Booth, Felix (DNB00)

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BOOTH, Sir FELIX (1775–1850), promoter of Arctic exploration, born in 1775, was third and youngest son of Philip Booth, of Mangham's Hill, Hertfordshire, of a county family sprung from the Booths of Dunham Massey, Cheshire. After receiving a liberal education, he became a city merchant, and eventually head of the prosperous firm of Booth & Co., distillers, residing in Great Portland Street, London, and Great Catworth, Huntingdonshire. He was a deputy lieutenant ot Middlesex, and in 1828 was elected one of the sheriffs of London and Middlesex.

Captain Parry's third attempt to reach the Polar Sea, in 1824 and in 1827, had failed. The government had offered (58 Geo. III, cap. 20) a reward of 20,000l. for the discovery of a north-west passage in connection with the board of longitude, which took an active interest in geographical science during its existence up to 1825. Captain John Ross [q. v.] was anxiously endeavouring to promote a new expedition. Felix Booth, an intimate friend, would not join him, because the government reward gave it an appearance of commercial speculation, but in 1828, on the repeal of the act of parliament, under which only 5,000l. had been paid to Parry and his crew in 1819), the matter took another form. Although the Duke of Wellington declined Ross’s offer, Booth undertook the venture for the credit of his country and to serve Captain Ross, thinking he was slighted in his old expedition.’ Booth provided 17,000l. for the expenses of the expedition, to which Captain Ross had added 3,000l., and the result of this mnnificence was an immense stride in the progress of geographical science. The grateful commander gave the name of his patron to several of his discoveries on land and sea-Gulf of Boothia, Isthmus of Boothia, Continent of Boothia Felix, Felix Harbour, Cape Felix, and Sheriff's Harbour; the district with the islands, rivers, lakes, &c., extending to 74° N. latitude along the north-eastern portion of America. The discovery most important to science was that of the magnetic pole at 96° 46′ 45″ W. longitude, and 70° 5′ 17″. Booth's connection with the successful expedition was rewarded with a baronetcy 27 March 1835, with remainder to heirs male of his elder brother.

Sir Felix Booth died very suddenly at Brighton on 25 Jan. 1850. Being unmarried he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his nephew, J. Williamson Booth, of Roydon Hall, on whose death, in 1877, his brother, Charles Booth, of Netherfield, succeeded as third baronet.

[Salliaglaw's Arctic Discovery; Ross's Narrative; Edinburgh Review, July 1835, Oct 1853; Ann. Reg. 1833: Times, 13 May 1835; Roy. Geog. Soc. v. viii. ix.; Arlington Guardian, 1850; Acts of Parliament.]

J. W.-G.