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The Mauritius Command (1977)

by Patrick O'Brian

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aubrey-Maturin (4)

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3,096432,997 (4.11)49
The fourth of the Aubrey/Maturin series opens with Captain Jack Aubrey gloomily ashore on half-pay until Stephen Maturin arrives with secret orders for Aubrey to take a frigate to the Cape of Good Hope under a commodore's pennant. Once there he is to mount an expedition against the French-held islands of Mauritius and La Reunion. But the difficulties of carrying out his orders are compounded by two of his own captains: Lord Clonfert, a pleasure-seeking dilettante, and Captain Corbett, whose severity pushes his crew to the verge of mutiny.… (more)

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“...for very strangely his officers looked upon Jack Aubrey as a moral figure, in spite of all proofs of the contrary...”

In many respects this book marks a sea change in the characters of Stephen Maturin and in particular Jack Aubrey. They are older and less energetic than in previous books and Jack in particular seems less gung-ho. In fact the book opens with Aubrey as a fairly ineffective home-owner, husband and father. Both he and his wife wishes to see him back soon in his true element, at sea.

Jack gets his wish, he is to take charge of a frigate, hang a commodore's pendant on it signifying that Jack is to command a squadron, and head out to the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and La Reunion. These strategic islands are being used by the French as bases to attack and seize British vessels en-route home from the India. This fight is over wealth rather than true military value. Jack is given the task of overseeing the capture of these islands. As usual Stephen sails with his friend.

However, in truth it is probably two minor characters that are more significant. Captain Corbett, a vicious "flogging captain" whose idea of discipline is so severe that the men under his command are threatening to turn mutinous, and Lord Clonfert, a son of an Irish aristocrat with whom Jack once served as a youngster but despite being a favourite of his betters has failed to match Jack's military success since much to Clonfert's chagrin. The difficulties with Corbett are fairly straight forward but Clonfert is a different case altogether. Clonfert in contrast is loved by his men but in truth is fairly ineffective as a real leader. He mounts an all-out campaign to prove that he's just as good as his old shipmate, with disastrous results. Fortunately for Jack, he is also working closely with an army officer Colonel Keating whom is almost an army shadow as Jack and together they manage to overcome most of the obstacles in front of them placed their by their enemies on both sides.

There is a certain humour in O'Brian's books that is perhaps less evident in other authors in the genre which is admirable. However, on the down side I find that the actual military action is fairly sparse and over far too quickly for my taste . So although this is a good read, too much time and effort has gone into getting the background information correct IMHO to make it a truly great read. ( )
1 vote PilgrimJess | Jul 20, 2017 |
The Mauritius Command brings to life a campaign most (myself included) have never heard about, with Aubrey and Maturin right in the middle. Though I did enjoy this book and learned a lot about British history that I did not know, I didn't find the story as interesting as that in the previous books. I especially was disappointed that there was less detail about Maturin's doings than in the third novel, which so far is my favorite in the series. However, there are two interesting characters, Lord Clonfert and his doctor, who add a great deal of psychological depth. For those who haven't read any of the books, don't read this one first! They really must be read in order. Finally, if you ever wanted to run away to sea, you have to read this series! ( )
1 vote aurelas | Dec 23, 2016 |
Really good read following on from other Patrick O'Brians. ( )
  cbinstead | Dec 10, 2016 |
The Mauritius Command, fourth book in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, follows Captain Jack Aubrey as he and Stephen embark on a mission to retake islands off Mauritius and install a royal governor. Along the way, Admiral Bertie promotes Aubrey to commodore of the fleet, which offers insight into a different side of battles during the Napoleonic Wars, but also removes Aubrey from much of the immediate conflict, as he must oversee the entire fleet action. O'Brian's mastery of history is also on display here, as he begins the novel with a note: "In this case, the groundwork of the tale, a little-known campaign in the Indian Ocean, is factual...Apart from the necessary fictions at the beginning and the very end, he [the author] has not done anything to neaten history except for the omission of a few confusing, unimportant ships whose fleeting presence was neither here nor there." In that regard, The Mauritius Command is a resounding success and a wonderful addition to the Aubrey-Maturin series. This Folio Society edition, like the others in the series, includes illustrations from the period that portray events similar to those O'Brian describes in his narrative and the book itself makes a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Aug 19, 2016 |
I'm realizing anew, this read-through of the Aubrey-Maturin novels, how much this series really depends on its fascinating array of guest stars, of which there are two in The Mauritius Command, both of great and sad importance: Captain Corbett, a vicious "flogging captain" whose idea of discipline is severe even by the standards of Nelson's navy, and Lord Clonfert, with whom Jack once served as a youngster but who hasn't done quite as well as Jack since. So, um, uh oh. We see trouble before we even meet the gentlemen in question.

We meet them on Jack and Stephen's latest mission, to take charge of a frigate, hang a commodore's broad pendant on it (thus signifying that Jack is, at long last, to command a squadron!) and head out to the African islands of Mauritius and La Reunion, there to take these potentially highly strategic islands away from the French, who are doing rather a half-assed job of using them as a base for action in the Indian Ocean. Consult a quality atlas if this confuses.

The action in The Mauritius Command highlights better than any we've seen so far just how much military vessels of this time period and since served as vast mobile artillery batteries. How else can ships take on an island? Float around and around in that effortless-looking way and unleash hell with the big guns on anything that looks like it might contain Frenchmen. Boom! And if the French are so bold and impetuous as to send out ships of their own to put a stop to this harassment, well, Commodore Lucky Jack Aubrey knows how to take care of those. This all goes off tolerably well, but for a couple problems, problems intimately tied in with the personalities of the two guest star captains I mentioned above. The trouble with Corbett is pretty straightforward; his crew are tired of getting fifty lashes every time a bit of tar plops down to mar the perfection of Corbett's decks and thus grow mutinous. The trouble with Clonfert....

Ah, Clonfert. Lord Clonfert is one of the most fascinatingly tragic characters O'Brian has written. A son of the Irish aristocracy -- who are not considered Irish by the Irish and are not considered real aristocrats by the rest of their class in the U.K. -- he's already got a chip on his shoulder before Jack shows up on the scene. Once Jack does, Clonfert pretty much loses it (and he's bi-polar to boot, I should mention; his crew are used to his mood swings and tolerate them because sailors "dearly love a Lord", but Stephen and Clonfert's own surgeon spend a lot of the novel shaking their heads over Clonfert's case) and mounts an all-out campaign to prove that he's just as good as his old shipmate, with disastrous results.

Fortunately, even as Jack is dealing with the consequences of having Corbett and Clonfert under his command, he is also working closely with an army colonel that is an infantry version of Jack himself, the capable and vaguely Sharpe-like Colonel Keating. Together they manage to overcome most of the obstacles created by the fractious captains. Most of them.

For of course, no officer, however capable, has any control over what his superiors say or do, or where they show up, just in time to steal his thunder. Feeling outraged on Jack's behalf is, however, all part of the fun of reading these novels.

And fun they most certainly are! ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick O'Brianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hunt, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kok, IngeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lavery, BrianContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nikupaavola, RenneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wannenmacher, JuttaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiberg, CarlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Mary Renault, glauk' eis Athenas. [Note: the Greek phrase means 'owls to Athens', the Greek equivalent of 'coals to Newcastle'.]
First words
Sometimes the reader of a novel, particularly a novel set in another age, likes to know whether the events have any existence outside the author's mind, or whether, like the characters, they are quite imaginary.

Author's note.
Captain Aubrey of the Royal Navy lived in a part of Hampshire well supplied with sea-officers, some of whom had reached flag-rank in Rodney's day while others were still waiting for their first command.

Chapter one.
Patrick O'Brian, unlike other writers of naval fiction, often uses real ships as the basis for his plots.

Jack Aubrey's ships, by Brian Lavery.
A conquering race, in the place of that conquest, is rarely amiable; the conquerors pay less obviously than the conquered, but perhaps in time they pay even more heavily, in the loss of the humane qualities. Hard, arrogant, profit-seeking adventurers flock to the spoil, and the natives, though outwardly civil, contemplate them with a resentment mingled with contempt, while at the same time respecting the face of conquest -- acknowledging their greater strength. And to be divided between the two must lead to a strange confusion of sentiment. [139: Maturin, in his journal]
Once below and free of good mornings right and left, he went straight to sleep, with barely a pause between laying his long wet hair on the pillow and unconsciousness; and fast asleep he remained, in spite of the rumbling boots of a regiment of soldiers and the din inseparable from working the ship, until the faint tinkle of a teaspoon told some layer of his mind that coffee was ready. He sprang up, looked at the barometer, shook his head, dipped his face into a kid of tepid water, shaved, ate a hearty breakfast, and appeared on deck, fresh, pink, and ten years younger. [187: of Aubrey on the eve of battle]
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W.W. Norton

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

Editions: 039330762X, 0393037045

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