LibriVox: East by West Vol. 2
I have finally, after many delays, completed Volume 2 of East by West, A Journey in the Recess, by Henry W. Lucy.
This account, in two volumes, of Henry Lucy’s round-the-world journey on a break from his usual occupation of parliamentary correspondent, is an extraordinary picture of an Englishman’s travels abroad.
Within two to three decades of the American Civil War, the Indian Mutiny and the end of Japan’s isolation from the western world, the sheer logistics of the trip must have been a triumph of organisation. Starting at Liverpool with the crossing of the Atlantic by steamer, Lucy traversed the entire United States, then took a steamer across the Pacific to Japan, and thence to Hong Kong, Malaya, Ceylon and India, finally returning home via the Middle East and the Suez Canal, itself less than 15 years old.
He had entrees into many high circles (presumably through his contacts with the British diplomatic network), to which most people would not have had access. But he was not only interested in the great and the powerful, but was fascinated too by the ordinary people of the countries he visited, as well as their work, their customs, their religion, their history, the architecture, art, landscape and wildlife… and all with Lucy’s customary eye for detail, and sense of humour.
What an intriguing account this is. Of course, it is written from the point of view of an Englishman accustomed to British dominance throughout the Empire, but, though he may have had little sympathy for the workshy or greedy, Lucy was no arrogant xenophobe, and his sympathy for the old or needy, of whatever race, shines through the narrative.
Note: In Chapter 6, Lucy understandably, to a readership wholly unfamiliar with Japan, includes lengthy statistics about Japan’s systems and economy. While the reader of the book can glance at such tables and move swiftly on, this is not possible in an audiobook. Accordingly, I have made two versions of Chapter 6. The first version is completely unabridged. In the alternative file, 6a, I have excised the longest statistical tables.
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