Far Voyager Analysis
Several devices make Far Voyager accessible to young readers. Latham begins with scenes from Cook’s childhood at ages eight and thirteen. Like most children, he wanted what he could not have, but in his case it was an education. Latham also uses the character of Elizabeth Cook’s young cousin Isaac to express what the reserved, laconic Yorkshire sailor could not. She has Isaac blurt out evidence of his cousin’s love for Cook before the young sailor can declare himself to Elizabeth. As a young boy, Isaac sails with Cook on a summer voyage and, upon his return, reveals the dangers to which Cook has been exposed and the heroism he has exhibited—information that Cook would never have shared. When Isaac voices discontent with the prospect of a life ashore, he is said to speak Cook’s own sentiments. Isaac’s childlike spontaneity bridges the gap between a young reader and the reserved Captain Cook.
The title Far Voyager implies that Cook’s expeditions are the focus of the biography, which is partly true. In another sense, however, Cook was a social “far voyager.” The idea that merit can breach the barriers of an entrenched class system unifies the work. Cook’s youthful restlessness and his unflagging commitment to learning grow from the discomfort of a keen mind lying fallow. Even the brief glimpses that Latham allows of Cook’s family life ashore support the development of this theme. He de-layed asking Elizabeth to marry him because he was not a commissioned officer. When he received his commission at last, Elizabeth confessed her anger that he had been unjustly overlooked for so long. His honors and rewards came late and sometimes grudgingly.
Yet Cook steadily manifested the tolerance, patience, and understanding that served him well as the commander of his own ship. If Latham shows him as detached and lacking in bitterness, then it is perhaps because Cook’s own extensive accounts of his voyages are detached and lacking in bitterness themselves. The author concentrates instead on the qualities that win him renown and eventual membership in the Royal Society. In every role that life assigned him, his steady intelligence, his meticulous thoroughness, his scientific curiosity, and his tolerance of and kindness to all human beings were the mainstays of his character.
As master surveyor for the Royal Navy, Cook surveyed the mouth of the St. Lawrence River so well that it was claimed to be the basis for British success at Quebec. In New Zealand, Cook spent painstaking weeks charting treacherous, reef-filled waters. He applied his scientific knowledge, much of which opposed common custom, to the welfare of his crew. He had the lower decks of his ship cleaned...
(The entire section is 678 words.)