A Life of J. C. Beaglehole: New Zealand Scholar
11 — The Scholar at Work: I — Editing the Endeavour Journals of James Cook and Joseph Banks
The Scholar at Work: I
Editing the Endeavour Journals of James Cook and Joseph Banks
John's leave in 1949-50 was an exciting period. Back in London for the first time since he had left, despondently, twenty years earlier, he began the real work on editing the journals of James Cook on his three voyages and Joseph Banks's Endeavour journal. Editing the journals, he had long said, would be but the preliminary step – and how lightly that was once viewed – towards the biography of Cook. This work on Cook and Banks, on which rests John's enduring reputation as a great scholar, occupied him until his death in 1971, though, single-minded as he was in his dedication to Cook, other activities continued to take up a good deal of his time.
As each volume of Cook's journals appeared, in 1955, 1961 and 1967, together with the Banks journal in 1962, readers came to appreciate the magnificent achievement they represented – the sequence of introductions and explanatory notes, carefully annotated text, appendices, maps and illustrations – and the extraordinary scholarship that underlay all of these. John's organising skill and architectural sense informed the whole work, reducing a vast array of documents and commentary to order. Possibly less obvious was what lay behind the printed page: the immensity of the labour expended in the whole undertaking, from the tracking down of material in archives, libraries and private ownership in many parts of the world and the painstaking decisions about spelling and punctuation in eighteenth-century documents to the innumerable hours spent collating and checking texts against the originals or photocopies of the originals, even more time in research for the introductions and explanatory notes, and an almost interminable process of proofreading and correcting. This chapter and the next are intended to give the reader some understanding of how John did this work, to provide an account of the editor, historian and biographer – already an accomplished scholar and writer – discovering the full extent page 350of the task he had taken on, and mastering the additional skills it required.
John's ideas about how Cook's journals should be edited go back to his recognising, when he was writing The Exploration of the Pacific, that they had never been printed as Cook wrote them. For more than a century knowledge of the first voyage had been based on Hawksworth's volumes, published in 1773. Hawksworth – in John's words, a 'miscellaneous writer' – not content with drawing on both Cook and Banks without distinguishing between the two, also added a polish for public consumption to the unpolished seaman's journal, losing its matter-of-fact vividness, and contributed his own sententious observations. Admiral Wharton's edition of the Endeavour journal, published in 1893, was an immense step forward but was still not a literal transcription of his sources. There were facts he felt it necessary to spare the reader; he was, John wrote, 'an awful prude'.1 The published journals of the second and third voyages, edited by Dr John Douglas, the Canon of Windsor, were essentially Cook's in spite of Douglas's 'improvements' to their style. But as a basis for scholarship they were hardly adequate. Thus John came to nourish what seemed at first a very simple ambition: to print the journals as they had been written.
I had seen the original of the first journal at Canberra [he wrote in 1957, after the journal of the first voyage had been published], and photostats of the others in the Mitchell Library at Sydney. The writing seemed plain enough. What indeed could be simpler than to have them typed out, and to print them as a plain text, on which anybody could work? They could be paper-bound, and sell cheaply. Some way could surely be found of raising the money to pay for such an edition, and the chances were it would pay for itself in the end. Simple, straightforward; you see I was not going to worry about things like annotation – why annotate when the thing was so well known? – or textual introductions – why make difficulties unnecessarily? How naive – how staggeringly naive – I was.2
During his leave in London, as he began work on Cook, 'the realities of the situation began to dawn on me'.3 For a start the idea of 'a plain text' proved illusory; his first task was, rather, to establish an accurate text. It rapidly became clear that there was no single original journal of the first voyage – indeed, such a document probably no longer existed (if it ever had), though what appeared to be fragmentary drafts were in a number of collections. The Canberra journal was, at least, in Cook's hand; three other 'copies' existed, one in the Mitchell Library, one in the British Museum page 351and one in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.* Before he left for London John had a photostat copy of the Canberra manuscript (the Australian government had given this to the New Zealand government, it was then passed on to John and, when he had finished with it, it went – together with other photocopies of material he had collected – to the Alexander Turnbull Library). From the photostats he had had a typed copy made. His first task in London was to complete 'the painful process'4 of going through the photostats and typescript, checking on every letter in the 200,000 words, a far from mechanical exercise. Working so closely on the documents brought him closer to their author, 'even his character begins to emerge', though he still judged him a 'damned hard person to know'.5 To Kathleen McKay he confessed that he was 'getting an awful crush on Capt. Cook'.6 His letter to her, characteristic in its quizzical wordplay, reflected his preoccupation at the time with spelling and punctuation:
Really that voyage makes most of the other Great Occasions of the 18th century seem pretty silly. What is Dr Johnson, what is Voltaire, what is Burke or Pope or Chatham by the side of Cook? … Now I want to plunge immediately – or emmidiatly, as the gallant capt. spelt it – into Banks. We must confess one thing, indeed, even in our bemused state of Hero Worship, a dreadful blot – no two things indeed, which sully the shining record; the gallant capt., the distinguished seaman, the calm astronomer & mathematician, riding the whirlwind & directing the storm – or at any rate riding the waves & getting off the rocks – he the Nonpareil could not spell, he had no more idea of punctuation than my foot. Such a welter of ei & ie you never saw. Has any other seaman ever wieghed anchor? Has any other journal writer written seven foolscap pages without a paragraph & without a capital letter† & without a full stop or a comma? Ought this to be allowed even in the Navy? Are there not some prerogatives that a decently considerate Providence would forbid even Genius? … But I will say this for the Capt., that he is legible, vile spelling & all, & does not descend into the hopeless scrawls of Sir J Banks when that Gt. Man was President of the Royal Society …7
* John was to write a fascinating account of the four copies of the journal in his textual introduction to the Endeavour journal. (Journals, vol.1, pp.cxciv-ccxxv.)
† His capitalisation, John later wrote, 'we may call unsystematic eighteenth century, modified by ambiguity; for it is frequently uncertain whether Cook is writing a capital letter or not'. (Journals, vol.1, p.cciii.)
Punctuation caused less worry. Cook almost habitually used a full stop where twentieth-century writers would use a comma, and often used a dash, like many eighteenth-and nineteenth-century letter writers, simply as the full stop. John believed his task was to make the text intelligible, 'so one must punctuate or re-punctuate to that extent; & that involves a certain amount of translation'.11
* This experience with Cook's Journal led John, when he came to work on Banks's Journal to draft a note on spelling and punctuation. An editor's duty, he wrote, was to give a readable as well as an accurate text, which pointed to a compromise between printing exactly what was written or reducing it to a 'flat twentieth-century normality', for 'I am not an 18th c. editor, a Hawksworth, imposing orthodoxy, and I want to give as much of Banks as possible, his peculiarities as well as his abilities.
|(1)||normal capitalisation for names, persons, peoples, and countries, either as nouns or adjectives.|
|(2)||retain caps for nouns, when Banks clearly has caps.|
|(3)||retain caps otherwise when they do not clutter up the page, or present the reader with a shock that there seems no justification for. What this means in practice is elimination of a great many E's, C's, S's and a smaller number of L's.'|
By the time we have finished our collating, indeed, we have found out some interesting things. One of them is that Cook was not altogether the simple sailor that one is accustomed to think him. I would not call him a conscious literary artist, but it is clear that he did not write his journal straight off and let it go at that. He did a great deal of drafting and re-drafting, and luckily we have a few bits and pieces of manuscript in which we can see this process going on. We can see as it were, the growth of a mind. We can see an increase in elementary education, we can see the widening of the interests of a very able man, we can see a process of moral struggle, we can see an enlarged appreciation of the possibilities of description. We are rather getting away, in fact, from our old idea of the plain text.12
What also became clear in this process of collation, and from John's study of the logs and journals of other men on the first voyage (most of them held in the Public Record Office), was that Cook, in that drafting and redrafting, had been ready to use the work of others, especially Joseph Banks. On board the Endeavour, John surmised, journals were common property. The borrowing and rewriting, as he disentangled it, revealed a good deal about Cook, the unpractised writer learning his craft, and about his relationship with Banks. It was, John judged, 'an interesting study in the way a great man learns from one less great'.13
In London John Had got to know R.A. Skelton, the honorary secretary of the Hakluyt Society and newly appointed Superintendent of the Map Room in the British Museum. It was the beginning of a scholarly partnership that would prove enormously important to the success of the whole enterprise. Before the war Skelton had been an assistant keeper in the Printed Books Section of the British Museum, where he had laid the foundation of his deep knowledge of explorers' maps and cartographic history.14 After the war he joined the Map Room as assistant to Edward Lynam, 'verse writer & Irish nationalist … as well as [an] expert on maps',15 who had been secretary of the Hakluyt Society since 1931. Lynam then became the society's president and Skelton soon succeeded him as honorary secretary. Early in 1950 Lynam died of cancer and Skelton was appointed Superintendent of the Map Room. Subsequently he won page 354an international reputation in the history of cartography.* As editor of the Hakluyt Society's publications, he showed a remarkable capacity for quickly learning the background of the areas covered by the books he was seeing through to publication; the breadth of his knowledge came to reflect the wide historical and geographical range of these volumes. His work on Frank Debenham's edition of Bellingshausen's voyage to the Antarctic, published by the society in 1945, was his introduction to the Pacific Ocean and the Antarctic. Working with John saw Skelton become an established authority on both Cook and the exploration and charting of the Pacific.
Their association had begun with an exchange of letters in the months before John left New Zealand for London. (In one of his first, Skelton reported that he had met with Joe Heenan,† who had promised £3000 from the New Zealand government towards the cost of the Cook project.) In a letter to Heenan from London, John judged Skelton 'a most admirable person, with whom I have got (almost) to swearing terms'.16 While John was in London, in 1949–50 and again in 1955–56, Skelton became absorbed in Cook to such an extent that, belatedly, the society had to appoint a second secretary–treasurer to share the work of producing the society's other volumes.17
* Of his many publications, Skelton became possibly best known for his work in rewriting and developing Leo Bagrow's great History of Cartography, so that Bagrow-Skelton remained the standard work in the field, (Leo Bagrow and R.A. Skelton, History of Cartography (London: C.A. Watts, 1964), and for his part in the publication on the Vinland Map (R.A. Skelton, Thomas E. Marston and George D. Painter, The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1965), which became the subject of considerable scholarly controversy.
† It was Skelton's suggestion that the first volume of Cook should be dedicated to Heenan's memory. (Jcb to Jep, 13 February 1952.)
… an eighteenth century document, if it is to be made plain, needs annotation. It was essential to be a historian as well as an editor. My texts had a history as well as the voyages. The journals were part – certainly a large part – of a highly complicated story. It became necessary to find out everything that could possibly be found out about Cook's voyages: about Cook, his companions, the sciences of the age, the administrative background, innumerable personal relations and tensions as well as matters of geography, navigation and handwriting. The problems did not merely rise, they proliferated. Nothing was as simple as it seemed …20
* Skelton's initials, R.A., stood for Raleigh Ashlin with which he had been baptised. He had been registered, however, as Peter and, perhaps not surprisingly, this was the name by which his friends knew him.
In annotating the journal John set out first to answer the question: why did Cook say what he did say? Some of the answers, as already noted, he found in his work on the texts.22 Second, he sought to explain Cook's experience in the light of later knowledge – scientific, geographical, historical, ethnological. He tried to work out, as precisely as possible, where Cook went, and to account for the observations of men and all manner of other things that he made in those places; to identify the native place names Cook had picked up and the plants, animals and sea creatures he had recorded. He sought to explain Cook's allusions to different facets of Polynesian and Australian life, particularly for the Tahitian and New Zealand portions of the journal. This led not only to a large number of footnotes but also to his twenty-one-page 'Note on Polynesian History'23 in the introduction to the volume. Paying such attention to the indigenous people, whose worlds were to change dramatically following their contact with Europeans, marked something quite new in writing about Cook.
Many years of historical reading had given John a remarkable range of knowledge, but there were gaps – 'in matters of navigation and eighteenth century shipboard practice and language it has seemed wisest for an editor to regard himself as a representative creature, and to annotate for his own ignorance'24 – and in this area, as well as others, he drew on the knowledge of experts in many parts of the world, not least on Skelton in London:
… you know all about maps, & therefore all about the names on maps. Well, tell me, why the devil did Cook call a small group of islands and rocks off the E. Nz coast the Poor Knights? He generally gives reasons, but here gives no reason, so I assume the reason was obvious – but it beats me; & everybody nautical, Yorkshire, literary I have consulted. I have been to Shakespeare, the Bible, Brewer, guides to Yorkshire, the Pilots for the English coast, N America, Newfoundland, Ency. Brit., cookery books. I have found out (a) there is a rock in the Bristol Channel page 357called the Poor Knight singular (why?) (b) there is a crack in King Lear about 'a poor knight' (no caps) (c) Poor Knights was the alternative name for the Knights Templars – but what would Cook know about the Kt's? (d) there is a traditional German or central European or Polish dish called Poor Knights, bread fried in egg or something. Now does the Bm or the Rgs or the University intellect of the Uk know of any natural feature, legend, story, nursery rhyme, popular 18th-century ballad, local landmark, tragedy, comedy, tragico-pastoral comedy, proverb, sentimental song, piece of cooker, part of a ship's furniture, botanical nomenclature, legal terminology, sea-shell, or nautical jargon or nickname for any admiral or member of the Royal family that has anything to do with Poor Knights?25
Clearly his pen warmed to the inquiry, but the humour should not mislead; John was tenacious in pursuing the information that he thought the reader needed to understand Cook and the voyage properly. Skelton, at that time, was unable to add anything to John's list.26 The Royal Geographical Society was similarly gravelled, though the secretary of its Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, Marcel Aurousseau (who was later to index the first two volumes of the Journals), wondered if there was some link with the Three Kings. A close reading of the journal, he wrote, 'gives one the feeling of the way in which [Cook] looked continually ahead, and, while beating up the North Coast of your North Island, he clearly had Tasman's Three Kings continually in mind … worried about how to get around the cape, I should think'.27 While an interesting observation, this did not really advance the question of the name. Skelton, however, did not give up, and three years later he wrote that he had at last an alternative explanation:
The military knights of Windsor (see Whitaker's Almanack) were until 1833 known as the Poor Knights of Windsor … What more likely than that Cook, who no doubt read newspapers & anyway inherited a tradition of giving placenames with a Royal or Court association, had them in mind? I can't suggest why, unless the islets looked like gentlemen in cloaks marching in procession … If you think there is anything in this, please send me quickly a revised footnote for transmission to MacLehose …28
The volume was already in page proofs; changes at that stage were costly and difficult to make. T may manage the guts of the Poor Knights one with a bit of surgery & careful counting of spaces',29 John replied. The footnote as printed reflects both his initial research and Skelton's suggestion.
In Wellington his great resource was the Alexander Turnbull page 358Library with its rich collections, especially of material on exploration and the Pacific. The ideal, he wrote in 1952, 'would be to work at home & at the Turnbull on the ordinary things – we really are very well off for printed material, & I can treat the Turnbull practically as if I owned it – & hop over to London fairly frequently for two or three months at a time for the Mss & the maps & charts. However there's no millionaire in the business yet.'30 But not everything could be discovered in the Turnbull. Wanting something on the Portuguese governor and viceroy at Rio (with whom Cook had an interesting encounter), he asked Skelton if 'some expert could provide a line or two on both men'; as 'when the details of Portuguese colonial history are concerned we are up against it in Nz'.31 For further searching or checking in the archives, the British Museum or the Public Record Office, the Hakluyt Society employed a researcher, Stella Campbell.
For the zoological annotation, John involved his and Elsie's old friend Averil Lysaght. Since their student days at Victoria, Lysaght had spent much of her time in England. After three years' postgraduate research at the Rothamsted Experimental Station she was awarded a University of London PhD in 1935, and went on to a number of short-term academic and scientific jobs. In 1947-48 she was employed as assistant editor of the zoology section of Chambers Encyclopaedia and met Norman Kinnear, Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum of Natural History. He suggested to her that working on the birds of Cook's voyages could be a worthwhile project and offered her space to work at the museum, with its great collection of Sydney Parkinson's paintings and drawings. It was an example of her habit of 'constructing private empires in obscure corners of learned institutions',32 and with no formal position, let alone remuneration, she dug in there for more than twenty years. Her work on the zoology of the voyages led to an interest in the artists and she did useful work in identifying drawings by Banks's assistant, Herman Spöring, that had previously been attributed to others.
Lysaght provided much of the material for the zoological notes for both the Cook and Banks journals (though John also consulted scientific colleagues in New Zealand) and she drew on experts in the museum when she felt it necessary. John had considerable respect for her scholarship, but did not always find her easy to work with. She became very proprietorial about her material, indeed about all Cook and Banks material, and could become rather excited about the necessity of outwitting other scholars, especially Americans, who might (quite legitimately) wish to have access to it.33 She could also be very forthright to John when she considered that he fell short page 359of her scholarly standards, but her denunciations were generally followed by a letter restoring peace. She is a recurring subject in John's correspondence with Skelton:
At the moment I'm in one of those ghastly complacent moods; but I think this is probably due to the fact that I've thrown away one obviously absurd note contributed by a bright boy at the Bmnh through Aml & substituted another more in accordance with the dictates of Sound Sense & Natural History on this side of the World. I am standing on my editorial dignity & last word over this, so you'd better not tell AML or she'll rend me limb from limb. If I can work up the courage I'll write to her about it myself. If I can't work up the courage we'll just sneak it in unbeknownst, with a desperate sense of adventure.34
In a later letter, having commented on a fresh outburst by Lysaght, John added, 'Dammit, I'd much rather talk about all this than write about it. She has done such first-rate work too.'35
Many inquiries to the scientists produced straightforward answers; identifying a plant or fish from Cook's or Banks's comments and Parkinson's paintings and drawings was generally not too difficult. This was not always so, however. The photocopy of the Banks journal which John was working from, in the section describing Tahiti, had two blanks with faint and indecipherable pencillings in them. A member of the staff at the Mitchell Library had scrutinised these for him. The first did not present any difficulty. It was the second, John wrote to Phyllis Mander Jones, the Mitchell Librarian, that caused him all the trouble:
Miss Sherrie thought the words were possibly 'Eng mallow'; & for a while I rested on that. But it just doesn't make sense in relation to the fruit 'reckoned most delicious'; which I have otherwise identified as the ahia or jambo. I happened to take another look at Hawksworth last night, & the relevant bit reads 'a fruit known here by the name of Jambu, & reckoned most delicious'. Now what is jambo in Latin? – Answer, Eugenia malaccensis. Well now, is it possible that the pencilled words are 'Eug malacc' (or 'mallacc)?
If that is so, it all makes sense.– even if Cook did copy the words as 'Eag melloa', & almost drive me mad trying to make out what he meant until I realised he had been using Banks.36
Further scrutiny of the original journal confirmed John's hunch and illustrated the benefit of working on both the Cook and the Banks journals at the same time. He wrote footnotes on the plant for both volumes.37
By May 1952 John was feeling increasingly uneasy that he knew page 360nothing about the Pacific islands except from books.38 He had a horror 'of making the same sort of bloomers about (e.g.) Tahiti as some people make about Nz'39 and, when the regional airline Teal* began its service to Tahiti at the beginning of 1952, he and Elsie decided to go. 'Of course nobody will believe that it's anything but an expensive holiday,'40 he wrote to Phyllis Mander Jones. He found the trip enormously useful:
Really it has been worthwhile coming here & treading in the sacred footsteps [he wrote to Skelton from 'somewhere outside Papeete']. I must have trodden in some of them in covering so much ground; & I have carefully collected a tridacina shell for you from Point Venus, to be delivered I don't know when; it would make a nice romantic ash-tray in the B.M. The only trouble about footsteps is that the local historians are so dogmatically & scornfully divided about where they were. The Point Venus stream has apparently changed its course more than once, so has the one at what Cook called Ohitepeha Bay. We, by the way, have been camped down in the bungalow of a hotel not far from Matavai Bay, so that now I know that bay fairly well. But where the hell did the Dolphin water? The streams seem to have got filled up, as well as having moved. They're not unlike Nz streams in that way. And the streams have different names from the valleys they run through. Well, I've got some light on place-names, & promise of any further help I need from the leading bloke in that line. I am a bit stricken with the sheer complexity of that matter, but at the same time I feel a lot safer than I did before. There is going to be an awful bunch of footnotes as a result of all this. – For sheer romantic scenery give me Cook's two harbours in Moorea/Aimeo/Eimeo – there's no word really which hasn't been rather overused already. I've seen other islands, Raiatea, Huahine etc fairly closely from the air, but haven't been able to get to them by sea – plenty of time for a round trip on a trading vessel if I had known when I came what I know now; but it takes you such a hell of a time to find out anything here, so that it's quite impossible to plan ahead until you come on a second visit … Anyhow I have seen reefs, & streams, & volcanic peaks, & bathed off Point Venus, & tried to place the fort, & climbed over the sorry remains of Amo & Purea's giant marae, & observed the constancy of some Tahitian habits, such as sitting around in picturesque attitudes doing nothing, & I don't want to go home just yet.41
* Tasman Empire Airways Ltd.
… its long curve of black volcanic sand backed by the tall innumerable pillars of coconuts with their wild crowns, immobile and sculptured in a hot still noon or moon-charmed night, streaming like vast bunches of pennants on a rising wind; given sobriety by the deep green of the sand-haunting myriad fingered casuarinas; while further back the bread-fruit and the ancient buttressed mape or chestnut rise into splendid benedictions of plenty …42
In Tahiti he met an American, J. Frank Stimson. Attracted to the South Seas after reading Typee and Omoo, and disillusioned with American life ('simply a nightmare'), Stimson had settled in Tahiti in 1912 and for forty years devoted himself to acquiring a remarkable understanding of the language and culture of ancient Polynesia.* He had come to have possibly a wider knowledge of the islands and their speech than any Polynesian had ever possessed.43 John warmed to him at once, 'bursting with enthusiasms & volubilities', and was charmed by his Tuamotuan wife and his daughter – 'he keeps a very tight hand on her morals & won't let her dance at the fête'.44 John drew on Stimson's deep well of philological knowledge and was clearly fascinated by the man:
One of the most vivid experiences of my life was the first afternoon I spent with him – he was reading out some of his translations of ancient Tahitian chants, & I said, Now do it in the original, & he did; & it was electrifying. He suddenly became old Tahiti, & I was back in the 18th century before the discovery. His linguistic learning seemed to me to be immense …45
* Stimson was a controversial figure in anthropological circles owing to his long and bitter controversy with the Bishop Museum scholar Kenneth Emory. They had worked together on two prewar field trips to the Tuamotu archipelago and from the same material reached diametrically opposite views on the question of whether there had existed in former times in the Tuamotus a cult of a supreme god, called Kiho-Tumu or Kio-Tumu. Stimson said yes, Emory no, and Emory appears to have carried scholarly opinion with him. (Bengt Danielsson, 'Kia Ora Keneti', in Genevieve A. Highland et al., eds, Polynesian Culture History, (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1967) pp.23-4.) John knew of the controversy but kept out of the argument.
The visit to Tahiti left him impatient to see Tonga, '& every other place Cook went to':
Damn it [he wrote to Skelton], even in Nz I haven't been to Dusky Sound yet. The fact of the matter is, that there is no one place in which you can edit Cook properly. One thinks of London as being central & having all the logs & journals & charts & so on; but Tahiti & Nz, to be done properly, mean actual physical presence in Nz & Tahiti, & I'd be better for being wrecked somewhere on the Great Barrier Reef, or sailing round the Sw coast of New Guinea – for part of which there doesn't appear even to be an Admiralty chart, by the way, so far as I can find out. Lot of work in my half-dozen N Guinea footnotes.49
Some time later he heard that the McConnaugheys were planning a trip in their yacht 'around the various outlying islands'. Heavens, he wrote, 'how I want to do that. If only they would sail to Tonga & the Marquesas & the New Hebrides & a few other places I'd pawn my soul to go with them.'50 In time, he was to see most of these places, but not under sail.
After returning from Tahiti John had written the 'Note on Polynesian History' for the introduction. 'Polynesian society & notes & reading on same now seem a bit more real, & I even begin to think I am making sense out of it.'51 By the end of 1952 he had finished annotating the first voyage – typed, there were about 400 pages of notes – or, rather, he had almost finished. He had just written to Phyllis Mander Jones asking her who would be the best page 363person to consult about Australian aboriginal language, 'to see if any useful deductions about anything can be made from Banks's and Cook's vocabularies', and to ask her to vet two footnotes on Australian trees.52 And he was still trying to solve one or two problems about obscure Maori place names, and asked Skelton if he could track down in the British Museum Manuscript Room a chart or plan by Cook of Mercury Bay on which Cook said he had put all the native names. However, there was a note of achievement in his letter: 'Skelton, do you mind if I skite? – I think I have done a bloody good job'.53 He took that back at once ('it must be the influence of the New Year') but continued:
I have just gone on trying to make the voyage clear & vivid & comprehensible to myself. Now & again I've thought I've been getting somewhere, & the Soc. need not necessarily be ashamed of me; & then I've been covered in shame & depression, reviling myself as a worm & a pedant… [however] I think it will now be possible to follow the voyage pretty exactly, & know why Cook said whatever he did say. I don't think it will have to be done again in a hurry.
After working on the first Cook voyage for over three years, he had found himself 'more and more drawn to individual character'.54 It was not the first time. This interest had surely been there in his pen portraits of politicians in his Short History of New Zealand; he had found it again while he was writing the Victoria College history, especially as he contemplated Hunter; and now, as he worked on the annotations to Cook's journal, it was as much as a biographer as an editor. He 'wished he could start on a biography … at once'.55
This first voyage is taking a hell of a long time [he continued in the same letter to Skelton]. But the more I study it the more important it seems in the whole scheme of things – the more important for Cook himself. It seems to me he came into it more or less by chance – i.e. when the Admiralty & the Rs were casting around for a man it looked as if he might be the right sort of man, but there was no ransacking of 'available' men to pick out the absolutely best one; & by great good luck he turned out to be a positive genius. But apart from being a good seaman & surveyor & knowing a bit about mathematics & astronomy he was an uneducated man, & he started off by being a bit puzzled by Banks's enthusiasm for plants. He hit it off with Banks & Solander, thank God, & on the Endeavour he got his education: he learnt that exploration was not just getting the right latitude & longitude & charting coasts, or even keeping your men healthy & off mutinous thoughts & saving your ship, but beasts & bugs & plants & mankind as well. He sort of did his post-graduate work as a seaman & surveyor; but coming up against the minds page 364of Banks & Solander, who were animals of a sort he'd never encountered before, he got his real undergraduate widening of mind as well; so that the great cabin of the Endeavour was really his university, but he had all the practical work he needed too. At the beginning of the 1st voyage you have unknown genius inadequately equipped – or perhaps we had better say inadequately exercised – at the end of the voyage you have genius completely mature & ready for anything – except perhaps the elder Mr Forster. I can't help damning Banks for his conceit [footnote in letter: I mean the conceit that kept him from going on the 2nd voyage]; Cook gave him an education too, but couldn't keep him from thinking that the voyage was in a way all his own work, so that when he got back to London he thought he was an expert on everything, & acted the insufferable aristocrat. Though dammit he was only a gentleman. Apparently he was thoroughly content to have the newspapers treat the voyage as 'his' voyage, & finished up by believing it. And thought he could run the Resolution as if it were part of his personal estate. Silly ass. Never mind, he did a lot to make Cook Cook, & for that purpose no one could have been better. With which profound reflection I leave you, with best wishes for the New Year …56
Looking ahead, John planned, once he had sent off the corrected text and footnotes of the first volume ('as soon as possible'), to draft the general introduction and the introduction to the first voyage, and to get all the 'introductory stuff' to the printer. Then he thought he should 'knock off Cook for a while & clean up Banks's journal'.57 Banks had, indeed, been on his conscience for some time and he rather expected the Australians to start asking embarrassing questions, but they appeared to accept his view that 'the only way to make a real job of the Banks journal is to edit it in conjunction with Cook'.58 He was regularly in touch with Phyllis Mander Jones about both Cook and Banks material and kept her posted on the work, adding on one occasion, 'Next time anybody complains about slowness of progress on my part you can say I keep on turning down very agreeable offers of contracts from publishers* so that I can get on with the job'.59
* He had turned down four, including one from the Oxford University Press, who wanted a book on New Zealand for their Home University Library; one from Penguin Books to write a short history of New Zealand, despite a very persuasive approach from Sir Allen Lane, who was visiting New Zealand and came to dinner at Messines Road (John suggested to him that he should ask Keith Sinclair to do the job); and one from Fabers to do a similar volume (they then turned to W.H. Oliver).
He had started writing the general introduction in November 1952. 'I have done 6 pages in 4 days', he told Janet, but added, 'unfortunately a purple patch crept into the second page. I suspect Tawney's influence, but it gave me awful trouble.'60 Everything took longer than hoped – 'what interminable trouble small points give' – and, although at the beginning of the following August61 he said that he had just about finished the work on the first voyage apart from revising the introductions, three months later, in November, he reported to Skelton that he had received some further notes from Averil Lysaght. A lot of them were identifications he already had, but there was still some 'valuable stuff' that he had incorporated. He was just waiting for some further documents that Stella Campbell had found which would affect the textual introduction and might affect the notes.
As he revised the general introduction, John was 'appalled at the slovenliness of the writing … I am crawling through the wretched thing', he told Janet, 'trying to do away with the repetition of words – my God when I repeat I do repeat'.62 Once it was revised, he gave it to his colleague Winston Monk to read. Monk 'went through it like a hawk': he 'picked on innumerable things', John reported, '& almost always, blast him, he's dead right … at this rate I'll be rewriting till the end of the year'.63, * He confessed to Skelton that he 'could brood, & play around, & put & take indefinitely over this first voyage' but recognised he had 'got to make an end somehow, even at the risk of making a fool of myself in some way or other'.64
Lord in Heaven [he wrote to Kathleen McKay in December 1953], how this so-called research stretches out if you want to make an honest job of it. The dreadful lust to be complete, to leave no stone unturned, smites one & tortures one in the still watches, so that sometimes a cold sweat breaks out, & one thinks Alas alas I have done wrong not to get a microfilm of that copy of Cook's log that bloke in London owns. The only refuge I have is to say now & again Here I shall be deliberately inconsistent just to show that I am not the victim of my own pedantry …page 366And all those damned introductions have been rewritten & rewritten & rewritten. And a good proportion of those notes have been ditto.65
* At the end of July he wrote to Janet: 'Well I've been all through that wretched Introduction, & tidied & tightened, & dragged out all the damned sibilants I can, it's astonishing how they cluster constitutionally & essentially into cussed clots of exasperation. But I find that sometimes I can get a run of l's & r's instead, which gives me pleasure, though when I read it through they'll probably irritate me equally. You see. The language is really quite unmanageable … I think with about a year's tinkering maybe it would be all right. But still not as good as K. Clark, blast him.' (Jcb to Jep, 29 July 1953.) John had just read Kenneth Clark's Landscape into Art and greatly admired Clark's writing.
Finally, early in March 1954 he sent off 'all the copy for Cook vol I', with a final word: 'All I can do now is to pray that I haven't simply provided irrefutable proof of being a half-wit'.66 Ernest Beaglehole, flying to Geneva for a meeting at the International Labour Organisation, took the four parcels and posted them surface mail when he arrived, greatly saving on postage. John never forgot that the costs of the project would inevitably be reflected in the price of the published volumes, even if further grants of assistance could be found.
Skelton's reaction on receiving the material would have delighted any author:
I have read your introductions (couldn't go to bed last night until I had finished) & skimmed a good part of the notes. You are entitled to all the skiting you like for this is plainly a magnificent job noble in conception & proportions & enthralling in detail. In precision of scholarship, in analysis, in range of reference, & – not least in mastery of the English language it makes your 'Exploration of the Pacific' (which I always thought a jolly good book) look like juvenilium. This is a job worthy of Cook in workmanship.67,*
A few days later he had a further comment on the textual introduction; it seemed to Skelton that John's 'meticulous collation of the Mss … had led [him] right into Cook's mind' and that this might well 'appear to many people the most subtle & original contribution to the study of Cook in a volume which is nowhere short on subtlety, or originality'.68 Skelton's response was a foretaste of the reception the volume received when it finally appeared eighteen months later.
* John's pleasure, and relief, at Skelton's reaction is suggested by the fact that he copied this paragraph into a letter to Janet. (Jcb to Jep, 7 April 1954.)
John still had a great deal to do before publication of the first voyage, quite apart from the continuing work on Banks, the third voyage, and now the second voyage. In the sixteen months between sending off the first voyage material and leaving for London in July 1955 on his second period of leave, John wrote frequently to Skelton – about sixty letters survive, some of them very long – and this was only a part of his extensive correspondence during the period. The letters covered many questions and are a striking testimony to John's determination to do full justice to Cook's achievement. Skelton, at his end, wrote frequently. 'I have been getting some lovely wads of letters from Skelton', John told Janet, 'draft notes on graphic records, & lists of charts, & announcements of microfilms & photostats to come; it keeps me in a perpetual simmer of excitement'.72 He was developing confidence in MacLehose's work as printer but still took a very close interest in what was proposed and done. A typical comment to Skelton was:
I am quite agreeable to Appendices going into 10 pt – in fact, rather expected it, but preferred to leave the decision to you & the typographers. I think however that on a royal 8vo page & in 26 em measure they will need to be leaded 1 pt, or will be a fearful mass of print to wade through – I mean if set solid, in fact I'm sure of this. Same thing will apply to bits of 10 pt in text of journal.73
His interest – and expertise – was quite unusual in an author.
* Williamson, writing to Skelton to welcome the news that John was to take over volume 2, said: 'I always believed that his work would be first-rate, and I wish that the Council would have believed it more whole-heartedly when I said so years ago. However by taking on Vol. II he has made it evident that his name must stand on the whole work. It is his due, and I know that he must have felt disappointed at the editorship being divided, although he never gave any hint of it.' (Williamson to Ras, 13 April 1954.)
I have just got to College & opened the photograph. It may be by Gainsborough, & it may be Captain Cook, but by no possibility in creation, by not the remotest slinter, sliver or shaving of a possibility, by not the least possibility of the shadow of a shaving of a ghost of a possibility, can this elegant young beau, with all those gold buttons, & those shirt-cuffs, & that heavy dangling seal, & that etc., be our Captain Cook.
But thank you very much for it.74
Although he eventually came to the view that the portrait by Nathaniel Dance, while conventional, was 'probably as good a portrait as we could hope to get of a man not self-conscious enough, or knowledgeable enough, to oversee his own depiction',75,* no Cook portrait, he felt, revealed much about its subject. 'Damn it', he wrote to Skelton at the time, 'I wish I could have a good look at him in the flesh'.76
The portfolio was published at the same time as the first volume, as Charts & Views Drawn by Cook and His Officers and Reproduced from the Original Manuscripts, edited by R.A. Skelton. John was delighted that Skelton was named as editor; he believed that his considerable contribution to the first volume should be given some formal recognition, but saw little chance of this being done: 'your name ought to go on the title-page of this book as co-editor, but I suppose if I make that suggestion there'll be another long & bitter controversy'.79 'I doubt', he wrote a little later, 'whether you will ever let the Cook committee know how much you have done positively & negatively, as it were, to make me look knowledgeable & to keep me from looking an ass, but the fact, the multitudinous facts, is – are –very much alive within me.'80 Skelton viewed John's compliments as undeserved, though 'extremely cheering & encouraging', and added that it was 'a pleasure & a privilege to devil for you (which is all I'm doing) by digging up the dry bones of facts which you so beautifully bring to life'.81
* When the Hakluyt Society, over thirty years later, completed the publication of the records of Cook's voyages with Andrew David's three superb volumes of The Charts & Coastal Views of Captain Cook's Voyages (London: 1988, 1992 and 1997), volumes dedicated to the memory of J.C. Beaglehole and R.A. Skelton, they were indeed noble volumes 'a foot & a half high'. John would have been delighted.
John was caustic about some of the books on Cook that were appearing. He was horrified by a work by Christopher Lloyd, senior lecturer at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich – 'How anybody could possibly do, let alone get published, such an outrageously bad piece of work … I simply don't know' – but more amused by an American life called Great Sailor. This, he thought, had its moments.
You must allow for my blowing off by the written word [he wrote to Skelton] which is so much more dreadful than the spoken. I have as a matter of fact ripped off stuff to you in the most disgraceful way, envisioning you on the other side of the table at that pub near the Bm, & left you to make the necessary modifications as I have thumped the table.90
Another time, having apologised for being 'quite foolishly loquacious', he added, 'I do too much thinking with my pen'.91
More than once John wrote about the business of writing:
A damned, cold, rainy, unpleasant Saturday afternoon – I don't know page 371why I tell you this, but I have been reading Virginia Woolf's Writer's Diary, & she often tells herself about the state of the weather. She makes me, with all her conscience & rewriting, think with horror & remorse that I ought to do all my introductions over again: to make them hard, & solid, & muscular, & all that. I keep on telling myself I must be concrete, & yet have rhythm & elasticity, & get rid of all these bloody metaphors. Shouldn't I ditch my purple patch? I ask myself – I rationed myself to one purple patch, the bit about Tahiti, & Winston Monk wanted me to cut that out;* & I clung to it grimly, but cut out some of the adjectives & the sentiment, but finished up by making it longer. Blast the English language … I hate writing, & yet it fascinates me.92
'Don't you really mean "I love writing & yet it infuriates me"?'93 Skelton perceptively asked.
A number of people in London read the draft introductions and the notes. Helen Wallis, who had joined Skelton in the Map Room in 1951, where she completed an Oxford doctorate in geography with a thesis on early European exploration of the Pacific, thought his references to Pacific winds were inadequate. 'Those confounded Pacific winds & currents', John confessed, 'have been gnawing at me for years'. He saw them as 'the great omission' in The Exploration of the Pacific and welcomed her work and comments – 'the tooth-comb is a most valuable instrument'.94 'I am going to add that Hw girl to my admirations',95 he told Skelton. George Naish, at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, was the expert on eighteenth-century ships and seafaring, but John admitted that some of Naish's stuff got him 'all tied up'. For example, Naish's note on the jib traveller finished up, 'the whole outfit can be inspected on the bowsprit of my old fashioned Pilot Cutter but gets rarer as bowsprits go out of fashion'; John was puzzled as to how he could include that in a footnote. Naish also provided some 'interesting stuff' on crossing the line which John used for a footnote in the Banks volume. Averil Lysaght's comments were more temperate than John had feared they might be.96 Skelton politely called his corrections 'queries' and John happily incorporated them.
* Monk told him that 'the novelists have used up a good deal of this currency'. (Jcb to Jep, 14 October 1953.)
In late September 1954 John wrote, 'Now all I have to do is to get down and rewrite the Introductions',99 but that was far from all. Compiling an accurate list of the ship's company, as an appendix to the volume, proved surprisingly complicated. The Endeavour's muster books, in the Public Record Office, were the main source, but there were some discrepancies between these and information in the journals – for example, on dates of death. John attributed this muster book 'mess' to Cook's clerk, Richard Orton, 'careless & inefficient as well as drunken',100 and in these cases he gave the date recorded by Cook. He also gave the place of origin and date of joining the ship, where these were known, and any other information which could be hunted down. But the light thrown on the ordinary seamen and marines was fleeting:
Stainsby, Robert. Darlington, 27. A.B. Joined 11 June . Tattooed at Tahiti.
Simpson, Alexander. A.B. Joined 17 June. Punished 2 December 1769 for stealing rum; died 21 February 1771.
Stephens, Henry. Falmouth, 28. A.B. Joined 22 June. Punished for refusing his ration of fresh beef, 16 September 1768; and for stealing potatoes, 30 November 1769.
John was unable to explain satisfactorily the history of the boy Nicholas Young ('young Nick'), who first sighted New Zealand and appeared for the first time in the muster book at Tahiti on 18 April 1769 as a supernumerary. How he was accounted for before that date John could only surmise.
Two further appendices, the second especially, drew on Stella Campbell's archival work: a calendar of documents that listed all those that could be found bearing on the voyage apart from logs and journals, together with a few private letters written on the Endeavour or after its return, and a collection of newspaper extracts, 'printed not for the light they shed on the voyage of the Endeavour – a questionable illumination – but for their place in what has come to be called "public relations"'.101
Once the introductions were in page proofs, there was little page 373opportunity for rewriting, yet John was clearly very reluctant to let them go. Before posting them off he returned once more to his description of Matavai Bay. 'In the end', he told Janet, 'I left "utter"' – this was in a phrase 'the utter point of Point Venus' – as 'I just couldn't think of anything' else.
But I changed 'narrow line of whiteness' to 'white line of foam', & I rehashed the previous sentence to make it run better & fill up the spare space, & now I have done my damnedest. And as the stuff went I said Well there goes my assault on English literature; I don't suppose it will stir a ripple, but I can't complain I've been rushed over it, I've had ample time to think & to revise, it's all my own fault, but still it would be nice if it did stir one ripple. Now I've only got two lots of proofs to come, Ship's Company & Calendar of Documents.102
He knew he should get straight on with work on Banks but decided to take a day or so off to read a life of Abraham Lincoln (he was teaching the honours course on American history) and reread Kenneth Clark's Landscape into Art.
At the beginning of 1955 Skelton wrote to say that all his other commitments had been held up while he 'struggled with (a) the illustrations & (b) the general problems of publication & finance'. He thought daylight was 'leaking in on both now'.103 The whole undertaking had grown considerably in size since it was first planned in 1948–49; the portfolio of Charts & Views had been added and the first volume, with the introductions and appendices, was promising to be nearly a thousand pages. The officers of the Hakluyt Society decided that the Batchworth Press, which had originally been contracted to publish the volumes, did not have the resources for the job. The president, Malcolm Letts, managed a very diplomatic switch to the Cambridge University Press.104 John was delighted. The society had hoped that the New Zealand government's grant might be matched by Australia, but nothing was forthcoming. Help came from the distinguished New Zealand scholar and benefactor Esmond de Beer, who since the end of the First World War had made his home in London, where he lived with his two sisters, Mary and Dora. For over twenty years he had been working on the first full edition of John Evelyn's Diary for the Clarendon Press. He had become a member of the Hakluyt Society in 1946; he knew of John's work and admired his scholarship. De Beer's quiet determination that the journal should be fittingly published led to a guarantee of £2500 if needed towards the costs. In the years ahead de Beer and page 374his sisters were to contribute unstintingly to the publication costs of the entire work.105 In May 1955 the Pilgrim Trust agreed to a similar guarantee.
The passage of printer's proofs between Glasgow, London and Wellington continued over many months. These were subject not just to the correction of printer's errors but also, as with the material on Mrs Cook's papers, and Skelton's idea about the Poor Knights, to revision if additional material or information was discovered or turned up. 'Did you know', John wrote to Skelton in March 1955, 'about the Nautical Almanac error referred to in new fn, p.cclxxv? I only picked [it] up by chance, as I picked up that volume of sailing directions by chance in the Turnbull as a result of their re-shelving some of their books'.106 It was a not unimportant point, as it showed that Cook's apparent error of thirty miles in placing the island of Savu was due not to shortcomings on his part but to an error in the almanac. It also showed how John's inveterate book-browsing could pay off.* Aurousseau, working on the index, also provided queries and suggestions. There was an explosion, however, when Averil Lysaght started to correct and alter proofs beyond those of the notes on natural history for which she had provided the material.
I have just got & read a letter from AML, & if I don't put something down on paper (even if I don't post it) I'll blow up. As it is I am trembling with fury so much I can hardly hold the pen …
I will not have her inserting 'screwpine' for pandanus 'in all the obvious places' because some stray American botanist tells her it is the most commonly used name. 'He thinks that mapé should always have an accent'. The hell he does – perhaps he'd like to re-spell the whole Tahitian language. I will not have her cutting out notes because she thinks 'Gadwalls do not occur in that part of the Pacific at all'. I will not have her 'correcting' the 'spelling of Georg Forster's name'! – because I call him George.107
* The book-browsing could also work less productively: 'I have just read Day Lewis's translation of the Georgics. I was looking up a translation of two or three lines some correspondent of Cook quoted, & I thought By jove, this is very good, I'd better read it all, particularly as I've had it a couple of years. And it is really very good indeed …' (Jcb to Jep, 11 July 1951.)
The size of the volume, the complexities of correcting the proofs and the vagaries of the post between Britain and Wellington were clearly a challenge to John's scholarly standards, not to mention his equanimity. He was finding out that he was by no means as good a proofreader as he had thought he was, '& dammit, was once'; he was very aware of the repercussions for the printer of all the corrections and changes, especially in the page proofs, and was beginning to feel that he was giving Skelton 'far too much gratuitous trouble'.110
There are moments when I think perhaps I am being too fussy, & other moments when I am haunted by an awful sense of your report on the excellent dummy that MacLehose supplied – guaranteed to last for 100 years. If this is going to last for 100 years then it seems essential to get things dead right – the idea of some awful bloomer being revealed in 100 years, or some crashing grammatical error, makes my blood run cold: on the other hand I find I don't worry so much about the effect on my contemporaries. Perhaps you can explain this psychological oddity. I am haunted by another awful sense from time to time: a cloud in the sky follows me round, & a large dread finger points at me with unerring aim, & the Voice of God utters the single word 'Careless!'. Sometimes it seems to be the voice of Aml, & perhaps even her finger, but generally I know it's God, & I wish he wouldn't do it.111,*
Did he really mean this? It is a question which recurs when reading his letters. Is the elaboration driven by the need to explain in detail how he felt, or is his pen following his lively imagination and ironic sense of humour. My feeling is that at this time, as indeed at most times, his underlying concern about getting things right was very real. The literal truth of passages such as this one is another matter, though in this case he did include a careful drawing of the 'large dread finger'.
* As John wrote in his lecture 'Some Problems of Editing Cook's Journals' (1957), one does what one can. 'And then the ghastly thing happens'. When he was writing the lecture he was looking over the pages of the first volume of the Journals, 'pages irrevocably, irretrievably printed and bound'. He came on a reference, his own reference, to 'Mount Egmont in the Bay of Plenty'. 'Now,' he wrote, 'I know perfectly well where Mount Egmont is, and I know it is not in the Bay of Plenty. I have had ocular demonstration of it, I have stood on top of it, I have slid down it. And yet there is that awful, that appalling phrase, with its air of quiet and casual certitude … There it is. And the frightful query arises, to haunt the watches of the night – how many others, in 970 pages, are there like it?'
Nor did John find it easy to stop polishing the introductions:
(1) l.17 change 'expanded' to 'enlarged'. (2) last sentence of para.1, change to 'Energies were bursting, thought was expanding; and misery was deep-rooted with complacency, squalor with magnificence; there was obscurantism' etc.
Why? Because (1) there is altogether too much expanding in this paragraph (2) the construction 'While' etc is repeated in the sentence immediately following in para. 2, & this won't do.
By May 1955 most of the outstanding points had been settled, John had carefully drafted a 'Formal Charter of Authority' giving Skelton 'full complete and total rights power and authority to make and assign all proper and necessary corrections to the final proofs …', and was looking forward to seeing the half-title and title-pages – they 'make publication seem quite near'.112 He had revised Skelton's draft portfolio title-page, changing the title Hydrography of the Voyages – 'Hydrography doesn't seem to me to be a handsome word typographically' – to Charts & Views … (with a preference for the italic ampersand rather than the roman one 'for display'), and suggested filling some of the white space with a drawing, for which he enclosed a rough sketch, of 'the Muse of Hydrography conferring a wreath of South Pacific Seaweed on Skelton'.
With the work on the first Cook volume winding down, John was increasingly engrossed with the Banks journal. He and Elsie were planning another trip to London, leaving in mid-1955, and in February he wrote, 'I must get Banks done before I leave Nz, though loose ends will undoubtedly hang out'.113 He conceded that he had 'mercilessly exploited' the New South Wales trustees in favour of Cook, 'using soft words to the effect that all this Cook work is essentially Banks work, which is only half-true'. By this time, however, he believed that he had broken the back of the annotation to Banks, while warning Phyllis Mander Jones that he had 'learnt from Cook that it's no use making a dead-line or announcing that the work will be finished on such & such a date, for that is an invitation to disaster, & things keep on cropping up … long after one thinks one is finished'.114 He was hoping to get started on the introduction and to have a draft finished before he left for England, though he was still puzzling over what form it should take: 'life of page 377Banks, Banks in relation to Cook, The Young Banks, or whatever?' 115It worked out as a study of 'The Young Banks', taking him up to his election as president of the Royal Society and his marriage. It was to be one of John's finest pieces of writing, an essay of lively erudition, warm humour and wide-ranging imagination, judged by Averil Lysaght to be far and away the best thing he had done.116John was inclined to agree.* He had begun the draft early in March and finished it at the end of May, though there were still gaps to be filled; he also planned to add more from Banks's Newfoundland and Iceland journals (which no biographer had used before) when he had access to them. He had become fascinated by 'the development & character of Banks as a part of the English 18th century non-literary intellect, & his place, both typical & untypical, in that particular society'. The biographers, he wrote, 'have all been so amateurish & superficial'.117 Although the amount of material was terrifying, he thought that perhaps he would devote his declining years to a 'real life of Banks', if he lived 'long enough to have a decline'.118
Near the end of 1954 John had asked Skelton, 'Are you feeling exhausted as the year draws to an end?'; he confessed that he was, but did not 'intend to die till Cook is done'.119 Six months later, apologising to another correspondent for his long delay in replying to a letter, he wrote, 'I have never worked harder in my life than over the last couple of years … & I must say I am ready for the break I shall get by going to England next week – thank God by ship & not by air'.120 After a 'damn sight too many' farewell parties,121 he and Elsie left Wellington on 5 July. They flew from Auckland to Sydney, where he had a meeting with the library trustees, before they sailed on the Italian Flotta Laura ship, the Sydney, through Torres Strait, calling at Djakarta and Singapore before continuing to Genoa. After two or three days there they went overland to London. John had hoped to see something of the east coast of Australia and Torres Strait but was largely foiled by darkness:
We did Whitsunday Passage & all that part in the dark. We did the Endeavour River & all that critical part in the dark; & this morning there wasn't the tiniest bit of surf to indicate the reef & whereabouts of Providential Channel. Heart breaking. But I have seen enough coast to realize that Cook was a damned good hand at a coastal profile. I havepage 378seen with my own eyes Mount Warning, Cape Byron, Cape Grafton, Cape Grenville, the Frankland Islands, Fitzroy Island, Cape Direction, Home Islands, Palm Islands, lots of bits of reef & 'sandy cays'. The hell of it is that on this 20,000 tonner with radar & all mod convs you don't get any idea of the real nature of the case … Too easy. Not fair on the Capt. Crumbs! how I admire his charting.122
* When he later read it in proof he wrote to Janet, 'I have a feeling … it's the best single lump of writing I've done, though when I read the cold proof of the specimen galley my heart fell & I thought This needs a bit of rewriting to improve the logic … the prose was not effortless. Blood sweat & tears.' (Jcb to Jep, 16 July 1958.)
My brother Robin and I travelled to England at the same time as John and Elsie. We went via Panama on the old Shaw Savill ship the Mataroa. They had given us each £100 when we turned twenty-one to pay the fare (it cost £92) on a trip we had long planned. Robin had qualified as a primary school teacher and was to spend a year or so teaching in London. I had just completed my Ma thesis and been awarded a studentship by King's College, Cambridge. John was very pleased by this – not least, it emerged, because Trinity College, Cambridge, had turned him down for that research studentship many years earlier. He had hopes too, that Cambridge would help to civilise me. We all joined up in London. Elsie bought a car and, together with Ilse Jacoby (making her first visit to Germany since she left as a refugee in 1938), we drove through much of West Germany and Austria.
John had not looked forward to this tour. After the sea voyage the idea of another month away from his work horrified him. Nor did he find driving with the family a relaxing experience. He would rather have spent a little more time in Italy with Elsie before coming on to London. But the tour turned out to be a success: lunches in pinewoods or by lakes, mountain roads, flat roads, Cologne, Frankfurt, Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, Innsbruck, The Hague. John was struck by the 'miraculous restoration of churches, the beautiful simple graceful Austrian furniture, heartbreaking little memorials to young soldiers killed in North Africa'.123 He discovered new things: Ernst Plischke had provided us with a list of superb Austrian baroque churches to visit; John was bowled over by 'a wonderful and lovely Vermeer' he had never seen before, Diane and Her Nymphs, at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. On getting back to London, Elsie found a flat for them at 164 Goldhurst Terrace, close to the Swiss Cottage underground station, and John resumed work on Banks.
He had gone to London as a Carnegie Commonwealth Fellow at the invitation of Sir Keith Hancock, the distinguished Australian historian whose work John greatly admired and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. He was given a room overlooking Russell Square and left to get on with his work. When he could, he attended Hancock's path-breaking inter-page 379disciplinary seminars, which he found extremely interesting, but he resisted making any large contribution to the discussion. He was very conscious of just how much work there still was to finish Banks and to get ahead with the next two volumes of Cook.
He was interested to find that his first reaction to being in London was to wish that he was back in Wellington, 'working properly'. It was partly the nature of the work required to finish Banks: interminable checking and visiting numerous libraries – 'messing around', as he put it. 'London used to excite me', he told Janet, 'but now, even on a fine day, I don't feel very excited.'124 He found it 'so huge, so overcrowded with traffic, that God ought to smite it'. There were some good things, however. Standing out among all the dreary postwar rebuilding, which he gloomily compared with what we had seen in Germany, was the Royal Festival Hall, which he found admirable. Within two months his feelings were changing: 'the wicked old temptress is getting her insidious fingers around me again, & probably by June I shan't want to leave'.125
* He was critical of the space at the top and the margins of the title page, and thought the title page itself looked insignificant against the frontispiece – he considered the type to be too small with that frontispiece (an interesting echo of the discussions over the centennial surveys). Two of the folding maps had been pasted in so that they folded out the wrong way. But there was also praise for the printers: 'most of their typesetting & press-work really is good, & they are excellent at adjustments of text & footnotes on the page …' (Jcb to Jep, 15 October 1955.)
More academic reviews, which appeared later, continued the praise. Skelton and John agreed that the best of them was by Professor Morrell of Otago University.131 His one criticism, echoed by other reviewers, was that the book was too bulky and would have been better in two volumes. But as an edition of Cook's own text, he wrote, 'this is unlikely ever to be superseded'. Eric McCormick's six pages of praise in Education,132 however, was almost too much for John. He explained to Skelton that McCormick had always dealt very faithfully with his failings in the past. 'This time it is such staggering praise' that he wanted 'to go away & hide in a hole for six months'.133
John's First Three or four months in London, apart from the excitement of publication, were devoted to completing the introduction to Banks's journal. In a letter at the end of November 1955 he gives a picture of what was involved:
I have almost finished revising the introduction to Banks, with consequent huge expenditure of pins & little bits of paper, & time spent in the British Museum tracking down quotations that other people have misquoted & given wrong references for, or no reference at all. The trouble is that every stone turned entails the turning of other stones, & every avenue followed opens up a vista of other avenues, & every correction means other corrections, & footnotes begin to bristle as if I were writing of early Greek historians.134
The textual history and annotation of the journal also needed a good deal of work that was impossible to complete in Wellington. Apart from that in New Zealand and Australia, which he had already page 381looked at, the material lay in the libraries of the British Museum, the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, the Herbarium at Kew, the Royal Society, McGill University in Montreal, and the collections of several private owners.
There had been some discussion about printing the volume when John met with the Mitchell Library trustees on his way to London. They believed that the New South Wales Government Printer would do a satisfactory job at little or no cost to them. In March John sent out a layout and some text to set it up from, suggesting that if the printer had any worries or queries he should look at a page of the Cook journal.135 The results horrified him: 'this all-done-for-free-by-the-Govt Printer plan simply won't work', he wrote to Phyllis Mander Jones, 'the total hopelessness of it must be clear from the latest proof. I really believe I'd go clean off my head if I had to see Banks printed in this way'.136 Three days later he reiterated his view of the work of the Government Printer, and suggested that they should 'go all out to make a really first-class piece of book production, & get the Cambridge University Press to do the job'.137 The trustees were firm about printing in Australia; John was equally firm about not handing over his material without an assurance that the work would be decently printed and produced. A further 'alleged specimen page' from the Government Printer, and the news that he had 'turned hostile' after John's comments, left him at something of a loss as to what to do – 'I suppose I've just got to go on creating hostility.'138 Eventually, however, the Trustees accepted his view and, to his great relief, reached an agreement to publish jointly with Angus and Robertson, using the Halstead Press as printers. John found their specimen page 'Infinitely superior to the Govt Printer's – some portions quite admirable',139 and sent everything over to Sydney in May 1957.
In October he told me that he had not heard a word, except a casual one that the material had arrived. 'If I hadn't got enough on my plate with Cook', he wrote, 'I should be raising hell with them, but as it is they can take as long as they like.'140 Progress would prove preternaturally slow. A year later, in September 1958, he heard that they were 'starting to set Banks up in type … but maybe they are just beginning to talk about it again'.141 The following June he was just about losing hope of ever seeing the volumes all set up in type, let alone published, before he died. 'The only thing is, it gives me limitless time to play around with the proofs of my introduction'.142The situation got worse. Angus and Robertson were taken over by the Australian Consolidated Press and the new management page 382reduced it to chaos. In October 1960 John, desperate to know what was happening, wrote to A.G. Cousins, the works manager at the Halstead Press:
… can you tell me what is wrong? I have been dealing, so far as correspondence goes, with Angus and Robertson. I know that Angus and Robertson are in some sort of mess, but this Banks mess has been going on for a long time. I have been connected with printing and book production for about twenty-five years, in more than one country, and to tell you the honest truth, I have never experienced anything so preposterous as the production of this Banks book in my life before. There may be some perfectly good reasons behind it all; but what are they? Is the book just laid aside for months at a time? Is there some secret bottle-neck? Is someone sabotaging the job? Are proofs put in a safe and forgotten about? Is it just that nobody gives a damn? I simply cannot understand, and am given no means of understanding.143
Cousins's reply confirmed the problems Angus and Robertson had faced – 'you cannot possibly realize the frustration and the disorganization that has resulted from extraordinary interference' – but assured John that the problems had been overcome and that the press looked forward to making the work 'a publication of the highest standard'.144 But a further letter to Cousins the following June suggests that John's patience was running out:
will you get your comp for God's sake to place the three words of the running heads of the left hand pages, 'Banks's Endeavour Journal', in the proper place, centred over the type beneath? I have given instructions about this twice already, and the last two lots of proofs I have had are completely haywire … These proofs are revises of revised pages, and should be perfect – instead of which, so far as these running heads are concerned, they are perfectly preposterous.145
In the meantime the work on selecting the illustrations and having them printed in Holland had been completed. In this John was greatly helped by Phyllis Mander Jones, who had moved from her position as Mitchell Librarian to be Library Liaison Officer at the New South Wales Government Office in London.
The work, in two very handsome volumes, was finally launched in Sydney on 13 February (Banks's birthday) 1962 at a ceremony attended by the Governor-General of Australia and a cluster of distinguished Australians. The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that book-lovers there had queued for the release and that more than a hundred copies, at six guineas a set, had been sold on the first day. John had received a letter at the end of January from the Principal page 383Librarian of the Public Library of New South Wales telling him that the ceremony was to take place and asking him, as 'cost and distance' would no doubt rather stand in the way of his being there, if he might think it appropriate to send a special message.146 The only message John could think of, 'after prolonged meditation', was 'Thank God' – and that, he feared, was hardly usable. Nevertheless, he hoped a good time would be had by all.147
Marcel Aurousseau was at the launch, and reported that honour had been done to Banks and to John in a fitting manner. He had started to read the book at once with great enjoyment, and was 'continually struck with the fact that Banks, for all his position and his enterprise, his courage, and his indefatigable interest in so many things, seems … to show up as a much less distinguished man than Cook'.148 Having commented on the book's production, he added that John 'might have done something towards the raising of publishing standards in Australia'. He made much the same points in a very favourable review published in Meanjin Quarterly – his only criticism being one or two aspects of the index!149
There were other favourable reviews.150 John's reaction on rereading the introduction, however, was 'I shall never learn to write'. Always the perfectionist in writing as in so much else, he was appalled by the endless repetition of the words 'extreme' and 'extremely'.151 For him, publication could hardly be other than an anticlimax. The work belonged with the first volume of Cook, published six years earlier. The second volume of Cook, itself the subject of interminable delays in printing, had appeared the year before, and by this time John had nearly completed his work on the third volume.