Deadly Winter: The Life of Sir John Franklin.

A facile and not very original biography of Franklin, sloppily edited and proofread, but a decent enough overview.

p. 64, on the first overland journey in 1820, Franklin writes in a letter of: the hope, comfort and support from religious books and especially the Bible during this season of leisure…. I am amazed at the state of ignorance under which I labored with respect to it[s] blessed contents. [Devonshire PRO to Rev. Wright, 18 Oct 1820]

p. 102, Eleanor Porden attributes her consumptive cough to her constitution: …but it has been much augmented by over-reading aloud, which it was difficult to avoid when two invalids were almost entirely dependant [sic] on me for amusement.

p. 118, re the second overland expedition: Jane Griffin and a friend had called at the Franklins’ house to leave some presents for Franklin to take on his expedition (a silver pencil, fur-lined gloves, a miniature edition of Shakespeare’s plays, and an ‘instantaneous light box’).

p. 128: Franklin’s sister, Hannah, had given him a Bible to take with him on this expedition and, no doubt mindful of his previous experiences, he left this in charge of Dease in the event of his not returning—with a request that it should be sent back to England. Inside, he wrote ‘John Franklin—for his daughter Eleanor Franklin, 19th June 1826. Fort Franklin, Great Bear Lake’. (The Bible did make it back to England and survives to this day.) [Devonshire PRO]

p. 135: Christmas 1826 was brightened by Back and Kendall, who put on a comic show featuring cardboard figures behind an illuminated screen, script courtesy of Back. This entertainment was repeated over three nights by popular demand. The New Year was seen in by a dance.

Chapters 11 and 12 give a concise account of Franklin’s service in Van Diemen’s land, very sympathetic to his travails with the Arthur Faction, Monomachanie (his choice as private secretary, Montagu (his antagonist), and the Colonial Secretary Stanley who ultimately dismissed him from office. There is not much here on transportation, and nothing on the American patriots from the Canadian rebellion of 1838. Nor do I find anything of any connection between the Colonial Office and the Admiralty concerning Franklin’s appointment to command the expedition. Perhaps there is none, but it seems a worthwhile question.

p. 194: There were some diversions to help the crews pass the time when they were not working, including a hand organ on each vessel to provide musical entertainment, and over a thousand books.

p. 200: [Franklin] perused Barrow’s account of earlier voyages to this region and morning and evening he read a chapter from the Old Testament. Every morning he led prayers on deck, and there was a reprise in the evening in his cabin for those who had not been able to participate earlier.

The last chapter debunks all of the theories of the Franklin demise and its accompanying conflicts: cannibalism, lead poisoning, botulism scurvy, and is particularly critical of Ice Blink for some of its logical mistakes. Appendix II is a useful list of all officers and crews of the two ships (p. 245-7).