Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Robert Falcon Scott, One Hundred Years Ago in the New York Times

To help avoid recency bias, I like to read old newspaper articles, whether Forbes magazine stories from 1930 or New York Times articles from the 1870s about states' repudiation of debt.

Reading such old stories, I notice how much the English language has changed. The language of business articles in the New York Times a century ago seemed simpler but grander, as you can see in the obituary of George Gilbert Williams or in the article about the insolvency of the Liverpool United States Mail Steamship Company

Another good but sad example is the February 10, 1913 article about the discovery of Robert Falcon Scott's last camp.

"I do not think human beings ever came through such a month as we have come through, and should have got through in spite of the weather but for the sickening of a second companion, Capt. Oates, and a shortage of fuel in our depots, for which I cannot account, and, finally, but for the storm which has fallen on us within eleven miles of this depot, at which we hoped to secure the final supplies.

Surely misfortune could scarcely have exceeded this last blow!

We arrived within eleven miles of our old One Ton camp with fuel for one hot meal and food for two days. For four days we have been unable to leave the tent, the gale blowing about us. We are weak.

Writing is difficult, but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks. We knew we took them. Things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint but to bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last.

But if we have been willing to give our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honor of our country, I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend on us are properly cared for. Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman."
How devastating that England today scarcely resembles the England of Scott, only a hundred years ago.


eah said...

Captain Scott also had quite an accomplished wife.

CP said...

Three of Scott's busts feature in the collection of London's National Portrait Gallery, and she is also the subject of thirteen photographic portraits there.

eah said...

How devastating that England today...

Here's the kind of place England is today:

Lord Sugar faced police racism probe after joking on Twitter that crying Chinese boy was upset 'because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5'

Apprentice star's tweet offended Nichola Szeto, who spoke to police

A country full of effeminate men and fat, oafish women.