WILLIAM BOYD, New York Times, Sunday Book Review, Published: June 24, 2009

In 1854 Lady Jane Franklin, the widow of the polar explorer Sir John Franklin, visited Charles Dickens to ask for a favor. Dickens had just completed his novel “Hard Times” and was about to begin “Little Dorrit”; he was the most celebrated writer in England, at the zenith of his fame and popularity. Lady Jane wanted him to refute a recent article about her husband’s disappearance in the Arctic some nine years earlier, which implied that Franklin’s crew had resorted to cannibalism to survive. Dickens — outraged at the slur on this hero of the British Empire — published a furious counterattack in his own magazine, Household Words, and it is possibly the strangest and most intemperate piece of journalism he ever wrote: a near-racist tract claiming that it was physically and morally impossible for stalwart, civilized white men to descend to the level of “savages.” Read more here