Roland Huntford - Shackleton
Ernest Shackleton was the quintessential Edwardian hero.
A comtemporary - and adversary - of Scott, he sailed on
the Discovery expedition of 1900, and went on to mount three
expeditions of his own. Like Scott, he was a social adventurer:
snow and ice held no particular attraction for him, but
the pursuit of wealth, fame and power did. Yet Shackleton,
an Anglo-Irishman who left school at 16, needed status to
raise money for his own expeditions. At various times he
was involved in journalism, politics, manufacturing and
City fortune-hunting - none of them very effectively. A
frustrated poet, he was never to be successful with money,
but he did succeed in marrying it.
At his height he was fêted as a national hero, knighted
by Edward VII, and granted 20,000 pound by the government
for achievements which were, and remain, the very stuff
of legend. But the world to which he returned in 1917 after
the sensational Endurance expedition did not seem
to welcome surviving heroes. Poverty-stricken by the end
of the war, he had to pay off his debts through writing
and endless lecturing. He finally obtained funds for another
expedition, but died of a heart attack, aged only 47, as
it reached South Georgia.
Shackleton is more than a biography of that 'flame
of leadership'. It is a great adventure story, suffused
with the spirit of Edwardianism.
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