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Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

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Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

Post by pauljm on Sun 28 Aug 2016, 15:30

Occasionally items relating to historic naval fiction get published in academic journals, and I pass these on when I come across them in the course of my own (amateur) research.

Donald F. Bittner published a piece titled "Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin's Forgotten Shipmates: Patrick O'Brian's Portrayal of the Royal Marines in the Aubrey-Maturin Novels" in the journal Consortium on Revolutionary Europe:Selected Papers, 2000. In it the author looks at O'Brian's portrayal of marines across the novel cycle, and tries to identify any historical equivalents to the characters and events that O'Brian wrote about.

As the title suggests, he finds that marines are far less extensively portrayed than naval officers (or even individual seamen) in the novels, for the most part appearing in the background. However a few individuals do get more fully developed, including Lieutenant James Macdonald in Post Captain, and Captain Hobden in The Hundred Days. Bittner outlines the role of both these characters, and discusses some real-life analogies, but does not venture an opinion about whether O'Brian was aware of these historical individuals when he created his own characters. (Personally, I would guess not.) He also looks more generally at the circumstances of Royal Marine officers in terms of background and promotion prospects, and compares the reality with how they are depicted in O'Brian's novels. Overall the article is an interesting look at a minor element in the Aubrey-Maturin novels, and worth digging up if you are so inclined.
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Re: Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

Post by 80 Winters on Sun 28 Aug 2016, 17:25

I would imagine there's one Royal Marine that Dr. Maturin won't forget.......Capt. Howard.
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Re: Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

Post by pauljm on Mon 29 Aug 2016, 17:42

I think you may be referring to Captain Hobden in "The Hundred Days" whose dog Naseby ate a severed hand Maturin had preserved, thus nearly precipitating a duel. Bittner refers to this story, and even outlines a real-life equivalent, involving a duel between two elderly RM officers over the activities of a dog named Bingo (but sadly no severed hand)!

The only Captain Howard RM in the novel cycle (according to the Patrick O'Brian Muster Book) is the memorably named John Condom Howard, who in Desolation Island is murdered just as he is about to play the flute in the wardroom.
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Re: Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

Post by 80 Winters on Tue 30 Aug 2016, 18:04

I was referring to the RM Capt. Howard aboard HMS Surprise who accidently shot Stephen Maturin while attempting to shoot an Albatross.

As an aside, while brief, this is an interesting summation of Royal Marine participation during this time:

http://www.thedearsurprise.com/the-royal-marines-in-aubreys-royal-navy/
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Re: Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

Post by pauljm on Fri 02 Sep 2016, 15:58

I had forgotten about this reference, and for some reason Bittner does not mention it. However this Capt. Howard, RM is mentioned (very briefly) in the Patrick O'Brian Muster Book (my bible in these matters), but not in connection with the unfortunate albatross episode.
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Re: Royal Marines in O'Brian's books

Post by broughstar on Fri 02 Sep 2016, 17:00

also in the film master & commander the other side of the world. were maturin gets shot by the marine. and I would say that its a big story line in the film.
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