Voyager Out By Katherine Frank

Katherine Frank’s novel A Voyager Out tells the life story of Mary Kingsley.
She talks of her childhood, her young adult life, and her traveling life. She
wanted to tell the world what this woman explorer did for Africa. Mary Kingsley
had a famous family, many of whom were writers. Mary herself wrote two books. In
her books however, she leaves out a lot about her life. A lot of what Katherine
Frank had discovered came from Mary’s letters to friends while traveling. Some
people who were the recipients of her letters found it odd that she put so much
into her correspondences. In one case, she wrote a ten-page letter to a friend.
His response to her was that she was wasting many of her good stories that could
be published on a letter. Her response was to write him a six-page letter. She
loved writing. She also loved her voyages to Africa. Part of Mary Kingsley’s
reason for loving her travel abroad came from her childhood life. Mary was born
the daughter of a high-class man and his cook. George Kingsley was a writer and
came from a family of writers. He did not produce much however. He left a lot of
his works unfinished, and many others unstarted. Because he did not do much in
his lifetime, it has been said that his greatest gift to the world was his
daughter. Her mother, Mary Bailey, was the innkeeper’s daughter. Four days
after her father and mother were married, Mary Kingsley was born. If her father
had not married her mother, Mary would have been bastard child of a destitute
domestic. Mary would have only been able to lead a life of servitude herself.
Oddly enough though, most of her young life was lead in servitude. Mary lived a
long life of isolation. During her adolescent years, her mother was her only
female role model of what a woman is supposed to be. Her mother was sick most of
the time and therefore Mary had to take care of her and the household chores.
While her father was off on one of his many voyages, Mary Bailey had the front
windows of the house bricked closed. The house was kept dark and stuffy. Growing
up like this made a normal childhood almost impossible for Mary Kingsley. Part
of her mother’s illnesses came from constant worry about George. He went on
many trips overseas and partook in many heroic adventures. He would write home
to his family about his adventures and this caused his mother great grief.
Because of the grief this caused Mary Bailey, George stopped writing of his
heroics to her, and instead wrote of them to his daughter. Mary Kingsley had to
become a self-sufficient person. With her mother being bedridden and her father
being overseas, Mary grew up on her own. Being a girl, Mary was not given many
opportunities at an education. The only education she had paid for her was a
class in German. Most of her education came from reading her father’s books.
She taught herself Latin, Physics, and Chemistry, which was an “unusual
curriculum for even the most erudite governess” (24). Mary and her father had
similar reading interests and were therefore constantly fighting over books to
read. They were both interested in reading the same book at the same time.
George had a “volcanic temper” (27) so he was usually the victor of the
fights. There was one instance when Mary decided to leave home for a small
vacation. Mary had never been away from her home so this was a new experience
for her. Only a short time into her trip, her mother became ill and Mary had to
return to take care of her mother. After staying at her mother’s bedside for
quite some time, Mary Bailey’s health improved so Mary decided to finish her
vacation. While gone this second time, Mary Bailey had a stroke and Mary stayed
home with her mother from then on. Mary was never able to leave the home for a
long period of time without her mother’s condition worsening. Her father
became ill and was bedridden for a while as well so Mary was taking care of both
of them. George did eventually recover and so Mary was back to only having to
take care of her mother. One night that George was feeling particularly well, he
went to bed never to awaken. A month and a half later, Mary Bailey died as well.
Mary felt her mother died because she no longer