Into the unknown: the tormented life and expeditions of Ludwig Leichhardt.
Sydney: Macmillan, 2011.
Octavo, paperback, 396 pp. Black and white photographs and illustrations, maps.
Ludwig Leichhardt is undoubtedly Australia's most fascinating early explorer. Born and educated in Prussia in the early 19th century, Leichhardt felt shackled by the narrow expectations of his family and the highly regimented society of his birth. He was a polymath, a man fascinated by the natural world and everything in it and he longed for adventure and exploration. Australia was then almost completely unknown and unexplored apart from the colonies clustered on its coastline - the interior of the continent a vast and mysterious blank. It was a country and a time ripe for amateur naturalists 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, death and one of the great enduring mysteries of the 19th century. John Bailey has written a masterful biography of this strange, brilliant, difficult, driven and tormented man. Alive with the period, the details of early exploration, the experience of the harsh Australian landscape and the quirks of personality and character that both made Leichhardt such a success and then eventually destroyed him, this book offers a true insight into this most intriguing of men.