Item #7658 A Voyage to the North!

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A Voyage to the North!

Hull, England, January 14, 1834. Broadside, 20.125” x 7.5”. Mounted on later paperboard with newspaper affixed verso. CONDITION: Very good, a few minor chips to right margin, two small tears with minimal effect to two letters, light soiling to lower left corner.

A scarce broadside advertising the performance of a play “Founded on the late Polar Expedition” of Captain John Ross, known in the drama as “the Captain of Victory,” who after four years in the arctic was rescued with his crew and returned to Hull in October of 1833.

Detailing “the new Local Nautical Drama,” this playbill was printed in Hull the day of the performance advertised, and just under three months after the safe return of Captain John Ross and his crew to the town aboard the rescuing vessel, the whaling ship Isabella, which Ross himself had commanded during an ultimately disgraced polar expedition in 1818. Early in the course of the 1829–1833 voyage, Ross reached Felix Harbor on the Boothia Peninsula (both of which he named after Felix Booth, the gin manufacturer who had financed the expedition). In 1830, James Clark Ross—John’s nephew, who had also participated in two of Sir William Parry’s expeditions in the 1820s—charted the Beaufort Islands (now the Clarence Islands), and in 1831 he located the position of the magnetic north pole. However, the expedition nearly resulted in tragedy, as the crew was unable to free their ship, the Victory, from the ice and had to rely on aid from local Inuit tribes to survive. Eventually abandoning their vessel, they traveled overland to Fury Beach, where stores from Parry’s 1825 expedition helped them survive a fourth winter. In 1833 they attracted the attention of the Isabella, which carried them back to Hull. After the controversy and disgrace of his first voyage, Ross became an instant celebrity—a fact curiously represented in the play itself, whose final scene depicts the town’s own recent “Enthusiastic Reception” of the long-lost adventurers.

The performance outlined here featured both “Europeans” and “Esquimaux” (two of whom, Iligliuk, “called by her Countrymen the Wise Woman,” and Kagha, “an Old Woman,” were explicitly taken from accounts by Parry and Ross). The play opened with “The Departure of the gallant Captain from Woolwich,” followed by scenes in the “Cabin of the Victory; (after she lost her Foremast)”; “Finding the Provisions of the FURY!”; “Meeting of the captain with the natives,” followed by “an Esquimaux Village” scene and a “Gala in the Northern Regions”; “The Hut of the Gallant Captain, From the Description published” by him, as well as the “Death of Thomas the Carpenter,” and finally the crew’s “kind Reception by the Isabella’s Crew” and their arrival in Hull, all concluding with a chorus of “Rule Britannia.”

No copies recorded in OCLC. We locate one at the Hull History Centre, alongside several billheads advertising performances of the play on other dates.

A delightfully enthusiastic broadside for a dramatic interpretation of Sir John Ross’s renowned polar expedition.

Item #7658

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