The biographical afterlives of James Cook

Biography, or life writing, in the eighteenth century is understood as an important component in the construction of celebrity figures, where earlier hagiographic perspectives progressively merged with a secular, reflexive focus on verisimilitude. Brian Cowan discusses these generic movements with regard for example to Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791):

Boswell famously declared of his Life: ‘I will venture to say that [Johnson] will be seen in this work more completely than any man who has ever yet lived. And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write not his panegyrick, which must be all praise, but his life; which, great and good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect.’[1]

In addition to this authorial focus on truth, plain and unvarnished, Smyth et Penman have argued in their discussion of reputations and national identity, that struggling, and possibly dying for a cause, is often what makes a life heroic.[2] Glyn Williams in 2008, in his own words, broke “new ground” by arguing that

the turning of his impetuous behaviour in the bloody and chaotic fracas on the beach at Kealakekua Bay into something altogether nobler and more sacrificial became the defining moment – captured in words and pictures – in the establishment of a martyr–hero.[3]

Within this framework, Cook’s afterlives, that is biographies, are of particular interest as they address these questions of posterity and how such textual means serve, to varying degrees, the end of martyr-herohood. This study will focus on five particularly prominent lives amongst the most-cited biographical reference materials in modern-day Cook scholarship, the first of which is Andrew Kippis’s 1788 The Life of Captain James Cook. This biography of Cook was the very first, appearing almost ten years after the latter’s death in Hawaii on the 14th of February, 1779.[4] George Young’s 1836 Life and Voyages of James Cook Drawn up from his Journals and other Documents; and comprising much original information[5] is the second significant text in terms of scope and referencing. The third life on which contemporary scholars critically rely is Arthur Kitson’s early twentieth-century Captain James Cook, R. N., F.R.S. The Circumnavigator, published in 1907.[6] The fourth that is today considered as having laid all the others to rest, is John Cawte Beaglehole’s 760-page The Life of Captain James Cook published in1974.[7] Beaglehole is regarded today as having been one of the most authoritative, contemporary Cook scholars, having published widely on the Cook voyages, and notably his journals, related manuscripts and Admiralty material, in full, from all three voyages, after exhaustive archival research. Nicholas Thomas is also a recognized Cook scholar, and he published COOK. The Extraordinary Voyages of James Cook in 2003,[8] in which, like other biographers, he attempts to set apart his own afterlife. Whether this latter is a biography may though be questioned as it has been described for example as an anthropological assessment of the voyages and encounters. This study will though consider Thomas’s book as an afterlife as the author himself considers that

finding the right metaphor for this encounter between ‘cultures’ that were each themselves made up of many cultures may be difficult, but there is no doubt that Cook was in the middle of it and was the single most important protagonist, in Oceania, in the eighteenth century. Hence his life is my lens, for a new look at these formative encounters […] Because he has been and still often is considered as the greatest maritime discoverer of all time, there have been hundreds of Cook biographies. This fact must make another seem senseless, but the number reflects the demand for repetitions […].[9]

The question then is how these biographical means, in addition to iconography, material culture and other conduits, served over time, to a greater or lesser degree, the end of Cook’s posthumous herohood. Lesser, because as far as Cook scholarship is concerned, from the 1970s onwards, there was a move to postcolonial stances, culminating in the fraught debate, in the 1990s, between Marshall Sahlins and Gananath Obeyesekere. Intellectuals and Indigenous peoples put forward contestations of the Captain Cook hero construct, with portrayals of him as “Conman” for example.[10] Glyn Williams argues that these breaches in the existing theoretical continuum represented a “new stage in Cook scholarship.”[11] Thus, in complement to a consideration of how Cook biographies serve the hero function, it may also be pertinent to examine recent lives and their engagement with putative paradigmatic renewal.

To manage analytical entry into these biographies there will be a particular, necessarily circumscribed focus on just one of many interesting aspects of the lives (for example the plates, the chapters on the death of Cook, or on his early life), namely, the paratext, which is a privileged site of transition and transaction where questions of reliability and verisimilitude are addressed and debated, and where authorial discursive practice attempts to influence readers’ reception of a work.[12] The paratext here will include the titles of the biographies, the prefaces, the introductions, the contents pages and front cover iconographies.

1. Kippis

Cook’s death in 1779 would consolidate the celebrity effect which had been ongoing since the publication of the first and particularly the second account.[13] In 1780, the Royal Society struck a commemorative medal of which the legend was Cook Oceani Investigator Acerrimus (James Cook, most intrepid investigator of the oceans). On the reverse side was Nil Intentatum Nostri Liquere (our men have left nothing unattempted). A hero made, in Glyn William’s words. It is worth noting though that The Royal Society, principally on Joseph Banks’s initiative, financed the medal partially through subscription, and very few were minted: approximately nineteen gold ones, 291 and 574 bronzed copper. Thus, the medal itself was not necessarily a primary process by which the celebrity, or herohood, of Cook was established, due to limited circulation. In addition then to this exclusive medal-means, rather more inclusive, infiltrative discursive routes, in the form of published text and image, implemented awareness of Cook as defunct hero. Julien Domercq argues that

[…] his death gripped the imagination of writers, poets and artists who saw in the account of the voyage, and in Cook’s tremendous achievements, the values of the Enlightenment. […] Cook’s heroic reputation came to be interpreted and produced in the light of the artists’ own ideology, leading to works which not only sought to document, but also to write history […] playing a central role in the mythologizing of Cook’s death.[14]

Thus, the hero construct penetrated the domestic and social spheres and by these pathways, endorsed the reification, through mythification and even deification, of Cook.

It was in this context that Andrew Kippis, D.D., F.R.S. and S.A., published the very first biography of Cook, The Life of Captain James Cook, in 1788, translated immediately into French in 1789, indicative of the existing reach and potential of Cook’s reputation. The prefatory material consists of a frontispiece, a dedication to the King and a Preface. In the Dedication, Cook is described as an illustrious source of enlightenment, in whose reflected glory the King may bask. The veracity of the account, which attests to the reality of this status, is based primarily on the presentation of new information of the most “authentic” kind. Specific chapters take up extracts from letters and testimonials from admiring and important figures. And it is thus that Kippis weaves the “seamless web” of the truth of Cook’s status as renowned national figure. Thus, the verisimilitude and credibility of the work is established by the Preface’s insistence on sources and connections. However, Kippis does not himself use the term “hero” but he reproduces in the final chapter, eulogiums, elegies and odes to Cook, all component parts in the overall construction of the hero figure, which though contests the life’s carefully negotiated reputation of verisimilitude as relayed in the Preface.

There is also in this biography, and in all the others, a conflation of the voyage and the voyager (weighted differently over the years) which leads to a foundational confusion between life writing and travel writing. In the Preface, the former, like the latter, is to be entertaining and informative, not wholly uninteresting, nor unentertaining, in Kippis’s words. The bulk of Kippis’s ensuing life is in effect then an account of the voyages, with a special focus on events in which Cook was “personally concerned.” The contents page is evidence of this, constituting an element of the prefatorial material, and it lists seven chapters, six of which are variations on the phrase “History of Captain Cook’s Life.” The last chapter is on the “Character of Captain Cook.” Thus, Captain Cook, the man, as is to be expected in a biography, is the concerted focus of the book, but the voyages themselves are just as integral a part of the narrative of his and the life. Thus, the introductory “History of Captain Cook’s Life” is mediated in for example “Chapter the First” by “previously to his first voyage round the world,” in “Chapter the Second” by “to the end of his first voyage round the world,” in “Chapter the Third” by “from the end of his first to the commencement of his second voyage round the world.” This is the case in six of the seven chapters, the final one, as mentioned above, is a discourse on the character of Cook.

2. Young

A great many abridged reprints and translations of Kippis, in addition to other lives of Cook were published in the nineteenth century, but after Kippis, George Young’s 466-page Life and Voyages of James Cook Drawn up from his Journals and other Documents; and comprising much original information, published in 1836, was the next biography of Cook often referred to by contemporary scholars. This biography is in keeping with what Hamilton describes as being one of the characteristics of nineteenth-century life writing, namely that men of the Navy in particular were written into herohood by their biographers.[15] These naval men performed then an exemplar function and this seems to be the case to a certain degree, as far as Young’s work is concerned.

Young’s text opens with a Dedication in which the association with Kippis is underlined, but this “new” work takes up, in some respects, Hamilton’s typology, as Young nourishes the hope that the patriotic, loyal, benevolent and brilliant hero, may prove to be of use to certain classes of the King’s subjects. Young, unlike Kippis, thus makes overt and immediate use of the exemplar hero trope in nineteenth-century hagiographic terms.

The title of Young’s biography posits an even stronger relationship between the voyager and the voyage than found in Kippis. Thus, the contents pages show a division of Young’s biography into twenty-four chapters of which the great majority have short paragraph-like headers of largely nominal sentences, as in the published accounts of voyages, focusing on place and key events like “Musket stolen – native shot, or New S. Wales discovered, and the coast traced. Botany Bay. Thirsty Sound. The Endeavour strikes on a rock; is got off and repaired. Transactions at Endeavour River.” In enumerating the events, there is a shift in the Kippis balance between voyager and voyage, between life and travel writing, a move away from the memory of the man (nevertheless and most emphatically a hero, nearly fifty years after his death), to a focus on entertaining the public with his adventures, perhaps now an approach, half a century later, which would resonate more with the reading public.

In addition to what may be termed this pleasure principle, there is also a related profit perspective which emerges in the prefatorial material, corroborated in Young’s reference in the Preface, to the neat “pocket-sized” size of the book itself. Specifying how convenient it would be to carry around this biography may have been useful in reassuring a non-scholarly, wider readership.[16] In spite of the commercial bent, the intellectual standing of Young’s Life, is also emphasised, with an insistence on his not having copied Kippis, and the truth claims are rooted in the research into Cook’s Whitby background, the original information of the title having been obtained thanks to “[…] the intimate acquaintance with his history, during a residence of thirty years near the spot where he was born.”[17] Thus, in the fifty or so years after the Captain’s death, Cook had become a historical figure, a confirmed hero, but the entertainment value of what he had done, rather than who he had been, seems to take precedence, in comparison to Kippis’s more careful equipoise.

3. Kitson

Over the nineteenth century, many lives of Cook were published. In examining the British Library and National Maritime Museum catalogues, thirteen biographies are listed. Nicholas Thomas considers that most nineteenth-century texts were “rehashes” derived from Kippis.[18] Arthur Kitson’s early twentieth-century 632-page Captain James Cook, R. N., F.R.S. The Circumnavigator published in 1907 is often referred to in studies of Cook and may be considered as perhaps introducing a new approach in the afterlives of Cook.

128 years after Cook’s death, with the 1879 centenary attracting little notice in Britain, according to Williams,[19] Kitson, with hindsight, and addressing what was now History, deploys, in the title at least, a return to the naval figure, R.N., but also man of science, F.R.S., mirroring the admiring elements of the previous lives examined here (which acknowledge the exemplary, intrinsic herohood of Cook). There is question in the Preface of the “enormous benefit” which Cook had conferred upon navigation but the Captain is nevertheless confirmed as a remote figure, a man of History, worth knowing, writing, and learning about, but the word “hero” is never used by Kitson himself anywhere in the biography to describe Cook. In spite then of the title’s focus only on Cook, which may have a reminder function, there is a continuation of the distance from the man himself who has by now acquired immutable reificatory presence, representative of imperial endeavour and accomplishment. Apart from the first chapter, “The Early Years,” the contents page is a list of dates, ship names, and voyage designations, which confirms this “achievements and adventures” focus.

There is of course reference in the Preface to the intellectual standing of Kitson’s work, as is usual, but there also emerges a related academic function. Kitson thus attempts to break away from the earlier traditions by critiquing Kippis and Young (Kippis was not careful enough, had made errors, Walter Besant’s 1890 biography is judged erroneous). In this context of academic purpose, what is particularly interesting is the (obviously unknowing) prefiguring of the postcolonial stance, allowed by hindsight. Kitson thus includes what he calls “native accounts” of first contacts on the first voyage, first in New Zealand and then in Australia.[20] These accounts are not allowed credit and do not form a challenge to the logs and journals as the master narratives are not interrogated but Kitson inserts them, thus suggesting the possibility of multiple voices, a strategy which postcolonial critique would take up in the 1980s and 1990s.

4. Beaglehole

This intellectualisation, or academic perspective, acquires currency in John Cawte Beaglehole’s The Life of Captain James Cook. The manuscript of this biography was revised and submitted for publication by Beaglehole’s son, after his father’s death in 1971. Within a now academic framework of biography-making, the contents page lists twenty-seven chapters and is much like Kitson’s, with a list of dates and places, very little of Cook, except Chapter Two which is entitled, perhaps with deliberate double entendre, “The Master.” This itemisation, then ostensibly continues a less emotional and more scholarly stance which Kitson had initiated. Beaglehole’s Life does not include a Preface though, in which such a position could have been clarified. But the biography itself is in line with what Beaglehole would say, two years prior to his death, in his lecture delivered to the Royal Society on 3rd June, 1969, on the occasion of the commemoration of the observation of the transit of Venus by Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S. In this lecture of admiration for the man, Beaglehole begins with why it

should be possible for the historian, that is [Beaglehole himself] in his biographical moments, to say why Admiral Forbes, at the head of the carefully elaborate paragraphs he composed for the published account of Cook's third voyage, should refer to the Hero as ‘The ablest and most renowned Navigator this or any country hath produced’… so what was the gift?[21]

Here, designating the Hero with a capital H, Beaglehole catalogues the qualities of Cook, and concludes his lecture with: “It would be interesting to discover, if one could, ground for criticism, to reveal some deplorable technical shortcoming; but I have noted that, whenever one dutifully hints at a suspicion, some practical sailor comes in to exalt.”[22] This is the position that Beaglehole adopts throughout his detailed and documented biography. With his hieratic style, Beaglehole writes Cook into renewed herohood, arguing: “Genius, of whatever sort, takes us unawares, is not, even in retrospect, deducible. We can ponder, if we choose, over the unlikely origins, in place and circumstance, of a maritime distinction, so extraordinary.”[23] This type of comment is frequent and recognised by ensuing scholarship, but often in passing.[24] But it contributes to giving impetus to the hero construct, which could be considered as having lost momentum, over the centuries. There is then an association of scholarly excellence of the recognised historian, which the contents page (inaccurately) prefigures, with the earlier more nineteenth-century hagiographic approaches we have referred to.

In terms of biography-making, the reification of Cook gains credit, from this moment on, in intellectual accomplishment, by historians, rather than by learned amateurs, reproducing the principal proponents of the hero construct. Cook scholarship burgeoned after Beaglehole, and the intersection between biography and history becomes unclear, as Banner argues:  

At its best, biography, like history, is based on archival research, interweaves historical categories and methodologies, reflects current political and theoretical concerns, and raises complex issues of truth and proof. It challenges the analyst to move beyond easy platitudes to engage in what Clifford Geertz famously called “thick description.”[25]

 In conjunction with the cultural setting of what Williams calls the late sixties’

obsession with centennials, bicentennials and every other kind of anniversary fastened on Cook. There were to be conferences and publications, ceremonies, and re-enactments, and finally the accolade which placed Cook alongside Columbus and Drake on the world stage, the building of the replica of HMB Endeavour. Anniversaries of this sort have their own momentum, and rationale: commercial, educational, patriotic. It is difficult to be anything than celebratory.[26]

5. Thomas

However, the postcolonial paradigm, after Said’s Orientalism was published in 1978, held that master narratives had, within this theoretical framework, to be deconstructed. As far as Cook was concerned, the high-profile controversy, amongst scholars, was the Marshall Sahlins/Gananath Obeyesekere dispute in which Western scholarship was described as operating within, in Obeyesekere’s terms, a “border zone of history, hagiography and mythmaking.”[27]

Looking specifically here at the imprimatur function of biographies, allowing the hero denotation, we will finish with Nicolas Thomas’s 2003 COOK. The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook. The Canadian and British versions of this book were entitled Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain James Cook, published simultaneously by Penguin in paperback, and in hardback by Allen Lane. The cover illustrations of all three versions are different. This is a modern-day production with as a backdrop, the debates we have just outlined. Thomas, like Beaglehole, is a recognised Cook scholar. In effect, and to begin with, there is a mix of iconographical code in the cover illustrations that may constitute a partial response to the paradigmatic shifts referred to above. The Kippis, Young and Kitson biographies here mentioned did not have illustrated covers. The dustcover of the hardback of Beaglehole’s 1974 biography figures the Wedgewood medallion of 1784 after Lewis Pingot’s commemorative medal. The cover of the paperback is a line drawing of a Cook ship by Albert P. Burkhardt (no background), representative perhaps of the Cook/Voyage construct. Thomas’s cover of the American edition on the other hand is a detail from William Hodges painting of The Two War Boats of the Island of O Taheiti. And the Society Isles, with a view of the Part of the Harbour of Ohanemeno in the Island of Ulitea (1777).[28] And Cook appears on the spine, a small detail from the Dance portrait. Thus, there is a break with the biographical tradition in that indigenous identities are foregrounded (even if Hodge’s painting reproduces neoclassical codes in line with the expectations of the day) on the cover and Cook appears only in a very small insert on the spine of the book.

As for frontispieces, the Kippis, Young, Kitson and Beaglehole lives all figure Cook. Interestingly, the prefatory material in Thomas’s book includes, not a portrait of Cook, but a double-page reproduction of William Hodges’s drawing Resolution in Antarctic Waters, from the second voyage. Thus, there is a mix of iconographical code which operates as prefatorial material in Thomas which may be considered as a conversation with the postcolonial stances detailed above.

But what of Cook as a hero in Thomas’s prefatorial material? In the Introduction (“Introduction – History’s Man”) – there is no Preface – there are few footnotes (as elsewhere in the biography) and Thomas argues that he has not included references because they are “easy to trace.”[29] We are thus to understand that this is a story, and not a history in academic terms. Perhaps thus there will be more scope for literary licence though all the concepts developed over the second half of the twentieth century to contrapuntally understand the concept Cook, are cited, notably, that Cook was no sole director, but part of a team; that he was perplexed by his encounters and his own mission; that his “gardening” in newly-encountered lands (planting European seeds and importing European horticultural method) was in fact a “small instances of the global rearrangement of biological maps” with sometimes devastating effects. Thomas even acknowledges the durability of the “propensity to idealize Cook”[30] and his aim is to step behind the false certainties of the heroic and anti-heroic biographies of this navigator, to deal with the messy actualities of the past.[31] His “tidying up” means adopting an approach that defies chronology:

My starting point is not Cook’s ancestry or birth, but his consciousness of himself at a particular time, at the age of about thirty-nine, during a winter when he knows what his naval years have amounted to. He has a sense of himself as an accomplished navigator but does not know that he will take a ship to the Pacific, which has not yet been bought by the Navy; which has not yet been named the Endeavour. Now, the flow of his life is diverted into waters that are uncharted, in senses that he does and does not anticipate.[32]

Now this rather mystical entry into a biography of Cook is what Thomas considers as the originality of his work but why this is a way of tidying up the messy actualities is unclear. Further, Thomas proceeds chronologically (with inserts and flashbacks) and paraphrases the journals and logs. His chapter titles are quotes from the journals, in chronological order. And the prefatorial material prefigures a biography which is formally little different from the works we have looked at here. And like Beaglehole, he pays tribute to Cook’s character throughout the biography, taking up first and foremost Beaglehole’s above-mentioned “extraordinary”, in the title of the life, at least in the American edition – which in itself is an interesting formulation, namely “COOK” the Man then, not the Captain. And then the “Extraordinary Voyages” indicative of now the centuries-old slippage between travel and life writing, Cook and the construct, fact and Jules Vernesian fiction. Oblique praise of Cook (for example that he was matter of fact in the face of extreme adversity, whereas it is clear that Cook’s Antarctic and Arctic reports were exercises in style) is a characteristic of the biography, though it is not as clearly articulated as Beaglehole’s. Could this then be considered as a form of mythification?

From our perspective of determining the degree of idealisation, there is an interesting feature of Thomas’s life, in that Cook seems to appear as lead role in what seems to read as a script for a film. In his Introduction, Thomas himself claims to find bewildering the range of Cook films and books, but the biography contains a series of stylised tableaus, of which we get a taste in the first paragraph of the Introduction:

Now at the edge of a vast field of ice well to the South of the Antarctic circle, he was in search of the Great South land, that had preoccupied geographers for centuries. The morning of 30 January was fine. Light reflected off the ice filled the southern half of the sky. Snow-white clouds near the horizon merged into ice mountains – or perhaps just fog. The distance and the glare made it hard for the eye to separate frozen water from water vapour, but what was apparent was that there was no inhabitable country here.[33]

There are others in the body of the biography, and the life ends with one such: “Who broke the news to Elizabeth Cook? She had been embroidering a waistcoat made of Tahitian Tapa; for her husband, on his return. On the 10th, 11th, or whatever, she laid it aside, but would never throw it away.”[34] The prefatorial material in Thomas’s life seems to be grounded in that well-known avatar of the hero construct, that is the reflective glory of the silver screen potential of Captain James Cook.

In conclusion then, in this attempt to consider together such unwieldy material, over such a long period, the border zones of the afterlives seem to implement varying modes of idealisation of James Cook, moving from hagiographic attention on the man, to a more detached, commercial focus on the metonym, and then perhaps back again to the extraordinary voyages of History’s Man extraordinaire, with as a necessary backdrop the acknowledgement of theoretical renewal perhaps though with mitigated material effect.

Notes de pied de page

  1. ^ Brian Cowan. News, Biography, and Eighteenth-Century Celebrity, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.>. Last accessed 9th March, 2020.
  2. ^ James J. Smyth and Michael A. Penman, "Reputations and national identity, or, what do our heroes say about us?" Études écossaises,10, 2005. Last accessed 9th March, 2020.
  3. ^ Glyn Williams, The Death of Captain Cook: A Hero Made and Unmade, Exmouth, Profile Books, 2008, p. 3.
  4. ^ Andrew Kippis, The Life of Captain James Cook. By Andrew Kippis, D. D. F. R. S. and S. A, London, Printed for G. Nicol, Bookseller to his Majesty, in Pall-Mall; and G. G. J. and J. Robinson, Pater-Noster Row, 1788. Last accessed 9th March, 2020.
  5. ^ George Young, The Life and Voyages of Captain James Cook: Drawn up from his journals, and other authentic documents; and comprising much original information: by the Rev. George Young, London, Whittaker, Treacher, &​ Co, 1836.
  6. ^ Arthur Kitson, Captain James Cook, R. N., F.R.S. The Circumnavigator, London, Murray, 1907.
  7. ^ J. C. Beaglehole, Life of Captain James Cook, London, Hakluyt, 1974.
  8. ^ Nicholas Thomas, COOK. The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook, New York, Walker & Company, 2003. This book was published simultaneously in Canada and Great Britain as Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain James Cook by Penguin, and in hardback by Allen Lane. The cover illustrations of all three versions are different.
  9. ^ Ibid., p. xxxv.
  10. ^ Williams, op. cit., p. 172.
  11. ^ Ibid., p. 156.
  12. ^ Ruth Menzies and Sandhya Patel, "Transparency and Truth: Prefatory Material in Fictional and Non-Fictional Eighteenth-Century Travel Writing," XVII-XVIII, 70, 2013. Last accessed 9th March, 2020.
  13. ^ The publication of the account of the second voyage by Canon Douglas in 1777 (Cook had already left on his third voyage when it appeared), had according to Glyn Williams, already set the seal on the explorer's fame as a "modern." Cook's own textual efforts in the voyaging material of the second voyage, and third, show his concern with maintaining and reinforcing this nascent celebrity.
  14. ^ Last accessed 10th March, 2020.
  15. ^ C. I. Hamilton, "Naval Hagiography and the Victorian Hero," The Historical Journal, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1980, p. 381-382.
  16. ^ The compilation of circulation figures is work in progress.
  17. ^ Young, op. cit., p. v.
  18. ^ Thomas, op. cit., p. xxxv.
  19. ^ Williams, op. cit., p. 137.
  20. ^ "Mr Polack, who resided for some years in that part of New Zealand, gives an account in his 'New Zealand' of the landing of Cook in Poverty Bay, which he gathered from the children of the natives who took part in the opposition. He says, that on first seeing the ship, they thought it was a very large bird, and they were particularly struck by the size and beauty of its wings, the sails. When they saw an unfledged young one - a boat - leave its side, filled with human figures of different colours, they thought it was a household of deities. The tribe then living in the neighbourhood were only recent arrivals, having driven out the former occupants, their leader being Te Ratu - the first man who was killed by the English. The other natives were most anxious to avenge him but were greatly alarmed by the power their unwelcome visitors had of killing at a long distance by means of a thunderbolt. Some of them even declared that they felt ill if they were looked at fixedly by one of the white men. The deliberations on the subject of the revenge to be taken were only put a stop to by the ship leaving the bay. Mr Polack's principal informant was the son of a man who had been wounded in the shoulder by a musket ball, but who survived his wound till within a year or two of 1836, the time when the information was obtained. Before the ship left, a sort of peace was patched up by means of presents, and the dead bodies, which had remained exposed to view, apparently as a protest, were removed. (Kitson, op.cit., p.137). And "A vague account of the landing, said to have been obtained from the blacks, was published in Sydney, in an anonymous work on Australian discovery, which was never completed. It is there stated that three men landed from the boats on the south point of the bay and walked round for a short distance, the boats following towards some fresh water that ran down over the rocks; and that after staying some little time they went over to the north side and the three persons again landed - one of them wore a cocked hat. The blacks appeared with their weapons, but made no attempt to attack, and, on a couple of shots being fired from the boats, they ran away. The boats then went back to the ship, and either the same evening or the next morning were out fishing with nets. This account, as far as it goes, agrees very fairly with those of Cook and Banks. It is almost unnecessary to add that at first the ship was taken for a large bird and then for a big canoe. (Ibid., p.173)
  21. ^ Last accessed 10th March, 2020.
  22. ^ Ibid.
  23. ^ John Beaglehole, The Life of Captain James Cook, Stanford, Stanford University Press, p. 3.
  24. ^ Thomas (op. cit., p. xxxvi) describes Beaglehole's biography as "monumental" but that "[...] despite its enduring value, the book is opinionated, and belongs to the tradition of Cook idealization."
  25. ^ Lois Banner, "Biography as History," American Historical Review, Vol. 114 Issue 3, 2009, p. 580.
  26. ^ Williams, op. cit., p.156.
  27. ^ Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Cook. European Mythmaking in the Pacific, Princeton University Press, 1997 (1992), p.50.
  28. ^ Similarly, in addition to a small reproduction of the generic Cook ship, the Canadian and British paperbacks figure a version of Sydney Parkinson's "Head of a chief of New Zealand, the face curiously tataow'd, or marked according to their manner." (Last accessed on April 20, 2020). The hardback cover is a reproduction of William Hodges' "A View taken in the bay of Oaite Peha [Vaitepiha] Otaheite [Tahiti]' or "Tahiti Revisited," with inserts of Parkinson's "Head of A chief" and Webber's 1785 portrait of "Poedua [Poetua], daughter of Oreo, chief of Ulaietea, one of the Society Isles." Again, these are all neoclassical productions in the noble-savage vein.
  29. ^ Thomas (op. cit. p. 428) includes a "Sources and further reading" section at the end of the book in which he lists only the "most important sources" as the numerous quotations from the journals and logs are "easy to trace by any reader concerned to do so."
  30. ^ Thomas, ibid., p. xxxi.
  31. ^ Ibid., p. xxxiii.
  32. ^ Ibid., p. xxxvii.
  33. ^ Thomas, op. cit., p. xvii.
  34. ^ Ibid. p. 404.

Référence électronique

Sandhya PATEL, « The biographical afterlives of James Cook », Astrolabe - ISSN 2102-538X [En ligne], Captain Cook after 250 years: Re-exploring The Voyages of James Cook (Avril 2020), mis en ligne le 25/04/2020, URL :