It can be argued that modern nautical fiction began with this book the first that flowed from Frederick Marryat s pen. Written in 1829, it follows the adventures of Frank Mildmay as he enters the Royal Navy and begins his rocky climb up the career ladder. Marryat intentionally made Mildmay a rake and a hell-raiser so that people would not confuse the character s fictional adventures with his own very real ones. In fact, people did just the reverse and assumed that Marryat was writing about himself. The extent to which the novel was autobiographical is debated to this day. The one thing that is not debated is that it is a great read. It s filled with completely plausible nautical adventure, and written with the accuracy and realism that can only come from a writer who has been there and done that. "
If you seek to understand nautical fiction, you must begin with Frederick Marryat. "Forster was certainly correct in declaring [Masterman Ready] the most read, and the most willingly reread, of its class. For its mere cleverness alone the book can be enjoyed by the oldest of readers... [It] is one of the best, perhaps the very best, thing of its kind in English." - David Hannay Only Frederick Marryat would have the nerve to take a shopworn theme like a group of people shipwrecked on a deserted island, and turn it into a classic. Masterman Ready is clearly worthy of standing next to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and Johann David Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson. A family is en route to Australia by ship. The ship is caught in a storm and abandoned by the crew-leaving a lone family and an aging seaman (Masterman Ready) on board. The ship does not sink, however, but makes it to an uninhabited island. They make it to shore, only to run into a whole different set of problems trying to survive. The ending is one you will never forget.
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction Mr. Midshipman Easy is probably Frederick Marryat's best known work, and justifiably so. It's a delightful story. Jack Easy is a boy who comes from wealth. Along the way, his father, who regards himself as something of a philosopher, imbues him with the notion that all men are utterly and completely equal. That is a notion, however, that is a tad alien to the 19th Century Royal Navy. Jack's beliefs are quickly put to the test when he becomes a midshipman and experiences the rigid hierarchy of a naval vessel-a hierarchy that must be maintained if everyone is to stay alive. In the process, he becomes friends with Mesty, an escaped slave who claims he was once an African prince. Together they face a host of adventures as Midshipman Easy comes of age. One of the more interesting sidelights of the book is the connection between Frederick Marryat and the famous Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane. Marryat served under Cochrane and played a role in his controversial victory at the Battle of the Basque Roads. It is believed that Midshipman Easy is patterned after Lord Cochrane when he was a young man. Cochrane is also reported to be the model for the fictional hero, Horatio Hornblower.
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction The legend of the Flying Dutchman goes back at least to medieval times, and probably earlier than that. In its basic form, it is about a ghost ship that can never go into port, and is doomed to sail the oceans forever. Indeed, in Marryat's day, one would be hard pressed to find a ship on which at least one crewman had not personally seen the Dutchman. It was this thematic premise that inspired The Phantom Ship. The story is about a sailor, Philip Vanderdecken, who is in search of his father. His father is the captain of the Phantom Ship and is condemned to sail for eternity after he made an unwise oath before killing a man. Philip wears a piece of the True Cross tied around his neck and, with it, he hopes to free his father from his bondage-if he can find him. This is one of Marryat's very best stories, containing great sea adventure, a dash of the supernatural, and even a chapter featuring a werewolf that has been excerpted in numerous anthologies. It's a great read.
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction Newton Forster first appeared in 1832 as a series in Metropolitan Magazine, a periodical of which Frederick Marryat was the editor, and which initially hosted several of his works. It is remarkable in that it deals largely with the merchant navy, as opposed to the military. This makes it a refreshing departure from most of the books in this genre. Yet, despite this fact, there is no shortage of action as we learn that the ships of the Honourable East India Company not only had guns-they knew how to use them very well. Newton Forster, the master of a coastal brig, is illegally pressed into the Royal Navy. Through a variety of maneuvers, however, he winds up on an East Indiaman where he undergoes a series of adventures with the Bombay Marine-the East India Company's private military arm. Included are shipwrecks, escapes, and love interests as he eventually rises to command his own ship. Especially interesting is Marryat's fictional account of the Battle of Pulo Aura, in which a squadron of merchant ships engaged, defeated, and then chased a powerful French naval squadron in the Indian Ocean. The book appeared to rave reviews and proved to the skeptics that Marryat could not only sustain, but increase the excellence of his work with every new book.
This 1834 maritime adventure transports the reader to London's fabled port, aboard the lighters that ply the shifting tides of the Thames. Jacob loses both parents, becomes adopted by a wharf owner, and forges friendships with an old lighterman, his son, and their dog. Picaresque adventures catapult him to his place as a gentleman.
Newton Forster is a troubled young man who survives impressment into the Navy, imprisonment in France, and a shipwreck in the West Indies before gaining a post on British East India Company vessel bound for Asia. Forster faces a thrill a chapter--murder, insanity, press gangs, prison, pirates, treachery, and romance.
Frank Mildmay is a rogue and a rascal who cuts a memorable swath as he move up the ranks of the early 19th-century Royal navy. Whether seducing pretty girls ashore, braving hurricanes at sea or scrambling aboard a French privateer with cutlass bared, Mildmay and his adventures live on!
The Privateersman, written in 1846, was the last of Frederick Marryat's nautically oriented novels, although one of his best non-nautical works, Children of the New Forest, still lay ahead of him. Privateers were essentially legalized pirates. They functioned like the illegal variety; but they carried a document from their government authorizing them to prey on the merchant ships of a specific enemy country. This document is what kept them from being hung as pirates should they be caught. After capturing a ship, they would bring it into an approved port where the ship's goods, along with the ship itself, would be sold. The government got a cut, the ship's officers and crew got a cut, and the investors got a return on their money which allowed them to send the privateer out again. The Privateersman is set in the early 1700s and gives us a keen insight into the world of privateering. Combine that insight with nonstop action and Marryat's unique dry wit, and you have a tremendously entertaining read.
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction While Frederick Marryat had achieved commercial success with his previous books, Peter Simple was perhaps his first "classic." Indeed, Peter Simple is considered by many to be the best of Captain Marryat's novels. Peter Simple goes to sea as a young, naive, midshipman during the Napoleonic wars. He is taken under the wing of Terence O'Brien, a Master's Mate, who, a bit at a time, brings Peter into a mature adulthood. Together they form a kind of nautical Don Quixote/Sancho Panza team that experiences the best and the worst that the nautical life has to offer. From cutting-out missions, to hurricanes, to mutiny, Peter Simple set the standard for presenting vivid characters and heart stopping adventure to the nautical reader. "[Marryat's] stories depict, with detailed realism, those qualities of courage, seamanship, tyranny, cruelty, recklessness, and good fellowship, all of which combined to render the British Navy so formidable a fighting instrument." J.A. Buckley The Guide to British Historical Fiction
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction The King's Own, written in 1830, was the second book from Frederick Marryat's pen. The plot takes place about the time of the Nore and Spithead mutinies (1797). A man is hanged for his role in those events, but his son is adopted by the seamen on his old ship. We see him move through the ranks from ship's boy, to midshipman, to lieutenant; but part of the mystery of the young man is the broad anchor that is branded on his arm. It's the same symbol that is on all of the King's possessions aboard ship. We learn that his father was, in fact, the legitimate son of high born gentleman, making the young man his heir. Neither he nor anyone else, however, understands the significance of the anchor, which proves his birth and his heritage. This is one of Marryat's darker books, one which goes into a great deal of grisly detail of the realities of shipboard life. Despite the pain and sorrow, it is an exciting read and established Marryat's reputation as a serious writer.
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction The Pirate and The Three Cutters were produced in 1836, and are almost always published together. Both delightful, light-hearted, books, it's as though Marryat wanted to serve us a few appetizers before he got to his literary masterpiece, Snarleyyow, which was published the following year. The Pirate is about two brothers-twins-who are separated in childhood. One becomes a pirate, the other a naval officer. Eventually the one renounces the pirate life, and meets up with his twin. The good news is that, together, they go off in search of the pirates. The bad news is that they find them. The Three Cutters is one of the first, if not the first, nautical fiction story based on yachting. A nobleman attempts to assist a revenue boat in the apprehension of a smuggler. Instead, the smuggler commandeers the yacht, and assumes the yachtsman's identity. With that as a cover, can he now continue his smuggling mission? If so, what's he supposed to do about the woman he finds aboard the yacht? These are two short but very entertaining stories.
From the Father of Modern Nautical Fiction One of the great things about the writings of Frederick Marryat is that he introduces you to all aspects of early 19th Century nautical life. It's not just the Royal Navy sending salvos in all directions. In Newton Forster we got a glimpse of the merchant navy. In Jacob Faithful we learn about one of the most under-represented groups in the genre-the Thames waterman. Jacob Faithful grows up literally on his father's Thames lighter. When both of his parents die in a very strange freak accident, Jacob is left with a sum of money large enough to get a good start in life. But rather than leave the river, he stays. He is brought up by the owner of the dock where his family's boat was based; and becomes an apprentice first to a bargeman, then a wherryman, and eventually is pressed into the Royal Navy. It's a wonderful story, with great yarns, that accurately shows the bustling Thames River as it was almost 200 years ago.
"Drawing on a mass of contemporary material spanning four millennia, this book follows the merchant seaman ashore and afloat through the typical vicissitudes of his exotic but uncertain life. Although it is an unsentimental 'warts and all' portrayal, it is nevertheless an affectionate valedictory tribute to a lifestyle that has almost vanished."--Amazon.
"A collection of early hand- coloured signal charts and related manuscript notes relating to an 1860s voyage loosely inserted. The frontispiece plate of flags and pendants has further diagrams and notes in red ink denoting a private signal system.” -- Hordern House catalogue, The collection of Robert Edwards AO (2012)