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Posted as [livejournal.com profile] serenissima, December 25, 2006, for the [livejournal.com profile] yuletide challenge.



Title: Transit of Venus
Author: serenissima
Recipient: kajikia
Fandom: RPF - Historic
Rating: PG, Cook/Banks implied
Summary: And I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell.
Written for: Yuletide 2006
Author Notes: This is a work of fiction, and thus although actual diaries, journals and letters written by both Cook and Banks exist, I have not quoted them, but rather created my own. That said, I have tried to be as accurate as possible about facts, dates and locations, making some allowances for narrative flow. In writing, I have used the following as my principal sources: "Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook," by Martin Dugard, and "Joseph Banks," by Patrick O'Brian. All errors and omissions are of course, my own.


On the afternoon of 7 August 1768, HM Bark Endeavour left port at Deal, England on a voyage of discovery and exploration. Its success or failure lay in the hands of two men who together would control the success or failure of the expedition. Master and Commander of the Endeavour, James Cook was thirty-nine years old, a former merchant sailor who had worked his way up the ranks of the Royal Navy from common seaman to officer. Commissioned as a mere Lieutenant, and lacking in wealth or interest, this voyage was a rare opportunity for him to gain advancement and command. For twenty-five year old Joseph Banks, already an accomplished naturalist, popular playboy, and heir to a sizeable fortune, the expedition would be a chance to establish his scientific reputation, not to mention the adventure of a lifetime. Together, their experience and their relationship would shape the Age of Discovery.

***

From the Private Diaries of Sir Joseph Banks:

16 August 1768

Splitting headache due to excess of wine last night. Formally introduced to Cook, whom I recall encountering on a visit to the HMS Niger in Newfoundland, as he had agreed to ferry my Indian canoe back to England. I inspected the cabin that has been arranged for me onboard, and it will not do. I told Cook that I would use it for storage and require use of the Great Cabin for sleeping, sharing the space with him. He seems amenable, and I anticipate few difficulties with him. Indeed, I believe that Lord Sandwich's choice in this regard was perfect. Once I have recovered from seasickness, I can assume control of the expedition, which I am confident should result in the discovery of several new species, not to mention the benefit gained from observing the transit itself. I feel certain that this journey will produce some of my finest work.

***

Off the Coast of South America

15 January 1769

"This is outrageous!"

"I fail to see the cause of your concern."

"I have been told that no one is permitted to leave the ship!"

"You are correct, sir. I have issued an order that no one is to leave, so that we may replenish our stores more expeditiously and be on our way."

"May I remind you, *Captain*, that I am the scientific leader of this expedition, and should I wish to spend additional time collecting specimens while you re-supply, I am perfectly within my rights to do so."

"I am well aware of your consequence, Mr. Banks, and if you desire a few more days you shall have them. May I remind you, however, that time is of the essence in our mission. If we do not arrive in Tahiti before the transit occurs, we will fail, and there are still many miles between ourselves and that destination."

***

From the Personal Journal of Captain James Cook:

30 January 1769

We have entered the Pacific Ocean, and following our brief detour we will follow the winds north by west until we reach Tahiti. We continue to make good time, and so long as water and supplies hold out, all should be well. The weather has grown warm, even tropical, and I have allowed a more informal uniform, even upon the quarterdeck. Following the disastrous end to his botany expedition, Banks seems much chastened, and I think that the death of his two servants has affected him deeply. While the loss of life is an inexcusable waste, I have some hope that this will curb his behaviour. In any case, he has ceased to assert his leadership of the expedition, and has even begun to evidence some respect for my judgement, which should allow me to sail the ship in peace. I am even hopeful that our mission will see success.

***

Off the atoll Vahitahi, five hundred miles east of Tahiti

4 April 1769

"Captain, I wondered if you might join me in a glass of wine."

"It's kind of you, sir, but I have charts to review before the change of watch."

"I also wanted to say that I am sorry for what has passed, and I would very much like us to start again, as friends."

"I accept your apology. However, it is hardly my place to socialise. As noted, I am not of your class and moreover I cannot allow myself familiarity with the crew."

"Then you must have a lonely job of it."

"Such is a Captain's lot."

"Captain, I am not a member of your crew. Indeed, despite the rather foolish statements I made earlier, I still claim a place outside your naval hierarchy. Moreover, I consider you more than entitled to take a place amongst myself and my scientific brethren. Please."

"In that case, I would be honoured."

***

Letter from Joseph Banks to Lord Sandwich:

14 April 1769

For their part, the natives have proved as friendly and accommodating as could be imagined, being generous with both their goods and affections. They have extended to us a warm welcome. We have had few problems, aside from some petty thievery, and a small matter concerning the astronomical quadrant, which was easily handled though a combination of my own investigations and some gunboat diplomacy by the Captain. Indeed, I have found that Cook and I make a formidable team, as he contributes a rigorous analysis to my subjective observations, while I curb his more authoritarian instincts. Together we are able not only to manage the natives, but also assemble a detailed description of their lifestyle and culture. We have even shared journal entries to this end. As to the mission, we have discovered the perfect beachfront spot for the observatory, Fort Venus. I am greatly looking forward to the event.

***

In Tahiti

3 June 1769

"My dear Captain, why aren't you celebrating with the rest of us?"

"I was considering something. But of course I meant to come and congratulate you, Joseph."

"It is a triumph! But it is our success, James, not mine alone. True, the calculations and report of this voyage will be the making of my reputation, but it will be the making of yours as well. You'll have your commission, and I my book. Then, in a few years, I'll return. You could come with me, if you like."

"Joseph, I am grateful, but..."

"Don't answer just yet. Take some time to think upon it. I must confess to developing a great regard for you over these months, one that I hope is returned."

"Of course it is! I am sure you know this, but still, I cannot..."

"Hush, James. Don't say anything. Just stay a while with me."

"Yes, Joseph."

***

Letter from James Cook to Hugh Palliser:

3 August 1770

Having at last completed repairs and replenished our stores with turtle and other Australian delicacies, we entered the Strait of Torres, heading west towards Java. An island was spotted off the port bow this morning, which I have decided to name Banks Island. However, I am at loss as regards discipline among the crew since our recent landfall, most particularly with regards to Banks. It is perhaps my own fault, as I have allowed him to become over familiar during the course of the voyage, but it has been refreshing to share the company of a man of education and intelligence. Indeed, I must concede that he has changed greatly from that haughty, selfish young gentleman who came aboard the ship nearly two years ago. He evidences a generosity and kindness towards his fellows that seems more suited to his gregarious nature. It has been a pleasure to know him.

***

Off the coast of England

7 July 1771

"You must come with me to London as soon as we return. We can make a joint presentation to the Royal Society, and I am certain they will support a further voyage along the lines I've planned. You could stay with me in New Burlington Street, and we could begin work at once."

"Joseph, I will need to report to the Admiralty."

"Well, yes, but once you've done that, you..."

"And then go home to my family. My wife will want to see me, and I have a duty to her, and the children. I'm sure you understand."

"I'm not entirely certain that I do."

"I have been very fortunate in my marriage to Elizabeth Batts. I have three sons and a daughter with her. I would not, cannot do anything that might hurt them. Not for all the world."

"I see. Then there's nothing more to say, is there?"

***

Upon the return of the HM Bark Endeavour, much was as Banks had predicted. He was hailed as a conquering hero, lionized by the Royal Society and granted an honorary doctorate in civil law from Oxford. Cook, meanwhile, was promoted to Commander and confirmed in his position by the Admiralty, but his next proposed assignment was an uninteresting survey of the coast of England. Having become embroiled in a breach of promise scandal, Banks sought escape in organizing another expedition with Cook, but their relationship had soured and again they began to battle for control. The dispute climaxed in an angry confrontation on the quarterdeck of their uncompleted flagship at Sheerness on 28 May 1772. Banks stormed off and chartered another vessel, the Sir Laurence, for an alternate voyage to Iceland. On 13 July 1772, the HMS Resolution and the HMS Adventure, under Cook's command, sailed for Antarctica without him.

***

From the Private Diaries of Sir Joseph Banks:

5 September 1779

Word has come that Captain James Cook was killed by natives on 14 February of this year in an altercation in the Sandwich Islands during his third voyage to the South Pacific. It is a great loss for England, and as President of the Royal Society, I am of a mind to have a medal commissioned with his likeness. In private, I confess that I am not especially surprised by such a development, for Cook always had a touch of the tyrant to him. However, I cannot help but feel some certain regret that such a man has suffered such an end. There was a time, I think, when my presence might have mitigated such tendencies in him. Perhaps, has we remained as close as we were then, I would have been with him on that voyage, and he need not have suffered such a fate. Farewell, my dear James.

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