convergences Screen 5 | Personalities

They have been together on this voyage
almost two years, each man enduring
storms, sickness, frostbite, sunburn, hunger,
thirst, bad food, fatigue, threat of shipwreck
and attack by hostile natives, besides problems
of boredom, discipline, punishment, rivalry,
jealousy and every minor irritation due to
crowding and confinement. At one point
Molesworth Phillips, Lieutenant of Marines
calls out John Williamson in a duel,
but fails to dispatch him, to the dismay
of the others. James Trevenen, midshipman
on the Resolution, writes in his diary:
Our first lieutenant, Williamson,
                            is a wretch,
     feared and hated by his inferiors,
                   detested by his equals
         and despised by his superiors,
                         a very devil
to whom none of our midshipmen have spoke
             for above a year,
    a person with whom I would not wish
                       to be in favour
    nor would receive an obligation from
was he Lord-High-Admiral of Great Britain.
Williamson, an unfortunate and unhappy man,
engenders unease and dislike wherever
he goes. He has already killed one native
in the southern islands, and treated another
with great cruelty. He will be criticized
later for his behaviour during the incident
that leads to Cook's death at Kealakekua Bay.
Yet the antagonism towards Williamson
is exceptional. Most members of the expedition
share a close comradeship, feeling privileged
to be here on this mission of peace
and exploration. Other ships in the British fleet
are engaged in war.

James Cleveley

You know about life in the Royal Navy of the Eighteenth Century. You have seen those movies too, the men being lashed and keel-hauled and sent before the mast in the raging gale. Incidentally, the Bounty mutiny is only eleven years away, and the villainous William Bligh, whom you imagine as Charles Laughton or Trevor Howard, on this voyage is the peerless sailing master of the Resolution. Bligh, age twenty-four, and as yet without a commission, is reputed to be next only to Cook in navigational skill. He is perhaps not such a despicable fellow, but historical fiction has treated him badly. I wonder how it will treat me, or you.

Charles Laughton, Clark Gable. Click.


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