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The Lost Arctic Voyagers [iii]

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Authors Charles Dickens
John Rae
Genres Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Report i
Subjects Arctic Regions; Arctic Regions—Description and Travel; Arctic Regions—Discovery and Exploration; Antarctica; Antarctica—Description and Travel; Antarctica—Discovery and Exploration
Explorers and Exploration; Wilderness Survival; Survival; Adventure and Adventurers
Food; Cooking; Gastronomy; Alcohol; Bars (Drinking Establishments); Restaurants; Dinners and Dining
Health; Diseases; Personal Injuries; Hygiene; Cleanliness—Fiction
Language and Languages
Race; Racism; Ethnicity; Anthropology; Ethnography
Other Details
Printed : 23/12/1854
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume X
Magazine : No. 248
Office Book Notes
Views : 797

Dickens wrote the following portions of 'The Lost Arctic Voyagers': the opening paragraph; the paragraph beginning 'We will merely append' (p. 435); the words within brackets (p. 437).
Dickens had always been an avid reader of travel, exploration, and voyage literature, and was especially fascinated by accounts of fortitude in the face of disaster. He knew well Sir John Franklin's exploits (see, for example, 'Christmas in the Frozen Regions'), and when Franklin and his party disappeared in the arctic, Dickens (like the British public at large) snapped up each theory, rumor, and scrap of information that trickled down from the north. When, after years of speculation and vague reports, Dr. Rae's detailed researches were reported in the press, and when those researches indicated that Franklin's party may have resorted to cannibalism, Dickens - who from childhood had displayed an obsessive interest in the subject - felt impelled to argue against the possibility. 'Dr. Rae's account of Franklin's unfortunate party,' he wrote to Mrs. Richard Watson on 1 November 1854, 'is deeply interesting; but I think hasty in its acceptance of the details, particularly in the statement that they had eaten the dead bodies of their companions, which I don't believe. Franklin, on a former occasion, was almost starved to death, had gone through all the pains of that sad end, and lain down to die, and no such thought had presented itself to any of them. In famous cases of shipwreck, it is very rare indeed that any person of any humanising education or refinement resorts to this dreadful means of prolonging life. In open boats, the coarsest and commonest men of the shipwrecked party have done such things; but I don't remember more than one instance in which an officer had overcome the loathing that the idea had inspired. Dr. Rae talks about their cooking these remains too. I should like to know where the fuel came from.' And a few weeks later (20 November 1854) he wrote to Wills: 'It has occurred to me that I am rather strong on Voyages and Cannibalism, and might do an interesting little paper for next No. on that part of Dr. Rae's report; taking the arguments against its probabilities.'
The result was two long articles by Dickens ('The Lost Arctic Voyagers,' Parts I and II) which appeared in Household Words on 2 and 9 December 1854 [Vol X, Numbers 245 and 246]. The present article (the third to bear the title) is Dr. Rae's reply to Dickens' demurrer, together with Dickens' brief introduction and concluding rebuttal to that reply.

Harry Stone; © Bloomington and Indiana University Press, 1968. DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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