Monthly Archives: October 2011

How to Explore Like a Real Victorian Adventurer


Victorian adventurers rarely took a step into the wild without hauling a small library of how-to-explore books with them. Among the volumes Burton carried into East Africa was a heavily annotated copy of Francis Galton’s The Art of Travel: or, Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries. Originally conceived as a handbook for explorers, and sponsored by En-gland’s Royal Geographical Society, the book was required reading for any self-respecting Victorian traveler. Before rolling up his sleeves and getting down to the hard business of exploring, he could turn to page 134 to learn the best way to do exactly that:

When you have occasion to tuck up your shirt-sleeves, recollect that the way of doing so is, not to begin by turning the cuffs inside-out, but outside-in—the sleeves must be rolled up inwards, towards the arm, and not the reverse way. In the one case, the sleeves will remain tucked up for hours without being touched; in the other, they become loose every five minutes.

The amiably neurotic Galton left nothing to chance. His index is studded with gems like “bones as fuel” and “savages, management of.” If Burton couldn’t find the advice he was looking for in Galton, he could always consult one of the other books in his trunk that were written with explorers in mind.

I’m really into this stuff at the moment. As Trevor at Kalebeul has pointed out a million times, there is a ton of material like this to read over at Google Books.

See also: this Salon review of Wilfred Thesiger’s ‘Arabian Sands’ which is on my reading list RIGHT NOW. I’ll write more about exploration and travel soon.

Charlie Parker – Temptation

We listened to this track a lot during our August holiday in Menorca. Its mainstream big band sound is highly atypical of Bird but somehow that doesn’t matter. While Temptation was used in several films Charlie Parker’s version, I believe, never has been. This was recorded in a 1952 session.


L’Orchestre Antillais and Biguine

Various Artists – Vintage Caribbean Music

L’Orchestra Antillais – Serpent Maigre

[Both links require Spotify. feel free to comment with a better way of sharing music, as I’ll be doing that a bit from now on]

I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz recently. Particularly pre-1950s. And as part of this, I’ve stumbled upon biguine, a type of jazz that originated in Martinique. It influenced Now Orleans jazz and sounds somewhat similar though with a lot more eerie fiddle. Listen to Serpent Maigre (link above) and look for Quand Meme on the VA album too. Great stuff.