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Books > Patrick O'Brian

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message 1: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse This brief biography at suggests not.

I found that watching the "Master and Commander" film after reading some of the books made the film more exciting to watch. I was yelling at Aubrey to fire his stern chasers, lol.

message 2: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse I have "Sea of Words" on my amazon wishlist. Roll on Christmas!

message 3: by Glenn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:50PM) (new)

Glenn C. | 23 comments Scotty, I mentioned the 'Sharpe' books by Bernard Cornwell, which are very historically accurate so far as weaponry, tactics, battles, etc. Cornwell was never in the military, where tactics evolved as fast as weapons. O'Brien did have one 'constant' as ships of sail have not changed much. Historically, with England being a 'island nation' and so dependent on shipping, and the ships needed to protect the transports, that the navy was always more 'celebrated' than the army. Naval officers gained wealth, sometimes tremendous wealth thru 'lawful prizes' whereas army/calvary officers had to 'loot' the same as common soldiers to gain richs from battle. Amazing also was the fact that army commissions were bought. It was said that Wellington would not have reached the rank he did if not for the fact that his family was rich, with an older brother being in charge of all British interests (But not East Indian Co.) in the 'Raj' at one time. So wealth and connections were an absolute requirement to gain field-grade rank in the army. Whereas O'Brien makes mention of several admirals who 'came up thru the hawse-hole'

message 4: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Selling commissions is shocking to our meritocratic ears, but the thinking behind it was sound enough. When an officer sold out, ie left the army, the money was returned to him. This meant officers never left the army indigent.

message 5: by Glenn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Glenn C. | 23 comments Well, it sometimes had peculiar connotations.

Mary Anne Clarke (3 April 1776–21 June 1852) was the mistress of Frederick, Duke of York.

Born Mary Anne Thompson, she became the Duke's mistress in 1803, while he was Commander-in-Chief of the army. In 1809, a national scandal arose when it was discovered that she had been selling army commissions.

message 6: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Some people!

message 7: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Aye, and we have futtocks something to, as well!

message 8: by Monissa, Deck Hand (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
On the subject of whether O'Brian went to see, I was looking through the essay in the back of the Fortune of War last night (Black, Choleric & Married, by Patrick O'Brian)

"The disease that racked my bosom every now and then did not much affect my strength and when it left me in peace (for there were long remissions) sea-air and sea-voyages were recommended. An uncle had a two-ton sloop and several friends had boats, which was fine, but what was even better was that my particular friend Edward, who shared a tutor with me, had a cousin who possessed an ocean-going yacht, a converted square-rigged merchantmean, that he used to crew with undergraduates and fair-sized boys, together with some real seamen, and sail far off into the Atlantic. The young are wonderfully resilient, and although I never became much of a topman, after a while I could hand, reef and steer without disgrace, which allowed more ambitiious sailoring later on."

message 9: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Nice work, Monissa :).

message 10: by Monissa, Deck Hand (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
On futtocks (I was wondering on this, because I just finished Desolation Island, where the futtocks are stuffed and it's not obviously not the shrouds, so finally got around to looking it up in Smyth's Sailors Word Book, which I like because it was originally published in 1867 and of course the meanings of words change):

"FUTTOCKS (Foot Hooks):
The separate pieces of timber which compose the frame. There are four futtocks (component parts of the rib), and occasionally five, to a ship. The timbers that constitute her breadth--the middle division of a ship's timbers, or those parts which are situated between the floor and top timbers--separate timbers which compose the frame. Those next the keel are called ground-futtocks or navel-timbers, and the rest upper futtocks."

If that's confusing, try and

message 11: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Heh. That is a substantial change.

message 12: by Monissa, Deck Hand (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
Not sure if it's a change, so much as a word being used for different things, and one now being used less. That is when it gets confusing, especially when reference books don't cover multiple meaning. Like be belay, which can be stop or attach lines to a (belay) pin.

Speaking of lines, there's a word where the meaning has changed.

message 13: by Monissa, Deck Hand (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
I don't know much at all. I did a bit of crash cource in tall ships & I do have some good reference books though :)

Right, lines.

Smyth has: "The general appellation of a number of small ropes in a ship, as buntlines, cluelines, bowlines etc" That is, it's used for particular ropes.

Whereas the modern usage is for *all* ropes to be called line e.g. see

The best explanation I've come across is at the bottom of

"I have often heard people say that a sailboat has lines, not ropes. Vessels DO have lines BUT "lines" refers to architectural drawings, not to rigging. Rope, on the other hand, is made by rope makers on a ropewalk and comes on spools or in coils and is called rope until it is given a specific task, at which point it gets a name. It may end up being a rope, such as a FOOTROPE or a BOLTROPE, or it may become a line, such as a BUNTLINE or LEACHLINE, but more likely it will be some other thing, such as a SHEET, CLUE, TACK, HALYARD etc. A sheet, for example, is not a sheet-line or sheet-rope but just "sheet" with a bunch of adjectives in front of it, as in starboard mizzen topgallant sheet."

message 14: by Monissa, Deck Hand (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
Might have to read more "back of books essays" to find out about the mystery illness.

message 15: by Monissa, Deck Hand (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Monissa | 87 comments Mod
Sounds like a typical writer ;)

I did the "Adventure Sail" weekend two years ago. That was great fun. It's for the general public, with no sailing experience.

A year ago I joined the Sail Training Association & started crewing as a trainee, but I could only go down about every 3-4 weeks, so mostly I was just trying to remember what I knew, and not learning quick enough, and it was getting too expensive to keep up :( Was a wonderful summer though.

Mostly they do 1.5 hours harbour sails (out on the Derwent River) for tourists on Saturdays & Sundays, and also charters, which can be a bit longer. A lot of setting sail and wearing ship. There are occasional overnight trips (like the Adventure Sail) but you need to have done one of the specific training days to crew on them, so I haven't done any of them.

message 16: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse I suspect this mysterious illness was clinical depression, for which sea voyages were often recommended as a cure. Hence the phrase "a sea change".

message 17: by Glenn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:53PM) (new)

Glenn C. | 23 comments "What do “lines” mean now? I assume they’ve become somewhat synonymous with sheets, rodes, cables, ropes…? "

Supposedly, a 'real sailorman' never, but never call's a line a 'rope'...

I was looking for a link I found on my 'boating home' where they mentioned a site thats just people looking to fill out crews for ships of sail...I didnt find it, but I did find several related ones. It would be nice, providing you had the time to do this to gain experience and $$$ to pay your bills at home while away...

Scotty, so far as the quote "Parents are supposed to love their children, yet surely there is the implied condition that the children should be reasonably lovable?" I dont know what to say but that I have some slight sympathy with that...

message 18: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Yeah, I've heard about that suffering....

message 19: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse I suppose it might actually be his name, if he's a Quaker :D.

message 20: by Debbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:57PM) (new)

Debbie Moorhouse It's not so much that it's a popular Quaker name, as that it's a Quaker-type name, if that makes sense. It may even be that O'Brian was making fun of Quaker names. I tried googling for Quaker names but all I got were genealogy sites, or sites about oats! and oatmeal! oh my. However, first names like Peace, Charity, Goodwill, Deliverance, etc. are or have been used by (some) Quakers--and I believe other religious groups as well.

message 21: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new)

Melissa (melissaharl) | 21 comments Hello All! Very happy find Goodreads and this group as well.

I am a longtime O'Brian fan. I started reading the series when The Wine-Dark Sea was published. I raced through the books the first time through, because as Scotty says above (message #4) the later books are really all one long novel. More recent readings have become more leisurely as I savor the language and descriptions.

Currently I am reading Treason's Harbour, one of my top five or so from the series.

message 22: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:14PM) (new)

Melissa (melissaharl) | 21 comments Thanks, Scotty. As you might guess it's hard for me to pick one favorite Aubrey/Maturin book, but in no particular order my top five right now would be -

HMS Surprise
Desolation Island
The Surgeon's Mate
Treason's Harbour
Reverse of the Medal

One thing I noticed reading through again was that some books that I didn't like as much the first time (such as The Mauritius Command) I came to like a lot more on repeated readings. In that case, the complicated details of ships coming and going all the time I found a bit overwhelming, and I didn't appreciate the Jack vs. Lord Clonfert sub-plot as much as I do now.

message 23: by Coalbanks (new)

Coalbanks | 16 comments I knew a couple of guys (twin brothers born in the 1920's) who had TB in the late '30's early '40's, got penicillin in the late '40s & lived into the '70's & '90's so it's possible that someone could live into their 90's after sufferring TB in their youth.

message 24: by Coalbanks (last edited May 10, 2008 06:30PM) (new)



message 25: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Coalbanks, could you please edit your post into lower case? It feels uncomfortably as if you're shouting at me.

Thanks :).

message 26: by Alex (new)

Alex (alex_beecroft) Where are you getting your information from, Coalbanks? AFAIK, although anyone could buy a commission in the army, you had to pass the lieutenant's exam to be a commissioned officer in the Navy. You trained on the job from age 13, could not take the exam until you'd accumulated at least six years service at sea. You were examined by a board of three Captains and had to prove that you understood navigation and ship-handling well enough to be trusted with the most expensive weapon of war of the age. And men of exceptional talent were promoted even if they came from the lower deck. (Captain James Cook for example.)

As a result of which, the Navy had many excellent officers.

I won't argue with you over the Army. I know nothing about the Army. But I do know something about the Navy, and in their case I think you need to check your facts.

message 27: by Coalbanks (new)

Coalbanks | 16 comments Agreed that the Navy commission was a difficult test but didn't many men (18&19 Cty) remain midshipmen for years until left ashore when manpower was surplus? What qualified an applicant for rank of midshipman, the 1st step on the ladder to a commission? A letter of good character from the parson & squire & a fee paid? Some few men did rise from the crew to become officers but they were few & rare. As for the Army it was apparently easier to get in with the right connections, fees paid, passing a written exam (which created an industry of training applicants to pass the tests) and luck, ie, Winston Churchill who claimed he studied only one map thoroughly & that was the map question asked. The Royal Artillary required a greater knowledge of maths. than the infantry or cavalry. Thank-you.

message 28: by Coalbanks (new)

Coalbanks | 16 comments My apologies, shouting was not implied in the use of upper case.

message 29: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moorhouse No problem :). It is an internet convention tho' that u/c=shouting.

Many army officers would have come from the public (ie private) schools where officer training was a routine part of the curriculum.

message 30: by Alex (new)

Alex (alex_beecroft) oh yes, undoubtedly the young gentleman came aboard partly because they were young gentlemen! My point was that they would get stalled at that low rank unless they could pass the Lieutenant exam. So among the commissioned officers you only had those who had been able to prove they had a certain amount of ability.

Of course good ship handling skills don't necessarily mean that a man is a good leader. Captain Bligh was obviously an example of that. But nevertheless I don't think it's fair to say that the Navy's success was entirely down to its lower deck people. Not unless you want to argue down the tactical genius of someone like Rodney or the meticulous organisational skills and political acumen of Collingwood, or the dash and verve of Cochrane, or the dogged persistence of Cook, or Bligh's astounding feat of navigation. And those are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

message 31: by Linda (new)

Linda | 5 comments Personally, I'm convinced Patrick O'Brien is a time traveller and that he didn't really die, he just went back to the 18th century...

The companion book, Sea of Words is very useful, I cited it in the bibliography of Star-Crossed. Still, you ought to have the Oxford English Dictionary on hand as well, when you're reading O'Brien.

His biography of Joseph Banks is also commendable.

message 32: by Camille (new)

Camille | 5 comments i like what patrick said it is very interesting

message 33: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moorhouse :)

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