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Introduction

 
Mankind ought to be considered as the members of one great family; therefore let us not despise any of them, though they be our inferiors in regard to many improve-ments and points of civilization; none of them is so despicable that he should not, in some one point or other, know more than the wisest man of the most polished nation. This knowledge may be easily obtained from them by friendliness, kindness, and gentleness; and if so bought is cheaply obtained.

Strange words, these, coming from the hotheaded Reinhold Forster, who wrangled with his peers on land as he did with the sailors at sea, but they point to the lasting impact of his work. Possibly a religious impulse suddenly had sprung up at voyage end from the hidden wellsprings of his being. He had once been a clergyman, though the sailors had seen little reason in him to think so. If Cook was not capable of such eloquence or breadth of conception, everything he stood for is assuredly represented by these lines, which appear in Reinhold's most influential work, in 1778.1

The learned societies and crowned heads of all Europe heaped honors on Reinhold, cantankerous though he was, and on his rather more agreeable son George, known for his special expertise on the Cook voyages, and who surpassed his father in many aspects of Cook scholarship. This talented father-son team was responsible in large measure for making known the scientific results of the second voyage, and equally important, for introducing the great navigator to a large segment of the European reading public. The arts and letters of the day were quick to draw upon the imagery and motifs of travel and heroism thereby supplied.

Father and son consumed fourteen years in publishing their South Pacific work. During all that time disputes and quarrels, mostly of Reinhold's doing, formed a tumultuous background that touched the other members of the Forster family with adversity. Reinhold's wife Justina suffered almost constant financial adversity, and George's six younger brothers and sisters had their own struggles to find a place in life. Renown never came their way, but they provided understanding and encouragement to a difficult husband and father, to a beloved son and brother, both of whose scientific monographs and books complemented Cook's exploits. The second voyage loomed large in the vicissitudes of the talented and troubled Forster family.

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