In 1930 a sixteen-year-old boy left England to become one of the last of the ‘gentlemen adventurers’ – the fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In the Arctic he found adventure, love and loss as he came to grips with Eskimo life. Beautifully written, inspiring and funny, this is a boy’s own story that captures a world that is lost forever.
Every boy dreams of adventures, but few have the courage or opportunity to make them a reality. When the Great Depression began to bite straitened finances forced the Maurice family to leave Britain. Edward was faced with a stark choice: to follow his mother and elder siblings to farm in New Zealand, or pursue an uncertain future as an apprentice fur trader among the Eskimos. Preferring to make his own destiny, he signed up for five years at the princely sum of fifty pence a week, packing up the two spoons that remained of his inheritance to become one of the last ever ‘gentleman adventurers’.
Life in Baffin Land was harsh: there was no telephone, no radio communication, only one annual visit from the supply ship to keep in contact with the outside world. But it was also one of tremendous excitement. Under the expert tutelage of his drunken boss, Geordie, Edward learnt to build igloos, hunt polar bears and survive the myriad difficulties of Northern existence. Despite Geordie’s warnings against becoming too involved with ‘the natives’ (and Geordie had taken one for a wife) the young boy became fascinated with the mythic Eskimo culture, learning the language and forming close friendships. After three years, he was sent to his own outpost, where, alone, he had to save the community from illness and starvation, as well as teach them English and contend with the amorous attentions of the local ladies.
In charming, timeless prose ‘The Last of the Gentlemen Adventurers’ transports the reader to worlds that are now forever inaccessible. It is at once a vivid portrait of a unique society and the moving, often hilarious story of an unforgettable young man determined to triumph over every circumstance.
Reviews of The Last of the Gentlemen Adventurers: Coming of Age in the Arctic
- ‘Arctic thrills abound: the bucking progress of an ice-breaker in a storm, the complex art of dog-sledging, and the ethereal wonders of the Northern Lights…Maurice’s memoir supplies a fascinating elegy to a vanishing world.’ Daily Telegraph
- ‘This is a beautifully unadorned, home-spun tale, with a lack of self-consciousness rare in travel literature…I was charmed; I could almost see the author running a finger over his old seal-skin boots as he told the tale of Arctic youth once again, to enraptured grandchildren. The author died last year; this book will live on beyond the circle of his family, and deserves to.’ Independent on Sunday
- ‘“The Last of the Gentlemen Adventurers” is as spare, gleaming and exhilirating as the Arctic wastes and the gentle, stoic Eskimos who had mastery of this realm…Beauclerk Maurice emerges as a man of warmth, humour and generosity. His adaptation to the Arctic, its extremes and its loneliness, matured him fast; his translucent prose is a sparkling and moving record.’ The Times