Sir Clements Markham’s Romance – Part 2

Last time, on Crazy Clem’s Romance: introduction, sources, background.

Now we get to the expedition! JK, they’re still in London. Chapter II, entitled “Fitting out,” begins with the usual frenzy of appointing and supplying. Markham explains why Sir John wanted to go on the expedition so badly: to make up for his humiliation in Van Diemen’s Land.

Lieut Addington R.N. (now Lord Sidmouth) was asked to breakfast by Sir Robert Inglis at 7 Bedford Square, to meet Sir John Franklin, Rogers the poet, Monckton Milnes, and Lord Arundel, in the opening of 1845. After breakfast Sir John took his friends to the map, pointed out his intended route, and said he would be return by Cape Horn in about two years. Addington had come home in the “Clio” under Fitzjames.

Markham continues tooting his Fitzjames horn, saying that Sir John was too old and inexperienced in ice navigation to lead such an expedition. He also draws attention to the fact that the expedition was fitted out in far too much haste for them to be fitted with steam-engines of any real power, and the train engines they got were a last-minute supplement.

Here is a list of the officers that were Fitzjames’s first choice:

Lieuts: Le Vesconte, Fairholme, Hodgson, Marston
Mate: Des Voeux
Mid: Wynyard
Master: Forster
Surgeon: Bradford

Fitzjames, upon accepting his final offer of Commander of Erebus, wrote that “Captain Beaufort has applied to Sir John Franklin to take Le Vesconte, whose father was with him in the “Ville de Paris”, in Lord Howe’s action. I have told Hodgson to apply to Sir John Franklin.”

So it seems that Fitzjames’s fabled staffing of the ships was, in fact, routed through Sir John at all events.

Description of the fitting-out continues, with your usual ~and then they loaded the POISONED CANS supplied by that SCOUNDREL GOLDNER~ paragraph. More about the preparations:

The officers of both ships subscribed to buy musical instruments, and chests of theatrical dresses. * Crowds of friends came to visit the ships before they left Woolwich. The Coninghams were constantly on board, furnishing Fitzjames’s cabin. They saw Fairholme and Des Voeux make a successful trial of the Halkett India rubber boat, on the river. On the 19th of April the Hydrographer and the Miss Beauforts came on board the ships. On the 23rd Captain Fitzjames welcomed Sir John Barrow and his son on board the “Erebus”, having sent them minute instructions how to come.

*Information from Mr. John Clerk, Lieut. Irving’s cousin.

Markham copies in the instructions to Barrow Jr of how to get to the Erebus to visit, which I thought was cute:

“Leave Waterman’s Pier, the second street below Hungerford Market, at 1/4 before 2. Don’t go down the street with ‘Steam Boats’ written across the bottom of it, but go on two streets. If you miss this boat then go back to the ‘Steam Boats’ street, and leave at 1/4 past 2. On April 26th we dine with Becher, so mind you get a cab and call for me at Albemarle Street 5 minutes before 1/2 past 6.”

What was at Albemarle Street? It wasn’t where Fitzjames was staying at the time (Markham records that he was staying at 14 Francis St, Woolwich), but sadly it’s about thirty years too early for it to be the Albemarle Club made famous by Oscar Wilde.

Ever the aesthete, Markham gives us two full pages on the Royal Navy uniforms as they were worn by the officers in their daguerreotypes. He notes that Sargent did not have a daguerreotype taken, and speculates it was because he was on leave at the time—which is weird, because he definitely DID have one taken! In the set held by SPRI, his looks fairly damaged—perhaps it was lost and restored to the collection sometime in the 20th century?

He also gives some details on ship terminology:

The term Ward Room was only used in line of battle ships. In frigates and smaller craft the name of the lieutenants’ mess place was the Gun Room. The midshipmens’ mess place in line of battle ships was called the Gun Room, in frigates and smaller craft it was simply called the Midshipmens’ Berth. In the “Erebus” and “Terror” all the officers messed together, except the captains.

This explains Fitzjames’s reference to the officers’ mess including even the ice-master and assistant-surgeon. Quite the crowded table!

Chapter III interrupts the “story” such as it is to give expanded biographies of all of the expedition’s officers. Fitzjames already got an entire biographical chapter to himself but Here We Go Again. This briefer version is truly the “Hi my name is Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way” of its time.

He was the perfect beau ideal of an Arctic Officer. Resolute and fearless no danger could ever daunt him. With a perfect constitution he was capable of enduring to the last. With great influence over others, he only ever used it for their good, firmly but gently. He was a man of great ability, versatile and inventive. Cultivated and highly accomplished, he was far seeing and possessed a clear sound judgment. He was witty and amusing in conversation, and his unselfishness and unkindness of heart secured for him the devoted attachment of officers and men. He was one of the best walkers in the service.

Uhhhhhhh okay. (Remember, Markham never met actually him!)

After every biography he cites his personal sources: men who served with or knew well the officers he’s discussing. For example, after Graham Gore’s section, Markham says: “I have been told much about Graham Gore by my old friend Sir George Back, by his old messmate Sir Erasmus Ommanney, and by old Cator, who was with him in the ‘Herald’.” These reminiscences, though, possibly occurred years or more likely decades before the manuscript was written: Markham frequently cites “my messmates on the Collingwood” as sources, and that was in 1844, over 50 years prior to writing.

Markham’s focus is on family lineage along with career. Obsessed with genealogy, he carefully records which officers came from noble lineages, noting that Fairholme’s mother was the daughter of the 17th Lord Forbes and a granddaughter, through her mother, of the Earl of Cromartie; and that Fairholme’s sister married the brother of the 6th Duke of Atholl. He traces Sargent’s ancestry back to 1624 and noted that Des Voeux would have ascended to his family’s Baronetcy, had he lived.

The page about Stanley is interesting. Stanley is one of two characters who is “done dirty” by the narrative of the romance, a.k.a. isn’t upheld as an example of Perfect Manly Valiant British Heroism And Suffering. (The other being Crozier, see below).

Vain and rather touchy, Dr. Stanley required to be humoured and managed a little, if things were to run with perfect smoothness; but he was very attentive to his duties. He had not yet been tested in the furnace of adversity.

Markham then goes on to give his sources as “Dr. Pichthorn, and others who knew him in China” so did he not get the impression that Stanley’s service in the China war was difficult? Just a weird thing to say, especially after detailing the careers of officers whose service had mainly been in the calm Mediterranean!

The most striking thing about Goodsir’s page is that when listing his family, Markham says that “His Father Professor Goodsir was an eminent anatomist, and had two sons, Harry and Robert Anstruther Goodsir.” Could he have possibly confused Goodsir’s father John with his brother John? It certainly looks like it.

After the Erebus officer bios, there’s a page where he lists the rests of the ship’s company. This is where it gets weird. He got the two ship’s boys correct, and the Marines, but other than that it’s a free-for-all, with him flinging names every which way into different positions. Hoar as captain of the afterguard, Gregory as carpenter, Wall as bosun’s mate—you get the picture. I’m not sure which source he would have been drawing on here that gave names but not ranks—perhaps the muster book at Kew?

Moving onto the Terror crew, Markham kicks it off with a solid page and a half of what more or less amounts to slander against Crozier.

He was a good sailor, but not scientific. He avoided responsibility, simply carrying out orders to the best of his ability. Sir James Ross was jealous of anyone getting credit besides himself, so that old Crozier, who was totally devoid of ambition, suited him admirably as a second. Crozier relied much upon his First Lieutenant in Antarctica in navigation, and when McMurdo left him at the Falkland Islands, he was adrift. During the last cruise his anxiety was so great that he never undressed or went to bed. He had never been in a separate command or in a position of responsibility.

Markham cites Ommanney, McCormick, Hooker, and Davis as his sources on Crozier. Hooker was notably salty about Ross, beginning immediately following the expedition and continuing up until and past when Markham’s manuscript was composed. It’s possible he had a poor opinion of Crozier as well.

Little is a mystery man as always and despite learning about him from Ommanney, Markham records nothing about him other than his service record. For Hodgson, Markham says that he “had many charming qualities. He was clever and enthusiastic, zealous in his profession, he was most amiable, and a general favourite. Inspired by Captain Fitzjames, his old and tried friend, he had been eager to join the expedition, but he was in delicate health.”

Hornby is another officer whose family Markham takes interest in: his mother was the Hon. Georgina Byng, sister of the 5th Viscount Torrington—although I just looked it up and she was actually daughter of the 5th Viscount and sister of the 6th, who died a Vice-Admiral. According to Markham this family connection didn’t live up to promise: “He had a great deal of family interest, yet he was still a mate when he was appointed to “Terror” in March 1845. He was rather a disappointed man, for he was older than one or two of the lieutenants. His age was 26.”

Next up is Markham’s forthcoming self-insert, Robert Thomas.

He was clever, imaginative, and warm hearted. Exceedingly humorous and witty, he had an inexhaustible fund of animal spirits, which sometimes got him into trouble. He was very noisy. Thomas was universally known in the fleet as “the Baby”* a name which stuck to him in the expedition. He knew Mr. Hodgson and entreated him to recommend him to Captain Fitzjames for he was dying to get into the expedition. He described himself as a “steady and zealous officer with a scientific turn of mind” which threw Hodgson into fits of laughter.

*Selina’s journal at Malta

I’m interested here by the note: Selina would be Markham’s sister, who married naval officer R. R. Quin. Said journal isn’t included in Markham’s paper at the RGS. I’m inferring that Selina met him in Malta at some point? Anyway, you will be hearing much more about Thomas in chapters to come, but this more or less lays the groundwork for Markham’s characterization, such as it is: you can see already the parallels he’s drawing between Fitzjames and Thomas (with the invisible leg of the triangle being, of course, himself).

Moving on, Markham says that Peddie “was a steady careful medical man, but not clever, and with no very marked characteristics.” lol. McDonald, apparently, “had much more ability than his senior officer.”

Once again we get a spread of hilariously inaccurate ranks for the men of the Terror: Armitage as Captain of the Maintop, Rhodes as Captain’s Steward, Hickey as Cook. Oddly, this time around he gets the warrant officers right (though he lists Thompson as Gunner instead of Engineer) and also manages to get Peglar as Captain of the Foretop correct.

That’s it for Chapter III! Next time on The Clem Show: Stromness, Greenland, and The Baby.

One Comment on “Sir Clements Markham’s Romance – Part 2

  1. Interesting to re-read this in light lof the current interest in the Franklin daguerreotypes. I haven’t seen the originals of Markham’s book, but it seems strange that he didn’t comment on the fact that Crozier’s daguerreotype was also missing from the set – or perhaps he didn’t realise Crozier had been photographed as well as officers of the Erebus?

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