Dawsons Auctioneers were delighted to offer a remarkable collection of original correspondence relating to Robert Falcon Scott CVO (1868-1913), in our August 27th 2020 sale. Spanning almost an entire century, the contents included handwritten letters from Scott to his family, dating from 1896 and 1906, a bound set of condolence letters and telegrams to his mother after his death (from amongst others, Buckingham Palace, his close friend J.M. Barrie and Scott’s long-term mentor and sponsor, Sir Clements Markham). Later documents included letters from his son, Sir Peter Scott (1909-1989), and correspondence from Roland Huntford, author of a controversial 1970s book on Captain Scott.
The collection was discovered as part of a London house clearance, (from where it might easily have been lost forever), having been held by the descendants of Scott’s sister, Ettie Myers Scott. She was the wife of William Ellison-Macartney (1852-1924), the Irish born English politician and later Governor of the Australian States of Tasmania and Western Australia, and it was their family who retained the early items following the death of Robert and Ettie’s mother. Perhaps the most intriguing of the subsequent items are the letters from Huntford to the family, who had agreed to assist him in the writing of his book, perhaps without realising that the finished work would be very critical, even disparaging, of Captain Scott’s personality and capabilities. They had loaned, on his request, numerous items relating to Scott’s career – with some of the letters in this collection likely to have been included – to Huntford. Later letters from Sir Peter Scott and others, in the collection being offered, make clear the family’s displeasure with the final book.
Peter Mason, of Dawsons, says “it has been a fascinating journey to read through all of the items in this collection, as well as related published material and piece together a snapshot of not just Captain Scott himself, but his family and the circles he was moving in”. The period of the 1906 letters are particularly interesting, as it covers the time in between his two infamous Antarctic expeditions, when he had become a ‘popular hero’ of the nation, in addition to having been promoted to Flag Captain in his naval career. There is a candid air to one of the letters written to his mother at this time, from his ship, HMS Victorious, where he discusses the changes taking place to the Atlantic Fleet, as well as the personality of Rear Admiral Sir George Egerton.
The poignant letters and telegrams of condolence from some of the luminaries of 1913 society, include a comment from Arthur Bigge, 1st Baron of Stamfordham, who had served as private secretary to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and at this time, to George V, who said ‘His Majesty knew Captain Scott intimately and so mourns the death of a friend as well as of a distinguished officer of the British Navy.’ Sir Clements Markham, who had publicly championed Scott for many years, paid the following tribute in his letter: ‘He lived a good life, loving and beloved by all who were near and dear to him, respected by all, a life of true and zealous service to his King and country, and he died the death of a hero.’ J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan and a close friend of Scott (Scott’s son was named after the book’s main character), wrote ‘I had a warm affection for your son, and I wish there were something – anything – I could do for you to show it.'
The collection sold for £10,800 (to include buyer's premium).