Roving has always been, and still is, my ruling passion, the joy of my heart, the very sunshine of my existence. In childhood, in boyhood, and in man’s estate I have been a rover; not a mere rambler among the woody glens and upon the hill-tops of my own native land, but an enthusiastic rover throughout the length and breadth of the wide, wide world. It was a wild, black night of howling storm, the night on which I was born on the foaming bosom of the broad Atlantic Ocean.
My father was a sea-captain; my grandfather was a sea-captain; my great-grandfather had been a marine. Nobody could tell positively what occupation his father had followed; but my dear mother used to assert that he had been a midshipman, whose grandfather, on the mother’s side, had been an admiral in the Royal Navy.
At any rate, we knew that as far back as our family could be traced, it had been intimately connected with the great watery waste. Indeed, this was the case on both sides of the house; for my mother always went to sea with my father on his long voyages, and so spent the greater part of her life upon the water.[...]
About the Author
R. M. Ballantyne (24 April 1825 – 8 February 1894) was a Scottish author of juvenile fiction who wrote more than 100 books. He was also an accomplished artist, and exhibited some of his water-colours at the Royal Scottish Academy.
Robert Michael Ballantyne was born in Edinburgh on 24 April 1825, the ninth of ten children and the youngest son, to Alexander Thomson Ballantyne (1776–1847) and his wife Anne (1786–1855). Alexander was a newspaper editor and printer, and Robert's uncle James Ballantyne (1772–1833) was the printer for Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. A UK-wide banking crisis in 1825 resulted in the collapse of the Ballantyne printing business the following year with debts of £130,000, which led to a decline in the family's fortunes.
Robert went to Canada aged 16, and spent five years working for the Hudson's Bay Company. He traded with the local Native Americans for furs, which required him to travel by canoe and sleigh to the areas occupied by the modern-day provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, experiences that formed the basis of his novel Snowflakes and Sunbeams (1856).
His longing for family and home impressed him to start writing letters to his mother. Ballantyne recalled in his autobiographical Personal Reminiscences in Book Making (1893) that "To this long-letter writing I attribute whatever small amount of facility in composition I may have acquired.
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