Serendipity. It's the only way to describe my latest reading adventure.
I was jealous of Simon, when he posted that his library had copies of Hesperus Press. I looked at my work's library and found out that I could get some also.
Since I am in the Interlibrary Loan Department, I ordered the book myself but made a mistake and instead got Under the Management of Mr. Charles Dickens - His Production of The Frozen Deep, edited by Robert Louis Brannan. This is a non-fiction account of how Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens wrote a play in 1856.
About 9 years earlier Sir Franklin, who was later credited in finding the Northwest Passage, was lost and died in the Arctic. Someone went looking for him and reported that everyone under Franklin's command became cannibals to survive, before finally dying of cold.
Dickens was outraged! How can Englishmen be accused such sickly acts?? Dickens wanted to clear Franklin's name and help raise money to help the widow and child. (I guess that the Royal Navy didn't pay family members for lost sailors.) Plus, Dickens wanted a creative outlet that didn't depend on publishers' demands.
Collins wrote a play to show how noble the crew was. Dickens produced the play and contributed to the revisions.
Dickens was so influential that he convinced Clarkson Stanfield, a member of the Royal Academy of Art (specialty: landscape and marine paintings) to be the stage painter. He also remodeled his home to accommodate the play.
All the actors were amateurs but very good ones, including several of Dickens' children. Dickens himself played Richard Wardour, the first fiance of Clark. Collins played the Frank Aldersley, the second fiance.
Dickens invited theater critics and important Naval officers to see the play in January 1857. He presented the play to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at their palace.
The play was also presented in Manchester and did raise a lot of money for the Franklin family and helped clear his name.
Brannan's book includes details about the play and the actual play.
Collins later wrote the novel based on the same event. It's similar to the play, except that there are more details. For example, the officers' quarters (which were separate from the regular sailors). Collins also had more details about John Want, the cook, who says he doesn't complain, but complains the most!
I enjoyed reading Collin's version of the subject. He shows how noble the officers were.
Then, this week, I read about a new book by Anthony Brandt concerning Franklin's voyage. And, it looks like they didn't eat each other but their shoes. I am looking forward to reading this
version of the trip.