THE DUKE OF PUDDLE DOCK by Nigel Barley

THE DUKE OF PUDDLE DOCK

Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Admirers of Barley's witty and revealing anthropological- adventure yarns (Not a Hazardous Sport, 1989, etc.) will be pleased to see that the assistant curator of the British Museum has not lost his touch as he recounts his experiences at sites associated with Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826)--founder of Singapore and general burr under the saddle of the high-riding directors of the British East India Company during the early 19th century. Puzzled by conflicting reports on the enigmatic Englishman's life, Barley set off to track Raffles's exploits across the East Asian landscape, through Java, Bali, Singapore, and, finally, back to England, where Raffles died at age 44. The scene shifts back and forth between the Georgian statesman's public successes (governor of Java, knighthood) and private sorrows (the early death of his first wife and three of his four children), and Barley's own befuddlements and brouhahas. Along the way, the author draws unexpected parallels between Raffles's views and those of Indonesia's toppled left-leaning dictator, Sukarno. Barley's own views are delightfully iconoclastic: ``All anthropologists and writers bring a deadly infection, for to make a place known is to contribute to the destruction of what makes it interesting.'' And his eye is always on the alert for the peripheral action, as when he notes a drum majorette's dented baton ``that spoke of the need for further practice.'' Despite Barley's yeomanly efforts, many of Raffles's motivations and even some of his actions remain obscure here. It's the author's own rambunctious exploits that carry the day--and that's more than enough. (Sixteen pages of b&w illustrations, map- -not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1992
ISBN: 0-8050-1968-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992