Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A Recent Interview With Julian Stockwin

April 11, 2018

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Kydd series over the years. This interview with the author coincides with the release of the 20th novel in the series. BTW, if you do not subscribe to Quarterdeck, you are really missing out on news, reviews, and interviews.


Free Scholarly Books on Maritime Affairs

March 19, 2018

From the Dutch East India Company to Arctic explorations to the French naval presence in the Pacific, hundreds of scholarly monographs on maritime affairs are freely available. While some books are tangential to things nautical, there are enough ones of interest at this site to satisfy one’s curiosity. The ease of navigation and use of many filters aids in your search.

Free Audiobooks of Naval Fiction

October 18, 2017

More than one hundred audiobooks of naval and maritime fiction are available for your listening pleasure. While these books are in the public domain, there are many classic good reads that pre-date 1923. For example, here is the fourteen-hour audiobook entitled Thrilling Narratives of Mutiny, Murder and Piracy; this and other reads, such as some of the works of Frederick Marryat,  can be downloaded to your computer or a portable device. Enjoy the rousing adventures!

Online Texts of “Robinson Crusoe”

February 23, 2017

As most of us know, the exploits of Alexander Selkirk form the basis for Robinson Crusoe. For those not acquainted with Selkirk, please peruse these contemporary sources: Richard Steel’s 1713 piece in The Englishman; Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea, and around the world, perform’d in the years 1708, 1709, 1710, and 1711…. (1712); and Rogers Woodes’ A cruising voyage round the world: first to the South-seas, thence to the East-Indies, and homewards by the cape of Good Hope. Begun in 1708, and finish’d in 1711 (1712). A 2005 article from The Smithsonian gives us a modern précis of Selkirk’s adventures.

The telling of Crusoe’s sojourn on the island actually spawned an entire genre of fiction – the robinsonade. Daniel Defoe’s The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, mariner… was first published in 1719 and went through several editions; the one here is the third edition. This book was been reprinted/republished many times; here you will find hundreds of renditions in English from 1719 to 1922. Many more in other languages can also be perused. This site –  the Digital Library of the Caribbean – boasts almost 200 volumes of this title; what makes it unique is that it carries full-text versions beyond the copyright date barrier (that would be another essay in itself) of 1922.

Another Seafaring Dictionary

February 15, 2017

Admiral William Henry Smyth had more than one career – he sailed on a merchantman, then entered the Royal Navy and had numerous exploits during the Napoleonic Wars, undertook a hydrographic expedition of Sicily and the nearby Italian coast, wrote multiple treatises, advanced astronomy to such an extent that he was elected to the presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society, co-found the Royal Geographical Society, wrote biographies, and also was a numismatist. What attracted me to this polymath was his The Sailor’s Word-Book (1867), a posthumous tome that exceeds seven hundred pages. He takes into account loan-words from other languages that English seamen would have been familiar with. Here is his entry from The Dictionary of National Biography written by none other than John Knox Laughton.


Great Britain. Naval Intelligence Division. Handbooks

October 31, 2016

During World War I, the NID published dozens of “country studies” to acquaint planners with aspects of countries little-known or explored. In fact, some of the volumes, such as those on Saudi Arabia, were based on native sources (5). Each study contains information on geography, native plants, populations, languages, spelling, place-names, diseases, military forces, and importantly, routes through the country. These works were never intended for the general public so it is rare to find them. For a more inclusive look at the NID, please read this dissertation – Studies in British naval intelligence, 1880-1945.

Who Is Jack Aubrey’s Role Model?

September 23, 2016

I guess that depends on whom you read. Two names, however, rise to the top: Admiral Thomas Cochrane and Admiral Edward Pellew; both individuals possessed the prerequisite skills that would have attracted Patrick O’Brian. The former was more flamboyant and controversial, the latter is considered the greatest frigate captain in the Royal Navy.

The partisans for Cochrane can point to this article – The real master and commander – that certainly presents a strong argument for Cochrane being the role model for Aubrey.

The case for Edward Pellew, who, if you remember, was featured in the early career of Hornblower, is convincingly laid out in this article – The Master and Commander revealed: The real Captain Jack Aubrey, at your service.

I am of the opinion that it is both, but be that as it may, here are some primary sources (along with a few secondary ones) that support their cases.


Thomas Cochrane.

The trial of Charles Random de Berenger, Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, the Hon. Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, Richard Gathorne Butt, Ralph Sandom…1814 [Trial proceedings on conspiracy of stock fraud. See below]


The case of Thomas Lord Cochrane, K. B. : containing the history of the hoax, the trial, the proceedings in the House of Commons, and the meetings of the electors of Westminster (1814) [This deals with Cochrane’s supposed role in the Great Stock Exchange Hoax of 1814. This work is his rebuttal.]

An address from Lord Cochrane to his constituents, the electors of Westminster. (1815) (From his prison cell]

A letter to Lord Ellenborough from Lord Cochrane. (1815) [Ellenborough is the judge who sentenced him.]

Narrative of services in the liberation of Chili, Peru, and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese domination (2 vols., 1859)


The autobiography of a seaman [Thomas Cochrane] (2d ed., 2 vols, 1861) (NAM Rodger, in his Command of the Ocean, labels this work as “A mendacious work of self-justification….” 794)

The life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald; completing “The autobiography of a seaman.” ( 2 vols, 1869) [Written by his son, the eleventh Earl of Dundonald]


His speeches in Parliament. (use Cochrane or Dundonald, depending on the decade you are searching). You also have recourse to the Naval Chronicle and the London Gazette.

Edward Pellew

There does not appear to be a great deal of writing by Pellew available online. Here are his speeches in Parliament.

Some of his dispatches can be traced through his biographical memoir in the Naval Chronicle; others are available via the London Gazette.

Some works of interest:

A narrative of the expedition to Algiers in the year 1816, under the command of the Right Hon. Admiral Lord Viscount Exmouth (1819)


The life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth (1835) [With a few examples of his writings in an appendix.]


Types of naval officers drawn from the history of the British Navy; with some account of the conditions of naval warfare at the beginning of the eighteenth century… (1901) [Chapter 7 on Pellew]


Edward Pellew (1934) [A goodly number of letters both to and from him.]

Robert Southey’s “Life of Nelson”

August 22, 2016

Robert Southey’s Life of Nelson (first British edition, 1813; first United States edition, 1813) has been in print since it was first published; it stands as one of his greatest works. If you want to see the correspondence with his publisher and others over this work, then this selection of letters, well over one hundred, should satisfy.

Royal Navy Court Martials

August 1, 2016

Some notable court martial cases include:

Minutes taken at a court-martial, asembled on board His Majesty’s ship Torbay : began the 28th of January, 1744, and ended the 5th of February following, pursuant to an order from the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, bearing date the 28th of November, 1744, to Vice-admiral Rowley : being an enquiry into the conduct of Captain Richard Norris, in the engagement between the English fleet under the command of Admiral Mathews, and the united fleet of French and Spaniards in the Mediterranean, on the 11th of February, 1743 (1745)

The minutes of a court-martial, held on board His Majesty’s ship the Lenox, in Portsmouth harbour, on the 31st of January last : enquiring into the conduct of the commanders of the Hampton-Court and Dreadnought, for not engaging the Fleuron and Neptune, two French men of war ; together with the depositions and examinations of the officers and men, who were on board the said ships at the time of the chase (1745)

Minutes of the proceedings at the trial of Rear-Admiral Knowles : before a court-martial, held on board His Majesty’s yacht, the Charlotte, at Deptford, for his conduct and behaviour in and relating to an engagement with a Spanish squadron on the first of October, 1748. (1750)

The trial of the Honourable Admiral John Byng, at a court martial, as taken by Mr. Charles Fearne, Judge-Advocate of His Majesty’s Fleet (1757) and Admiral Byng’s defence, as presented by him, and read in the court January 18, 1757, on board His Majesty’s ship St. George, in Portsmouth Harbour. Containing a very particular account of the action on the 20th of May, 1756, off Cape Mola, between the British and French fleets, and the whole proceedings of His Majesty’s fleet during the six days it was off Minorca (1757).

The trial of the Honourable Augustus Keppel, Admiral of the Blue Squadron (1779)

The defence of Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, Bart. [electronic resource] : at the court-martial lately held upon him, with the court’s sentence (1779)

(Interesting note. Keppel’s court martial was brought by charges made by Palliser. The charges against Keppel were dismissed, provoking Palliser to demand a court martial against himself. He, too, was acquited. Look at this dissertation (p.88+) for more information on this dispute.

Bligh’s narrative of the mutiny on board H.M. ship Bounty … : Minutes of the court martial … Bligh’s answer to certain assertions … Edward Christian’s short reply to Captain William Bligh’s answer (1792-94; repr. 1952)

Minutes of a court martial holden on board His Majesty’s ship Prince of Wales, in Portsmouth Harbour : on Monday, the 23rd day of December, 1805, and the three following days, for the trial of Sir Robert Calder, bart., Vice Admiral of the Blue (1805).

Minutes of a court martial, holden on board His Majesty’s ship Gladiator, in Portsmouth Harbour : on Thursday, the 25th day of April, 1805, and the two following days, for the trial of Sir J. T. Duckworth, K.B., Vice Admiral of the Blue (1805?)

Books on Naval Medicine

July 28, 2016

The Wellcome Library has undertaken the digitization of part of its massive collection; one of the sections it has put online is Naval Medicine. Dozens of historic monographs are presented here, among them those by three physicians whose work directly improved the health of seamen:  Gilbert Blane, James Lind, and Thomas Trotter. Biographies on these three luminaries can be found: Gilbert Blane, James Lind, and Thomas Trotter.