Lady Franklin’s Revenge

McGoogan, Ken. Lady Franklin’s Revenge: a True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History. London: Bantam Books, 2006.

Lady Jane Franklin is right up there with Freya Stark and Isabella Bird when it comes to fearless lady travelers – except Stark and Bird were barely born before Franklin started her travels. She truly exemplified a pioneer in female expedition. Although Nancy Pearl doesn’t include Franklin in her chapter on the subject in Book Lust, Franklin was the first to venture to far off places such as Russia, Africa and the wilds of Australia at a time when Victorian women were expected to stay at home, be dutiful wives and raise docile families. Jane Griffin was different. From a very young age she couldn’t be bothered with such domestic pursuits. She wanted an education, an adventure, and to be an outspoken voice. Even after marrying John Franklin and becoming an instant mother to his four year old daughter, Jane Franklin felt no parental responsibility for Eleanor and continued to travel on her “own” (servants and escorts not counted). It was only after her husband, now Sir John Franklin, disappeared in the Arctic that another obsession besides travel of Lady Franklin’s was realized- to bring her husband home. She spared no expense (even her stepdaughter’s inheritance) and pulled out all the stops to convince high-powered officials that her husband’s expedition was worth searching for. At a time when America and Great Britain were not on the best of terms, Lady Franklin worked deals with both countries to send rescue expeditions into unknown waters. She worked tirelessly to keep the missing ships in the minds of everyone on both sides of the pond. Even after the mystery of Frankin’s disappearance had been solved, Lady Franklin insisted his name should carry on as the discoverer of the Northwest Passage.

Can I just say I wish I could have known Lady Franklin? For some reason I find her incredibly cool. While I don’t admire her selfish behavior and prejudice ways, I value the strength in her independence, her tenacity and resolve.

Quoting my favorite lines, “She cloaked her need in the language of love, thus deluding even herself” (p 53), and “In her twenties, the studious Jane Griffin not only read prodigiously, but began keeping a special notebook, updated annually, in which she listed books and articles she perused” (p 63). I, too, keep a journal of such lists. Only my journal is updated monthly and I don’t include articles. Just books.

Reason read: Jane Griffin Franklin was born in December. Reading Lady Franklin’s Revenge in her honor.

Author fact: Ken McGoogan also wrote a biography of Samuel Hearn, another adventurer fascinated with Arctic exploration.

Book trivia: One of the great things about McGoogan’s Lady Franklin is the variety of photographs included. Something as simple as a photograph of a replica of the dress Jane would have worn as a young woman was appreciated. It added texture to the text, if you will.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South” (p 232).

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