Victorian solo cruiser and writer Robert C Leslie now in audiobook

Sidmouth Beach photographed by Touriste, image from the Wikimedia

Sidmouth is pleasantly peaceful today – but it seems to have been an even quieter place when Leslie visited in the 1850s. Photo by Touriste and taken from the Wikimedia

‘When I first began boating in the early forties, what is now called single-handed cruising was almost unknown among amateurs… people had a vague dread of it. Much of this has passed away, and hundreds of amateur boatmen, and even ladies, are now as much at home and really safer in a sailing-boat than they would be on the back of a hunter or bicycle.’

This is a quotation from Robert C Leslie’s book A waterbiography. Leslie, an artist and writer who lived from 1826 to 1901, was one of the 19th century pioneers of Corinthian solo cruising in small boats but now seems to have been largely forgotten.

Certainly I didn’t know about him until one of his relatives, Tom Bliss, got in touch to let me know that Leslie’s book is available as an audiobook from Books Should Be Free.

(I should explain that Tom’s a friend from the musical world. Like his relative, he a chap with multiple talents: he’s a gifted songwriter and performer, and is also a film-maker who happens to be an environmental campaigner.)

The coast of Devon was one of Leslie’s favourite cruising grounds, and he describes the little fishing village of  Sidmouth.

Still the home of a few fishing boats, Sidmouth is now more likely to be recognised as a rather old fashioned small seaside resort and as the home of the annual Sidmouth Folk Week. However, back in the 1850s, Leslie describes it like this:

‘No railway in my time came within fifteen miles of Sidmouth, and the few enterprising visitors who reached there by coach from Exeter called it dull. It was certainly not a gay place, but most of those who resided there in that happy valley did so rather with a view to quiet, and among them it was rare to find any one disposed to tamper with the grave routine of country life there.’

3 thoughts on “Victorian solo cruiser and writer Robert C Leslie now in audiobook”

  1. Robert C Leslie’s book' A waterbiography'

    Sounds interesting, but is there a downloadable txt or pdf of this book? Google could not find one, but that does not signify


  2. Sounds very interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Unfortunately, on the audiobook I found the readers accent got in the way, but I found that second hand copies of the book are very cheap so ordered one.


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