« PreviousContinue »
and, like all compromises, inconsistent. But it has its uses, and may serve in a transition time.
Newman will live in literature as the author of a fascinating religious autobiography, in history as the author of the Essay on Development. The book is a striking anticipation of the Evolution philosophy; the application of this to theology marked a turning-point in religious thought. To many he was, and is, a prophet. To others he was a false prophet, from whose influence they have detached themselves hardly and after many years. The English Church owes him little; he deflected her course for close upon a century. Anglicanism of the ecclesiastical type owes him much ; more than any one man he was its creator. Catholicism owes him more; he restored its prestige and its poetry; like the pious sons of Noah he went backwards' and threw a veil over its shame. He was a great magician; his spells made the dead live, and called the things that are not as though they were. But the efficacy of such spells vanishes with darkness. I awoke, and behold it was a dream.'
Yet surely he was a great man, more surely still an unhappy one; the impression of melancholy deepens at every page. The might-have-beens of history are an unprofitable field of speculation. Mr Birrell enlarges, plausibly enough, on the futility of the supposition that ‘if he had not been brought up an evangelical, if he had learned German, if he had married, if he had been made an archdeacon, all would have been different. Yet it is impossible to resist the conviction that the accident of birth placed him in the very time and in the very circumstances least propitious to the development of his genius on the lines of life. "A Cardinal of the Roman Church is not, to say the least of it, more obviously a shipwreck than a dean or even a bishop of the English Establishment.' It may be so. But men may be divided into two classes according as they face onwards or backwards. And the tragedy of Newman's life is that, with his rare gifts, his in many ways unsurpassed powers, and his unique personality, he was the father of them that look back,
Art. 9.—THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF
My Attainment of the Pole; being the record of the
Expedition that first reached the Boreal Center, 19071909, with the final summary of the Polar Controversy. By Dr Frederick A. Cook. New York: Polar Publish
. ing Co.; London: Arlen and Co.; 1911. AMONG the prodigies which have arisen in the latest stage of geographical exploration the mania for reaching the Poles of the Earth has a conspicuous place. It has the illusion of seeming ancient while really it is quite new, a thing of the present generation. In the dawn and in the noontide of geographical discovery the Poles were not regarded as objects of attainment in themselves. The early Arctic navigators were concerned in finding a short route to the Indies. Even a few years ago it was the fashion for Arctic explorers to deny that they had any ambition to reach the Pole; and they usually sought funds and the patronage of learned societies on the plea that they desired only to carry on scientific researches in the polar area. Nevertheless, everyone who could read between the lines has known that every Arctic explorer in the last twenty-five years has secretly, if not openly, cherished the hope, though he may have repudiated the intention, of being the first to reach latitude 90° N.
Admiral R. E. Peary worked at the problem of travelling to the Pole for more than twenty years, each successive journey teaching him something more carrying him somewhat farther. The honesty of his efforts and their success were vouched for by the leading geographical societies of the world, which had awarded him their highest honours. His ultimate success in reaching the Pole in 1909 was the natural, and almost the inevitable, result of the earlier experience, and his known powers and character caused his reports to be accepted without question. The special medals awarded him for the feat, however, were not given without a careful examination of the records on which he relied, and a searching investigation into his method of taking observations. The fact that he reached the immediate vicinity of the Pole has been conceded by all competent authorities,
though by some it was conceded reluctantly enough, for Peary's relations with other Arctic travellers had not always been smooth and had made him some enemies, while the language of his books and magazine articles was much too grandiloquent and emotional to approve itself to the .expurgate and sober' British taste in geographical literature. Peary's last and, to his mind, crowning journey was of little scientific value compared with his earlier work, just as Amundsen's penetration to the South Pole was less valuable to geography than his threading of the North West Passage. Yet in our hearts we allow that it is good that human beings have at last penetrated to the Poles, for it was humiliating to the selfrespect of the race that any portion of our little planet should be inaccessible to its inhabitants.
When Admiral Peary's friends and the geographical world were waiting for news of his emergence from the Arctic regions in the autumn of 1909 with every expectation of hearing that he had this time fulfilled his ambition, a telegram from Lerwick, dated September 1, announced that Dr F. A. Cook had reached the North Pole and was coming on from Greenland to Copenhagen. Dr Cook was known as having accompanied Peary to the Arctic regions some years before, and as having acted as surgeon to the Belgian Antarctic expedition in 1897, on which he wrote an admirable book. He had also claimed the first ascent of Mt McKinley in Alaska in 1906, though this claim was not accepted by the leading mountaineers. It was known that he had gone north in 1907 and had remained there; but the report of his reaching the Pole was a great surprise. A fuller telegram two days later gave most detailed descriptions of the explorer's feelings of loneliness, hunger and triumph, repeated the much too precise statements of latitude and the incredible temperature of - 83° C., and gave the date of reaching the Pole as April 21, 1908, and that of leaving it as April 23. His only companions were two young Eskimo. On returning they reached land far to the west of their starting point, spent a winter at Cape Sparbo on Jones Sound, returned northward to their original base in the spring of 1909, met an American sportsman, Mr Whitney, there, and moved northward' (a slip for southward) to Upernivik and so caught the Danish steamer for Europe. The long message
excited suspicion in some quarters and suggested many points of difficulty. But Copenhagen accorded to Dr Cook a reception worthy of a returning conqueror; banquets, medals and academic distinctions were showered on him. In reply to questions he smilingly assured his friends that he had 'absolute proofs' of having reached the Pole, which would be submitted for the most rigorous examination to the highest authorities; but he produced neither instruments nor records. Every question was answered by a pleasant promise ; and he explained that the temperature of - 83° C. was really - 83° F., and alleged that the error was due to the telegraph clerk at Lerwick.
On September 6 news came that Peary was on the coast of Labrador returning from the North Pole, which he had reached on April 6, 1909. The questions addressed to Dr Cook by sceptical newspaper correspondents now became more pressing, and his answers were contradictory; but at last he stated that his instruments, his diaries and his original records had all been left with Mr Whitney in Greenland for safe keeping, to be forwarded thence to America. That any explorer in his senses would travel from Annoatok to Upernivik, a distance of over 700 miles, as arduous as any part of the journey to the Pole, without a sextant to check his position, struck geographers as very peculiar; and that he should leave behind him the records the instant production of which would have been the only evidence of good faith he could show, seemed quite incredible. But Cook had by this time made strong partisans; and the unnecessary vehemence of Peary's denunciations raised a journalistic storm which swept the whole breadth of the United States. The dispute ceased to turn on the value or authority of observations, and became a mere war of words between two parties of personal friends and interested'newspapers. After many months Cook forwarded his 'proofs' to the University of Copenhagen. Before they reached Denmark, the American papers published an amazing confession' of two men named Dunkle and Loose to the effect that Dr Cook had paid them to work out backwards observations such as should have been recorded at the Pole, and that these were the figures sent in. The University of Copenhagen reported that Dr Cook had submitted no proof of having reached the Pole. Dr Cook was silent; he disappeared
from the United States, and for a year nothing was heard of him. Then a report appeared that he had acknowledged that when in the Arctic region his state of mind was such that he did not know whether he had reached the Pole or not. The public lost interest in the squabble, and Cook was forgotten as a discredited pretender, when the remarkable book mentioned at the head of this article appeared, reasserting all the old claims and offering extraordinary explanations of all the difficulties.
• My Attainment of the Pole' is a very different book from the sameauthor's Through the First Antarctic Night.' The earlier work was clear, definite and precise, showing careful observation and some marks of scientific training and literary skill. The later volume has none of these qualities. It is vague, loose, verbose, full of patent inaccuracies and almost incredible flashes of ignorance ; the language is bombastic and sometimes grotesque; and the object of the book is less to show how the North Pole was reached than to assure us in a crescendo of assertion that Frederick A. Cook was certainly the first and probably the only man to reach it. Dr Cook asserts, contrary to the opinion of all scientific men, that the proof of reaching the North Pole does not consist in an examination of instruments and records, or of the explorer's ability to use instruments and to calculate results. On the contrary, he says that · History demonstrates that the book which gives the final authoritative narrative is the test of an explorer's claims. . . . In a similar way my claim of being first to reach the North Pole will rest upon the data presented between the covers of this book’; and again, that the proof of an explorer's doings is his final book, which requires months and years to prepare.' It is unfortunate for Dr Cook that he could not prepare his book, 150,000 words of which he says he wrote in the Arctic regions, before Admiral Peary published his account of a similar journey to the same goal accomplished a year later. But, as Dr Cook insists on his book being his sole witness as to credibility, we shall confine ourselves to it.
We acknowledge that the volume, as a speech for the defence, makes out a superficially plausible case; but it is not a body of evidence, and it leaves us, after a careful perusal, in some doubt whether the author is trying to Vol. 216,--No. 431.