The Letter of Marque (Aubrey/Maturin, #12)
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The Letter of Marque (Aubrey & Maturin #12)

4.44 of 5 stars 4.44  ·  rating details  ·  5,090 ratings  ·  129 reviews
Jack Aubrey is a naval officer, a post-captain of experience and capacity. When The Letter of Marque opens he has been struck off the Navy List for a crime he has not committed.
Paperback, 284 pages
Published 1988 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
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Courage by Robert    CarterMaster and Commander by Patrick O'BrianPost Captain by Patrick O'BrianH.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'BrianHornblower and the Hotspur by C.S. Forester
Historical Naval Fiction
12th out of 113 books — 91 voters
Secrets of the Realm by Bev StoutTreasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonMaster and Commander by Patrick O'BrianTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules VerneMoby-Dick by Herman Melville
Maritime Classics
28th out of 79 books — 61 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This was a wonderful conclusion to The Reverse of the Medal . As Stephen notes at one stage in the book, Aristotle's definition of tragedy encompassed not only a great man being brought down but also the redemption and deliverance of a man who had been laid low. If that's true, then this book, in company with the last, forms a truly great example of the same. From the nadir of fortune that both Jack and Stephen experience in TRotM, LoM sees a complete reversal. Jack is more successful than he's...more
Oct 14, 2013 Robert added it
Shelves: historical
In Vol.XI of Robert's Adventures in Napoleonic Naval Literature, the protagonist found himself wearied and despondant, wondering whether it was "worth it" to go on.


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I'm returning to this series after a very long break, and I'm glad that I did. It's possible, after all, to read books wrong, which can end up spoiling the book for reasons that are nothing to do with the book itself. In the case of the Aubrey/Maturin series, the uniformity of their excellence in terms of writing, their largely character-driven, relatively shapeless novelistic plotting compared poorly, I thought, to the more intricate, complex and subtle mechanisms of Dorothy Dunnett. Of course,...more
Karla (Mossy Love Grotto)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The usual, brightly colored Aubrey and Maturin high-seas fun, leaven with the sobering hash each makes of his health and personal life. They have the whole world helping them into their personal infernos, but the fault lies not in their stars but in themselves. Friends and family--and each other--bear them through as usual on a freshening breeze and the promise of yet greater adventures.
Both Jack and Stephen face down their personal demons. In Jack's case, his susceptibility to land sharks has caused him to get involved in a scam that ultimately gets him stripped of his Navy commission. It will take a lot of luck for him to get reinstated. Fortunately, he is not called "Lucky Jack Aubrey" for nothing. Also, he is in command of a privateer full of eager and able seamen.

For Stephen, it's his long-term opium habit. (He is not addicted, of course. Never in life.) When his self-medi...more
Simon Bendle
I’m puzzled. People love Patrick O’Brian and his fictional hero Jack Aubrey, don’t they? Look at the reviews on this site: five stars all over the place. No reason why I wouldn’t too, I thought. So it was with some excitement that I turned to my first O’Brian novel, The Letter of Marque…

Perhaps it was because I listened to the story on audio-book and the narrator was awful; a pompous theatrical darling whose Irish accent, for the character Stephen Maturin, was so bad it was bordering on offensiv...more
After being falsely accused and convicted of a complicated investment scheme, Jack Aubrey has been cast out of the service. He's been in the Royal Navy nearly all of his life, and the separation breaks his heart. In hopes of moderating his misery, his particular friend Stephen Maturin buys the Surprise and secures a letter of marque for the ship. Aubrey can captain the Surprise once more, but this time as a privateer. It is acutely painful to him, but leads to one of his greatest professional tr...more
Patrick O'Brian was hitting on all cylinders here. The Aubrey-Maturin saga continues to gain depth as a remarkable piece of fictional biography, combining naval history, music, natural history, soap opera, politics, humor and rousing adventure. After subjecting his characters to terrible difficulties in The Reverse of the Medal, the present book offers a rather more upbeat story.

Some of this I read, and some I listened to Patrick Tull's wonderful reading. For me, the humor comes through more str...more
Sheer delight. While I defer in advance to any feminist or intersectional analysis from Wealhtheow whenever she gets around to this one, I enjoyed it perhaps more than anything in the series since H.M.S. Surprise. (view spoiler)
Duncan Mandel
EDITORIAL REVIEW: Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of their beginning, with Master and Commander, these evocative stories are being re-issued in paperback with smart new livery. This is the twelfth book in the series. Jack Aubrey is a naval officer, a post-captain of experience and capacity. When The Letter of Marque opens he has been struck off the Navy List for a crime...more
Richard Due
O'Brian is brilliant at making me think one thing is going to happen, and then have something completely different happen instead.
There are year long gaps in my reading of these books because they are best read beside the ocean. Being at the shore necessitates a deeper awareness of the phase of the moon, the tides, the time of sunrise and sunset and, this year in particular!, the wind direction and speed. These awarenesses give life a richness and a texture and a connection to our essence that is nearly impossible in the city and I believe this cuts me off from my essence.

I am always in awe of the deep intelligence and und...more
Josie B.
I listened to the audio book read by Patrick Tull. He does a fantastic job bringing the charactors alive. I am totally hooked on this series now.
I started reading this series a little over two years ago and have been slowly working my way through it since. Time to check in on Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin once again.

We left these two in a rather sad state of affairs in the last book, The Reverse of the Medal. Aubrey's long and glorious naval career was in tatters, after his enemies duped him and were able to have him charged with manipulating the stock market. Anyone who knows Aubrey knows he is too much of a simpleton about finances t...more
The Letter of Marque

Everything goes almost too smoothly in The Letter of Marque after Jack's disgrace, having been framed for stock manipulation in the previous book Reverse of the Medal. Stephen inherits a fortune, buys the Surprise, obtains a Letter of Marque for the Surprise from the Admiralty and another letter which forbids the pressing of the Surprise's crew, Jack gets his pick of any sailor he wants, the Admiralty gives Jack and Stephen a secret mission to S. America, Jack captures a weal...more
Jack's employment prospects are slim, as he experiences separation from the Royal Navy after his legal troubles caused his removal from the Navy list. His old favorite Navy command, the "H.M.S. Surprise" has also been decommissioned, and Jack has an opportunity to command the ship for its new owner, operating as a privateer under a letter of marque. The letter is a license, granted by the government for private individuals to operate within certain proscribed rules to interrupt enemy shipping. I...more
In the last volume of the wonderful Maturin/Aubrey series, Jack had been court-martialed for what appeared to be his complicity in a stock market fraud. Being a naïve landlubber, he had no idea of what he was being fraudulently involved in, thought he was just helping someone out and making a killing in the meantime. He was kicked out of the navy and removed from the post-captain’s list, eliminating all his accumulated seniority. Stephen, having come into a considerable fortune, purchased The Su...more
It gives very little away to say that this is, to date, the most cheerful and happy of the entries in the series. Many of the turns in the narrative have been foreshadowed for more than one or two volumes by now. As ever, the enjoyment comes in O'Brian's knitting together all the various details that contribute to this novel's rapturous ending. He has slowed the pace down considerably here. There is one sea battle (after a fashion) and some developments on land. In fact, not that much happens. M...more
A second reading. Not ever reading chronologically in this series, rereading is one of the hazards, but also one of the pleasures. This book is full of naval adventures (with Aubrey as a privateer) and I enjoyed that. The adventures are not broadside actions, instead lucky and crafty captures and Jack Aubrey, humiliated in court in a previous volume, restores his name with triumphant victories. As always Maturin is involved with natural history, spying, drug use, and a bit of pining about Diana,...more

This episode in the Aubrey/Maturin series really lets you see the difference between the way things are done in the Royal Navy (tm) and the workings of a Privateer or to use the more polite terms a Private Man-of-War or a Letter of the Marque.

In previous books O'Brian has shown how Aubrey struggles to have a happy ship sometimes saddled with completely unexperienced and unwanted hands. So often he only succeeds in recruiting enough good crew members because of his r...more
One of the best (or at least one of the happiest) Aubrey/Maturin books I've read so far, as I've gotten now through this twelfth in the series. Aubrey and Maturin have more fun as privateers than they did in the Navy. Made me wonder why Aubrey kept wanting to get relisted in the Navy. They are back in the Suprise, Aubrey's favorite ship, this time under private ownership. O'Brian keeps the wit coming. I'm trying to not rush through the whole series all at once because I don't want it to come to...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
EJD Dignan
Repeated from review of Book 1

That Patrick O'Brian chose to place his characters on the sea in the not so distant past just raised the hurdle I had to leap to get to know this wonderful author.

I had never been enamored with sea stories, didn't much care for European history, and yet was wonderfully taken with this series. The sea is a major character, but history is not greatly illuminated, almost a backdrop to the specific circumstance the characters find themselves in. Which perhaps reflects t...more
I regret that I didn't set out to read this wonderful series in chronological order. So much happens to Aubrey and Maturin over the time span of the series and the time elapsed between my readings of the books (as I try to stretch out finishing the series as long as possible) dims my memory, and so I can't quite recall the events preceding the book I happen to be reading at the time. Fortunately, O'Brian thoughtfully provides enough exposition that this isn't fatal to understanding what's going...more
Here we have book #12 in this fabulous series recounting the naval adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin as they sail the seas while England battles Napoleon's France. The previous book, The Reverse of the Medal, ended with personal and professional disaster striking both of the main characters and it was such a relief to see things start to turn around for them in such exciting, satisfying ways. Also, the previous 11 books are so centered on the warships of the British Navy that it was...more
This is pretty close to being my favorite in the series so far. I've liked the series, and am happy to be reading it, and look forward to the books when it feels like time to read one, but this one had a little something extra in it. Or rather, it had the extra, extraneous bits, cut out. Several of the books have dragged with longer bits on land, or just slower development of plot, and I understand that. You couldn't have non-stop naval engagements, because that would stretch believability and w...more
Another pleasant journey with Jack and Stephen, resolving the financial scandal begun in The Reverse of the Medal and Stephen's romantic issues that began earlier (Treason's Harbour, maybe?). The ending is unusually syrupy for O'Brian, but who cares.

As usual, here are some passages that had me laughing aloud in public places and some words that had me scratching my chin:

"I am sorry not to have seen you at breakfast, but I slept as the person in Plutarch that ran from Marathon to Athens without p...more
Aubrey has been struck off the captains' list in disgrace! Plus he's broke (again). Diana has left Maturin and he is taking way too much opium. Life on land never works out for these two - can they redeem things as privateers? I'm returning to this series after a long absence - it's even better than I remember.
The Obverse of the Medal. Straight from the bottom to the top. It didn't feel as supremely economical and fateful as the preceding volume, though. And Stephen's tendency to addiction seems to be ready to spring up and spoil it all, however perfectly joyous the concluding moment might be.
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Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).

Set in the...more
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“[Babbington] "What did [the Doctor, Stephen] do to you, sir?"

[Captain Aubrey] "Well, I am ashamed to say he took a pistol-ball out of the small of my back. It must have been when I turned to hail for more hands- thank God I did not. At the time I thought it was one of those vile horses that were capering about abaft the wheel."

"Oh, sir, surely a horse would never have fired off a pistol?”
“I have often observed that extremely violent noise and activity go with good-fellowship and heightened spirits.” 2 likes
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