Into the Unknown
Born and educated in Prussia in the early 19th century, Leichhardt was a polymath, a man fascinated by the natural world and possessed by a longing for adventure and exploration. Australia was then almost completely unexplored apart from the colonies clustered on its coastline – the interior was a vast and mysterious blank. It was a continent and a time ripe for amateur naturalitsts and explorers and Leichhardt took up the challenge.
His expeditions were to begin in triumph, then dwindle into acrimony, despair and misery before finally ending in disappearance and death and giving rise to one of the enduring mysteries of Australian history.
John Bailey, acclaimed author of Mr Stuart's Track and The White Divers of Broome, has written a masterful biography of this strange, brilliant, difficult, driven and tormented man. Against a background of colonial life in the 1840s and the harshness of the Australian landscape, Into the Unknown reveals the quirks of personalisty and character that both made Leichhardt such a success and then eventually destroyed him.
INTO THE UNKNOWN, winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Sid Harta Award, 2011.
What the judges of the Fellowship of Australian Writers said in awarding first prize: "John Bailey’s outstanding book about the explorer Leichhardt and his expeditions in Australia is extremely well-written and engaging and makes a significant contribution to an important area of Australian history. The subject of his book has been the focus of many previous studies and Bailey does well to present a well-trodden historical path in a fresh and fascinating way."
What the critics have said about INTO THE UNKNOWN
Bailey's writing style is passionate yet lucidly concise, and therefore much more accessible than previous books about this quarrelsome and largely self-taught man.
The Sydney Morning Herald - Read the review
In this superbly researched and elegantly written narrative … Bailey has tellingly re-created the brilliant journeys and tragic life of Australia’s least understood European explorer.
Bailey, a gifted storyteller ... weaves a fascinating tale of the strange, solitary enigma of Ludwig Leichhardt with consummate skill. This is how history should be written, engrossing with a strong narrative punch.
John Bailey neither lionises nor condemns this fascinating man. He is as interested in Leichhardt’s inner motivations as the detail of his gruelling expeditions. He skilfully and compellingly draws the reader’s sympathy for a singular man who was intent on serving humanity by increasing knowledge.
Bailey’s detailed research has resulted in a fascinating story about this strange, brilliant and obsessed man – a story that begins in triumph but ends in despair.
Into the Unknown is well-researched and skilfully told. If you’re new to the life of Leichhardt, this book is an exciting place to start.
This book’s engaging style put is well above most other popular histories. And it’s always good to see a decent list of sources used, including primary sources.
For general readers the beauty of Bailey’s latest book is that the narrative flows like water, unimpeded by the vast amount of information he imparts. Bailey also casts an amused eye over society and politics, making the times of his explorer come alive
Byron Shire Echo
John Bailey is one of those rare authors who can write the past as if it is lived in, a novelistic story. Bailey probes his character skilfully. A strong read.