Three Men of the Beagle

Richard Lee Marks, Author, Jonathan B. Segal, Editor Alfred A. Knopf $22 (256p) ISBN 978-0-394-58818-6
Commander of the Beagle, Darwin's famous ship, English aristocrat Robert FitzRoy in 1831 returned from the Fuegian islands (off South America's southernmost tip) with human cargo--four naked, grimy, crouching Yahgan Indians. One of them, a boy nicknamed ``Jemmy Button''--clothed, ``civilized,'' catechized and taught the rudiments of English--captured the imagination of Victorian England after FitzRoy and young naturalist Darwin returned Jemmy and the other Yahgans to their homeland in 1834. Alas, poor Jemmy, went the public outcry, was left to fend for himself among his own ``savage'' people after experiencing the uplifting embrace of civilization. Decades later, explorers rediscovered Jemmy; shortly thereafter he was implicated in the massacre of a group of Christian missionaries by a Yahgan band. Jemmy was brought to trial but acquitted; he died in an epidemic in 1864. FitzRoy committed suicide in 1865, a debt-ridden workaholic and failed governor of New Zealand. His friend Darwin went on to win fame with his theory of evolution. A remarkable tour de force told with beautiful restraint and fine irony, this piercing tale of three interlinked destinies illuminates the ways the West perceives and misperceives foreign cultures. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
Paperback - 978-0-380-71838-2
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