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The Letter of Marque (1988)

by Patrick O'Brian

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aubrey-Maturin (12)

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2,281295,582 (4.29)32
Jack Aubrey, a former sea-officer in the British Navy and still bitter about his court-martial, agrees to take command of his old ship, the Surprise, which was sold to Dr. Stephen Maturin, who obtained a letter of marque to the use the ship as a privateer.
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» See also 32 mentions

English (25)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
O'Brian is consistently brilliant. ( )
  malcrf | Aug 7, 2021 |
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:

  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
The Letter of Marque, Patrick O’Brian’s twelfth book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, picks up shortly after the events of The Reverse of the Medal, with Captain Jack Aubrey taking the private ship Surprise on cutting-out missions to the Azores, the coast of France, and Sweden all preparatory to a planned mission to South America. The ship, purchased out of the service by Dr. Stephen Maturin, sales as a letter or marque, or privateer, with government papers that Steven arranged in order to protect the ship’s company against impressment. Aubrey has no difficulty in finding able sailors as his reputation for prizes is well-known.

Though Jack starts out rather glum as a result of being stripped of rank following the fallout from the Stock Exchange Fraud, in which Jack was implicated, the novel soon turns a corner as he applies himself to the thing he does best. On the very first trip to the Azores, the Surprise captures a fleet of merchant vessels, one filled with precious quicksilver, thereby earning Jack his crew’s esteem and clearing the debts that had plagued him over the previous few novels. He next sets about capturing the French ship, Diane, along with a few gunships. All of this paves the way for his eventual reinstatement on the Navy List as well as a place in Parliament. Stephen, meanwhile, works to aid Jack behind-the-scenes and seeks the opportunity to reconcile with his wife, Diana Villiers. The motif of a balloon, in vogue since their creation in 1789, occurs throughout as O’Brian uses it to represent Stephen’s fortunes and his mood (pgs. 105, 109, 199). The very real possibility of a gas balloon rising to an altitude at which the aeronaut passed out from lack of air and froze to death while the balloon was carried off fills Stephen’s nightmares, particularly when he learns of his wife’s hopes of making an ascent in her own hydrogen balloon. While O’Brian is willing to put his characters through a great deal of melodrama, he also knows when the reader needs a respite, and this novel returns to the form of his happier tales, with an ending full of the promise of hope.

Like the previous five novels, The Letter of Marque exists outside the normal flow of time – this novel being the sixth of twelve to exist in what O’Brian described as an extended 1812, with these dozen books taking place between the beginning of June 1813 and November 1813. Like his previous novels, O’Brian perfectly recreates the world of the Napoleonic War in 1812, using Aubrey and Stephen’s activities to comment on the rapid changes occurring in this era and the passage of time in the series’ internal chronology. This Folio Society edition reprints the original text with insets containing historical portraits and sketches to illustrate some of the scenes. ( )
1 vote DarthDeverell | Jan 22, 2019 |
Aubrey has been struck off the captains' list in disgrace! Plus he's broke (again). Diana has left Maturin and he is taking way too much opium. Life on land never works out for these two - can they redeem things as privateers? I'm returning to this series after a long absence - it's even better than I remember. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
Once again, beautiful vignettes from daily life seamlessly used together to paint another enchanting picture of Aubrey and Maturin. This time they are struggling to cope with the fall out from Jack's dismissal from the Navy following his conviction for a stock market fraud he did not commit. Jack and the people who love him strive to put right the wrong, sailing the Surprise as a private ship, a letter of marque, seeking above all an engagement with the French or the American navy that would provide sufficient impetus for the admiralty to restore him to the Navy list. Wonderful, wonderful stuff as always. ( )
  Matt_B | Mar 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick O'Brianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hunt, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kann, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lavery, BrianAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oca, Aleida Lama Montes deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pigott-Smith, TimReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ever since Jack Aubrey had been dismissed from the service, ever since his name, with its now meaningless seniority, had been struck off the list of post-captains, it had seemed to him that he was living in a radically different world; everything was perfectly familiar, from the smell of seawater and tarred rigging to the gentle heave of the deck under his feet, but the essence was gone and he was a stranger.
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Jack Aubrey, a former sea-officer in the British Navy and still bitter about his court-martial, agrees to take command of his old ship, the Surprise, which was sold to Dr. Stephen Maturin, who obtained a letter of marque to the use the ship as a privateer.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393309053, 0393028747

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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