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The Letter of Marque (Aubrey & Maturin #12)

4.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,637 Ratings  ·  168 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 120 books — 102 voters
Secrets of the Realm by Bev StoutTreasure Island by Robert Louis StevensonTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules VerneMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleMaster and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
Maritime Classics
32nd out of 97 books — 81 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.


See the complete review here:
Oct 31, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 21, 2015 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
May 24, 2011 Ron rated it liked it
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.
Feb 17, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been listening to the Aubrey/Maturin series during my commute to and from work and while painting kitchen cabinets. I love their language and the humor, which is so understated you have to be prepared for it. These characters are so honorable and loyal to each other and their status in life that you can't help but admire them as they go through these adventures. The first book, Master and Commander was a movie with Russel Crowe and it is a great start to see if you will like this series. Fu ...more
Simon Bendle
Mar 30, 2012 Simon Bendle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2014 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Sep 24, 2011 Terry rated it really liked it
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
Oct 14, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
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)
Richard Burke
Jan 28, 2015 Richard Burke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Series Overview.

I fell in love with the series from the opening scene of Master and Commander, and went on to read all 20 Aubrey-Maturin novels. The characters of Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin were initialized in that opening scene, and grew through the entire series. This is the best historical fiction I have read. In the series, I learned about British, French, Dutch, and Spanish naval operations during the Napoleonic wars. I also first learned of Napoleon's command and espionage structu
Christopher Taylor
Captain Aubrey, now stripped of his naval rank due to events in the previous novel, reluctantly heads to see as a privater. Using the swift, light ship Surprise and the core of his most skilled sailors, and protected by political and legal maneuvering by Steven Maturin, he heads to see to find his fortune and perhaps help himself find a way back onto the navy list; preferably with his seniority restored.

This opens a new chapter in the saga, moving the story along to a different era and introduce
Richard Due
Jun 28, 2014 Richard Due rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O'Brian is brilliant at making me think one thing is going to happen, and then have something completely different happen instead.
Jan 03, 2015 Em rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2014 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Luis Suarez
Jan 16, 2016 Luis Suarez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
El inicio de la vida de nuestros heroes como corsarios, en que Aubrey tiene que vivir lo que rechazo por tantos años, claro que en este caso el trata de adaptar esta nueva fase de su vida a como lo es la Armada Real, lamentablemente otros no lo ven asi y tratan de vengarse de Aubrey ahora que no es on oficial de marina. La situacion es muy dura para el porque le informan de los verdaderos culpables del crimen por el que fue expulado de la armada pero no hay manera de llevarlos a la justicia y li ...more
Oct 23, 2015 Cherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, read-audio
I can't say enough how much I really enjoy listening to these Aubry/Maturin sea stories. The seamen and ships and stories of the battles are fascinating and the characters so well written.

This story, back in the Surprise was no exception. A different Jack Aubrey, now out of the service, but a compelling sea voyage and prizes for all at the end. I am happy to leave them until - next time.
Apr 06, 2016 Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Swish and the book is ended. And in the meantime, Jack has met with both disaster (struck off), triumph (the St Martin cutting out), a near disaster (upsetting a government official ) , another possible disaster (his dad's death), triumph (reinstatement), and then a helping hand to Stephen in his return to regain Diana. And in the meantime there are some delightfully observed reflections on bringing up children, navy trollops, privateers, the use of laudanum, addiction, money, family relations, ...more
Josie B.
Oct 30, 2010 Josie B. rated it it was amazing
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.
Eleanor Kos
Dec 26, 2015 Eleanor Kos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Usually I find miscommunication or lack of communication between characters painful and frustrating to read because it comes off as a plot contrivance. With Stephen and Diana, it's painful and frustrating because this is the only way it could possibly go between them. Knowing that did not prevent me from wanting to slap Stephen's face off for the last few scenes of the book, like HOLY SHIT WOULD YOU FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST TELL HER?

But of course he can't just come out with it. He wouldn't be St
Kaye Stambaugh
Feb 21, 2016 Kaye Stambaugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Left uneasy at the conclusion of The Reverse of the Medal where Jack Aubrey was falsely accused of a crime that struck him from the Post-Captain's list, and the British Naval Intelligence organization is sorely compromised by insiders, the title The Letters of Marque gives full insight as to JA's next career move.

Happily, Stephen Maturin buys the HMS Surprise and the adventure continues in one of Jack's (and this reader's) favorite ship. Redemption and reunion are strong themes in the book, whi
Neil Coulter
Dec 28, 2014 Neil Coulter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Letter of Marque has been one of the quickest reads in the Aubrey/Maturin series. In large part this is because of the immense relief at having Jack's luck return. As I've said in a previous review, I don't by any means need every book in the series to have a "happily ever after" ending; but build-up of bad luck and bad breaks over the past few volumes had become overwhelming. In this volume, Jack is lucky once more, and so many of the loose ends of sadness are resolved happily. This is the

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
Jul 29, 2013 Randy rated it it was amazing
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
May 26, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2008 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2011 Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 30, 2008 purplechick rated it really liked it

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
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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 about Patrick O'Brian...

Other Books in the Series

Aubrey & Maturin (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1)
  • Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2)
  • H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin, #3)
  • The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4)
  • Desolation Island (Aubrey/Maturin, #5)
  • The Fortune of War (Aubrey/Maturin, #6)
  • The Surgeon's Mate (Aubrey/Maturin, #7)
  • The Ionian Mission (Aubrey/Maturin, #8)
  • Treason's Harbour (Aubrey/Maturin #9)
  • The Far Side of the World (Aubrey/Maturin, #10)

Share This Book

“[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?”
“West was the only officer on the quarterdeck, and it so happened that the party of hands making dolphins and paunch-mats on the forecastle were all Shelmerstonians. West was gaping rather vacantly over the taffrail when he saw an extraordinarily handsome woman ride along the quay, followed by a groom. She dismounted at the height of the ship, gave the groom her reins, and darted straight across the brow and so below.

   'Hey there,' he cried, hurrying after her, 'this is Dr Maturin's cabin. Who are you, ma'am?'

   'I am his wife, sir,' she said, 'and I beg you will desire the carpenter to sling a cot for me here.' She pointed, and then bending and peering out of the scuttle she cried 'Here they are. Pray let people stand by to help him aboard: he will be lying on a door.' She urged West out of the cabin and on deck, and there he and the amazed foremast hands saw a blue and gold coach and four, escorted by a troop of cavalry in mauve coats with silver facings, driving slowly along the quay with their captain and a Swedish officer on the box, their surgeon and his mate leaning out of the windows, and all of them, now joined by the lady on deck, singing Ah tutti contenti saremo cosí, ah tutti contenti saremo, saremo cosí with surprisingly melodious full-throated happiness.”
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