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A letter from Horace Walpole about Cook's Voyages


Contemporary accounts of Cook's journeys do not always give him the praise or credit for his achievements which we now admit. Certainly Banks (and Solander) featured more prominently in newspaper reports, receiving considerably more public acclaim than Cook after the voyage of the Endeavour.

This letter was written on June l9th. 1784, after Cook's death and the publication of the "Voyages". It is from Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797). The son of the first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, he built the "Gothic" Strawberry Hill , was a prominent man of literature in his day and was described by Sir Walter Scott as 'the best letter writer in the English language'.

Strawberry Hill.
June 19th. 1784.

... Captain Cook's "Voyage" I have neither read nor intend to read. I have seen the prints - a parcel of ugly faces, with blubber lips and flat noses, dressed as unbecomingly as if both sexes were ladies of the first fashion; and rows of savages, with backgrounds of palm trees. Indeed I shall not give five guineas and a half - nay, they sell already for nine, for such uncouth lubbers; nor do I desire to know how unpolished the north or south poles have remained since Adam and Eve were just such mortals...

Paul Capper

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 303, volume 7, number 4 (1984).

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