As spare, gleaming, and exhilarating as the Arctic wastes and the gentle, stoic Eskimos who had mastery of this realm. His translucent prose is a sparkling and moving record of a bygone way of life.
At sixteen, Edward Beauclerk Maurice impulsively signed up with the Hudson's Bay Company -- the Company of Gentleman Adventurers -- and was sent to an isolated trading post in the Canadian Arctic, where there was no telephone or radio and only one ship arrived each year. But the Inuit people who traded there taught him how to track polar bears, build igloos, and survive expeditions in ferocious winter storms. He learned their language and became so immersed in their culture and way of life that children thought he was Inuit himself. When an epidemic struck, Maurice treated the sick using a simple first aid kit, and after a number of the hunters died, he had to start hunting himself, often with women, who soon began to compete for his affections. The young man who in England had never been alone with a woman other than his mother and sisters had come of age in the Arctic.
In The Last Gentleman Adventurer Edward Beauclerk Maurice transports the reader to a time and a way of life now lost forever.
At ten o'clock in the morning of 2 June 1930 about forty young men gathered
round a noticeboard set up on Euston station, which bore the message 'Boat
Train, Duchess of Bedford Liverpool. Hudson's Bay Company Party'.
The other travellers hurrying to and fro across the concourse, impelled to haste by the alarming pantings, snufflings and whistlings coming from the impatient engines, hardly spared us a glance, despite the flavour of distant adventure in that simple notice. For in those days, London was still the centre of a great empire and it was commonplace for parties to be seen gathering at railway stations, or at other places of departure, to begin their long journeys to far-away places. Tea planters for India and Ceylon. Rubber planters for Malaya. Mining engineers for South Africa. Administrators for the Indian and other civil services. Policemen for the African colonies. Farm workers to seek their fortunes in Australia, New Zealand or...
The understated charm of Maurice's storytelling lacks the bravado that the book title might lead one to expect. In fact, the title is not his - he completed his memoir years before his death and his own title was simply Igloo, Behind the Wind - a tribute to the Inuit who he considered the real heroes. However, he was unable to find someone to publish it for decades. When his memoirs were finally published, it was posthumously with a title chosen by his publisher.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (360 words).
A Short History of The Hudson Bay Company
Edward Beauclerk Maurice left the Hudson's Bay Company in 1939 to serve in the New Zealand navy during World War II; after which he became a bookseller in an English village and rarely traveled again. He died in 2003, as his book was being readied for publication.
The Hudson's Bay Company is still very much in existence, but with 500 retail outlets spread across Canada this department store retailer has come a long way from its beginnings in 1670 when King Charles II of Britain granted the lands of the Hudson Bay watershed to "the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay".
During its first century of operation the Hudson's Bay Company established ...
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