Lot 191
Sold for £3,000 (US$ 5,042) inc. premium
Lot Details
Logbooks and 'Private Journals' of Commander Erasmus Austin Ommanney, comprising his midshipman's logbook of HMS Aurora (35 guns), Captain Sir F. Leopold McClintock succeeded by Captain A.F.R. DeHorsey, kept between 1864 and 1867, when on the North America Station, and comprising Bermuda and the West indies (particularly Jamaica and Barbados), and over-wintering at Quebec, illustrated throughout with carefully-executed views, laterals, charts and mechanical diagrams, including several of Quebec and in northern waters, with a photograph of the ship pasted onto the title page; his midshipman's logbook of HMS Victory, Simoon, Arethusa and Caledonia, kept between 1867 and 1869 at Portsmouth and on the Mediterranean Station, similarly illustrated throughout; and his "Private Journals", begun when a sub-lieutenant in 1869 and ending in June 1880 after his retirement from the Navy with the rank of commander, in four volumes, interleaved throughout with original letters sent by Erasmus Austin to his parents, upwards of 1000 pages, original half roan, gilt title labels, some scuffing but overall in fine condition, the logs folio, the 'Private Journals' 4to, 1864-1880 (6)


  • Erasmus Austin Ommanney (1850-1924) was a scion of a distinguished naval family and only son of Admiral Sir Erasmus Ommanney, the Arctic explorer who commanded the Assistance on the first Franklin Relief Expedition of 1850, Ommanney himself being responsible for discovering the first traces of Franklin's party (see the ODNB, where a brief notice of Erasmus Austin is also given). The younger Ommanney was named in honour of the commander of the expedition, Captain Horatio Austin. Sir Leopold McClintock, captain of the first ship on which he served as a midshipman, had been his father's first lieutenant on the expedition. He joined the Navy in 1863 and retired with the rank of Commander in 1879. Of strong Anglo-Catholic sympathies, he was to take Holy Orders in 1883, serving his ministry as a vicar in Southsea.

    The 'Private Journals', which are loosely interleaved with the originals of his letters home to his parents, are of unusual interest in that they retain much of the personal element of necessity absent from logbooks and indeed rarely found in the stiff-upper-lip letters home of the period; as for example in the second entry made when the nineteen-year-old sub-lieutenant was about to join a new ship in November 1869: "Saturday Woke about 4 A.M. with the wind & rain beating against the window & felt very wretched 'a flood of thoughts came o'er me which filled my eyes with tear'. Suddenly a thought strikes me: resort to prayer ask God for help which I did; I believe it really was the first heartfelt prayer I had ever offered...went down to Mutton Cove to go off & met who I thought was a Lieut of the ship (who was Fitzgerald) also wanting to get off; so away we went in a wretched cockleshell of a boat which I thought would capsize every minute but it took us alongside all safely. I always had a dread of joining a new ship but I think I never was more disgusted than when I went into the 'Revenge' GR, full of fellows & gear laying all over the place. Having found my chest & secured a servant solaced myself by sitting & writing letters for the rest of the afternoon". The journals cover his whole career after the period of the logbooks, and include such things as a long description of a stop-off at St Helena in 1873, followed by one at Ascension during the turtle season. They end after he had retired from the Navy and entered Merton College, Oxford, to study for the priesthood. See illustration overleaf.
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