Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I read the O'Brian series over a period of 5 years. Dragged out to last as long as possible. I gave them to my wife and she read them all finishing the last one a year ago with much regret that there were no more. We decided to put them all in a box and hide them away for five years and then start again..Only four more years to go..!

 

I am particularly impressed with O'Brian's grasp of the period. I'm a bit of a collector and I have a letter written in 1808 by a Royal Navy officer on the 38 gun 5th rate HMS Lively (which was briefly one of Aubrey's ships in the series.) The letter was written to the man's father in Scotland while the ship was docked in Lisbon. It's a long handwritten letter and amongst many other things, mentions politics, prize money, pirates and even a fire in the coal hold. I understand O'Brian used a lot of contemporary ship's logs and letters to frame his stories, reading this letter one could certainly see why.

 

Here's exactly what's written about the fire. 

 

"On Friday last, a dinner and ball were given on board, a day a little remarkable also on account of the risk we ran of being blown up: for as we were at breakfast the drum beat to quarters and we understood there was a fire forward. It was discovered by the smoke bursting from the coal hole and was immediately messaged to the 1st Lt. and was soon extinguished, having burned through the thickness of one stanchion. The coal hole is divided from the fore magazine only by a thin partition. After flogging the man who had been down there last and thro whose carelessness the accident had happened, the captain expressed his satisfaction at the general reliance and alertship with which every man attended to his duty and provided against accidents of the sort happening again by forbidding any man going down without a midshipman present."   

 

 

It's a fascinating read and sometime when I'm not so busy I'll do some research into the writer.

 

Dan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is a great letter! I love these little snippets of every day life back in the Napoleonic days. Not many survive. I like how they flogged the perpetrator. The Lively had a great history, aside from PO'B's, and her plans are very well documented, including even her carvings. Is she a modeling project with you? She was a handsome ship and, of course, was a sister to the famed HMS/USS Macedonian. You should print the letter here in its entirety for all of us to savor!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. I'll see what I can do about posting some more. It's fascinating stuff. I think the officer was quite young as I detect a little homesickness here and there in the letter.

 

 A model of HMS Lively would be a nice companion for the letter but I have so much work lined up that I don't know when could fit it in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

but I have so much work lined up that I don't know when could fit it in

 

There's always room for one more. ;)  :)

 

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those interested in O'Brian's inspiration for Aubrey's exploits could do worse than read "Memoirs of a Fighting Captain" by Admiral Lord Cochrane, or indeed any of the several books available on Cochrane's life and career. Personally, I find Cochrane's own words most convincing, although he does include a lot of his own (strong) opinions on the government of the day - not unlike Jack Aubrey perhaps?

 

Greg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aubrey was inspired by several officers of that period. Cochrane is the most well known and has at least three events that are notably tied to him. Other officers are also present for example Rowley in the Mauritius Command

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josias_Rowley

 

where O'Brien did not change the ship names or events at all except for Rowley being renamed Aubrey really

 

Or Riou for encounters with icebergs

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Riou

 

There are many others. Cochrane of course had the financial fraud, the Speedy story and there is another  that I cannot remember of the top of my head [Edit Cochranes South American adventures]. People know Cochrane of course so like to expound on how he was the 'source'. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyone remember the scene in "The Far Side of the World" where JA and SM fall overboard through Surprise's  cabin windows undetected one night, and just when they think that things could not get worse, they are rescued by militant, lesbian, native women escaping their home island, who decorated their raft with dried severed male members tacked to the sides?  I don't think that happened to Lord Cochrane. Anyway, this is evidence that Mr. O'Brien occasionally smoked wacky-weed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was rereading Hornblower while waiting to be called for jury duty when someone noticed and asked if I was familiar with O'Brien's series.  I wasn't, but during our lunch break I walked over to the bookstore (I was in Annapolis) and found the first book.

 

I had read a biography about Cochrane a few years before and I was actually very disappointed by what was basically a blatant theft of Cochrane's early career for some novel.  Further, the first book is the longest of the series - it's certainly the slowest. It very nearly ran me off, but O'Brian was very good at immersing you in the period, so I struggled through, though most of the time it was an exercise at staying awake.

 

I felt that I had to do a lot of work to care about these characters,  O'Brian only gives you this external view and Aubrey is more of a caricature.  It's an early 19th century maritime odd-couple.

 

I haven't read all the Hornblower knock-offs out there.  I read several Bolitho books and hated them.  I'm told most other series are better, but I find that modern writers can't write, and nothing I've read yet gets across the feeling of the period like O'Brian and Forester, who were both from a pre-computer time.  What I've read so far seems to have been written in a hurry with a pay check always in mind - like television.

 

Forester's The Captain from Connecticut got me into this back when I was around 10, and I've reread the Hornblower series several times, nothing yet compares.  The Good Shepard, The African Queen, the Gun, all are great stories well told.  O'Brien was good, Forester was great.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, I'm at a church yard sale back in October and come across a set of some 15 books about a character named Nathanial Drinkwater.  At $5 for the lot I figured I couldn't go wrong, so...

So far I'm well into the 4th book.  The author is an historian and has been to sea; he's has done good research to construct his stories, though it tends to read much like a history book.  It's a decent read, the language and nautical jargon is correct, and I've had no trouble picturing what happening by his descriptions.  I can't say I really "care" for this fellow, all these stories seem to copy Forester and this one's no exception.

 

Even less than a quarter of the way through the series, I have to say it was well worth $5.  ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm on the last book of this Drinkwater series; "Ebb Tide" and I have to say I like the series.  Like Hornblower Drinkwater doubts himself, feels guilt for the things he must do, the lives lost, etc; but he's resolute, knows his business, and doesn't pull punches when it gets down to it.  As for the writing, I have to say Richard Woodman gets to the point much quicker than O'Brien ever did.  Woodman writes like the sailor he is and I had no problem keeping track in my mind's chart just where things were relative to each other.

If you like Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin you'll certainly like Drinkwater.

 

See, I can say positive things, I didn't mention once how much Bolitho sucks.  ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I has recently finish the Aubrey novels and am about 16 into the Ramage ones.  My favorite has always been the Hornblower ones though. The original royal navy/sea adventures written by Marryat written about 175ish years ago are still interesting and a fun "Easy" read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ain't it amazing what you can find on YouTube.

 

I have begun re-reading the Aubrey-Maturin series for  the fourth time (yup, I like 'em) and for the heck of it, decided to see if there was anything on YouTube about the author. Lo and behold, there is an hour long interview sponsored by the The Mariners' Museum, in Newport News, VA, on April 11, 1995.

 

 

I sure do miss him..

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't get what makes O'Brien's books somehow better than any others.  The first one was such a chore to read I nearly tossed it and blew off the series entirely.  To be honest, it was Hunt's artwork on the covers that drew me to the books at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read through the Aubrey-Maturin saga twice separated by about ten years.  The fact that I read through them twice probably says something about my love of these books.  I would not place them in the annals of great literature - seafaring or otherwise.  For that I suggest, in the seafaring genre, Melville or Conrad.  The books do have their place, and I believe they fill it admirably.  There are stumbling blocks, I am sure, for some.  The swashbuckling action scenes are there, but are skipped over or take a second place to the relationship between the two men and the stresses on each of them.  This quirky relationship between captain and surgeon is sometimes hard to comprehend, but I am sure there were many oddities in the connections formed by men who chose this way of life.  If you doubt that, read some of Nelson's letters to and about his colleagues.

 

I found the real value in these books to be the wonderful depth of information about the ordinary daily functioning of one of these vessels,  the Navy and the political establishment they were a part of.  While the affection between Aubrey and his crews sometimes stretched credibility, descriptions of daily life and routine are unique and priceless.  I do not know of another source as descriptive of daily shipboard routine.  I believe the inclusion all of this background to be the best part of these books - a personal opinion to be sure.  

 

Ed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No work of art has 100% universal appeal.  My wife can't understand what I find so funny about Monty Python -- go figure.

 

I thought that was "universal".  They don't get The 3 Stooges usually, either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ive read the entire series...  of course this was before wife and children came along so time to read them again is hard to come by.  Im now enjoying the Simon Vance (narrator) audiobook versions which are unabridged and very, very well produced.   I encourage anyone whose a fan or anyone who has had trouble getting through the books to try them.   

 

The do understand how the language used in the stories can take some time to get through if your reading it, I suspect listening to it is a much different experience.    Of course Simon Vance has a wonderful voice for it and does the characters inflections and personalities perfectly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These books are not easy reads. O'Brian likes to toss out French and Latin phrases, and make the reader look them up. But he is a concise writer, and he packs a lot into a minimum of words. He repeats nothing, so if you miss the significance of an event, however minor, early on, then you might be confused  later. He has a different style of writing too, with phrases that just seem to flow. You have to hear the late Patrick Tull's book narrations (Recorded Books, inc.) to truly feel it. O'Brian has often been called "The Jane Austin for guys". His Napoleonic Period histories, his nautical descriptions, his naval intelligence methodologies, and his medical and "natural philosopher" descriptions are spot on.  His characters are the best of any other seafaring genre. The Hornblower sailors just seems wooden compared to them.

 

Not an easy read, the Aubrey-Maturin Series, but well worth the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished the "Nathaniel Drinkwater" series and found it to be right up there with the "Aubry-Maturin" series. Though the villians in drinkwater are a lot more hatefull. Its a shame Patric Obrien passed as a series of prequels about Jacks' carrer as a midshipman and lieutenant would be a nice read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Greetings Jerry...

 

Nice try at picking a fight. You can't possibly be serious. This is a statement, not a question since there can be no meaningful debate on this subject.

 

wq3296

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Guys,

 

I thought this was a Aubrey / Maturin / O'Brian thread. It's already been cleaned up once of other authors works. Could we please keep it on topic?

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For those interested, the BBC will be celebrating Patrick O'Brian's centenary with readings from Master and Commander every day next week at 2pm GMT. On Monday at 2.30pm there is also a recorded interview with Patrick O'Brian.

 

You can listen online, here is the link. 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4extra/programmes/schedules/2014/w50

 

Don't worry if you miss the time, they are repeated later and are usually left on the site for a month to be played at anytime after they are first broadcast. Look at the schedule for details.

 

I am a regular listener to BBC Radio 4 extra. Always full of great drama and comedy programs and no adverts.

 

Dan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

 

Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series is a body of literature that has helped to shape who I am.  Perhaps that sounds extreme, but those books have influenced my life in many ways; from giving me a much greater vocabulary, to helping me discover some of my favorite music.  I was introduced to the series in 1994 when I was a freshman in high school, and since that time I have read the series through 5 times.  I have read the first four books many more times than that.

 

I think that a comparison to the other related series, Bolitho, Hornblower, etc... can only be done superficially at best.  In this, only that they share the same time and place.  There is certainly not a comparison to be made in terms of language or grasp of the period.  O'Brian spent much of his youth immersed in the Gentleman's magazine and Naval Chronicle.  In one of the videos posted earlier in this thread, O'Brian talks about how he poured through the Gentleman's Magazine, giving him a foundation in the period style, language, and events.  The only way to get a more authentic feel would be to have an author from the period, such as Jane Austen, who also happened to be one of O'Brian's influences.  For those who do not know what the Gentleman's magazine was, it was a variety publication that featured public events, literature, poetry, science, politics, and a host of other topics.  It's publication ran from 1731 to 1922.  You can read about it here:

 

Additionally, as a body of work, I think that they are less sea story, and more examination of the human condition.  At their heart, they search the depths of what it is to be human from the male perspective.  Career, companionship, politics, food, love, hatred, music, disappointment, true friendship, utter ruin, hope, and how men cope with these and a host of other topics are the real back bone of the Aubrey/Maturin series.  Yes they are back dropped in the Royal Navy during the long wars with France at the beginning of the 19th century, but they are about so much more than Cochrane's exploits in the Mediterranean,  the capture of the Spanish treasure fleet, or Dance's action in the Indian ocean against Linois. 

 

I do enjoy some of the other series out there, particularly Bolitho, but to me those books are exciting, linear stories that entertain you from point A to point B.  Escapist fiction similar to Cornwell's Richard Sharpe.  Great yarns, but they are not literature in the higher sense.  Hornblower was once a favorite, but I have since developed a repugnance to the self effacing or even self loathing character.  So for me, O'Brian will remain the undisputed king of my fiction section. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As stated on page 2 please keep this thread concerning Patrick O'Brian and not other authors. Off topic posts will be deleted and repeat offenders dealt with.

 

May I suggest that those who would like a more general discourse concerning Napoleonic Naval authors start a topic of that nature wherein such topics can be freely discussed.

 

Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

About us

Modelshipworld - Advancing Ship Modeling through Research

SSL Secured

Your security is important for us so this Website is SSL-Secured

NRG Mailing Address

Nautical Research Guild
237 South Lincoln Street
Westmont IL, 60559-1917

About the NRG

If you enjoy building ship models that are historically accurate as well as beautiful, then The Nautical Research Guild (NRG) is just right for you.

The Guild is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to “Advance Ship Modeling Through Research”. We provide support to our members in their efforts to raise the quality of their model ships.

The Nautical Research Guild has published our world-renowned quarterly magazine, The Nautical Research Journal, since 1955. The pages of the Journal are full of articles by accomplished ship modelers who show you how they create those exquisite details on their models, and by maritime historians who show you the correct details to build. The Journal is available in both print and digital editions. Go to the NRG web site (www.thenrg.org) to download a complimentary digital copy of the Journal. The NRG also publishes plan sets, books and compilations of back issues of the Journal and the former Ships in Scale and Model Ship Builder magazines.

Our Emblem

Modelshipworld - Advancing Ship Modeling through Research
×
×
  • Create New...