Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Simple joys

So, we are in the mid 18th century, and after a punishing stint in India working as a physician for the East India Company our man - one Edward Ives - sets out on the long, long journey home and decides to keep a detailed diary. Not surprisingly, Ives and his companions endure appalling hardship and a series of heinous travails as they trudge slowly across the Arabian peninsula. In fact, such is the misery that at several points the members of the party look all set to lose their minds; and then this, noted in the desert outside Diarbekir:

25 July 1758
'... we saw a wild goldfinch, which settled upon a thistle close to our tent; the sight of this little, agreeable songster gave us exquisite pleasure, owing to the single consideration that birds of this kind are inhabitants of Great Britain.'
'We could not help looking upon this tuneful goldfinch, as a fellow citizen who had kindly flown thus far to bid us welcome, to raise our drooping spirits, and signify to us that we were drawing nearer to our native country, that land of liberty after which we had so long and so passionately sighed.'

How wonderful and life-affirming is that? And I'm pleased to say that Ives and all of his friends did manage to stagger home, allowing the good doctor in his declining years to work up from his journal the following publication:

A voyage from England to India, in the year 1754, and an historical narrative of the operations of the squadron and army in India, under the command of Vice-Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive, in the years 1755, 1756, 1757 ... Also a journey from Persia to England by an unusual route (London, 1773).

I can confirm that it makes modern travel writing seem pretty pallid in comparison.

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