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A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became…
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A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest… (edition 2007)

by Jason Roberts

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4051737,988 (4.04)12
Member:tvonkugelgen
Title:A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler (P.S.)
Authors:Jason Roberts
Info:Harper Perennial (2007), Paperback, 432 pages
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A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts

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    The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf (nessreader)
    nessreader: Early 19th century field scientists travelling the globe with great courage and endurance. Both superbly written biographies
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An interesting man who went from being a naval lieutenant who suffered from joint pain then became blind and traveled the world alone. Fascinating! And this all takes place from 1787-1857. James Holman was an apothecary/shop owner's son who was destined to follow in his father's footsteps when family fortunes changed. He goes to the Navy at 12 and expects to be there for the rest of his life but his health turns bad and he must retire on half-salary. He becomes a Naval Knight of Windsor to retain his half-salary. He absents himself a lot from his duties as he travels the world. What is does and how he learns his way around with short funds and limited language skills is remarkable.

I loved that the history of the time is explained and that what is happening in the countries he explores is also given. That he often is on naval vessels and helps is remarkable. I also enjoyed seeing the societal downsides of his times. He is a remarkable man. I am glad the bookseller recommended it as I was checking out. Excellent read! ( )
  Sheila1957 | Feb 4, 2018 |
Fourth-born Britain James Holman was destined for the clergy. Instead, he got bit by the travel bug. Like any decent explorer, James Holman bucked authority. After inexplicably going blind at the age of 25 he refused to stand still. When doctors wanted him to languish in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean for his health, Holman instead ignored their advice and set out for France by himself. Naturally Holman didn't stop there. He joined the Navy to continue his travels through far reaching places such as Siberia and Africa.
Despite Holman's remarkable ability to perceive the world as though sighted he was mostly viewed as a novelty and when he passed away his fifteen minutes of fame were quickly up. Roberts decided to resurrect Holman's biography because he simply couldn't believe the world had forgotten about this remarkable, yet blind, traveler. He best describes Holman as such, "Alone, sightless, with no prior command of native languages and with only a wisp of fund, he had forged a path equivalent to wandering to the moon" (p 320). Pretty remarkable. ( )
1 vote SeriousGrace | Oct 25, 2017 |
Wonderful book w/ absolutely loads of relevant information regarding the time period and the Blind Traveler's methodology in his travels. I like to think I've done a lot of non-motorized traveling as well....I pale in comparison. ( )
  untraveller | May 11, 2016 |
Just read, or rather heard, excellent book called “ A Sense of the World”. It’s about a 19th century naval officer, James Holman, known as the Blind Traveller. Ever heard of him? He lost his sight early in his naval career, due to an infection, then proceeded to travel the world, mostly on his own, on foot or on horseback. Got as far as the East coast of Siberia, got sent back by the Tsar, started again and completed his circuit of the Earth, via Brazil. In later life took it a bit easier, just going round Europe’s remoter corners and sweeping up the Middle East. Seems he was completely undaunted by his blindness, picked up a lot by echo-location and just sheer intelligence and determination. Wrote detailed books about it all, which of course got rubbished by all the other scribblers who reckoned a blind man’s account must be worthless or untrue. He clocked up something like quarter of a million miles, more than any other traveller on record and since been largely forgotten. Thought of my blind friend Sally Clay more than once as I listened, her brio and panache.

The book also goes into some detail on what might seem digressions, but are quite fascinating in themselves: how the Naval Knights of Windsor were set up, how they functioned and eventually faded away; how the War of 1812 began; much on eco-location; the generally vicious world of 19th century travel publishing, etc.

I got it from the Public Library’s audio service One Click Digital, which is free. Has some good items hidden away in it, but is mostly pulp fiction, sad to say.

If you are interested, there’s a summary of his life at the unfortunately named Great British Nutters [Holman was anything but nuts]:

http://greatbritishnutters.blogspot.co.uk/2008/04/james-holman-blind-traveller.h... ( )
  vguy | Nov 24, 2015 |
In a time before airplanes and luxury cruise ships, a solitary, sightless man named James Holman traveled around the world from 1819 - 1832. As a child, Holman dreamed of traveling, but his father had other plans for him. When joining the clergy did not pan out, Holman joined the British Royal Navy. As Holman pursued his naval career, the rigors of sea life caught up with him. He became bedridden due to "exquisite pains" and was deemed “unserviceable.” While Holman recuperated at a spa, his pain subsided. Unfortunately, he was suddenly stricken with complete blindness. With few opportunities available to the blind at the time, Holman joined the Naval Knights of Windsor. Hoping to find a cure for his own blindness, he also became a student of literature and medicine during that time. Eventually, Holman sought to relieve his pain by visiting a more favorable climate...alone.

Due to the success of that journey, he was hooked on solitary travel. With only a natural aptitude for languages, a curiosity for other cultures, and limited funds, Holman became a solitary world traveler. Known simply as the Blind Traveler, Holman survived being held captive in Siberia, fought slave trade in Africa, climbed Mount Vesuvius, and helped chart the Australian outback. He even circumnavigated the globe, an impressive accomplishment for any individual, but especially for one without sight. His adventures were legendary, and he was quite famous during his time only to be forgotten over the years. Fortunately, by picking up this book, the reader can once again travel along with Lt. James Holman as he explores uncharted lands and discovers native cultures.

The Bottom Line: Lt. James Holman was an extraordinary man who was ahead of his time. When repeatedly faced with insurmountable challenges, he continually adapted by reinventing himself. Holman was a man who tested the limits of his disability instead of wallowing in pity. During his lifetime, he was a sailor, knight, student, physician, tourist, and author, but always a traveler. Additionally, Holman easily adopted the latest technology and developed echolocation on his own.

A Sense of the World is an enjoyable and entertaining biography. It is a great example of nonfiction that reads like fiction. In fact, it’s almost as if the author had the uncanny ability to walk in Holman’s shoes. Additionally, Roberts explains the social expectations of the time in a language that is reminiscent of the era. Roberts also includes many short biographies and anecdotes of the fascinating people Holman met during his travels. The paperback edition I read included maps of Holman’s travels and an interview with the author. The only thing missing was an index.

Highly recommended for fans of biographies, travelers, and armchair travelers. This epic tale of one blind man’s quest to “see” the world will transport you to another time and leave you amazed. By simply living his life, Holman became an inspiration to others. Holman, also, remains somewhat of a mystery as his memoir was never published.

For the complete review including Book Club Notes, visit the Mini Book Bytes Book Review Blog. ( )
  aya.herron | Aug 7, 2013 |
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Epigraph
There is no cheerfulness
like the resolution of a great mind
that has fortune under his feet.
He can look death in the face, and bid it welcome;
open his door to poverty, and bridle his appetites;
this is a man whom Providence has established
in the possession of inviolable delights.
---Seneca
Of a Happy Life
Dedication
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Until the invention of the internal combustion engine, the most prolific traveler in history was also the most unlikely.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007161069, Hardcover)

He was known simply as the Blind Traveler -- a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman (1786-1857) became "one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored," triumphing not only over blindness but crippling pain, poverty, and the interference of well-meaning authorities (his greatest feat, a circumnavigation of the globe, had to be launched in secret). Once a celebrity, a bestselling author, and an inspiration to Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the charismatic, witty Holman outlived his fame, dying in an obscurity that has endured -- until now.

A Sense of the World is a spellbinding and moving rediscovery of one of history's most epic lives. Drawing on meticulous research, Jason Roberts ushers us into the Blind Traveler's uniquely vivid sensory realm, then sweeps us away on an extraordinary journey across the known world during the Age of Exploration. Rich with suspense, humor, international intrigue, and unforgettable characters, this is a story to awaken our own senses of awe and wonder.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

He was known simply as the Blind Traveler--a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman (1786-1857) became "one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored," triumphing not only over blindness but crippling pain, poverty, and the interference of well-meaning authorities (his greatest feat, a circumnavigation of the globe, had to be launched in secret). Once a celebrity, a bestselling author, and an inspiration to Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the charismatic, witty Holman outlived his fame, dying in an obscurity that has endured--until now. Drawing on meticulous research, Jason Roberts ushers us into the Blind Traveler's uniquely vivid sensory realm, then takes us on a journey rich with suspense, humor, international intrigue, and unforgettable characters. --From publisher description.… (more)

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