ANCIENT MARINER: The Arctic Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Inspired Coleridge's Masterpiece

Ken McGoogan, Author . Carroll & Graf $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1304-2

Although more concerned with the harsh realities of 18th-century exploration than the vagaries of rhyme and syntax, McGoogan's study does relate an often brutal tale with a surprising amount of grace and poetry. The book's hero, Samuel Hearne, first went to sea at age 12, as a British navy junior officer, and later became one of the most storied North American adventurers of his day, inspiring Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Hearne (1745–1792) is a compelling subject: a learned man with a passion for Voltaire, and a sailor of some repute in the Seven Years' War, he went on to work for the Hudson Bay Company at its northernmost base, from where he set off on a three-year exploration of northern Canada, a journey he recorded in meticulous detail. The first European to stand on North America's northernmost shore, Hearne had, for a European of his time, an unusual amount of empathy for Native Americans (and a surprising facility with several of their languages). Thus it was especially difficult for him to understand the events that occurred at "Bloody Falls," in which the band Hearne was traveling with massacred a camp of Inuits for no apparent reason. The event haunted Hearne for the rest of his life and played a role in Coleridge's epic poem. Moving from England's bustling ports to the frozen tundra, from disease-wracked trading posts to London's coffeehouses, this work is a swift epic in its own right, providing a snapshot of a delicate world on the cusp of irrevocable change. B&w illus., maps. Agent, Beverley Slopen. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/24/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4434-0017-6
Hardcover - 333 pages - 978-0-00-200098-7
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-7867-1489-6
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