HMS Surprise Message Board

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HMS Surprise Message Board

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1perodicticus Primer missatge
jul. 27, 2006, 3:08 pm

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2weidners Primer missatge
jul. 27, 2006, 9:32 pm

"...'The Navy is the life for me,' said Martin again. 'Quite apart from the excellent company - and I may say that as far as I have seen, the ordinary sailormen are quite as obliging as the officers.'

'I have certainly found it so, in many cases. Aft the more honour, forward the better man, as Lord Nelson put it,' said Stephen. 'Aft being the officers and young gentlemen, forward the hands - the container for the contents, you understand. Yet I think that by forward we are to take him to mean real sailors; for you are to observe that in a crew such as this a great many scrovies are necessarily swept in, froward dirty disreputable rough good-for-nothing disorderly ragabashes and raparees to begin with, and sometimes for ever.'"

jul. 28, 2006, 4:52 am

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jul. 28, 2006, 6:53 am

I've read them all except the very last. It would be too sad to read. I started with The Nutmeg of Consolation from Dublin Public Library around 1998 and was completely hooked from page 1

5Donogh Primer missatge
jul. 28, 2006, 9:33 am

Group image alternatives:
Both are Geoff Hunt pieces and both worthy in their own way

jul. 28, 2006, 10:00 am

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jul. 28, 2006, 11:01 am

I started the series when Master and Commander was first published in the US (I was a bookseller at the time).

I stopped reading after HMS Surprise--it was just too sad, and Stephen and and Jack were like friends. I didn't start again for at least a decade, and was delighted to find that there were some ups to go with the downs...

--John Weidner

jul. 31, 2006, 6:11 pm

I've finished the series - though I do mean to have a reread of some of the later books this year - I'm up to The Letter of Marque I think. My favorite, though yes, you're right weidners that it's actually quite sad, is H.M.S Surprise, perhaps because of the very nature of the comedy and tragedy which fills it.

I'm curious - does anyone have the new edition of Persons, Animals, Ships, and Cannon? I bought my copy last year, but though tempted to update my reference collection I haven't gotten up the courage to face down the $50 price tag.

Along those lines, which are your favorite reference books for the series? As much as I mocked it at the time I discovered it, my friends and I had great fun with Lobscouse & Spotted Dog last year, when we had a naval dinner - and still swear by gooseberry fool for a nice company desert.

jul. 31, 2006, 9:29 pm

I've read the whole series -- or, I should say, my husband read them all to me over about a span of a year and a half. It was fun to be able to share all the characters. We still sometimes call each other for dinner by jerking our chins and saying "Vittles is up."

ag. 1, 2006, 8:01 am

I have read the whole series too and must admit that it was hard to come to teh end- they become so alive after 20 books! it i snice to think of them as real people, forever sailing the seas. O'Brian has created (or re-created) soemthing that will last for a long time I think. But I am also a huge fan of the Flashman series, which is completely different in tone but also well researched.

11bookstothesky Primer missatge
ag. 1, 2006, 9:33 pm

I was in the middle of the 18th book when O'brian died and I just stopped reading them for several years because I didn't want them to end. Then Master and Commander came out at the movies and I finished The Yellow Admiral at that point then went back and re-read the first three novels (even better the second time around; lots of subtleties I missed the first time through). I still have 19, 20 and 21 to read but I'm sort of savoring the wait.

By the way, Master and Commander was the most expensive movie I ever saw. It ultimately cost me $280.00 because my car got towed (missed the "no parking 4-6 pm" sign in the cluster of others on a Westwood, CA side street). It's a good thing I liked the movie; I'd be pissed otherwise :)

ag. 2, 2006, 6:56 am

Aquest missatge ha estat suprimit pel seu autor.

ag. 2, 2006, 11:31 am

Quote weidners:
> "froward dirty disreputable rough good-for-nothing disorderly ragabashes and raparees to begin with"

Hey, that is from The Ionian Mission! I've just read that chapter yesterday evening, so it's fresh in my mind.
I am a newbie (or should I say squeaker?) to the series. When I was bored last October, I went to the libraries' DVD section for the first time and picked an adventure film with a tall ship and a ferocious-looking captain on the cover. I remembered having it seen announced in the local cinema, but never got round to see it. The rest is history. :-)
Amazon's getting more business from me now (never seen one english POB in the bookshops here).
And POB actually influenced my choice of dessert during my UK vacation. One Pub had Spotted Dog/Dick on the list. I'd never have chosen it without knowing it from the books. Loved it.

Ipsographic, I live alone, but I actually read out sections of the book loud, just for fun!

ag. 2, 2006, 12:40 pm

ipsographic, my boyfriend and I mean to read them together - we'll be starting Master and Commander sometime soon I hope :)

ag. 2, 2006, 2:24 pm

Just going to throw out another quote, one of my favourites, since it's about books!
"...she had a good store of books, and she had actually read right through Clarissa Harlowe without hanging herself (though that was sometimes only for want of a convenient hook), without looking to see how the ninny would escape that vile coxcomb Lovelace - how Mrs Wogan despised conscious good looks in a man - and without skipping a line." Patrick O'Brian: Desolation Island, which it is my favourite book from the Canon at the moment.

ag. 3, 2006, 1:47 am

I've just been lucky enough to get the boxed set of the Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels, very nicely produced but alas I'm nearing the end of a fantastic journey. I'm a Zoologist so I love the natural history component of the books and the way Maturin gets so caught up in his quests for specimens. And remember always choose the lesser of two weevils! Cheers.

ag. 3, 2006, 2:08 am

feach, 286 Animal Illustrations from Jardine's Naturalist's Library just seemed to me to be a perfect complement as an imaginary notebook for Stephen, and was happily on sale at Dover earlier this year.

ag. 3, 2006, 2:15 am

I've often poured over the Jardine's in the my University's library, there are some terrific illustrations, oh for the set!

ag. 3, 2006, 3:30 am

>"I've just been lucky enough to get the boxed set of the Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels, "

I've been eyeing that box, too, but then decided to go for the Harper/Collins softcover ones, because they have covers by Geoff Hunt, and some fine essays on the books. Also, if I had the box, the fun would not last as long (200 pages a day...- probably four weeks and a bit).

ag. 3, 2006, 4:33 am

Aquest missatge ha estat suprimit pel seu autor.

ag. 4, 2006, 2:10 pm

I just found a book tip on the IMDb boards, and immediately put it on my wish list: The Social History of the Navy 1793-1815 by Michael Lewis. Seems to be a very good explanation of the social rules and regulations that governed the live of sailors (foremast jacks and officers alike) during the napoleonic years. And quite readable, too. Has anyone read this book? I might put it on interlibrary loan (although the german Library Portal could only find one copy of 1960 in the whole country).

ag. 4, 2006, 2:12 pm

OK, LT ate the touchstone, so here's the link to the book

ag. 12, 2006, 3:00 am

I've read the whole series except for The Wine-Dark Sea (I read some of them out of order, depending on what I could find used or at the library). Sadly, the quality of the last few books isn't, in my opinion, comparable with the early ones. It feels a bit like O'Brian is just going through the motions--characterization gets quite sketchy, and the wit and sharpness of the dialogue is rather blunted.

That doesn't, of course, stop me from wishing there were more books.

Editat: ag. 12, 2006, 5:29 am

Re Message 23 - "Sadly, the quality of the last few books isn't, in my opinion, comparable with the early ones. It feels a bit like O'Brian is just going through the motions"

Yes, I agree, but I also think his editor let him down, there are incidents that happen throughout the series that are repeated or forgotten, (warning, latter book info about to be announced) eg who owns the HMS "Surprise"?, Maturin buys her, Jack buys her from him and then Maturin seems to own her again. I just think POB was getting a bit potty and his editers were not on top of it. There are other bits and pieces too, but the point of this post is that yes, the earlier books are better.

ag. 13, 2006, 12:21 pm


I highly recommend The Wooden World, by N.A.M. Rodger. It's a fascinating look at what was really going on in the 18th Century Royal Navy.

For instance, "mutinies" were common, but were nothing like the "Mutiny on the Bounty." Normally they happened in port, and were much like wildcat strikes, over real grievances. And were treated as such, and usually settled by negotiation, not punishment...

--John Weidner

ag. 18, 2006, 12:01 pm

I've finished the entire series, but I own only 12. I initially read them from the British Council Library in Mumbai. Recently reread H.M.S. Surprise.

My favourite : The Ionian Mission, 'cause thats the first one I read.

ag. 18, 2006, 2:17 pm

I just finished The Ionian Mission, and it is definitely up there with Desolation Island and H.M.S. Surprise. I liked the focus on J. Aubrey and the insights I got from the Ionian Mission. Also the battle near the end was a real pageturner!
What do you think of HMS Surprise? It's partly set in India. Do you think it is realistic? I know that I've got a massive attack of nitpicking when reading The Surgeon's Mate, which is set in the Baltic (Germany/Denmark, my home region). Book's plastered with post-its, heheh!

Editat: ag. 18, 2006, 4:19 pm

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set. 10, 2006, 8:20 pm

Hello everyone. I'm slowly working my way through the series and the last one I read was Desolation Island. Like others on here I'm reading other books in between to prolong the enjoyment, although I just looked at my recent reading list and I've read eight books since then, so its time for The Fortune of War very shortly I think!

30aartvocado Primer missatge
set. 24, 2006, 12:23 am

'Wittles is up,this directly minute!

nov. 14, 2006, 4:13 pm

I'm reading The Nutmeg of Consolation right now, and it is a little tiresome reading through all the synopses of various other books that O'Brian insists on putting in there. I don't remember him doing this in previous works, perhaps his editor said he ought to?

I read somewhere that O'Brian only wished he had known in the beginning that he would be writing 20 novels for the same characters. I agree, and not only because of the long year of 1805. I really think Capt. Aubrey is married off way too soon in the series. I loved his womanizing in the earlier books, which seems more accurate somehow than the occasional lust he feels in the later books. I guess O'Brian felt it would detract from Jack's heroic traits, but a sea captain who is that loyal to his wife? Please....I think it really detracts from the believability of the character. I guess O'Brian is trying to compensate by writing Sam in there, but that was before Jack met Sophie. I'm guessing that O'Brian was a good, loyal husband himself and just couldn't bring himself to make Jack a married cad. Oh well. At least we have Diana.

Editat: gen. 7, 2007, 1:38 am

littlegeek - I've not read Dean King's biography of O'Brian yet, but I gather from excerpts that he left a wife and kids (one seriously disabled) to run off to the south of France with his girlfriend. O'Brian was a brilliant writer, with a less than admirable past (we all have skeletons, ay?). Perhaps he made Aubrey faithful to Sophie out of regret for his own failings in the marital/parental line.

gen. 7, 2007, 1:55 pm

I find Patrick O'Brian intriguing from what I have read about him, and I have put Dean King's Patrick O'Brian: A life revealed as well as Nikolai Tolstoy's Patrick O'Brian: The making of the novelist 1914-1949 on my reading list. Tolstoy is O'Brian's stepson from the second marriage, and has been working from family sources including O'Brians personal library, which he inherited. What I have read from Tolstoy makes O'Brian a very complicated person with a troubled family history. I read a brief biographical sketch by Tolstoy, that made me put his book on my reading list.

juny 8, 2007, 2:50 am

I've reread the entire series at least 7 times over 14 years, and enjoyed it every time. It took me until the 3rd time through or so before I really started to grasp much of the nautical language and activity. I was ran across an incident of fothering a sail the other day - inordinately pleased with myself for knowing just what was going on.

For anyone having "end of series" dread: the novels are so rich, with so many characters, that in rereading you will find yourself picking up details you overlooked the first (or second!) time through. And while 21 is a tease of what might have been, it has a wonderful dueling scene with Stephen (of course! "My man is deadly") that was a flash of the early novels. By all means, read it.

On a tangent: permit me to name Blue Latitudes: Going Boldly Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz. I just finished it yesterday, and recommend it to any POB fan. Horwitz, a fine writer, becomes obsessed with trying to uncover what Cook was like, and what his last influence might be in places he charted. Horwitz visits Cook-related sites in the Pacific and in England. The book alternates between Cook and the modern era in wonderful juxtapositions. While Cook was of course somewhat earlier than Aubrey, much will sound familiar.

juny 8, 2007, 2:55 am

Oh, and as for reference books for the series, no one's yet mentioned Harbors and High Seas, another Dean King book. It has maps showing locations and routes mentioned in the books, one chapter per volume, with short discussion. Very helpful especially for those places that have either disappeared or been renamed. I think the last edition goes only through book 18 or so.

Editat: juny 8, 2007, 6:00 pm

I'm at The Letter of Marque. I am very slowly working my way through, and savoring each one like fine wine.

By the way, am I the only one here who has a crush on Dr. Maturin? I know he's messy and can be introverted, but I'm in love with him. I love Jack Aubrey too, but it's a bit different.

juny 9, 2007, 2:31 am

The personal hygiene issue has ruled out a crush on the good doctor, but he reminds of the kind of person you might have met in college and remained friends with all your life. You can cut him slack on the messiness and the bad temper because you know how brilliant he is, and how fiercely loyal a friend, and because of the things, good and bad, you went through together when the world was young.

juny 9, 2007, 10:59 am

>person you might have met in college and remained friends with all your life

Except that Maturin seems to have fought duels with practically everyone he knew at Trinity College, so "all your life" might have been quite short. Maybe he was a bit slower to take offence in his Paris days?

juny 10, 2007, 6:33 pm fairness, he probably didn't. O'Brien misrepresents the number of duels that the average Trinity student was involved in. Irishmen were proverbially touchy, in fact it was said that the first question that was asked of a prospective son in law was, "do you blaze sir?"

We duelled more than our brethern across the water, but no where near as much as we were made out to. that damn'd thing called honour by james kelly is a very fine book that offers a statistical analysis of Irish duelling for the period and is well worth a look, not just for the stats, but for some of the amazing stories of real life duels.

juny 12, 2007, 4:33 am

>39 thequestingvole:

Yes, on reflection, it does seem implausible that Irish undergraduates could have been killing each other off at such a rate. I remember being told in Oxford that the practice of "sconcing" (challenging a fellow undergraduate to a ritual drinking contest) had developed as a way of settling matters without the need for bloodshed. Presumably there were similar customs in Dublin? I'll look out for the Kelly book - sounds interesting.

juny 13, 2007, 8:05 pm

Re Dean King's Harbors and High Seas - I found it quite disappointing. It seems that he's so wary of giving away any plot points, that the maps are almost useless.

There's a project being done by Tom Horn to use a Google Maps mashup that will be much more comprehensive (

Back to King's book - I also found the information on the places visited to be very sketchy.

You may infer that I wasn't impressed overall B-)


juny 22, 2007, 2:31 am

I have read the whole series several times over, and expect I will continue to do so, every two or three years, until I cannot.

When I find used copies of Master and Commander in bookshops, I buy them, so as to be able to give them away to acquaintances.

juny 22, 2007, 4:30 pm

I have a similar conpulsion to buy remaindered copies of the Erast Fandorin mysteries by Boris Akunin.

ag. 15, 2007, 3:19 pm

#36 I'm in love with Stephen, too. If Diana can stand him, I'm sure he can't be that bad.

Nerds rule!

ag. 20, 2007, 11:43 am

Ok, so I read The Truelove (aka Clarissa Oakes) over the weekend and *SPOILER* I'm so glad to see Jack finally get some trim. This one is weird, it's very subtle. It seems like nothing is really happening, but the whole novel is about sex. Very interesting psychological musings.

I've also noticed that when I read O'Brian, I suddenly have the urge to wash my kitchen floor. Must be all that swabbing and stoning of the decks....

ag. 20, 2007, 3:21 pm

Phew! Glad you put the spoiler warning in there. Just managed to sail around your message, littlegeek. Halfway through Clarissa Oakes, me. :-)

ag. 22, 2007, 3:51 pm

re: 45

I've also noticed that when I read O'Brian, I suddenly have the urge to wash my kitchen floor. Must be all that swabbing and stoning of the decks....

Surely this is better though than my impulse to polish anything shiny! or silver in sight?

ag. 22, 2007, 5:32 pm

> 45 One of my favorite vignettes (can't remember which book, sorry) is when they were all ashore at Jack's house for a while, and went through the entire house scrubbing, painting and polishing, even to the point of prying up the kitchen flagstones and grinding new, clean surfaces on them.

Where are these guys when I need them?

ag. 23, 2007, 11:01 am

Yeah, I love that scene. When they're done, they go off and play cricket. You'd think they'd be tired!

ag. 23, 2007, 1:24 pm

> 49 You'd think. But they're all relatively young, I'm guessing, as sailors usually didn't live to a ripe old age, and they're all in fabulous shape and used to hard work.

And let's not underestimate the curiously selective male energy level. My husband can play basketball for an hour with the intensity of an NBA play-off game but after 20 minutes of shopping he needs to sit down and rest with an ice cream because "all this walking wears me out." Guys who claim to be too tired to go to a chick-flick can immediately rally when a friend calls for help with a fill-in-item-with-motor-here.

ag. 23, 2007, 2:17 pm

Yes, indeed....I even remember asking a lover once, "If another woman came in the door, you'd be up for seconds, tho, huh?" and he replied, "Well, of course!"

set. 20, 2007, 3:00 pm

So I recently read The Wine-Dark Sea and I'm wondering if O'Brian got flack for the lack of action in The Truelove. Because this book had action overkill. Volcanoes, lightning strikes, open boat journeys in horrible storms, failed coups, frostbite, etc. etc.

I'm not complaining, mind you, just saying.

set. 24, 2007, 1:52 am


Explanation approved :)

oct. 10, 2007, 11:03 pm

I've read all the way through many times as well. This time I waited a couple of years to get started again, just about to the end of The Ionian Mission.

The first time through I read at breakneck speed, the second a bit more slowly. Now I usually just read a few pages at a time, savoring the language, descriptive power, and time spent with those marvelous characters.

set. 15, 2010, 9:30 am

I found this at Remind you of anyone?

“The Most Desperate Naval Battle”
Posted in Oddities by Greg Ross on September 14th, 2010
On the twenty-third of December, 1757, the British privateer Terrible, Captain William Death (who had Devil for his lieutenant and Ghost for his surgeon), of twenty-six guns and two hundred men, captured a large French ship, after an obstinate battle, in which he lost his brother and sixteen men killed. A few days after, he fell in with the privateer Vengeance, thirty-six guns and three hundred and sixty men, who recaptured the prize, and, having manned her, both ships bore down on the Terrible, whose main was shot away by the first broadside. After a desperate engagement, in which the French captain and his lieutenant were killed, with two thirds of his crew, the Terrible was boarded, when no more than twenty-six persons were found alive, sixteen of whom had lost an arm or a leg, the remaining ten being badly wounded. The ship, which had been equipped at Execution dock, was so shattered that it could scarcely be kept above water.

– Albert Plympton Southwick, Quizzism; And Its Key, 1884

set. 15, 2010, 10:47 pm

If you are interested, there is an insanely active mailing list which is reached through the website;

jul. 25, 2013, 2:42 pm

Here's a story from Lapham's Quarterly about the origins of the phrase The Wine-Dark Sea, all the way back to our pal Homer.

oct. 1, 2013, 12:52 pm

I've found a nice little blog - The Dear Surprise.

oct. 1, 2013, 3:32 pm

58, interesting blog. The POB cottage industry continues unabated.

oct. 1, 2013, 3:57 pm

Agreed, I've sent a reminder to bookmark it at home.

I'm about due for another volume in the Canon, but I'm in the Doldrums aboard a few other books. There is just too little time for reading. Perhaps if there were a Recommended Daily Allowance, I could persuade my employer to set aside an hour for my health.

des. 31, 2014, 12:05 pm

Well shipmates, his ancestor was a landlubber, but I thought the passing of the 8th Duke of Wellington might be of interest to the group. Something I learned was that the 200th anniversary of Waterloo is in 2015, and it appears that it will be a big to-do.

gen. 13, 2015, 2:48 pm

"In a message posted on the Waterloo 200 website, he \Wellesley\ said: “I am often asked whether we should not now, in these days of European unity, forget Waterloo and the battles of the past."

I was in Leipzig at the bicentennial of the 1813 Völkerschlacht (Battle of Leipzig), the deciding battle of the Napoleonic Wars and, until WW1, the biggest land battle. Precisely because of the idea of unity, these events are possible and important.

My memorable moment of that weekend (beside experiencing actual cannon fire): We were watching the French reenactors (actual Frenchmen) getting ready to march up to the battlefield, horses, cannon and all, when a driver, who had lost his way, came out of a side street. A moment of quiet, then the commandant of the French shouted at him and called for a mock attack!

It was a car with Russian number plates, inside were three Russians in full historic Russian regalia, looking for their staging post. They got out of the car and shouted back! Then everyone started laughing and clapping.

gen. 13, 2015, 3:26 pm

Priceless! Bet all involved will be sharing that story for years to come.

gen. 20, 2015, 4:47 pm

It's impressive to me, and heartening, how, after just one generation, the most bitter of enemies can become the warmest of friends. The American Civil War is another example.

Of course, this is probably only true where the former enemies clashed on more or less equal terms. As the expression goes, grass grows quickly over the battlefield, never over the gallows.

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