PUBLICATION BY YALE University Press has become a guarantee of literary merit as well as scholarly excellence. Orcutt Frost's scholarship is irreproachable. But how does work so judicious, so scrupulous, so reticent, so resistant to sensation and artifice, contrive to be so gripping? This is the formula historians crave: a rattling read, without sacrifice of academic austerity.
The subject helps. Bering's story excels fiction for human interest and farce for human foibles. He had over-mighty ambitions. Dreams of grandeur made him desert his Danish homeland for Russian service and risk his life for the Tsarina's reward in the uncharted corner of the world that now bears his