JAMES WEDDELL (1787-1834)
Autograph letter signed ('Jas Weddell') to [William Jerdan, editor of the Literary Gazette], 5 Keir Street, Edinburgh, 16 August 1826, 2½ pages, 4to (some discolouration and staining to first page; torn at centre fold; seal tear causing loss approx. 30 x 20mm. to second leaf (with loss of part of one word), tear of approx. 60mm. to inner margins of both leaves, touching 13 words; traces of guards).
Weddell canvasses for notice for his pamphlet on reaching the South Pole, and for a 'way of drawing the attention of the leading men in office to a southern voyage of discovery'. After reporting on his failed attempt to gain election as Superintendent of Leith docks, and on the wreck of a ship off Patagonia, Weddell discusses the printing of a 'Tract' [his Observations on the probability of reaching the South Pole] then at the press, for which the 'mathematical part' has been checked by 'one of the calculators of the nautical Almanack'; although '[Sir W.E.] Parry's intended attempt on the pole may make the Tract worth reading', he requests a notice in Jerdan's Gazette. Weddell's health has been drunk at a recent gathering in Scotland, but he remains conscious that 'The Admiralty have not yet taken any official notice of my voyage, because I suppose, it did not in any shape emanate from themselves': he will nevertheless offer his services. 'If you can suggest any more advisable way of drawing the attention of the leading men in office to a southern voyage of discovery, I shall feel additionally obliged'.
Weddell made two Antarctic voyages, both undertaken as commercial sealing voyages: on the first, 1819-21, he discovered the South Orkney Islands; on the second, 1822-24, he examined the Falkland Islands, Cape Horn, the South Shetlands, South Georgia and the South Orkneys, and proceeded to the furthest southern latitude yet achieved, 74° 15': both a sea and a seal are named after him. Although he published an account of his second voyage in 1825, as well as the pamphlet here referred to, official support eluded him and he never returned to the Antarctic. The recipient, William Jerdan (1782-1869) was a prominent journalist, notable from 1817 for his editorship of the Literary Gazette, then the supreme literary journal; he assisted in the foundation of the Royal Geographical Society between 1828 and 1830. Jerdan was an intimate of George Canning, then foreign secretary, and it may be this influence that Weddell is here trying to tap. Jerdan published a review of Weddell's pamphlet in his September issue.