Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen (Blackheath) and Scott (Glebe), our secondhand managers, every month here as they takes a closer look at a couple of titles from their shelves.

Travel in Mind Only

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, June 24, 2020

With physical world-wide travel anywhere now a fond memory and a virtual impossibility (as I write in May-June) I turn to travel writing chronicles of the past.

The Diaries of Lord Louis Mountbatten 1920-1922: Tours with the Prince of Wales (ed) Philip Ziegler  $20, HB

On 8 August 1920, Wingadee Station a 19,000-acre (7,700 hectare) sheep property—near Gilgandra, NSW—played host to a Royal guest:  After luncheon, the entire party mounted and rode six miles to a paddock where some kangaroos had been sighted. Two specially trained kangaroo hounds and some sheep dogs made up the pack…Kangaroo hounds are a cross breed between greyhounds and wolfhounds…very fast and fierce creatures. The kangaroos stated off in gigantic leaps…after a good three or four mile gallop the dogs became tired and the kangaroos got away. A quarter of an hour’s respite followed…when suddenly a flock of emus was sighted some twenty five strong. The emu is a ‘protected’ bird and permission had not been granted HRH to hunt them; but luckily none of the party knew this…One led the party a tremendous long run, he got into a clump of trees , where one of the kangaroo dogs caught him in the hind quarters…to speed his death the party broke branches off the trees and hit him over the head. After this they plucked feathers out and stuck them in their hats. Thus, the Prince of Wales, (and future King Edward VIII) enjoyed a Sunday afternoon hunting Australia’s national symbols.
This scene was recorded by Louis Mountbatten, his 19-year-old cousin, appointed Flag Lieutenant—and unofficial minder and confidant—to accompany the moody and often tiresome Prince on a Royal Tour of New Zealand and Australia. To ‘jolly him along whenever he became particularly ill-tempered’. The visit was in part to offer official thanks for the support the Dominions had shown Great Britain during WWI. It was also designed to strengthen links between Australia and the Empire. An official tour diary was kept, but Mountbatten was instructed by Admiral Halsey to keep an unofficial one for the amusement of the inner circle of courtiers. Twenty copies were produced on the ship’s printing press. The diary is light hearted and indiscreet at times, repetitious also with descriptions of inspections, receptions and openings, which were the daily task of the tour. Drove to the Federal capital site, Canberra, apprehension the federal Capital site might be missed altogether. This fear was groundless as the champagne corks could be heard popping from miles off in the government tent. On 5 July, the Royal Train was derailed near Manjimup, some 300kms south of Perth. ‘At last we have done something not on the official programme’, remarked HRH. Brisbane was approached nervously, for Queensland was ‘bolshie or rather full of Sinn Feiners and the labour premier is a hot Irish RC.’ as HRH confided in a letter home. However, all went well, the Brisbane crowds as enthusiastic as elsewhere. The Prince departed our shores on 19 August, homeward bound—via a tour of India & Japan. A very contemporary scandal ended the tour when it was discovered at the end of the voyage that the ship’s doctor had absconded with one of the copies of the diary. He was eventually traced to Kettner’s Restaurant in Soho, London, where he was negotiating its sale to an American journalist for an asking price of £5,000 (over £500,000 today). 

Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook’s Final Expedition by Laurie Lawlor $30, HB

The experiences of an American-born, British Naval Marine, John Ledyard (1751–1789) serve as a focus for this compelling account of Captain James Cook’s last expedition (1776–1780). The voyage took the route to Cape Town, Teneriffe, New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands and the North American coast to the Bering Strait. The expedition’s avowed purpose was to return Omai, a young native from Raiatea, Tahiti to his homeland. However, the secret mission was to discover the fabled Northwest Passage. Cook commanded HMS Resolution, and HMS Discovery was captained by Charles Clerke. Ledyard, 25 years old, indolent, prickly, and impecunious, saw this voyage as a golden opportunity to make his name and fortune. Following the four year expedition, Ledyard was posted to Canada to fight in the American revolution. Instead, he deserted, moved to Dartmouth, New Hampshire and wrote of the expedition in A Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage (1783)—causing controversy, since it was published in America before the official Admiralty-approved account of the expedition appeared. It was also the first book to be protected by copyright in the United States.
Laurie Lawlor uses extracts from Ledyard’s account, to place readers on deck as the expedition moves to the tropics, heads northwards to Alaska and Kamchatka Peninsula. They return, tragically, to Hawaii and at last retreat home, minus the two captains: Cook is murdered in Hawaii in February 1779 and Clerke dies six months later. Also interspersed are selections from Cook’s journals, as well as other sailors—with 19th-century grammar and spelling preserved. This book is profusely illustrated. Ledyard’s later life was equally adventurous. He led an exploration party into Russia and was briefly imprisoned there. Ledyard also lobbied President Thomas Jefferson to undertake exploration of the American west. His final journey was a proposed expedition from the Red Sea to the Atlantic. He had reached Alexandria when he died by accidently drinking sulphuric acid. He is buried somewhere on the banks of the Nile.

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