A typical Victorian biography of an exemplary life, with a good deal of material from his journals, and considerable emphasis on Richardson’s religious convictions.
p. 5, as a great reader as student at Edinburgh: He was a conscientious student, and his insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to read extensively on the most various subjects.
p. 24, writing about his ship Blossom in mid-Atlantic and then Funchal Bay: ‘I am extremely well-pleased with the “Blossom,” and the officers are very pleasant companions. Most of them are men of more knowledge and reading than I have met at sea before, and when we put our books together we have a very respectable library.’ [But there were problems with the Captain P——n ]: While the young officers were amusing themselves writing sonnets, the Captain thought they were plotting against his authority or enjoying jokes at his expense. His inability to share in their pursuits made them distasteful to him, and nothing is so irritating to an ignorant captain as to see those under him enjoying a book or cultivating literary tastes.
p. 29, aboard Blossom with Captain Beaufort: Instead of discouraging the pursuit of knowledge, Captain Beaufort allowed perfect freedom of access to his excellent library—a privilege which proved of essential advantage to Mr. Richardson in pursuing his studies at this period, when cut off from many opportunities of improvement.
p. 32, a picture of life aboard ship: You wish to know how I spend my time; and as there is a great deal of sameness in all my days, it will be easily done…. At ten we generally go to bed; the intermediate time I usually spend reading or walking upon deck, as we have not even a pack of cards or backgammon-board amongst us.
p. 38, while blockading Toulon aboard Bombay in 1811 he enthusiastically described his cabin: My cabin is twenty-one feet long and seven broad. I have spent all my spare cash in adorning it. In that small space, I have contrived to stuff a sofa, a dressing-table a chest of drawers, and book-case containing upwards of a hundred volumes; besides, by mean of a curtain, it is divided into two apartments, a dressing-room and a sitting room.
p. 55: In the late attack on Washington, our troops destroyed the few works of art which were found there, and were barbarous enough to burn the public library [Library of Congress, 1814], so that our conduct will not bear to be compared with that of the half- civilised Russians, who, with infinitely greater provocation, respected the monuments of learning and of the arts, during their progress through France.
p. 61, on his appointment to the first Franklin overland expedition: Having gained the acquiescence of his wife, he followed the leadings of Providence. In the wastes of the northern wilderness, the nobler points of his character were to be brought prominently out.
p. 100: on Hood’s death [murder]: ‘Bickerstith’s Scripture Help’ was lying open beside the body, as if it had fallen from his hand, and it is probable that he was reading it at the instant of his death.
p. 112, on the consolations of religion
p. 147, on winter amusements in 1827 at Fort Franklin.
p. 202: I carry my Bible and Prayer-Book with me, and also an excellent book by Bishop Wilson, which I find a great help to my devotion…. [from Lake Superior in 1848]
p. 223, November 2 , to his wife: My library, as you know, is a very small one, but it is a great solace. Most of the books were chosen by yourself, and I thank you, dear, for making so good a selection, which will bear recurring to again and again. I feel the advantage of having only a few books, in that one reads with more care and deliberation. It is owing to this that I have felt Shakespere’s beauties more than I ever had time to do before. I have read through the one volume of his plays your mother gave me, with great pleasure, since coming to Fort Confidence, and shall do so again, at least once a month, during my stay.
My after tea treat, at present, is from your copy of Bacon’s ‘Essays’ and Cowper’s ‘Task.’ The return of our messenger from Fort Simpson may be described in Cowper’s words, from his ‘Winter’s Evening on the Arrival of the Post,’ with a very slight alteration… [and then Richardson gives his altered version].
p. 260: During the winter , his time was chiefly occupied in reading old Scottish authors, and some of the prophetical books in Wickliffe’s translation of the Bible.
p. 267, re Richardson’s death and tombstone: One of the verses of Scripture inserted on his tombstone is from the twenty-seventh Psalm, which Franklin and he used to repeat to each other, at Fort Enterprise, when too weak to hold a book.