Sven Hedin and Owen Lattimore

Since I spent some time reading in explorer/scholar Owen Lattimore’s letters today in the archive, and we’re doing a bit of German-Japanese wartime ties research over here, it would be criminal not to link to this excellent resource of Sven Hedin research at the University of Washington and this tumultous overview of his career by his fellow Swedes.  In the pantheon of scholars who were also adventurers, Hedin has got to emerge near or at the summit.  

Sven Hedin on the way to Tibet, 1901

If this all whets your appetite for Xinjiang-style intrigue, take a meander at the Foreign Devil blog and you will likely emerge satiated.

And, from the University of Washington Archives, Lattimore’s correspondence with George E. Taylor emerges beautifully.  The respect for Lattimore shines through in this letter from Taylor on Nov. 5, 1940: 

“There is one point on which I would like some enlightenment myself, however. To what extent does X’s bibliographical interest eat into his character?  Did you detect any divine spark, or was the light merely a reflection of that in your own eyes?  You know me well enough to gather what I am after.  Do I detect a certain timidity of spirit in the academic and personal history of Dr. X, or is there an inner fire that burns boringly even in the rarefied atmosphere of bibliography.  I would rather have reassurance on this point than on any other.”

The two men would later have a falling out (Taylor accused Lattimore of being a communist when Sen. McCarthy was after him), and Hedin was also an unrepentant fan of Hitler, but those, I suppose are stories for another day.

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