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Book Title: The Riddle of the Sands|
Date of issue: April 1st 2000
ISBN 13: 9780141181653
The author of the book: Erskine Childers
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 839 KB
Edition: Penguin Classics
Read full description of the books The Riddle of the Sands:”I have read of men who, when forced by their calling to live for long periods in utter solitude--save for a few black faces--have made it a rule to dress regularly for dinner in order to maintain their self-respect and prevent a relapse into barbarism. It was in some such spirit, with an added touch of self-consciousness, that, at seven o’clock in the evening of September 23 in recent years, I was making my evening toilet in my chambers in Pall Mall. I thought the date and the placed justified the parallel: to my advantage even; for the obscure Burmese administrator might well be a man of blunted sensibilities and course fibre, and at least he is alone with nature, while I--well, a young man of condition and fashion, who knows the right people, belongs to the right clubs, has a safe, possibly a brilliant future in the foreign Office, may be excused for a sense of complacent martyrdom, when, with his keen appreciation of the social calendar, he is doomed to the outer solitude of London in September.”
Carruthers is bored. He is afraid that he will become even more bored. Despite his self-professing connections with all the right people he has hit a snag for plans to relieve the dullness of his carefully controlled existence. Out of the blue, almost as if summoned by his stimulus deprived mind, a letter arrives from a University acquaintance inviting him for a bit of yachting in the Baltic, and a bit of sport shooting ducks.
He doesn’t know Davies very well. In fact, he thought he was a rather odd solitary fellow in school, but weighing the embarrassment of a lack of plans, and the potential awkwardness of spending too much time with a man he might start to find annoying; he decides the embarrassment is more alarming than the potential awkwardness. He give Davies a go.
When he arrives in Holland Carruthers...well...is underwhelmed by the Dulcibella ( a reference to Erskine Childers’s sister of the same name). Visions of a crewed yacht with a cook, and staff to pamper him evaporate when he sees the cramped conditions of the boat. The crew? Well Davies forgot to mention that he might need Carruthers to lend a hand with the sailing.
Carruthers has spent many hours, many days in fact on boats, but he doesn’t know the first bowline about sailing. He will learn. It is quickly apparent that Childers’s had a deep and abiding interest in sailing. For those that love sailing, this book will give you goosebumps over the details that Childers shares about how to sail a boat.
”Whilst Davies, taming the ropes the while, shouted into my ear the subtle mysteries of the art; that fidgeting ripple in the luff of the mainsail and the distant tattle from the hungry jib--signs that they are starved of wind and must be given more; the heavy list and wallow of the hull, the feel of the wind on your cheek instead of your nose, the broader angle of the bungee at the masthead--signs that they have too much, and that she is sagging recreantly to leeward instead of fighting to windward. He taught me the tactics for meeting squalls, and the way to press your advantage when they are defeated; the iron hand in the velvet glove that the wilful tiller needs if you are to gain your ends, with it, the exact set of the sheets necessary to get the easiest and swiftest play of the hull--all those things and many more I struggled to comprehend.”
I felt like I had an anchor hitch around my ankles and was being dragged behind the boat after pages and pages of detailed yachting terminology started to turn my brain into a puddle on the foredeck.
The book is set in 1901 and was published in 1903. It was interesting to hear these young British men speaking so highly of the progressiveness and aggressiveness of Germany. They were a decade away from WWI, but were already expressing fears that England was falling behind if ever there was a tussle with that thundering great nation.
It doesn’t take Carruthers long to determine that he was not asked on this trip to shoot ducks. Davies had a run in with an Englishman named Dollmann and his lovely daughter Clara. In the process Davies was nearly run aground, and his heart has a new pitter patter whenever he has a thought for a certain sweet face. There is a lot of Germanic activity in the German Frisian Islands and the fear is that an invasion of England may be the end game of the rogue Dollmann and his German allies. Davies is torn between loyalty to his country and his growing love for Miss Dollmann.
This is a very early thriller and certainly influenced the genre. It even changed British policy.
”In the years leading up to the First World War, the book’s influence was far-reaching. It actually alerted British naval intelligence to its own shortcomings and to the reality of the German threat, and Winston Churchill later credited it as a major reason that the Admiralty decided to establish naval bases at Invergordon, Rosyth on the Firth of Forth and Scapa Flow in Orkney.”
Childers became involved in Irish politics before and during the war. He switched from being a loyal supporter of the British empire to an extreme Irish nationalist. He became great friends with Michael Collins. As what was suppose to be a symbolic gesture, Childers used his yacht to bring arms, and ammunition to the Irish Volunteers. Those weapons were later used in the Easter Rising in 1916.
Childers was playing a very dangerous game.
During the Anglo-Irish Treaty Childers became vehemently opposed to the treaty. The treaty divided the Irish. Before too long Childers finds himself the man without a country, and hunted by the Irish and the English. He was arrested by The Free State forces for carrying a firearm, a gun that was ironically a gift from Michael Collins. He was brought before a court and sentence to death. Childers had reached a point where the Irish who kept referring to him as that bloody Englishman and the British both wanted him out of the picture.
Childers shook hands with each member of the firing squad. He even joked with them: ”Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way.” He instructed his son to shake hands with each of the men that signed his death warrant. He made it clear to his son that his place was in Irish politics. In 1973 Erskine Hamilton Childers Jr. was elected the fourth president of Ireland.
Winston Churchill obviously shaken by Childers fierce support of the Irish cause and in support of his execution made the following statement. "No man has done more harm or done more genuine malice or endeavoured to bring a greater curse upon the common people of Ireland than this strange being, actuated by a deadly and malignant hatred for the land of his birth."
On November 24th, 1922 Erskine Childers was executed.
Read information about the authorRobert Erskine Childers DSC, universally known as Erskine Childers, was the author of the influential novel The Riddle of the Sands and an Irish nationalist who smuggled guns to Ireland in his sailing yacht Asgard. He was executed by the authorities of the nascent Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War in 1922. He was the son of British Orientalist scholar Robert Caesar Childers; the cousin of Hugh Childers and Robert Barton; and the father of the fourth President of Ireland, Erskine Hamilton Childers.
Childers was a Boer War veteran and was called back to active duty at the start of World War One.
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