Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen: Ambition and Tragedy in the Antarctic.

A revision of a pre-Huntford critical work on Scott, though he says he didn’t know he was writing a “debunking” biography in 1977. Doesn’t have the acerbic bite of Huntford, but has something critical to say about all three of his subjects.

p. 14: [Scott] was better read than most naval officers, especially in poetry and modern novels. Something of this must have begun in his short preparatory education. It is appropriate that one who read of adventure and travel should have left as his finest memorial a travel journal that is still eloquent. At the end of his tether, Scott found the words to give a lasting imaginative life to his ordeal and to make us see a relationship between suffering and duty. There is even the impression in the last journal of a man discovering himself. p. 114: By early November [1908] they were held up by blizzards so that Shackleton lay in his sleeping bag reading Much Ado about Nothing….

p. 190-1: But Scott lived on his own. He had a private room, or cabin.… Ponting took a photograph of Scott in his room, working on his diary and, at first glance, it is a picture of a writer rather than an explorer. The library is in Scott’s cabin and one can see how anyone hesitating to come in and choose a book would be sensed and admitted with a word or two, without dislodging Scott from his work. Shackleton kept the library in his room to waylay others with stories and jokes. For Scott, it was more a matter of the convenience of a writer not wishing to be far from a library. Ponting…observed him shrewdly: ‘He had kept much to himself during the winter. He read a great deal—generally books on Polar exploration, relieved by an occasional novel. He worked a great deal on his plans for the future; he wrote much in his diary, and smoked incessantly. Almost invariably he took his exercise alone.’

p. 192: Inevitably much time was devoted to reading. Oates had a small bust of Napoleon by his bed and was usually reading Napier’s History of the Peninsular War. Cherry-Garrard had brought the complete Kipling, Day loved Dickens and there were factions to say that Tennyson or Browning was the finest Victorian poet. Reference books were always at hand to settle arguments and the many volumes of Polar history were studied, sometimes with ominous foreboding. In addition there was a supply of cheap editions of popular novels, leading to arguments about the ‘depraved’ tastes of individuals.

p. 229, Nov. 1911: Scott should not have forgotten that the gauntness he saw in the motor party came after almost a week’s rest, spent waiting for the ponies and listening to Day reading from The Pickwick Papers.