Not that I have ever had much time for Dickens, but his response to Rae's report of cannibalism amongst the Franklin Expedition confirms my idea of him as a pompous, presumptuous, asshat:
"Dickens then quotes the most challenging paragraph from Rae’s report, which refers to the mutilated corpses and the contents of the kettles and which concludes “that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last resource—cannibalism—as a means of prolonging existence.”
He proposes to refute this suggestion both by analogy and “on broad general grounds, quite apart from the improbabilities and incoherencies of the Esquimaux testimony; which is itself given, at the very best, at second-hand. More than this, we presume it to have been given at second-hand through an interpreter; and he was, in all probability, imperfectly acquainted with the language he translated to the white man.”
Dickens elaborates on the difficulties of translation, argues that a lack of fuel would have precluded cooking “the contents of the kettles,” and suggests that bears, wolves, or foxes might have mutilated the bodies. What is more, scurvy would not only cause dreadful disfigurement and woeful mutilation, but also “annihilate the desire to eat (especially to eat flesh of any kind).” Where does all this lead?
To the assertion of a suspicion of murder:
[Nobody can rationally affirm] that this sad remnant of Franklin’s gallant band were not set upon and slain by the Esquimaux themselves. It is impossible to form an estimate of the character of any race of savages, from their deferential behaviour to the white man while he is strong. The mistake has been made again and again; and the moment the white man has appeared in the new aspect of being weaker than the savage, the savage has changed and sprung upon him. . . . We believe every savage to be in his heart covetous, treacherous, and cruel; and we have yet to learn what knowledge the white man—lost, houseless, shipless; apparently forgotten by his race; plainly famine-stricken, weak, frozen, helpless, and dying—has of the gentleness of the Esquimaux nature.
I'm not impressed.
McGoogan's book is rather good, tho.