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has become so widely known, so little likely to be forgotten even in this forgetful age. Moreover, Franklin added to our sum of knowledge as much after his death as before it. His story reminds one of nothing so much as the old fable of the father who, by the bequest of his supposed buried hoard, made his son into a successful husbandman. Franklin sowed himself like treasure amid the polar ice, and it was the ceaseless endeavour to discover him that made our knowledge of the Arctic what it is.
It was to be expected, then, that of such a man a Life should be written, for it meant the story of the North-West Passage; but it was perhaps hardly to be expected that he should become the subject of no less than four biographies. Such a number has, however, been written. In 1860 the late Admiral Sherard Osborn published his Career and Fate of Franklin,' and an excellent though short life was written by Mr A. H. Beesly in 1881. Admiral Markham's 'Sir John Franklin and the NorthWest Passage' aimed somewhat higher, the author possessing the advantage of being himself a distinguished Arctic explorer; and now we have before us a still larger volume from the pen of Mr Traill.1
This book, a rather belated outcome of the semi-centenary of the explorer's death, owes its appearance now to a combination of circumstances. Lady Franklin, who from early days was a retainer of all documents bearing on her husband's life, became in later years an energetic collector of them, until, as expedition after expedition was despatched in search of the Erebus and Terror and their
crews, the material in her possession became of a most voluminous
nature. But, partly from her unwearying love of travel, which for protracted periods took her from England, and partly for other reasons, her long life came to its close leaving her intention of writing her husband's biography unfulfilled. To her companion and niece by marriage, Miss Cracroft, the task and papers were bequeathed, but with failing health and eyesight she too was forced to leave it untouched; and it therefore fell to the lot of her executors to intrust the work to other hands. It was hoped that it might have been undertaken by one who, an old and tried Arctic explorer, has left his name writ large on the western shore of Greenland, but this hope was not fulfilled. Mr Traill has undoubtedly been placed at a disadvantage in his task in having-so far as we know-no practical experience either of Arctic exploration or even of rough travel, but he has won his spurs in literature, and especially in the field of biography.
John Franklin, the ninth of a dozen children, and one of three distinguished brothers, was the son of Willingham Franklin of Spilsby, who raised himself from the position of a draper to that of a banker and landowner. There lies on the writer's table a letter wherein he alludes to his father's social position in terms which are characteristic of the man, than whom, draper's son though he might be, there never was a truer gentleman. "Instead of feeling regret," he writes, "at having derived my birth from a person engaged in trade, I see in that circumstance an additional reason for giving assistance to the
By H. D. Traill. London: John
1 The Life of Sir John Franklin, R. N. Murray.
fair prospects of others similarly circumstanced, and I thank God the door of hope is not closed to such persons in this country." Wittingly or unwittingly, however, he was doing his family an injustice, for before evil fortune had forced his grandparents to become shopkeepers, his forebears had been Lincolnshire yeomen who had lived on their land for several generations.
Born in 1786, it was not till the end of 1800 that the boy buckled on his dirk - quite an advanced age in those days of infantile officers. His story may be paralleled by that of many a sailor who in after-years has risen to renown the first sight of the sea and the resolve to make it his profession, the stern opposition of the father and the grudging grant of a trial voyage, the return with the love of the sea confirmed instead of weakened,-all this seems almost the fitting and natural commencement of the life of a sailor destined to fame in his profession. Few, however, are as lucky as he was in the varied and stirring character of the service which fell to his lot from the very outset of his career. Within six months of joining his ship, the Polyphemus, he was taking part in what Nelson himself described as the most terrible of all the actions in which he had been engaged the battle of Copenhagen. "I think they will turn their tale [sic]," writes the lad just before the affair, "when they consider that we have 35 sail of the line exclusive of bombs, frigates, and sloops, and on a moderate consideration there will be one thousand double-shotted guns to be fired as a salute to poor Elsineur Castle at first sight. . . . I will thank you when you write to Anne and Willingham to tell them of our expedition up the Baltic, by which
some of us will lose a fin' or 'the number of our mess,' which are sailors' terms." A good many more "lost the number of their mess" than perhaps he or any of his superiors expected. On the British side the loss was 1200 killed and wounded, while that of the Danes was five times as great. The boy was untouched. He used to speak in later years of the deep impression made upon his mind by the affair, and of the prodigious number of the slain which could be seen lying at the bottom of the remarkably clear water of the harbour.
But it was not the fighting side of his profession that most appealed to him. It seems that from the beginning he had set his heart upon exploration and discovery. In almost his very first letter he begs his father to do what he can to get him transferred to the Investigator, at that time about to be despatched to the South Seas on a surveying cruise. Australia, it must be remembered, was then almost an unknown land, and Van Diemen's Land had but two years previously been discovered to be an island by Flinders. It was this man, one of the most distinguished of England's sea-explorers, who was to be in command. Franklin's chance of serving under him would probably have been but remote had it not been for the fact of the relationship which existed between them - Flinders having married a sister of his mother. This it was, no doubt, that gained him his wish. No sooner had he returned from the Baltic than he was appointed to the Investigator, and sailed on July 7th of the same year, 1801, to help to " complete the investigation of the coasts of Terra Australis."
It is not too much to say that it was this voyage which made Franklin what he afterwards be
Under Flinders, whom to the end of his life he regarded with affection and admiration, he made extraordinary progress in navigation and astronomy, and before long we find the former writing to his father that "in a few months he will be sufficient of an astronomer to be my right-hand man in that way.. The first lieutenant
scarcely knows how to talk enough in his praise." The survey of the entire coast-line of the south of the continent must have afforded the young sailor unusual opportunities, as must also his appointment as assistant at the temporary observatory established at Sydney. But the Investigator's cruise was to come to a sudden end, though one not unforeseen by her commander. She had been despatched from England in much the same condition as, not many years ago, the Megæra; and she shared a somewhat similar fate. Shortly after leaving Madeira she was found to be making as much as 5 inches of water per hour, and after the completion of the first part of the survey her condition was such that in bad weather the leak had increased to the rate of 14 inches. It seems incredible that under such circumstances Flinders should nevertheless have taken the tremendous risk of continuing his work; but his orders were not to return till he had finished his survey, and he fulfilled them to the best of his ability. At length it became evident that if he desired to save the lives of himself and his crew he must make for port, and accordingly, after a most anxious voyage from the north of Australia, and with his men dying in numbers of scurvy and dysentery, he returned to Sydney, and the vessel was condemned.
no child's play this schooling that young Franklin got with Matthew Flinders in command.
New adventures, however, were in store for him before he reached England. Embarking in the Porpoise with his comrades, or rather the remnant that survived, on August 11, 1803, he had not left Sydney a week before his vessel, and the ship Cato to which she was consort, ran upon an unknown reef and became total wrecks. Fortunately but few lives were lost, and the shipwrecked crews were able to land both themselves and much of their stores and belongings on a sand-cay. Here, in an area of 300 yards by 50, the survivors to the number of 80 persons remained for two months, while Flinders and a few others made their way 750 miles in an open boat to Sydney for help. It speaks well for the discipline of the men and the tact of the officers that no dissensions occurred during this wearisome period of enforced inaction and imprisonment.
Arriving with three vessels to the relief, Flinders started round the Cape for England, while his nephew embarked in the Rolla for Canton. The two probably never met again, for the former had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the French at Mauritius, and dragged out a weary life as a détenu for seven long years. Franklin, too, was to have his adventure with the French, but with a very different issue. At Canton he found a fleet of sixteen Indiamen sailing under Commodore Nathaniel Dance, and was fortunate enough to be appointed to the Earl Camden, which flew his flag. The exploit of this hero, who thereby won his knighthood, has become historical. Admiral Linois, who was lying in wait in Batavia, got wind of his coming, and putting to sea, encountered the fleet as they entered the Strait of Malacca, his own squadron consisting of a line-of-battle ship, two
large frigates, a twenty-four-gun corvette, and an eighteen-gun brig. To his surprise the English merchantmen, instead of attempting to escape, showed a bold front, and cleared for action. Such an unprecedented occurrence called for reflection, so, as evening was approaching, Linois anchored his vessels to think the matter over. Dance followed suit, scorning to turn tail, and next day quietly resumed his course. Linois, emboldened by this, made chase; but he had mistaken his man, for the Commodore instantly ran up the signal, "Tack in succession, bear down in line ahead, and engage the enemy." No order could have been more pleasing to the British tars; it was received with ringing cheers, and ere long the engagement became general. Though greatly inferior in weight of metal, the guns of the English ships were so well handled that in less than an hour their antagonists had had enough, and hauled off. The signal for general chase was then given, and for two hours the delighted fleet of merchantmen had the ineffable pleasure of pursuing a squadron of men-of-war, an experience not likely to be forgotten by those who took part in it. On this occasion Franklin, who was specially mentioned in despatches, acted as the commodore's signal midshipman, and to his lot it therefore fell to hoist the memorable orders.
He was destined in the following year to hold a similar post on an even more memorable occasion-at Trafalgar. There was not much leisure and half-pay in those days. Reaching England on the 7th of August 1804, he was appointed the very next day to the Bellerophon, and the part she bore in the famous battle of October 21st is almost as familiar as that of the Victory. Becoming locked with
the French ship L'Aigle early in the fight, and receiving the fire of three other ships on her port side and astern, she suffered terribly, and lost her captain and 27 killed and 127 wounded. The account of the affair given by Franklin to his brother-in-law was written down afterwards by the latter:
"Out of forty-seven men upon the quarter-deck, of whom Franklin was one, all were either killed or wounded but seven. Towards the end of the action only a very few guns could be fired on either of the ships, the sailors were so disabled. But there
remained a man in the foretop of the enemy's ship, wearing a cocked hat, who had during the engagement taken off with his rifle several of Franklin was
the officers and men. standing close by and speaking to a most esteemed midshipman, his friend, when the fellow above shot him, and he fell dead at his comrade's feet. Soon after, Franklin and a sergeant of marines were carrying down a black seaman to have his wounds dressed, when a ball from the rifleman entered his breast and killed the poor fellow as they carried him along. Franklin said to the sergeant, 'He'll have you next,' but the sergeant swore he should not, and said that he would go below to a quarter of the ship from which he could command the French rifleman, and would never He then fires at Franklin and narcease firing at him till he killed him. rowly misses him.] Meantime, so few guns were being discharged that he could hear the sergeant firing away with his musket from below, and looking out
he saw the rifleman, whose features he vowed he should never forget so long as he lived, fall over head foremost into the sea. Upon the sergeant coming up, he asked him how many times he fired. 'I killed him,' said the sergeant, 'at the seventh shot.""
From this, as from Copenhagen, Franklin came off without a scratch; but the enemy's cannonading took effect in another way,
more expeditions in the following year. This time one of them was to be by land, and Franklin was selected as its commander. Except at the points where Hearne and Mackenzie had touched it, the whole of the Arctic coast-line of North America was unknown, and this it was that was selected for exploration. Franklin was to proceed to Hudson's Bay and make a running survey of the coast lying to the east of the mouth of the Coppermine river, but the choice of his route was left to his discretion. He selected that by the Great Slave Lake as most opened up by the Hudson Bay Company, and landing at York Factory in Hudson's Bay on the 30th August 1819, reached Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan on the 23d September. It was not till the 18th July follow ing that they again started on their journey, and again they had to winter ere they were able to reach the sea. This time they were favoured by an early season, and were able to leave Fort Enterprise on the 4th June 1821.1 On the 21st of the following month they were afloat on the Arctic Ocean.
make too great an inroad upon their fast-decreasing stock of time if they returned to their startingpoint on the coast, and on reaching the mouth of Hood's river on the 25th August they determined to leave their boats and hold a straight course across country to Fort Enterprise. Little more than 200 miles intervened between them and their destination, yet these two hundred miles were to afford an example of the most appalling suffering and the most determined bravery recorded in the annals of British explorations. There can be few of us-few at all events of the older of us-who have not read that terrible but fascinating story, the rapid onset of the cold, the failure of the provisions, the growing realisation by the explorers of the fate in store for them, the wellnigh hopeless struggle of the half-frozen and slowly perishing men for their lives, the summary execution of the murderer (and worse than murderer) Michel, and the arrival of the survivors at Fort Enterprise, only to find it deserted and foodless, and to experience before help reached them an almost more ghastly period of suffering than that they had already gone through. All this will be remembered by every one who has read the story; but as related by the practised pen of Mr Traill the facts have lost nothing in force and vividness. Of the original party of 18, 10 had died; but though Hood had come to so tragic an end, the rest of the English had escaped, and Richardson, Back, and Hepburn reached home with their gallant leader after an absence of three years, to find all England ringing with their exploit.
Their canoes, fitted only for river use, rendered the sea voyage a hazardous affair; they had already suffered from lack of provisions, and the time available for work was short. Franklin must already have foreseen difficulties ahead. He allowed himself a period of four weeks in which to carry out the survey, and then gave orders for the return. The voyageurs who were with him had in vain counselled an earlier retreat, and it would have been well had their advice been followed. It became evident that it would
Franklin, who during his absence
1 Mr Traill's dates of this period are, we may remark, inextricably confused.