ROSS, SIR JOHN. (1777-1856). English polar explorer who attempted to navigate the Northwest Passage and led the third expedition in search of Sir John Franklin in 1850. ALS. (“John Ross”). 2¼pp. 12mo. N[orth] W[est] Castle, June 28, 1849. To his brother and occasional business partner George Ross (1770-?), whose son James Clark Ross was also a noted polar explorer and discovered the magnetic North Pole during the elder Ross’ 1829 expedition.
Autograph Letter Signed by the English Polar Explorer Who Led the Third Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin
Signed by John Ross
“I am glad to find that ‘all is right’ and that you will not draw out too soon. I suppose you have not been able to get the ‘John Bull’ I want or you would have sent it to me, do you set of[f] for Dublin on or sooner after the 5th propd. – ? Or must you wait and if so how long? I suppose you do not know how long you will be absent.
Pray send again before you go to Francis to enquire for letters and the Dublin Gazette which I expect from Andrew. The [people?] here (but not me) are in dismay about the Port Patrick Packets being removed, it is a circumstance I was sure would eventually take place there is 400,000 thrown into the sea for no purpose – give my kind love to your ladies and believe me with best wishes. Your affect[tionate] brother…”
A member of the Royal Navy from the age of nine, Ross rose through the ranks, serving aboard vessels throughout the Baltic. In 1818, the Admiralty placed him in charge of an Arctic expedition in search of a Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. After his findings were proven erroneous by his second-in-command, William Parry, Ross was denied further funding by the navy, but he did find private financing for an 1829 expedition.
During his second arctic voyage, Ross discovered Boothia Peninsula, the Gulf of Boothia and King William Island. On the same expedition, his nephew James Clark Ross (1800-1862), who had accompanied him on the 1818 voyage as well as Parry on his expeditions, discovered the position of the magnetic North Pole, which he recounts in Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a Northwest Passage, etc., including the Reports of Captain James Clarke Ross and the Discovery of the Northern Magnetic Pole, published in 1835.
In 1850, at the age of 72, Ross embarked on a third and final Arctic voyage to search for the missing crew of Sir John Franklin, lost four years earlier – a journey funded by Franklin’s indefatigable widow, Lady Jane. After that voyage he quit the sea and devoted himself to writing and acting as a language consultant to the government during the Russian Baltic crisis.
His nephew, James, went on to enjoy a celebrated career as an explorer, commanding his own expedition from 1839-1843 at the helm of the HMS Erebus, during which the “Ross Expedition” charted much of the Antarctic coast and discovered the Ross Sea. During the year of our letter, the younger Ross commanded an expedition in search of Franklin at the helm of the HMS Enterprise.
Portpatrick is located on the West coast of Scotland, near Ross’ birthplace, and was an important ferry port delivering mail, freight and passengers between Scotland and Ireland. Our letter mentions the cessation of the packet between Portpatrick and Donaghadee which ended on July 16, 1849.
John Bull is a character originated in the early 18th century by Satirist John Arbuthnot, a friend of Jonathan Swift. Usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged man in a frock coat, the image lost its negative connotations and by the 19th century had come to be used as a national symbol. It became so popular that it was often adopted for branding purposes by companies including 19th century brewers.
Written in a minute hand on a folded sheet and docketed on the integral leaf; in fine condition.