August 29, 2011

Tuesday, 29 August 1911

Ponting's lecture on his travels in Japan, 16th October, 1911. [1]

The weekly lectures continued; Ponting's were a great success. "Yesterday evening," Scott wrote in his diary, "Ponting gave us a lecture on his Indian travels. He is very frank in acknowledging his debt to guide-books for information, nevertheless he tells his story well and his slides are wonderful. In personal reminiscence he is distinctly dramatic -- he thrilled us a good deal last night with a vivid description of a sunrise in the sacred city of Benares. In the first dim light the waiting, praying multitude of bathers, the wonderful ritual and its incessant performance; then, as the sun approaches, the hush -- the effect of thousands of worshippers waiting in silence -- a silence to be felt. Finally, as the first rays appear, the swelling roar of a single word from tens of thousands of throats: 'Ambah!' It was artistic to follow this picture of life with the gruesome horrors of the ghat. This impressionist style of lecturing is very attractive and must essentially cover a great deal of ground. So we saw Jeypore, Udaipore, Darjeeling, and a confusing number of places -- temples, monuments and tombs in profusion, with remarkable pictures of the wonderful Taj Mahal -- horses, elephants, alligators, wild boars, and flamingoes -- warriors, fakirs, and nautch girls -- an impression here and an impression there.

It is worth remembering how attractive this style can be -- in lecturing one is inclined to give too much attention to connecting links which join one episode to another. A lecture need not be a connected story; perhaps it is better it should not be." [1]

A few days later, Scott wrote, "Last night Meares told us of his adventures in and about Lolo land, a wild Central Asian country nominally tributary to Lhassa. He had no pictures and very makeshift maps, yet he held us really entranced for nearly two hours by the sheer interest of his adventures. The spirit of the wanderer is in Meares' blood: he has no happiness but in the wild places of the earth. I have never met so extreme a type. Even now he is looking forward to getting away by himself to Hut Point, tired already of our scant measure of civilisation." [3]


[1] Scott Polar Research Institute.
[2] R.F. Scott, diary, 22 August, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.
[3] R.F. Scott, diary, 29 August, 1911, quoted in Scott's Last Expedition, v.1.

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