14 June 2021

The Dustiest Bookcase: O is for Oxley

Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).

North Overland with Franklin
J Macdonald Oxley
New York: Crowell, 1907
286 pages

I'm not sure what's going on here, but the image does remind me of this iconic cover:

I read Bear as a twenty-year-old, and have not revisited.

Do the two novels have much in common?

Doubt it. North Overland was Franklin was first published by the Religious Tract Society. My copy features this bookplate:

I'm a bit peeved. As a boy, my father, an Anglican, was awarded many books for regularity and punctuality at the Church of St John the Baptist, Pointe Claire, Quebec. Walter Scott's The Black Arrow was one, but the novel that made he greatest impression was Number 44 by Harold M Sherman.

Not only that, my father was presented pins recognizing these accomplishment to be worn proudly on his lapel.

I too was raised an Anglican. Regularity and punctuality were not rewarded at my childhood church – St Marys, Kirkland, Quebec – though we children enjoyed juice and cookies after Sunday School.

The 2011 Canadian Census records George Bee (born 1895) as the eldest son of David and Catherine Bee. The Bee family lived at 240 Gerrard Street, now home to the Virginia Hamara Law Office.

I can't quite recall how I came to have George Bee's copy of North Overland with Franklin in my collection, but am fairly certain that I picked it up somewhere in Ontario and paid no more than two dollars. I do remember thinking that the Franklin of the title might just be Sir John Franklin, and that Oxley had penned a fantasy in which the explorer had somehow overcome the terror of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, and had made his way toward Rupert's Land.

But then it would've been South Overland with Franklin, right?

To be fair – to myself – I wasn't far off. The hero of North Overland with Franklin is the very same John Franklin, though Oxley's adventure imagines the explorer's ill-fated Coppermine Expedition, which ended over three decades before his ill-fated Northwest Passage Expedition began.

Because the former featured a murder, dinners made of boiled boots, and suggestions of cannibalism, North Overland with Franklin might make for an interesting read; remember, it  began as a Religious Tract Society publication.

That said, because I believe in placing books in the best hands, I'm eager to return this copy of North Overland with Franklin to the Bee family, whether it's a descendent of George Bee or of one of his siblings: Ethel (b 1894) and Edward (b 1899).

Please contact me in the comments or by email through my profile.

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