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Awesome Men Throughout History: Lord Dufferin

Modern masculinity is in pretty miserable shape, I have to say. The only roads to perceived manhood these days are ignorance, misogyny (this means you, men’s rights activists), immaturity, or some combination thereof.

Back in the day, a lot of men earned their manliness the old fashioned way: puffing their chests out, sticking their chins up, and doing awesome things, even at the risk of great physical danger. Such a man was Lord Dufferin, real name Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, who braved the Arctic Circle for no other reason than he felt like it.

Lord Dufferin also earned his manliness through the careful and meticulous cultivation of facial hair, but that’s another article altogether.

Anyway, Dufferin was a British diplomat who was a favorite in Queen Victoria’s court, although she wouldn’t take him as a lord-in-waiting because he was too handsome. While I have no earthly idea what a lord-in-waiting is, I’m guessing that she just didn’t want to deal with the temptation of a brash young studhorse like Dufferin lounging around the palace.

Beyond that, Dufferin was one of those wealthy nobles who was always looking for stuff to do. Since he had plenty of money and no clock to punch, he needed some hobbies to keep him from going crazy and blowing his entire fortune on liquor and opium, so his interests were varied. Travel, as it turned out, was one of them.

Dufferin sailed his schooner (named the Foam for some reason) to Iceland without any of 2013’s modern luxuries, such as gas-powered motors or penicillin, and visited a couple of other points within the Arctic Circle after that. He met up with Napoleon III’s crew while he was up there, but that meeting was shortlived, as they chickened out of their planned expedition not long after encountering Dufferin.

What’s great about Dufferin’s voyage isn’t just the book he wrote about it?Letters from High Latitudes, one of the world’s first humorous travelogues?or the fact that he risked freezing to death and getting eaten by polar bears for his trouble, it’s that he made this voyage just because he could. One morning, this man got out of bed and decided to sail to Iceland, and he did. That’s an impressive display of personal initiative, not to mention courage, and a certain old-world, conquering-hero masculinity that you don’t see much anymore.

It was also a hell of a trip on its own merits. Writer and journalist Tim Moore tried recreating it for his book, Frost on My Moustache, and the ordeal nearly killed him. I recommend picking up that book, and also Dufferin’s, if you ever need reminding about what it takes for regular men to become Awesome Men.


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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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