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Patrick O'Brian's "The Mauritius Command" -- A Study In Command

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message 1: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Apr 08, 2010 08:57PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) I just finished reading The Mauritius Command today for the fourth or fifth time. I am in the process of slowly reading the entire canon again, and savoring every sentence. The rationale for my comment today is that I am of the opinion that The Mauritius Command is incredibly aptly titled. This novel is all about command. In fact, it is a study in command. While I know that much, if not all, of the canon is required reading at various military academies and non-commissioned officer schools, this novel should be singled out for in-depth study and analysis by young officers learning their trade. At a minimum, I do hope that this particular novel is required reading by midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy and the cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy -- if not, it should be!

Firstly, it is a valuable lesson in conducting a relatively large-scale combined forces military campaign thousands of miles from the home countries; and that both French and English are really quite unable to adequately restore and refit in the event of disaster; consequently, marshaling and preserving resources is of paramount importance. Secondly, it is in this novel that we see the full maturation of Jack Aubrey as Captain and Commodore and the intricacies of command, authority, and responsibility. Jack not only has to consider the fighting trim and character of his own vessel, but that of his subordinate captains; as well as the requirements placed upon him by Admiral Bertie in Cape Town, and the Admiralty in London. At the same time Jack is responsible for working with Stephen Maturin and Governor Farquhar in ensuring an orderly and efficient transfer in political rule from the French to the British with the capture of Mauritius and La Reunion.

Commodore Aubrey's dealings with Captains Corbett, Pym, and Lord Clonfort were fascinating, to say the least. While each man brought significant value to the expedition; each also had significant character flaws, some personal, some professional. It was incredible to see how Jack slowly came to understand the full measure of each of these men and their ships and make use of them as well as he could. I think it was his ability to recognize their inherent strengths and weaknesses that allowed him to successfully pull off this extraordinary campaign.

Finally, I think Patrick O'Brian's use of the real historical events of this amazing campaign combined with his fictional characters makes for an extraordinary read. It is the experience gained and lessons learned by Jack and Stephen that allow them continue on with their voyages in the remainder of the canon. This is a brilliant addition to the series in all respects!


message 2: by Tom (last edited Apr 09, 2010 09:33AM) (new)

Tom Behr) (tom_behr) | 10 comments Christopher:
Thanks for a really insightful analysis - I thoroughly enjoyed Jack's complex dealings with these captains when I first read Mauritius Command but failed to see the context you provide. Three thoughts:
Jack's growing maturity as a leader of men is then all the more delightfully contrasted with his utter incompetence on land in the opening chapter -- even caterpillars enjoy their triumph over Jack!
Jack's memories of Clonfert allow O'Brian to deftly take sides in the Sidney Smith vs. Nelson imbroglio (with Jack squarely on Nelson's side, of course).
While we see Jack weighing each captain's (and ship's) strengths and weaknesses with a thoughtful, objective fairness, his anger at Bonden being flogged is immediate and absolute.
Thanks again
Tom


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