its own literary publication.
The first number of the Eclectic Journal was handwritten and read aloud by the society's president Annie Inch at a public meeting on January 29, 1874, in the same fashion as the first Eurhetorian Argosy and other early papers. Each issue consisted of a selection of poetry, short stories, and opinion pieces, all of which were composed by the society members. The Eclectic Journal would be published for another 12 years before disappearing in 1886. The Eclectic Moon and the Eclectic Monthly soon followed, though neither attained the longevity of their predecessor.
The most well-known of the Eclectic Society's publications was Allisonia which commenced publication in November 1903 under editor Lena Evans Tait.
Even though The Eclectic Journal only ran for twelve years it helped to establish the Eclectic Society which would go on to be instrumental in the continued success of The Argosy years later, in addition to being a well-respected student society in its own right. The Eclectic Journal provided a valuable outlet for the women of Mount Allison Ladies' College to share their writing, collaborate with one another, and explore the societal issues which most affected them. The pages are filled with entertaining anecdotes about Sackville life in the late 1800s, beautifully written sonnets and ballads, as well as tips on fashion and etiquette.
Despite their later amalgamation, there were times when the Eclectic Journal and The Argosy went head-to-head in debate. When an anonymous opinion piece appeared in The Argosy in 1877 suggesting that all women should study for a FFW or "Fit For Wives" degree, The Eclectic Journal's biting response retorted that it would be too easy and that a FFH or "Fit For Husbands" degree would be of more use.
Below you will find an image of the first issue of The Eclectic Journal dated January 29, 1874. Annie Inch included the Eclectic Society's motto directly under the title. Since this manuscript was penned just two years after the first Eurhetorian Argosy, it gives some valuable insight into the possible appearance of that lost number.
Click on the image to expand.