SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC by Elspeth Huxley
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SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A circumspect, scrupulously detailed biography, quite sympathetic to the man, which pores over his change-of-fortune childhood, up-the-ladder naval career, and two polar journeys. Scott's is an already much-examined life (at least four biographies in the last ten years) but Huxley adds a full acquaintance with his journals and letters and vivid portraits of the others in his life-expedition-organizer Markham, associates like Shackleton (who turned competitive) and devoted friend Wilson, and bohemian wife Kathleen Bruce. Huxley finds him moody and hardpressed for money as a young man, praiseworthy as a captain on the Discovery, disconcerted by celebrity and the happiness of his marriage, and enigmatic on the Amundsen-overshadowed polar journey. Unquestionably, his scientific inclinations aided his crew and enhanced his heroic reputation; so, too, did his death on the way back from the Pole. Despite sub-zero hardships, certain amenities were maintained; yet Scott was aware of the iffy nature of some of his choices--ponies in the Antarctic, the ailing Oates as last-minute fifth man--and his farewell letters (twelve!) attest to a need to vindicate himself. Huxley doesn't overwork the big-race aspects of Amundsen's triumph and suggests the whole party was weakened by scurvy but loyal to the last. She reconstructs their final camps with deep regard for their accomplishments and values. More probing than Brent's Captain Scott (which has, however, several of Wilson's color paintings), this rivals Reginald Pound's Scott of the Antarctic (1968) for perspicacity and style.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum