Errol Strikes Gold in New Guinea – By the Light of His Hurricane Lamps

29 Apr

When Errol moved to Salamaua, Papua New Guinea, he “plunged” himself into reading great works of literature – through “Russian novelists, Greek philosophers, French writers” he nightly “skipped, waded, muddled” and “sometimes swam well”, by the light of his hurricane lamps, fondling these books as if [he] were running his hands through a lovely woman’s hair”. “An inner need for learning sprang up in [him]” “to connect with the ideas of the world” – a need that proved pivotal in his life. This was where and how Errol found gold in New Guinea, as he put it.

Here’s Errol’s own description of that transformative time & experience:…

And here’s pre-WWII Salamaua, where Errol lived:

Salamaua Aerial

Prewar Salamaua

Errol’s Jungle Reading List included:


Honore de Balzac

George Baudelaire (Correction: that should obviously be Charles Baudelaire!)

Victor Hugo

Guy de Maupassant


Edmond Rostand – Errol particularly liked the “beauty of style” of Rostand, who he read with the help of a French dictionary, and said had the “greatest influence upon [him]”. He specifically cited L’Aiglon, the story of Napoleon II. I imagine he also read Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Here’s some images of the books as Errol may have seen them:

L'AiglonL'Aiglon -

Robert Louis Stevenson

H. G. Wells

Here are some 1930 images of The Outline of History, as Errol may have seen it:

The Outline of History - 1930 - with CoverThe Outline of History - H. G. Wells 1930

— Tim


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  1. Inga

    April 29, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    George Baudelaire? A new literary discovery? :-)

  2. Tim

    April 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    By George, I think you got me, Inga. But, as one of Charlie B’s most famous admirers, Henry Shakespeare, once said (in “The Merchant of Venom”, I believe): “What’s in a name? That by which we call a Fleur du Mal, would be just as Baudy by any other name.