Northern Regions: Or, A relation of Uncle Richard’s Voyages for the Discovery of a North-west Passage.

A serious account of four British expeditions intended to introduce children to the excitement and uncertainties of Arctic travel, without sparing the more gruesome aspects of exploration (death, storms, cannibalism, etc.) Good and accurate descriptions of amusements aboard, and relatively balanced accounts of the “savages.” The expeditions are Parry I, Franklin I, Parry II, and Cochrane’s overland journey to Siberia.

p. 26: " And now {about for our other amusements: what think you, Charles, of acting plays ?"

"If you had but had a playhouse, uncle ? "

“So we thought, and we set to work to have one prepared, and Lieut. Beechey was appointed stage-master; and the 6th of November we fixed upon for our first performance, as that is a grand holiday, you know [Guy Fawkes day].

p. 27: While our theatre was preparing, we set on foot a weekly news- paper, which we called the North Georgian Gazette and Winter Chronicle; Capt Sabine was editor, and it was written by the officers of both ships; many an hour being thus occupied which otherwise might have been passed in thinking of our gloomy situation.

p. 32-33, amusements including theatres, dancing, singing, and games of all kinds: I suppose I need hardly tell you, that we officers spent our evenings somewhat more gravely; reading and writing, a game at chess, or a tune on the flute or violin, being our chief employments.

" On Sundays, divine service was performed on board each of the ships, and a sermon read; and it was pleasing to see the attention paid by our sailors to their religious duties.

"We acted plays once a fortnight, and they continued a source of great amusement. Unfortunately we had but few plays with us, and it was difficult to vary them sufficiently. Some of the officers, therefore, whom we called our authors because they were better skilled in the use of their pen than most of us, set to work, and composed a musical entertainment for a Christmas piece.

"They with great ingenuity adapted it to our audience, and to the situation in which we were placed, and alluded to the success we had already met with in so happy a manner, as at once to produce entertainment, and to encourage hopes of the ultimate success of the expedition.

p. 122: The winter hours [at Fort Enterprize] were spent by Captain Franklin and his fellow travelers in the following manner: they read all the newspapers and magazines from England over and over again; they wrote their journals, walked out to see the woodmen, and in the evening joined in the games of the men in the hall. Mr. Hood completed his drawings; Dr. Richardson studied the mineralogy of the country….

p. 156, after deaths of Hood and Michael: Dr Richardson brought his prayer-book, and read to them some prayers and psalms, and, rather more composed, the whole party went to bed….

When you took leave of us, Hood and myself sat over our willow fire, and read in some good books which a lady had provided us with before we left England. We were much comforted, and talked cheerfully; and, if my poor friend were alive, I would look back with delight to this period of my life.

p. 175-76, preparation for a production of Sheridan’s “The Rivals”: After waiting for many a day, it was decided that as no more summer would appear this year, we must pass thee winter in this spot, and therefore every preparation was made, similar to what had been done before, both for the safety of the ships, and the comfort of the men. Before we left England, a large subscription had been raised for purchasing theatrical clothing and playbills were soon made out, every officer, cheerfully putting his name down, and those who were fixed upon to perform the parts of ladies, generously cut off the beard and whiskers they had saved to protect them from the cold; our theatre was large, our dresses were good, and we began with the play of the " Rivals," which was performed with brilliant success, and unbounded applause.

p. 177: The new year, 1822, was now ushered in and found us all in good health, and in excellent spirits; nothing had contributed more to this last circumstance than the school, in which the men had taught and been taught; there was not a man now on board, who could not read or write, and, on Christmas day, sixteen copies were sent to our Captain, written by men, who, two months before, had scarcely known their letters. There was something very pleasing, in the interest our honest tars took in learning, and these copies were sent up, with the pride of a good little schoolboy, rather than that of a stout and able sailor.

p. 231, on some shamanistic beliefs in Siberia: There are two places to which they believe the souls of the good go, heaven, and the centre of the earth; the first is for those who have been killed by bears, walruses, or any other animal; the second is divided into three, the lowest of which is a place of perfect happiness. [Surely there are hollow earth antecedents here?]

p. 272—bartering in furs. See also p. 310 and 312.

p. 281, a dialogue of Charles, Richard, and Tom: Charles . “This reminds me of your golden rule, uncle. Follow the custom of the natives, in whatever climate you are.”

Uncle Richard . “It is but natural to suppose that experience must teach those who live in a cold climate, the best mode of adapting themselves to it.”

Tom . "My travellers soon began to suffer from snow blindness; but their own sufferings were forgotten when they reached a habitation, in which all the people were starving to death. They had actually resigned themselves to die, and were not willing to be disturbed. A little warm tea roused them, and they summoned resolution to go with the party to the next station, where they obtained a supply of fish from peasants almost as poor as themselves.

p. 294-95, re the Tchuktchi tribes, who “are much more intelligent than the other northern Asiatics, almost all of the boys reading and writing pretty well….”

Uncle Richard …. However, go on Tom, for I am interested with your account of these savages.

Tom . They are indeed a peculiar race. I am going, however to close my account of them. In some respects they resemble the Esquimaux; and Captain Cochrane is inclined to think that they are of American rather than of Asiatic origin. They are avaricious, but honest….