Les journaux de voyage de James Cook dans le Pacifique.  Jean-Stéphane Massiani.  2015

Les journaux de voyage de James Cook dans le Pacifique. Jean-Stéphane Massiani. 2015

Massiani, Jean-Stéphane.
Les journaux de voyage de James Cook dans le Pacifique: Du parcours au discours.  
Presses Universitaires de Provence.
ISBN 978-2-85399-978-6. 
316 pages.

A dimension of Cook studies that has been slow to germinate in this century is the textual comparison of the different versions of the accounts that survive from the three voyages to the Pacific Ocean.  With its politics of race, postcolonial scholarly interest exerts considerable reading pressure on every word of accounts of interaction between Europeans and “the Other”, especially interaction between written and oral cultures.  Although Jean-Stéphane Massiani published his doctoral dissertation as Les journaux de voyage de James Cook dans le Pacifique in 2015, the work deserves the attention of Cook scholars and enthusiasts because it is the sole book-length discussion of the texts of Cook’s voyages.

Why is this aspect of Cook studies important and revelatory?  Unlike the Spanish, for example, the British used books to establish claims over discovered territory.  The official account, published at the behest of the Crown and the Admiralty, served British imperial interests of Cook’s day in the same way that the planting of a cross had served the Portuguese, Spanish, and French in earlier epochs.  Consider the titles of Canon John Douglas’s editions of the official accounts: A Voyage towards the South Pole (1777) and A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784).1  Not An Account of, Journal of, or Narrative of, the books themselves are the Voyage.  And the books, like the expeditions, are, their subtitles state, either Undertaken in his Majesty’s Ships or Undertaken, By the Command of His Majesty, such that any discoveries made are indisputably the monarch’s discoveries, affirmed and confirmed by the printed word, often symbolically printed in royal-quarto format.  This clear purpose for the publication of the official accounts of each of Cook’s Pacific voyages clarifies why each book’s words had to give the impression that they deserved the Admiralty and the monarch’s sanction.  Explorers themselves had to pass muster as authors; if they could not manage as such on their own, they needed to be helped into print.  Cook showed that he understood as much when he implored Douglas to make the official account of the Second Voyage “unexeptionable to the nicest readers”.

Richard Hakluyt had apprehended this need nearly two centuries earlier when preparing his Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589).2  In July 1852, reviewing the first titles published by the Hakluyt Society (est. 1846), James Anthony Froude would call Principall Navigations “the Prose Epic of the modern English nation”.3  Douglas likely anticipated that his editing of Cook would appear as seamless to his readers as Hakluyt’s had to his; John Hawkesworth must have thought the same, and his use of the first-person singular in An Account of the Voyages (1773) provided a formidable narrative foil for him to do so.4  (When a storm of controversy broke over An Account, Cook must have “seethed in irons”, unable to dissociate himself from the first-person persona that Hawkesworth had created of him.)

Analysis that shows that books of exploration do not constrain themselves to a faithful reflection of the lived and recorded experience of a traveller or explorer is both defensible and valuable.  Massiani is careful to come to his analysis only after anatomizing what Cook himself wrote.  To take one example, prior to an unremarkable section entitled “Entre littéralité et Littérarité: la dimension rhétorique des journaux de Cook”5, Massiani places on view his findings that Cook, although he used help to get himself into print, was nevertheless an engaged writer and reviser.  This comes before later sections, in which Massiani distinguishes between writer and author, as the principles of book history require.  Doing so helps with understanding how an explorer’s narrative evolves from first observations and remarks into a finished narrative.  Tracing how words written in a log or field book on the heels of (occasionally even in the heat of) an event or an encounter become a book, either composed in recollected and reflective tranquility or written by a writer who did not travel, is essential.  “What did Captain Cook see?” and “What did he understand of what he saw?” are the pre-eminent questions.  Different stages of the exploration narrative, from log to book and all of the activity in between (for example, the Canberra, Mitchell, Greenwich, and Admiralty manuscripts in the case of the first voyage),6 yield different findings.  They also invite the inference of different answers with different, sometimes competing, meanings and significances.  Differences subsequently arise when scholarly editions are produced.  Consider what Hawkesworth wrote with what J.C. Beaglehole edited, given that the former probably worked from one Cook manuscript (“the Admiralty”) and the latter certainly from another (“the Canberra”).  A different manu­script was chosen by William Wharton for his “edition” in 1893.7  One is reminded here of Edward Gibbon, the historian contemporary to Cook, and the author of the six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.8  He wrote six beginnings to his never-completed autobiography, which show him searching for a persona and a structure.

Beaglehole’s editions of Cook’s journals broach textual matters at points, and so do the enduringly useful studies of Hawkesworth by John Lawrence Abbott and W.H. Pearson.9  Philip Edwards studied narrative aspects of the published books in his Story of the Voyage.10  Massiani overlooks no sources available to him before publication in 2015, using them well and extensively.

With respect to Hawkesworth, Massiani’s chief original contribution is his analysis of Hawkes­worth’s editing in terms of the author’s remarks about exploration written in 1752 for the London periodical The Adventurer, to which he and Samuel Johnson were the greatest contributors.  Massiani holds that Hawkesworth’s essay, “Of the Different Kinds of Narratives, and why they are universally read”,11 anticipates his editorial priorities two decades later.  Championing the Horatian maxim that literature must both instruct and entertain, and that entertainment involves the engagement of a reader’s emotions, Hawkesworth had argued that in accounts of exploration and travel “no passion is excited in a strong way, with the exception of wonder”.  Massiani proceeds: “Apart from the curiosity and wonder born from the description of hitherto unknown lands and peoples, the travelogue generally arouses little emotion in the reader because it endeavours to draw up a chronological and exhaustive list of facts and discoveries without paying enough attention to what seems to be essential for Hawkesworth, the emotional potential of human relations.  It is therefore a selection of highlights that is privileged, on which the emotional charge will be able to be borne”.12  Because Hawkes­worth then proceeds to subordinate historical facts (for they engage the mind but not the heart) to emotions, Massiani argues that Hawkesworth’s “General Introduction to An Account” should be read for this bias, and so should his editorial praxis.  He takes his reader specifically to, among others, the paragraph in which Hawkesworth dismisses the slight impression that a list of battle fatalities makes on its reader in comparison to the emotional turmoil generated in the heart of the reader of Samuel Richardson’s then popular novel Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (1740).13  Massiani proceeds to read passages from Cook and Hawkesworth that show the editor’s choice of wording that heightens the emotional aspect over the explorer’s prosaic, factual aspect (which the Royal Society preferred when it mandated in 1664 that the Plain Style be used in accounts of exploration).  Little wonder then that Tahiti becomes the seat of free love in An Account.  Massiani follows others in finding that the very literary presentation of the island and its denizens is more indebted to Banks’s writings than to Cook’s.  Of course, Hawkesworth could attain social stature from following the more literary Banks to an extent that championing the factual orientation of the then comparatively lowly Cook would never have netted him.  Indeed, Massiani champions Edwards’s hypothesis that Hawkesworth could have been no more than the puppet of Lord Sandwich, meeting the urgent deadline that had been given to Hawkes­worth, and regularly putting the words of Joseph Banks in the mouth of the first-person persona of Cook—perhaps without the benefit of Cook’s suggested revisions,14 which Edwards asserts Lord Sandwich did not forward to Hawkesworth.15  By plumbing the depths of Banks’s narrative, Hawkes­worth produced a first-person Cook with the naturalist’s complexion.  That gave the reading world a Cook that could famously join the philosophical debate then raging in Europe about the source of shame—whether nature or custom account for it.  Massiani argues that this narrative vector is just, in 1752, what Hawkesworth wrote needed to happen to narratives of exploration for them to become books.16

As for the involvement of Douglas, Massiani offers this summative remark about Cook the writer regarding the Second Voyage.  “But if since his first trip Cook has become familiar with the act of writing, he still lacks the classical and literary ornaments present in many travel accounts of the time”,17 and so he is not unwilling to exploit the help of a writer.  There is nothing new in this.  Beaglehole covered their collaboration well.  But Massiani fits it into a broader context.  Thereby, he comes to the narrative of the Third Voyage engaging the enduring question of collaboration in the production of narratives.  Titling his discussion “Entre collabora­tion étroite et liberté éditoriale”, he reminds his reader of three important textual moments: first, Douglas’s remark that, untouched, Cook’s own writing would have disgusted readers; secondly, Cook’s directive to Douglas that A Voyage towards the South Pole be found “unexeptionable by the nicest readers”; thirdly, Douglas’s claim to have taken more liberties with the text of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, rendering it in a more elegant style.18  (Massiani stops short of drawing a direct, but I think legitimate, comparison between Hawkesworth’s use of Banks’s writings, and Douglas’s use of William Anderson’s writings.)  Massiani pronounces himself unsatisfied with Edwards’s description regarding A Voyage towards the South Pole, which is Cook somewhat cleaned up and arranged.19  He analyses passages from the books of the Second and Third Voyages to argue that more is going on.  In the case of Cook’s stop at Nootka in March 1778, he dwells at greater length than did I in my analysis in 1992 but reaches the same conclusion, that under the pen of Douglas, Cook becomes a prototype of European imperialism.20  He concludes by analyzing the remarks about cannibalism from the Second and Third Voyages.  He convincingly argues that the neutral stance that Cook took is thrown over by Douglas, who uses Anderson’s account in order to provoke dread and disgust in his readers, and thereby, the published Cook’s remarks issue less from observation than from prejudice.21  It is not so much that Massiani offers new observations as that he brings the narratives from all three of the Pacific voyages under a pre-eminently bibliographical analysis.

Much more about Massiani’s approach and findings deserves consideration.  Suffice it to say that the reviewer regrets not knowing Les journaux when preparing subsequent essays about the narrative legacy of Captain Cook.22  While the lack of an index limits the work’s usefulness, it is otherwise comprehensive.

I.S. MacLaren


  1. Cook James.  A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World: Performed in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Adventure, in the Years 1772, 1773, 1774 and 1775.  London.  1777. 
    Cook, James and King, James.  A voyage to the Pacific Ocean; undertaken by the command of His Majesty, for making discoveries in the northern hemisphere; performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780.  London.  1784.
  2. Hakluyt, Richard.  Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation.  London.  1589.
  3. Froude, James Anthony.  “England’s Forgotten Worthies” in Westminster Review.  July 1852.  Page 18.
  4. Hawkesworth, John.  An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere and Successively Performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret and Captain Cook in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour.  London.  1773.
  5. Massiani.  op. cit.  Pages 161–225.
  6. Massiani discussed the differences among these Admiralty manuscripts in Cook’s Log.  2021.  Vol. 44, no. 3.  Pages 38–42.
  7. Massiani.  op. cit.  Pages 76, 74.
  8. Gibbon, Edward.  The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  London.  1776–1789. 
  9. Abbott, John Lawrence.  John Hawkesworth: Eighteenth-century man of letters.  University of Wisconsin Press.  1982. 
    Pearson, W. H.  “Hawkesworth’s Voyages” in Studies in the Eighteenth Century: Papers presented at the second David Nicol Smith Memorial Seminar Canberra 1970.  Edited by R.F. Brissenden.  University of Toronto Press.  1973. 
  10. Edwards, Philip.  The Story of the Voyage: Sea-narratives in eighteenth-century England.  Cambridge University Press.  1994.
  11. Hawkesworth, John.  “Of the Different Kinds of Narratives, and why they are universally read” in The Adventurer.  18 November, 1752.
  12. Massiani.  op. cit.  Page 243.  My translation. 
  13. Richardson, Samuel.  Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded.  London.  1740. 
  14. Massiani.  op. cit.  Page 239.
  15. Edwards.  op. cit.  Page 88. 
  16. Massiani.  op. cit.  Page 251.
  17. Massiani.  ibid.  Page 268.  My translation. 
  18. Massiani.  ibid.  Pages 274–275.
  19. Massiani.  ibid.  Page 277.
  20. MacLaren, I.S.  “Exploration/Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Author” in International Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue inter­nationale d’études canadiennes.  1995.  No. 5.  Pages 39–66.  See especially, on page 50, “This consummate explorer, ‘the prototypical hero of European imperialism’ (Smith 1979:160) and of Enlightenment, exports good will and exhibits good manners to the unenlightened peoples, or, as Douglas tends to nominate them, the ‘uncivilized nations’ (1784: II, 284) on the other side of the world”.  The Smith quotation is from page 160 of Bernard Smith’s essay “Cook’s Posthumous Reputation” in Captain James Cook and his Times.  Edited by Robin Fisher and Hugh Johnston.  University of Washington Press.  1979.  Pages 159-85.  The 1784 quotation is from Cook, James and King, James.  op. cit.  Vol. II.  Page 284. 
  21. Massiani.  op. cit.  Page 285.
  22. MacLaren, I.S.  “Narrating an Alaskan Cruise: Cook’s Journal (1778) and Douglas’s Edition of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784)”, in Arctic Ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage.  Edited by David Nicandri and James K. Barnett.  University of Washington Press.  2015.  Pages 231–61. 
    MacLaren, I.S.  “Generating Captain Cook and Paul Kane into Published Authors: case studies of a book history model for exploration and travel writing” in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada / Cahiers de la Printemps-Société bibliographique Automne du Canada.  2016.  Vol. 54, no. 1.  Pages 7–56.  See especially pages 7–21. 
    MacLaren, I.S.  “Bones of Empire: Cook and Franklin Reaching to Alaska for a Northwest Passage” in Imagining Anchorage: The Making of America’s Northernmost Metropolis.  Edited by James K. Barnet and Ian C. Hartman.  University of Alaska Press.  2018.  Pages 105–125. 

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 8, volume 46, number 1 (2023).

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