Towards the South Pole aboard the Français, the First French Expedition to the Antarctic 1903-1905.

Charcot was among the more erudite of the heroic age explorers, brought an extensive library of classical authors with him, and does more to describe his reading experience than most of his early 20th– century peers.

p. xviii: While the weather was unconducive to travel outside, because of storms, poor visibility or thin ice, Charcot was busy organizing educational classes inside (one crewman was totally illiterate, three others could not write), or evening poetry readings, with Victor Hugo as a particular favourite. One sailor (Rolland) spent the winter constructing, with the sole aid of his pocket-knife, an accurate scale model of the Français…. [Billinghurst]

p. 61, quotes lines from Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice. Also mentions gramophone recitals every Sunday since their departure.

p. 70-71, quotes Euripedes.

p. 81: I spent almost the whole of this day in the laboratory preparing media for my culture of microbes and in making up bacteriological samples. All the manuals talk about the use of makeshift laboratories in warm countries. I could add a chapter about their use in cold countries.

p. 89, 92, on Charcot’s cabin: This cabin is where I wrote everything that went through my head, while every evening, for several hours before going to sleep, by the light of a little nickel-plated lamp, facing the blind painted for me by my sister, I would read the classics, previously neglected, since the days when they had been hastily scanned in order to avoid a low mark or a punishment. I almost hated them then, but now, they held such charm for me that it was with regret that I would put them back in their place, thankful for their wise counsels, their consolations, and their exhortations. Did not Euripedes say to me one evening “The will of heaven manifests itself in various ways; often the gods disappoint our expectations in accomplishing their ends; what seems inevitable fails to happen, and a god smooths the path for unforeseen events.” In my personal library, as distinct from the ship’s general library, I had enough to occupy myself for several seasons of overwintering: Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripedes, Strabo, Montaigne, Dante, Cervantes, Swift, Saint-Simon, Victor Hugo, Michelet etc.; and, let us not forget him, all of Alexander Dumas. Finally, in a well-protected little corner, within easy reach were to be found two old friends who never left me, Rabelais and Shakespeare. It was in this cabin that I would sometimes shut myself off in order to rage and fume against what I considered to be an injustice inflicted on me either by one of my fellow humans, or by the elements; but before long I would become calm, and once more master of myself.

p. 107: This evening I gave the men a lecture on Antarctic expeditions, then Pléneau recited them some poetry, and after some tunes of the gramophone I read them L’Aigle du Casque [Victor Hugo poem]. They listened attentively and at the end showed their appreciation by their applause accompanied by some oaths which indicated that they would have given Typhaine an unpleasant quarter of an hour.

p. 114: Back on board, I read Les Pauvres Gens [another Victor Hugo poem] to the men, who wept openly, deeply moved by it.

p. 120 [June 12, 1904]: In Paris this was the day of the Grand Prix; Pléneau and Rey, the wardroom’s two sportsmen, had a keen discussion about this, inspired by last year’s newspapers.

p. 131: The men’s own library, consisting of serious books and fiction, generously given by Admiral Richard d’Abnour, also made its contribution, and the heroes of Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas became extremely popular, the more knowledgeable ones delighting in recounting what they read to the others and this in picturesque and often unexpected ways.

p. 208, where Charcot quotes Anatole France: “All change, even that which is most wished for, brings sadness; we leave part of ourselves behind, we have to say adieu to one way of life to begin anew.”

p. 221: “Do you believe in God? Yes. No. Sometime—During a storm?— Yes, and at moments like this.” [Victor Hugo. Quatre-vingt—treize.]