O'Pinions & O'Bservations O' O'Bscure O'Briania


Return to Main Page

The Commodore

From: Gerry Strey
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 11:03 AM
Subject: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

I've said it before and I'll say it again (though I know there are very senior lissuns who will strongly, though not violently disagree with me) that from "The Commodore" onward there is a marked decline in the quality of the books, so much so that while I've read and reread the first 14, I seldom look at the last six.

And I find "The Hundred Days" to be absolutely painful reading.

So there. Now, anybody want to talk about it?

Gerry Strey
Madison, Wisconsin


From: Anthony Gary Brown
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 11:08 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

I rather agree with Gerry on this - though we might disagree somewhat on where the 'rot set in'. Also, even in the lamentable Hundred Days there are fine passages. I was astonished when a very exalted literary fan of POB, Lewis Lapham, wrote to me that he thought 'Blue at the Mizzen' to be POB returning to the peak of his powers - I dislike the book so much, root and branch, that it quite put me off revising PASC. Then again, maybe we will all have a slight tailing off of our own creative powers when we are in our 80s too!

Gary
in Dallas, always in awe of being still younger than was POIB when he first put Jack and Stephen to paper.


From: Gerry Strey
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 11:23 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

So, Gary, why do you dislike "Blue at the Mizzen" so much? As I recollect from my one reading, I thought it was marginally better than "The Hundred Days"--the plot less incoherent, and the timeline more believeable.

As for when the rot set in, I felt the first signs appeared as early as "The Wine Dark Sea," where there were subplots and passages that to me felt rushed and undeveloped. Wasn't it in writing this book that POB had difficulties with the plot, was assisted by Kenneth Ringle in resolving them, and rewarded Ringle by naming a ship after him?

Gerry Strey
Madison, Wisconsin


From: Ted
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 11:29 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

Gerry Strey wrote:

As for when the rot set in, I felt the first signs appeared as early as "The Wine Dark Sea,"

I Agree with that. & that the last two books certainly were not up to anywhere near the same standard, but having said that I wish POB were still around & turning them out...

Ted


From: Anthony Gary Brown
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 11:40 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

Gerry Strey wrote:

So, Gary, why do you dislike "Blue at the Mizzen" so much? As I recollect from my one reading, I thought it was marginally better than "The Hundred Days"--the plot less incoherent, and the timeline more believeable.

Broadly, I came to loathe POB's setting, what, four or five books in South America. To my mind not a one of them works, being largely the same half-completed plot about revolution, over and over. Somehow I think that POB was troubled by unfulfilled aspects of Maturin's character - he lets him up as master spy and lover of liberty but seldom shows him doing more than tactical stuff, fully in support of the British crown. I sense that the South American stuff was repeatedly meant to be Maturin's 'break out', but that POB was never able to find a satisfactory plot line, or even a broad rationale for his characters' actions. The several books seem like an endless rehearsal for a better novel that never got written: and Maturin after Wine Dark Sea seems a static character to me, with POB unable to really find more to say about him. Also - and this may seem an academic and over-pick point to some - there *is* reams of fascinating stuff written about British naval intelligence in South America - but POB seems curiously to be unaware of it.

As for when the rot set in, I felt the first signs appeared as early as "The Wine Dark Sea," where there were subplots and passages that to me felt rushed and undeveloped.

I agree, again - but here's a curiosity. At first, and perhaps even second reading, I didn't care for WDS at all - a hesitant, stalled book. BUT I do thing that the chapter dealing with Maturin's journey over the Andes is utterly magnificent. But it could as well be a tolerably self-contained short story, a style piece, as part of a novel.

I general - and rather off the top of my head - I think the first 12 novels are a coherent whole (though stronger at the beginning of this series than towards the end). The next 8 are, for me, only enjoyable to the extent that they occasionally repeat the intimate joys of the earlier books, tolerably exactly in tone but with minor variations.

Gary
in Dallas


From: Gerry Strey
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 11:58 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

Gary writes "Maturin, after Wine Dark Sea, seems to be a static character. . ."

Perhaps this is why POB introduced that unsatisfying and unbelievable character, Christine, to give Stephen a new interest and focus in life. But compared to Diana, she is cardboard, too obviously pulled by authorial strings instead of a living creature.

Gerry Strey
Madison, Wisconsin


From: Lois Anne du Toit
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 12:23 PM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

Gerry wrote:

"As for when the rot set in, I felt the first signs appeared as early as = "The Wine Dark Sea," where there were subplots and passages that to me = felt rushed and undeveloped."

Like Ted and Gary I agree with this; I thought WDS more than a little chaotic and, perhaps as a result, surprisingly tedious at times (I've only read it once, let me hasten to add). Don Seltzer in an earlier post about WDS said most interestingly that POB's notes for the book show that he was struggling with the plot. Unlike Gary, I didn't enjoy Stephen's Andean Odyssey much but then I've never been terribly taken with travelogues and descriptions of other lands. My loss.

However, having just finished The Commodore I have to say that I found this book a return to POB at his best or near it - I'd read only three or four pages before I had the comfortable feeling that the Master was back "in midseason form" as PG Wodehouse would say. There's so much fine writing in the book: I adduce the superb and masterfully underwritten description of Stephen's pain on his homecoming, but this is just one item in a positive laundry list of tours de force that I've noted down from this work.

Indeed, I was obliged to abandon reading at least the first part of The Commodore on the train - so deeply did it absorb me that I near as a toucher missed my station altogether too many times for that repose of mind and spirit so necessary to a well-ordered existence.

I did find the only other late books I've read - TYA, BATM - not up to the tremendous standards of the earlier works - but as has so often been remarked, perhaps advancing years were taking their toll. And I couldn't agree more with Ted that one wishes Himself were still here producing 'em. I like to think that in the Next World the further adventures of Jack and Stephen await us ...

London Lois


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

on 3/25/03 10:03 AM, Gerry Strey at gestrey@WHS.WISC.EDU wrote:

And I find "The Hundred Days" to be absolutely painful reading. So there. Now, anybody want to talk about it?

Gerry, I was reading it this morning at breakfast, enjoying it immensely. Amid the turmoil and the sorrow there's plenty of gentle wit, wild imagination, and fun.

I made a couple of notes that are downstairs and I'm upstairs, and never the twain -- you know. But one note that I remember...

What kind of insult is "pragmatical"? POB's folks use the word many times, often as in "pragmatical bastard." But I don't remember it being used elsewhere.

I sort of know what "pragmatic" means. But why is it an insult?

Charlezzzzz


From: Tharp, Katherine
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 4:49 PM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

from "The Commodore" onward there is a marked decline in the quality of the books, so much so that while I've read and reread the first 14, I seldom look at the last six. And I find "The Hundred Days" to be absolutely painful reading.

Although I wouldn't go so far as to call any of them painful reading, I do agree with you that the quality declines, and I think the change takes place in about the last third of The Commodore. After a lot of tension has been built up out of tension among the squadron's captains and crews, and a looming confrontation with the enemy, the long-awaited battle pretty much fizzles out.

I realize that throughout the books, a lot of the action takes place offstage, and minimalism is often one of POB's most effective techniques. For example, the scene in Post-Captain where Jack and Stephen are reconciled in a few words, in scarcely more time than a pistol shot would have taken. I thought this was brilliant. But in the last couple of books, it seems that POB doesn't have the same creative drive or control over his plots, and this is probably related to his wife's death and his own declining health.

Katherine


From: Batrinque@AOL.COM
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 8:42 PM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: Re: Gunroom Clique

While I certainly would not set that last 4 volumes of the Canon against the first 4 as being equal in quality (although there are individual moments of high quality buried within them), I don't entirely agree with your assessment of THD. These things, as I have said often, are subjective, and while I like cherry vanilla ice cream, you may equally validly despise it. As far as THD goes, while I did not find it a pleasantly enjoyable book, my respect for it as a piece of writing grew as I re-read (and re-re-read) that volume. My belief is that the emotional flatness which characterizes much of the book is less a reflection of POB's declining literary skills than a manisfestation of those skills seeking to represent a particular emotional state of one of the major characters (you know who about you know what, to avoid spoilers). I might be wrong about this, of course, but such was my impression.

Bruce Trinque
4137'52"N 7222'29"W


From: Pawel Golik
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 4:27 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: The Commodore (spoilers)

from "The Commodore" onward there is a marked decline in the quality

Beg to disagree, at least about "The Commodore" - it has some of the most haunting parts of the whole Canon, in particular in the Stephen/Birgit/Padeen plot. The scenes where Stephen sees his child for the first time and later, when he hears her talk for the first time are among the most moving in the whole series.

It is also a powerful metaphorical climax of a theme that runs through the entire Canon - that of Stephen regaining his Irish identity. When we meet him first he speaks fluent Catalan and Castillian, but is amazed at his being able to understang hands speaking in Gaelic. Most of the plots that concern him in the first books (until after TSM at least) revolve arond his Catalan roots (M&C is an exception, with the Dillon plot). Later we see his Irish side taking more and more prominence, often as a central part of the plot (like the duel in New South Wales). And it culminates in The Commodore, where Gaelic is the language that almost miraculously connects him to his daughter. It's a long way from barely remembering understanding Irish, to saving a relationship with his own daughter though it.

Pawel (a lurker repenting)

--
Pawel Golik
At 5212'09"N 2102'03"E
http://zguw.ibb.waw.pl/~pgolik/


From: Tony Davison
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 6:31 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB

I cannot agree in any suggestion of decline towards the last four books of the canon, Stephen's quests in these are wonderfully refreshing diversions. Having re-read them all ad infinitum, besides reading lesser talented authors on the same period, I can only bitterly regret that early Jack was not written up. POB on Trafalgar would have been wonderful, as well as Jack's spell "before the mast". There are so many historic episodes in this period begging to be written from a singular point of view but so few authors capable of doing it.

Does any member of the Gunroom like to speculate what JA/SM would have got up to post-war? One could imagine Stephen dickering with the Bey of Algiers prior to Jack leading the Fleet in to bombard. Any others?

Tony Davison
in the land of the Zulu


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 7:34 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB

Does any member of the Gunroom like to speculate what JA/SM would > have got up to post-war?

!816 would have had to be another eternally long POB year as Pellew/Exmouth was an Admiral long before he led the bombardment at Algiers in that year. In 1815, Jack was not an admiral aand about to set out for his adventures of BATM


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2003 12:14 AM
Subject: Pawel's great insight: was, Re: [POB] Insert Some POB: The Commodore (spoilers)

on 3/26/03 3:27 AM, Pawel Golik at pgolik@IBB.WAW.PL wrote:

It is also a powerful metaphorical climax of a theme that runs through the entire Canon - that of Stephen regaining his Irish identity.

Bravo, Pawel. Twenty minutes of eternal fame. Post of the day. Remarkable insight. Lit crit of high order. (And if this is indeed a major theme, what does it tell us of the author?)

Charlezzzzz, delighted that now he has good reason to read through the entire canon once again, checking this out.


From: Lois Anne du Toit
Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2003 11:57 AM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: The Commodore (spoilers)

Pawel wrote:

"Beg to disagree, at least about "The Commodore" - it has some of the most haunting parts of the whole Canon, in particular in the Stephen/Birgit/Padeen plot. The scenes where Stephen sees his child for the first time and later, when he hears her talk for the first time are among the most moving in the whole series."

Better a late response than none, I hope.

Absolutely 100% exactly on the button, Pawel. I shall never, ever forget that beautifully understated account of Stephen's pain on his homecoming.

Sheer poetry.

London Lois


From: Pawel Golik
Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2003 1:46 PM
Subject: Re: Insert Some POB: The Commodore (spoilers)

Not just the pain. The buildup (even from the previous book), the anxiety, and then the first time he sees the child: "...and he saw a slim fair-haired child, quite extraordinarily beafutiful: but with a disquieting, elfin, changeling beauty."

What imagery, what power in just a few words!!

Pawel


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2003 8:38 PM
Subject: Moral relativism/ Charlezzzzz/ Commodore

SPOILERS

COMMODORE

Blaine to SM

I do not like to press a direct request, still less present it in writing, until i am sure of a favourable response.....snip .. The first stages in a matter of this kind must be by word of mouth.

Then Blaine ..doubting his own justified paranoia -says

'if indeed that malignity exists at all, and is not the figment of a fagged-out mind and an overwrought imagination.'

alec

looking like a lean,cantankerous and out of work ratcatcher.


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Sunday, March 30, 2003 8:00 PM
Subject: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

WARNING: Many serious spoilers from LOM through BATM

*
*
*
*
*

It is easy to assume that the death of Diana was somehow inspired by POB's own loss of his wife Mary, six months before the publication of THD. However, it is likely that POB had been planning for Diana's demise for several years, perhaps as early as LOM.

POB's interest in Diana was as someone either to be pursued by Stephen, against all better judgement, or to be lost soon after being caught. The sea serpent scene at the end of chapter 6 of HMSS symbolizes Stephen's pursuit. He persists, despite warnings from his friends that 'She is poison'. He responds 'Oh what a lovely creature.' Again he is warned, but continues the hunt, even though its capture will mean the destruction of Stephen or of his conquest. And in fact the snake soon dies, 'Before Stephen could bring it inboard, to its waiting jar of spirit, its colours were already fading'. And so the pattern is repeated throughout the canon, of Stephen pursuing Diana, apparently capturing her, only to lose her again.

After the third or fourth time that Diana ran away from Stephen, POB must have begun considering something more permanent. His notes for LOM (courtesy of the Lilly Library, Bloomington, IN) show that he was contemplating a few alternative endings, including one in which Diana floats away in a balloon, to perish in the far north.

When he began the next book, TGS, he was planning a two volume story, the first to end with a shipwreck and rescue in the East Indies, and the next to bring Jack and Stephen home again. I believe it was his original intention that Diana die offstage while Stephen was away, hence the almost too obvious symbolism of the frigate Diane being destroyed on the reef. For various reasons, the next book, NOC, did not bring them home, but POB's notes indicate that he considered a good news-bad news ending to that story. He pictured Stephen and Jack in the cabin of Surprise, leaving NSW and reading the mail that had finally caught up with them. Stephen receives a letter from Sir Joseph with the welcome news that a mixup in the bank instructions resulted in Stephen's fortune being preserved. Jack then reads a letter from Sophie reporting that both Diana and the baby had died.

Of course, POB did not write this ending, and there were a number of plot ideas that fell by the wayside in his rush to complete NOC in time for his publisher's deadline. The next book should have completed the voyage, but POB picked up a new idea from an improvisation he had made to solve a plot problem in NOC. In order to explain Jack's unusually priggish, law-abiding opposition to bending the rules for Padeen, POB invented a few irritants, including the embarrassing smuggling aboard of several convicts, including females. He decided that it might provide an interesting basis for a new story to have one of these female stowaways remain onboard, to wreak havoc with the social balance of the gunroom. And so was born the character of Clarissa Oakes.

Although Clarissa was dispatched home aboard the Truelove, POB probably began thinking not only of how to dispose of Diana, but the possibility of providing Stephen with a more suitable replacement. And so in WDS, we have Stephen thinking frequently of Clarissa,

'Stephen held his pen in the air, reflecting upon Clarissa Oakes, a young woman to whom he was much attached, a convict transported for murder, who, escaping, had sailed in the frigate from Sydney Cove to Moahu. He reflected upon her, smiling.'

'and he lay there placidly thinking of a number of pleasant things. Clarissa came into his mind: she too had something of that simplicity, in spite of a life as hard as could well be imagined.'

'[Stephen] was the only member who was deeply attached to Clarissa as a person rather than as a means to an end, and the only one who could have taken her affection away from Oakes'

'As for her person, he liked that too: little evident immediate prettiness, but a slim, agreeable figure and a very fine carriage. She was not as beautiful as Diana with her black hair and blue eyes, but they both had the same straight back, the same thoroughbred grace of movement and the same small head held high; though in Clarissa's case it was fair. Something of the same kind of courage, too: he hoped they would be friends. It was true that Diana's house contained Brigit, the daughter whom Stephen had not yet seen, and upon the whole Clarissa disliked children; yet Clarissa was a well-bred woman, affectionate in her own way, and unless the baby or rather little girl by now were quite exceptionally disagreeable, which he could not believe, she would probably make an exception.'

And so it seems that POB began to consider keeping Brigit/Brigid, but losing Diana. Returning home in COM, Diana had indeed fled, leaving Brigid in Clarissa's custody. But it also seems that POB reconsidered his choice of replacement, and invented a more suitable choice, in fact a true soulmate.

'He led Stephen up to a very good-looking young woman, tall, fair, agreeably plump, smiling at him with the utmost benevolence.

'I ask your pardon, ma'am, for appearing before you in this squalid...'

'Not in the very least,' she cried, taking both his hands. 'You are covered, covered with laurels. I am Edward Heatherleigh's sister, and I have read all your lovely books and papers, including your address to the Institut, which Monsieur Cuvier sent over to Edward.'

Edward Heatherleigh, a very shy young man, a naturalist and a member (though rarely seen) of the Royal Society, with a moderate estate in the north of England, where he lived as quietly as possible with this sister, both of them collecting, botanizing, drawing, dissecting, and above all comparing. They had articulated skeletons of all the British mammals, and Edward had told Stephen, one of his few intimates, that she knew bones far better than he did - she was unbeatable on bats. This passed through or rather appeared in his mind so rapidly that there was no measurable pause before his reply of 'Miss Christine! I am delighted to see you, ma'am; and now I do not mind my squalor in the least.'

''You must certainly come tomorrow,' she said as they parted, 'and I will show you my garden and my creatures - I have a chanting goshawk and a brush-tailed porcupine! And perhaps you might like to see my bones.'

'Nothing could possibly give me greater pleasure,' said Stephen, pressing her hand. 'And perhaps we might walk by the swamp.'

'Well, Stephen, you were in luck, upon my word,' said Jack, as they walked down to the boat. 'The only pretty woman of the party, and you completely monopolized her. And in the drawing-room she came and sat at your knee and talked to no one else for hours on end.'

'We had a great deal to talk about. She knows more on the subject of bones and their variations from species to species than any woman I am acquainted with; much more, indeed, than most men, and they professed anatomists. She is sister to Edward Heatherleigh, whom you may have seen at the Royal. A fine young woman.'

'What a pleasure. I love talking to women like that. Caroline Herschel and I used to prattle away about Pomeranian sludge and the last stages of a telescope's mirror half way through the night. But knowing and beautiful too - what bliss. Yet how she ever came to marry James Wood I cannot tell. A fair practical seaman and an excellent fellow, but never an idea in his head; and he is at least twice her age.'

'Other people's marriages are a perpetual source of amazement,' said Stephen.'

'Christine Heatherleigh had quite charmed Dr Maturin: he lay in his cot that night, swinging to the long Atlantic swell and thinking about his afternoon, and he had a startlingly clear visual image of her speaking earnestly about clavicles in primates, her eyes particularly wide open. 'Can it be that her physical presence has stirred long-dormant emotions in my let us say bosom?' he wondered. The answer 'No. My motives are entirely pure' came at almost the same moment that another part of his mind was considering the gentle pressure of her hand: kindness? her brother's friendship? a certain inclination? 'No,' he replied again, 'my motives being entirely pure she feels perfectly safe with me, middle-aged, ill-formed, wizened from the yellow jack, and can be as free as with her grandfather; or at least an uncle. Yet out of respect for her, and for Government House, I shall desire Killick to unpack, curl and powder my best wig against tomorrow's visit.'

'She was unbeatable on bats' Could there be any better recommendation? And there is an echo from an earlier book, The Unknown Shore, in which were created the prototypes of Jack Byron and Toby Barrow. And Toby's soulmate, Georgiana, to whom he could woo with, 'Come and sit by me, and let us talk of bats.'

Don Seltzer


From: Nathan Varnum
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 8:47 AM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Of course, we're not supposed to post one-line approvals of posts. Therefore, in my typical skilled manner of shoving as many words into one thought as possible, I submit the following critique of this post:

When you cover a thought as thoroughly as Don covered this, what else can you expect but one-line accolades? Don, next time throw in a few missteps, a few obviously-wrong conclusions that we can seize upon and cut up into little tiny bits. This post is far too good by half, and leaves too little room for further analysis.

Nathan


From: David Dunn
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 10:24 AM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Wonderful post Don. As further evidence, her death is foreshadowed in the scene which appears in one of the earlier books where Diana, driving the carriage, terrifies Jack and Stephen with her reckless approach of the sharp turn at the bridge -which I believe is the exact spot of her later fatal accident.

DJD (Apologies, I am at work right now and so cannot look up the exact reference)


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 6:59 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Are you sure?

alec
looking like a lean, cantankerous and out of work ratcatcher @ 53 23 N 006 35 W


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 11:09 AM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Continued spoilers for TYA and THD

At 9:24 AM -0500 3/31/2003, David Dunn wrote:

As further evidence, her death is foreshadowed in the scene which appears in one of the earlier books where Diana, driving the carriage, terrifies Jack and Stephen with her reckless approach of the sharp turn at the bridge -which I believe is the exact spot of her later fatal accident.

Yes, after setting up Christine in COM as a future replacement, the next step was to prepare the ground in TYA for Diana's demise. But isn't it interesting that POB also chose to have Diana undergo a personality change, into a more loving, dutiful, and even domesticated wife? Perhaps to increase the shock and sense of loss when she finally departed?

It must have annoyed POB to no end when after laying the groundwork for Diana's impending accident in TYA, the New York Times came out with this review,

"If Evelyn Waugh or Anthony Powell (or Anthony Trollope, for that matter) had been writing these books, the curve balls would have started flying several volumes back; Diana, for example, might have been killed off, and Stephen's resulting grief used to deepen our understanding of his personality. But Mr. O'Brian coddles and cossets his darlings instead of murdering them, a sure sign of loss of nerve: there are by now at least a dozen untouchable continuing characters in the series, all of whom must be tended, watered and trotted out for their annual star turns. To be sure, tragedy continues to strike without warning in Mr. O'Brian's fictional universe -- there is a particularly jolting death in ''The Yellow Admiral'' -- but the one thing his faithful readers can count on is that nobody they really like will ever vanish over the side. "
- NYT, Nov 1996

Don Seltzer


From: Theodore Gazulis
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 12:07 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Continued continued spoilers -

Two opinions...

First, putting "Losing Diana" in the subject line pretty much eviscerates the "spoiler" warning

Second, perhaps the NYT was a moron, otherwise he couldn't speak that way about Bonden.

Theo Gazulis
37/54 N 122/29 W


From: Kevin Wilson
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 12:55 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Spoilers continued again

I very nearly made the same complaint about the subject line, but there's more than one way of "losing Diana," and Stephen seems to experience most of them along the way.

Perhaps this is one reason the shallow reader might not "like" her? I'm sure we've had this discussion along the way, but is "likabiilty" a necessary component of a character in a novel, if you're to care about that person's fate?

Kevin Wilson


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

WARNING: Spoiler for PC and everything after

At 8:07 AM -0800 4/1/2003, Theodore Gazulis wrote:

First, putting "Losing Diana" in the subject line pretty much eviscerates the "spoiler" warning

Second, perhaps the NYT was a moron, otherwise he couldn't speak that way about Bonden.

I thought that the subject line was sufficiently ambiguous as not to be a spoiler. Stephen is continually losing Diana throughout the canon.

PC - Diana runs off to India with Canning
HMSS - Diana accepts Stephen's proposal, then runs off with Johnstone to America
DI - Diana runs off again, leaving Stephen to clean up the mess
SM - Diana reneges on her acceptance of Stephen's second proposal, runs off to Paris
ROM - Diana runs off to Sweden with Jagiello
COM - Diana dumps Brigid, runs off to Ireland

Regarding the NY Times review, it was written after TYA, but before the deaths of Diana and Bonden in THD. I've suggested that POB had already intended to terminate Diana, but was the death of Bonden added simply to prove the reviewer wrong?

Don Seltzer


From: Anthony Gary Brown
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 1:31 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Don Seltzer wrote:

WARNING: Spoiler for PC and everything after

Regarding the NY Times review, it was written after TYA, but before the deaths of Diana and Bonden in THD. I've suggested that POB had already intended to terminate Diana, but was the death of Bonden added simply to prove the reviewer wrong?

Indeed: though in a sense he also proved the reviewer (Terry Teachout) right, by perhaps needing to to do exactly what the chap had suggested he lacked the desire to do.

Gary
in Dallas


From: Megan Sullaway
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 3:37 PM
Subject: Losing Diana, new thread: Caroline Hershel

In Don's wonderful post he quoted Aubrey thus:

'What a pleasure. I love talking to women like that. Caroline Herschel and I used to prattle away about Pomeranian sludge and the last stages of a telescope's mirror half way through the night. But knowing and beautiful too - what bliss.'

I am reading selected letters & journals of Fanny Burney, & one of the more charming aspects of this is encountering names familiar to me from POB - including Fanny's friend, "Queeny" Thrale (later "Lady Keith" ).

This is what Fanny Burney had to say about Caroline Herschel:

"I was equally pleased with his (Dr. Herschall's) Sister, whom I had wished to see very much, for her great celebrity in her Brother's Science. She is very little, very gentle, very modest, and very ingenuous: and her manners are those of a Person unhackneyed and unawed by the World, yet desirous to meet, and to return its smiles. ..I enquired of Miss Hershall if she was still comet hunting, or content now with the Moon? The Brother answered that He had the charge of the Moon, but he left to his Sister to sweep the Heavens for Comets.

Their manner of working together is most ingenious and curious. While he makes his observations without Doors, he has a method of communicating them to his Sister so immediately, that she can instantly commit them to paper, with the precise moment in which they are made. By this means, he loses not a Minute, when there is anything particularly worth observing..."

Megan
33 50' 23"N 118 23' 29"W


From: tom behr
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 7:51 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

From the NYT review Nov 1996

murdering them, a sure sign of loss of nerve:

Hmmm. I guess there really is a difference between people who write novels and those who review them. I certainly know which kind of writing I prefer.

Re Kevin William's post:

I'm sure we've had this discussion along the way, but is "likabiilty" a necessary component of a character in a novel, if you're to care about that person's fate?

I'd agree with Kevin... and I wonder if Diana isn't someone one loves more than "likes"?


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 8:18 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

But Mr. O'Brian coddles and cossets his darlings instead of murdering them, a sure sign of loss of nerve:

There's a POBian type of literary reference hidden here: advice wch almost every writer learns -- Murder your darlings.

When you write a few words or paragraphs or even scenes that turn you on with delight-- that becomes one of your darlings -- consider killing it, because ... well, I dunno quite why ... because it's likely to turn you on but make your readers wonder what kind of creature you are.

Charlezzzzz, who has killed many a darling -- aye, even in postings to the list -- and feels the better for it.


From: Nick Coleman
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2003 8:50 AM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Charlezzzzz, what do you (generic) write then? Something that you don't like as much? I'm a bit confused how a writer writes his best without liking what s/he's written?

Nick, keen for tips.


From: Linnea
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2003 11:17 AM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

What insights--this thread has been a pleasure, although I cherish Diana, her spirit and her kindnesses.

Remember the emblem that is so associated with her, her magnificent diamond, the Blue Peter. The same name is for a signal flag, which according to the Sea of Words is "A blue flag with a white rectangle in the middle, signifying the letter p in the international code, hoisted to signal that the ship is ready to sail, especially to recall the crew." Diana was always ready to sail?

Did POB so name the diamond on purpose?

~~ Linnea


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2003 7:36 PM
Subject: Groupread:Commodore

just to re write-

'Since mood is so freely conveyed not only from person to person but from person to dog, cat, horse and the other way about, some part of his present state of mind derived from Lalla, though her unusual and nervous volatility arose from a cause that could not possibly have been more remote.

The season of the year, her temprement, and a variety of other factors had inspired her with the notion that it would be delightful to meet with a fine upstanding stallion. She skipped as she went on, sometimes dancing sideways, sometimes tossing her head: her views were evident to other members of her race, the poor rueful geldings rolled their eyes, while the only stonehorse they passed raced madly round and round the paddock, neighing; while a pretentious jack-ass uttered a huge sobbing cry that followed them beyond the cultivated land to the edge of a barren common where a broad lane joined their present road, the two running on to join the highway by the gallows.'

By the way I am now even closer to the opinion that Padeen never really existed; that he is merely some Harvey-like creation of an opium driven Stephen mind.

There just to fill his voids.

I still have some work to do on this theory.

alec
looking like a lean, cantankerous and out of work ratcatcher
@ 53 23 N 006 35 W


From: Nathan Varnum
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 8:47 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread:Commodore

The "Opium Driven Stephen Mind" theory would indeed help explain a few things, such as why Stephen is strangely inconsistent with his clumsiness. This has plagued us for some time and here we have a perfectly plausible explanation.

On the other hand, might Stephen himself have been an imaginary friend for Jack?!? Consider: Jack enters a state of euphoria upon getting his commission as M&C and in this delicate state he, having no one else to share his good fortune with, dredges up that insufferable scrub he met the previous night and imagines a celebration with him.

Later, with a more sober mind, he abandons this folly, this being symbolically shown through the imaginary-Stephen's eyes when he sees the ship heading out to sea without him.

Still later, Jack being driven to near-insanity by the loneliness of his new command (he being a "people person" and all), he resurrects the fantasy to give him a companion for life. A companion which serves as a Jiminy Cricket-type conscience (reconsider the near spouse-breach with Mercedes in this light).

Now we see that when Jack sinks to new lows in his dealings with Sophie and Diane (his Stephen/conscience continually applying pressure to choose Sophie rather than the evil and mercurial Diane, do ya see?) he is not nearly killed by his friend in a duel, but rather is nearly driven to self-murder.

And then, when they, um, when they, er...

Nathan, seeing the blank stares all around, quietly climbing down from his podium and sneaking away, but not before pointing out that POB was a deep old file, indeed


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 9:42 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread:Commodore

Consider the scene in M&C, when Jack has an extended conversation with Stephen regarding Dillon. After a few pages, we realize that Stephen isn't there at all; Jack is simply airing his thoughts to an imaginary friend.

Don Seltzer


From: Linnea
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: Groupread: Commodore

Oh, did I love that theory!

Explains a lot and why not...it all fits! And Don bears it out.

Linnea


From: Bob Saldeen
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 12:14 PM
Subject: Re: Groupread: Commodore

> The "Opium Driven Stephen Mind" theory would indeed help explain a few > things,

The Bear Suit, for another...

bs


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 2:22 PM
Subject: Re: Losing Diana **SPOILERS**

Did POB so name the diamond on purpose?

What a great image, Diana forever flying the flag of departure around her neck. Of all the books in which Diana appears "onstage", I can think of only two in which she does not leave, IM and TYA. And even in IM she partially leaves her new husband to set up a separate household.

POB inserted a small related private joke in RM. Stephen, trying to interpret the meaning of 'pavilion de partance' in a note from his French friend, refers to an 'Admiral Smyth'. One of POB's chief resources was a naval encylopedia entitled Admiral Smyth's Sailors Word Book.

"He walked down the stairs towards the library, still muttering; but at their foot he met the amiable Admiral Smyth. 'Good evening to you, sir,' he said. 'I was on my way to find a naval encyclopaedia, but now I may cut my journey short, I find. Pray what is meant by a pavilion de partance?'

'Why, Doctor,' said the Admiral, smiling benignly, 'you must often have seen it, I am sure - the blue flag with a white square in the middle that we hoist at the foretopmasthead to signify that we mean to sail directly. It is generally called the Blue Peter.'

'The Blue Peter! Oh, of course, of course. Thank you, Admiral - very many thanks indeed.'

'Not at all,' said the Admiral, chuckling."

Don Seltzer


From: Batrinque@AOL.COM
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 8:00 PM
Subject: Re: Groupread:Commodore

> On the other hand, might Stephen himself have been an imaginary friend > for Jack?!?

And this, lissuns, is how to tell when someone has watched Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind" one too many times ...

Unless, of course, you wish to cite the casting of Crowe in the new movie as one more support for your theory!

Bruce Trinque
4137'52"N 7222'29"W


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Friday, April 04, 2003 6:15 PM
Subject: Re: Groupread:Commodore

for those on the trail

Bruce wrote

Unless, of course, you wish to cite the casting of Crowe in the new movie as 20 one more support for your theory!

It is not the casting of Crowe that supports the theory.

But the casting of Bettany-that crowecreation of a beautiful mind

a


From: Katherine Tharp
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2003 9:17 PM
Subject: Groupread: The Commodore

I've been wondering why, when Stephen and Diana both have dark hair, Brigid's hair is pale blond. All I can remember about genetics is some pictures of black cows, white cows and spotted cows. Is it possible for two dark-haired people to have a blond child, or has Jagiello perhaps been in the neighborhood?

Katherine T


From: andrea
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 12:35 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

Fie upon you for making such an accusation!

Remembering from my very long ago genetics class blond hair is a recessive trait, brown is dominant, you can be carying a gene for blond hair but if the other gene in the pair is brown your hair will come out brown-however the blond gene is still there and can be one of the pair you donate to a child in the process of conception.

Genes are usualy represented as pairs-one is from the mother the other from the father. Our gene code is split in our sperm and eggs so each only caries half the genetic material of each parent, that way when fertilization occurs the numbers stay stable and the genetic material doesn't double with each generation.

If two people each have one parent that was blond they have a one in four chance of having a blond child. In the chart it would look like this Y or y for blond(yellow) hair, and B or b for brown, caps and lowercase help trace which grandparent the genes came from, each individual in the chart is represented by a pair of genes.

(parents of the mom-Diana) (parents of the dad-Stephen)
Grandma grandpa grandmother grandfather
BB yy
YY
bb
the genes split into sperms and eggs
B----B y----y
Travel on there journey to the womb
B y
B y
B+y and join in the process of fertilization to make an embryo By
Yb mom(Diana) dad(Stephen)
Possible gene combos in kids(grandkids)
Bb yb bY Yy
(Claire)
brown brown brown yellow(blond)

Cheers,
N

P.S. with Jagiello (YY) and Diana (By) you have these combos YB Yy YB Yy-so 50/50 shance for havinng blond kids-the only statistical way to test D's faithfullness is to have more kids and see if the percentage of blond to brunette works out right.


From: Pawel Golik
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 4:48 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

True, darker colour (in hair, eyes etc.) is dominant. And, if I remember correctly, Diana has blue eyes - a most unusual trait in dark-haired people. Also Mrs. Williams and her daughters (related to Diana after all) are all of a fair complexion. I'd also imagine that Stephen's Irish family had a lighter complexion than his Catalan ancestors (his pale eyes might be an indication). Add to this the fact, that in young children hair is often of lighter colour than the one they have as adults, and you have a prefectly reasonable explanation.

Nowadays of course looking at a woman's (and man's sometimes too) hair tells you exactly nothing, I know women that change colour almost on a monthly basis. BTW. - would colouring one's hair be a common practice in early XIXth century? Was Diana's hair natural?

Pawel


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 6:41 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

I had quite blonde hair as a small child but it became a mid to dark brown to match my eyes by the time I was about seven. The combination of light blue or green eyes and dark hair is not uncommon among some Irish people. However, if Stephen was a true Maturin, which I am coming to doubt, he would not have had very much less Irish ancestry as the Maturins were Huguenots and came from France.


From: Linda C. DeMars
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 7:45 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

There is a passagein the Commodore (I think) where Stephen is dreaming of seeing Diana and his daughter and he imagines a small fairhaired child. Did he just assume the child would have fair hair or had Diana writen him? For that matter, how did he know he had a daughter and what her name was? Some of those letters exchanged between the Lines?

Linda C. DeMars


From: Pawel Golik
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 8:32 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

I don't think Diana wrote any letters after giving birth to Brigid. I've always read those passages as projections of Stephen's ideal - he did say (in a conversation with Jack, if I remember correctly), that he had always wanted a daughter. And there is a strong stereotypical image of children in our culture as being fair-haired. In French there is even an expression "tetes blondes", meaning more or less the same as "kids". OTOH I don't know if this expression existed in XIXth century French.

Pawel


From: Thistle Farm
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 9:08 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

Was Diana's hair natural?

Of course it was! How could you ask such a thing!

Sarah


From: Thistle Farm
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 10:18 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

In a message dated 4/14/03 9:18:25 PM, mkt@stompit.net writes:

Is it possible for two dark-haired people to have a blond child, or has Jagiello perhaps been in the neighborhood?

My husband is black-eyed, and black haired and comes from dark haired parents. I am swarthy and dark-haired, and yet our youngest was a bright, bright blond until he was almost four. People used to exclaim over it so often that I finally started answering "Yes, and even the mailman has dark hair!"

Sarah


From: Tharp, Katherine
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 10:16 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

Fie upon you for making such an accusation!

Thanks for clearing that up. I never should have doubted.

I enjoyed your chart and it actually makes sense. If my science teachers had used more interesting examples than cows, I might have paid more attention in school.

This list is certainly educational.

Katherine T


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 10:30 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:Commodore Brigid

At 7:45 AM -0400 4/15/2003, Linda C. DeMars wrote:

There is a passagein the Commodore (I think) where Stephen is dreaming of seeing Diana and his daughter and he imagines a small fairhaired child. Did >he just assume the child would have fair hair or had Diana writen him? For that matter, how did he know he had a daughter and what her name was? Some of those letters exchanged between the Lines?

I don't recall the dream with the fairhaired description, but in TL/CO, a large packet of letters is delivered by the schooner Eclair, with news from both Diana and Sophie about the daughter. Even then, there are hints that something is amiss.

In TL, COM, and all later books, the child's name is Brigid. In WDS, she is repeatedly referred to as Brigit. Where were the editors?

Don Seltzer


From: Doug Essinger-Hileman
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 11:11 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

Yes, Katherine, it is possible for two dark-haired people to have a blond child. Blond hair is a recessive characteristic, which means that it will only show if both the person's inherited genes are for blond hair. If both parents have dark hair, with each having a recessive blond gene, then, statistically, 1 in 4 children will have blond hair.

Doug


From: Doug Essinger-Hileman
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 11:11 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

I have blond hair -- and it was very, very blond when I was a child. Combined with my brown eyes, a trait as unusual in blond-haired folk as blue eyes is in dark-haired folk, this elicited the usual jokes about the milkman.

Doug


From: Pawel Golik
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 11:22 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

Assuming that it is a single-gene trait, which is a textbook simplification. In real life, the inheritance of pigments (eye colour, hair colour, skin colour) is more complex, but the general idea is right - lighter colour is recessive, and therefore can skip generations.

Pawel


From: Linnea
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2003 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: Groupread: The Commodore

Glad that a Dr. is on board to give us the breakdown. As an anecdote, my father had brown hair, brown eyes, my mother had fine black hair---not raven tresses but definitely no brown at all, and very blue eyes. (Both parents were of Swedish descent.)

I had blonde hair and brown eyes but later on had brown hair. Sister had blonde hair and blue eyes forever. She is the spitting image of my mother's mother and her son is the spitting image of my father. Littlest sister had brown hair and very blue eyes.

I remember babysitting for a family where both parents had dark hair and brown eyes, and all three children were very blonde with brown eyes.

~~ Linnea


From: Pawel Golik
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 12:52 PM
Subject: GroupRead: "The Commodore" - a Conrad reference and some humour

In case you missed it:

there is a reference to Conrad in "The Commodore". In the conversation between Stephen and John Square (Ch. 8, p. 202 Norton paperback)

'Mr Klopstock, he dead' which is a reference to 'Heart of Darkness' ('Mistah Kurtz--he dead.'), I've always read it as bordering on parody, especially with the comical name of the unfortunate Dutchman (does the name Klopstock sound comical to native English speakers too?).

And a few pages earlier we have the delightful dialogue between the two Syrian merchants with:

'Thou art the offspring of an impotent mole and a dissolute bat' - must be the best insult this side of 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'!

Pawel


From: Sam Bostock
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 1:51 PM
Subject: Grp Rd: Commodore

Thanks to those who responded to my last post.

So, to the Commodore, which I find one of the most enjoyable of the series, and I'm reading furiously to catch up with you. It helps that I've read this volume a couple of times already, once for Gary's Perplexed revisions, at which I was miserably poor. I particuarly enjoy the flowering of Bridget, one of the highlights of the series, sure.

I'd like to continue my theme theory into this volume, and I'll plump for love, or perhaps missplaced, messed-up, or less-than-ideal love. In this volume the theme may be less central to the main plot, but it is surely identifiable. Looking back through the book, I found a wealth of incidents which I think support this, and I have only reached page 182 (all pagination HC).

Here they are: There are marital difficulties for both Jack and Stephen, which are both major sub-plots, and Jack's particualry, impacts upon the main plot. The next most major strand showing this theme is with Duff, which needs no explaination. As an aside, Duff is a masterly character name from PO'B, I think, with it's invocation of 'up the duff', giving a constant sexual odour to Duff, even at his most urbane. We then have the several incididents which I have managed to pull up. Right at the start of the volume, we have Henege Dundas needing to borrow money from Jack as a consequence of an extra-marital scrape, and another of Jack's shipmates, Robert Morley, on page 114, faces a more extreme version of Jack's situation. Additionally, there is the Sethian's humourous introduction of polygamy, and the mention of Wray, Ledward, and the Garter's practices. Finally, Stephen discusses Sappho with Howard, on page 180, the female classical poet, who hailed from the island of Lesbos, and so providing the inspiration for the term 'lesbian', which incidentally, Howard has just visited, mentioned on page 78.

As usual, I was surprised by number of references I found to support my theory, once I began looking, and there are almost certainly more, both that I have missed and in the rest of the book. If you find any, please post them. In writing this I have convinced myself that PO'B meant to insert a theme of love gone wrong - do you agree?

Also, I haven't discussed the ending, as I haven't reached it yet, but it certainly is worth consideration. How much of the wrong love is put right? Is any exorcised, like a Greek tragedy?

Finally, something that has puzzled me: it is clear from page 77 that Jack is aware of Duff's sexual persuasion, and whom he persuades, but in the incident on page 180 it seems that Jack is unaware of these things. This impression is reinforced on the next page, when Stephen reflects on Jack's 'wholly innocent and candid' warning. A clue is perhaps on page 180, where the Purple Emperor is refered to as being 'conscious of his gaffe'. What gaffe? I think PO'B meant to have the PE remark on Duff's bargemen, but slipped and made it Jack, and then carried on with Jack making the slip. Reading it again, it does seem a bit strong for Jack, especially a Jack who knows about Duff's taste.

Any ideas?

Tchuss,

Sam.
(and I'm backing Arsenal to win tonight!)


From: Larry & Wanda Finch
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 2:16 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: "The Commodore" - a Conrad reference and somehumour

Of course, it is also a forward reference, because this conversation took place before "Heart of Darkness" was written or set.

Not the only forward reference in the series; do lissuns recall some of the others?

Larry


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 8:26 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: "The Commodore" - a Conrad reference and somehumour

Not the only forward reference in the series; do lissuns recall some of the others?

Translated from some other language:

When the bells justle in the tower
The hollow night amid.
Then on my tongue the taste is sour
Of all I ever did.

a prequotion from AE Houseman

There's glory for you.

lewis carroll

It was the best hogweed

sort of lewis carroll

charlezzzzz


From: Rowen 84
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 10:44 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: "The Commodore" - a Conrad reference and somehumour

A few years ago, there was a lot of discussion on the list about the Housman poem, and some wondering about why POB seemed to be implying that Housman's work was actually a translation of a prior poet's work. Noone came up with any candidates for a poetic precedent.

Lois (the U.S. one) wrote a piece about this which was included in the most recent annual volume published by The Housman Society (http://www.housman-society.co.uk), their Journal, volume Twenty-Eight 2002, page 106. She doesn't solve any problems, just notes the Housman sighting in The Thirteen-Gun Salute, and discusses the issues POB raises by citing it without attribution, and with the implication that it was derived from an earlier, non-English work.

For a copy, you could try your library, or Lois. She's not reading list mail these days, but she's still at losmp@earthlink.net.

Rowen


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 5:29 PM
Subject: GRP:COM 210 words

"Though unconscionably long, it was a most companionable voyage, particularly as the Suprise was able to do away with much of the invidious difference between deliverer and delivered by providing the sickly and under-manned Berenice with a surgeon, her own having been lost, together with his only mate, when their boat overturned not ten yards from the ship - neither could swim, and each seized the other with fatal energy - so that her people, sadly reduced by Sydney pox and Cape Horn scurvy, were left to the care of an illiterate but fearless loblolly-boy; and to provide her not merely with an ordinary naval surgeon, equipped with little more than a certificate from the Sick and Hurt Board, but with a full-blown physician in the person of Stephen Maturin, the author of a standard work on the diseases of seamen, a Fellow of the Royal Society with doctorates from Dublin and Paris, a gentleman fluent in Latin and Greek (such a comfort to his patients), a particular friend of Captain Aubrey's and, though this was known to very few, one of the Admiralty's - indeed of the Ministry's - most valued advisers on Spanish and Spanish-American affairs: in short an intelligence-agent, though on a wholly independent and voluntary basis."

- Chapter 1

Don Seltzer


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 5:38 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

Don -I had just re-read that on the train on Wednesday-marvelling at the style and content- but not realising the number of words!

I must say having just finished Commadore (again) I think it is well up there in the top 5/6 of the Canon

alec


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 6:05 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

"Though unconscionably long, it was a most companionable voyage,

D'ye think he was meta-talking about his own words?


From: Robin Welch
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 6:14 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

Awhile back, my mother-in-law, the one who closely resembles Mrs. Williams, took a peek at the first page of Master and Commander and pronounced, in an irritated tone, "His sentences are too long." Perhaps I'm not giving the dear enough credit!

Robin


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 6:36 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

These things seem to work out for the best.

Consider the alternative: what if she LIKED M&C, and proceeded to read all twenty volumes, offering you the benefit of her opinions on each one . . .


From: Batrinque@AOL.COM
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 8:25 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

Awhile back, my mother-in-law, the one who closely resembles Mrs. Williams, took a peek at the first page of Master and Commander and pronounced, in an irritated tone, "His sentences are too long."

Which you mustn't put more than one verb in a sentence because that will start them wearing out, a shocking waste, my dears, what with the cost of wordsmiths in these days. No one in my family, I assure you, ever found need for more that one verb in a sentence, and adjectives, neither, they being three and sixpence a dozen and the price of adverbs quite shocking.

Bruce Trinque
4137'52"N 7222'29"W


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 11:26 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

Susan Wenger wrote:

"Though unconscionably long, it was a most companionable voyage,

D'ye think he was meta-talking about his own words?

I think you're right, he might have been poking a little fun at his editors, knowing their reaction to his long, long sentences.

There are plenty of other 150+ word sentences in COM, but I think that this one bears away the prize.

Don Seltzer


From: Isabelle Hayes
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 8:53 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM 210 words

"His sentences are too long."

Yeah, and not only that, but there are too many notes.

Isabelle Hayes From: Marshall Rafferty
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 7:53 PM
Subject: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Words

Like many of us, maybe most of us, I haven't really been reading along with the group; spring seems like a busier than normal time. But Pawel's fine posts inspired me to at least pick up "The Commodore."

Looking at random the first phrase which I saw was uttered by Hen Dundas (Norton paperback, page 7):

''Truer word you never spoke, dear Jack. But even if you had gold - you will never tell me you have gold, English gold, *Jack*? - it would take hours to tell out a thousand guineas."

I was so struck by how perfectly O'Brian conveyed tone and cadence in this sentence. And the following paragraph, with Jack speaking, was simply a joy to read, starting:

''God love you, Hen. All this morning and much of this afternoon Tom, Adams and I were counting and weighing like a gang of usurers, making up bags for the final sharing-out when we drop anchor in Shelmerston. The Doctor helped too, nipping about among our heaps and taking out all the ancient coins - there were some of Julius Caesar and Nebuchadnezzar, I think, and he clasped an Irish piece called an Inchiquin pistole to his bosom, laughing with pleasure - but he threw us out of our count and I was obliged to beg him to go away, far, far away." (paragraph snipped).

(I googled a bit and found a reference to an Inchiquin pistole as "the only Irish gold coin." I have no idea how Inchiquin is pronounced, but it's probably as non-intuitive as "Colquhoun." Just where do these odd-looking "qu"s come from?)

The images of Steven "nipping about among our heaps," and Heneage "still holding the bag poised in his hand, like a Christmas pudding."

I've always subscribed to the view that O'Brian's writing flagged toward the end, but this use of language continues to amaze.

I just may have to read these books yet again, as soon as I finish another book or two.

Marshall Rafferty

At, or about:
4740'54"N. 12222'8"W.


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 8:25 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Words

Bheul- just to respond to a small segment of a great post.

Inchiquin is pronounced the way it is written.

Of course there is no 'Q' in the Irish language but with the unexpected arrival of those friendly English folk we started to use it!

And the old and noble Irish name ' Cuinn' became Quinn. By Law.

'Innis' is(In Irish) an island/or inlet, but the more enlightened among the new arrivals decided that the word 'Inch' fitted the bill so much better.

So what might have been Innis U Cuinn (the island/inlet of the Cuinn's)

bacame Inchiquin.

alec.



From: Marshall Rafferty
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 8:40 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Words

Thankee, sir. I did another google for Inchiquin pistole and found a German site , which stated (after the usual incomplete internet translation:

"Bzeichnung for the Irish Crowns, Halfcrowns, Shillings, Ninepence, Sixpence and Groats, that were issued during the rebellion by 1642. This need money is named after lord Inchiquin, that the protestant army of the province Ulster befehligte. These coins are very irregular, and Aufstempelungen indicate the weight."

Marshall


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 8:50 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Words

I am amazed, no, I am dismayed at my ability to read an O 'Brian gem, and easily skip over it without second thought.

Shame on me.

alec


From: Mary S
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 10:19 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Words

In a message dated 4/19/2003 7:27:08 PM Central Daylight Time, alec1@EIRCOM.NET writes:

Bheul

Bheul?


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Words

This is just from a google search but it may be of interest- and includes at the end the words..

Among the rarer issues of this period are the pistole and double pistole of 1646. Which are the only gold coins struck in Ireland (excluding a number of proofs struck in gold over the years and some recent ecu patterns

http://www.irishcoinage.com/ORMOND.HTM


From: Rosemary Davis
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 2:34 PM
Subject: Inchiquin/articles of war

Zeichnung means design, befehligte means commanded, Aufstempelungen means stampings. I'm trying to figure out what "need money" was supposed to be.

The description of the men as the Articles of War are being read always reminds me of passengers on an airplane when the safety instructions are being read. -RD, who always wants to know where the nearest exit is.


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 3:06 PM
Subject: Re: Inchiquin/articles of war

British Airlines The 17.49 flight to the FSOW

From the Air Host/ess

Article 29

If any person on the plane shall commit the unnatural and detestable sin of smoking and/or carry on cell phone conversation with man or beast, he shall be punished with death by the sentence of a court martial.

alec


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 10:01 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Pope

We saw POB quoting Alexander Pope a while back. Now in "Commodore," Maturin, musing to himself as he tries to fall asleep, thinks: "Yet changed he [Maturin] had to some degree, of that there was no doubt: more and more, for example, it seemed to him that the proper study of mankind was man rather than beetle or even bird."

Pope's famous poem, "An Essay on Man," has this passage in it, a passage wch might stand for Maturin himself:

The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless error hurl'd:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world

Charlezzzzz


From: Linnea
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 5:34 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore - POB and Pope

That does sound like Stephen!

(Sorry for all the one-liners lately but no book handy.)

~~ Linnea


From: Katherine Tharp
Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 9:06 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore

The Commodore has some of my favorite scenes, and among those are the voyages on the Ringle - the quick trip to London, and especially the flight to the Berlings. There's a lightness and playfulness on the Ringle, a feelingof being let out of school, going from the harsh discipline and overcrowding aboard a man-of-war to the relative freedom of the smaller and more maneuverable craft. Reade's joy in his command, the expertise of the Shelmerstonians, Stephen's happiness at Brigid's awakening, and her delight in sailing - but my favorite part is the biscuit toss. Such a lighthearted approach to danger.

I just wish I could figure out just how long Reade's arm is by this time, and just where his hook is located.

Katherine


From: Linnea
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 5:32 PM
Subject: Re: GroupRead: The Commodore

Very nice, Katharine.

I love those little voyages on the Ringle, too. (And always love the reason it's named the Ringle.)

I'm very frustrated---I must not have The Commodore and must have gotten it from the library months ago when the Group Read got me started all thru the books again. I wish I had made notes!

I had all the books but that one and then I sent off another to my sister by mistake with a batch I'd bought at the library book sale.

~~ Linnea


From: Sam Bostock
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 4:16 PM
Subject: Grp Rd: Commodore - a few more thoughts

My last post left you cold, but I'll continue on. I hope the reason for the lack of responses was that it was a poor post, rather than sensitivity to what I refered to as 'bad love' i.e. homosexual. With that term I was echoing it's reception the 19th century mind, and perhaps in PO'B's.

In my last post I mentioned Greek tragedy, as a throwaway line, inspired by the Greek references scattered through the novel. However, I stopped short of mentioning catharsis (excuse poor spelling - checker broken), thinking it went too far. But reading on, I'm not convinced it cannot be applied here: the doctor's struggle with the yellow jack seems reminiscent of this.

Perhaps a quick recap about what I'm talking about: I'm not particularly strong on Greek tragedy, but as I understand it, the hero commits some kind of 'sin' (quotes as it's a more Judeo-Christian concept - sin in this case more being against natural order, I believe), very often pride-related. The hero usually realises this, but has to pay, very often with his life. However, with his death, things return to their natural order. Catharsis is the outpouring of emotions, at I suppose the climax of the play.

I'm using catharsis in a slightly different manner. For my post, it means the violent expunging of bad things, which, I suppose, has more to do with overall Greek tragedy, but I like the word, so that's the one I'm going to use.

I'm digressing, however. What first made me think of this was Stephen's illness. He denys the hands leave after dark because of the miasmas (sp?) and then contracts the yellow jack himself. PO'B spells this out on page 229 (again all pagination HC). Pride comes before a fall so often in tragedy. The doctor battles with the fever, is weakened... triumphs. I realise I may be stretching a little, but afterwards all is right in Stephen's world. He meets Christine Wood, and returns to Diana. The violent imagery of catharsis also reminds me of the scene when Stephen stands at the bow of the Ringle, the wind and waves hurling themselves at him. A wonderfully understated picture of Stephen's mental state perhaps?

I am also tempted to say there is a min-catharsis with the duel fought by the officers from the Thames and Stately. Bad love leads to bad blood (at least at sea). Bad blood has to come out, like a fever, but afterwards there is the recociliation, although, as in Greek tragedy, the fighters must die. Obviously this could simply be PO'B's point about the pointlessness of the combat, but still, there may be something there...

I think Jack too, has to undergo a kind of clensing/catharsis, in fighting the French: he gets the squadron together, and the bad blood is expunged, and again, all is right: the Stately performs with honour.

Some more bits to support the Greek thing, and the bad love thing: p218-21 (Greek dance, and Stephen on Duff, I think), and 198 (seamen & whores).

Finally, did anyone pick up the pair of Twelth Night references Jack makes? 'It's all one' (although this may just be a common expression, I'm sure POB knew what he was doing) and another one, which I've forgot. Pages 274-5.

That's it for me. Nice to see all the Commodore posts appearing. Who said POB suffers towards the end? I'm looking forward to 100 Days, but first there's Yellow to get through.

Anyway,
Sam.


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 4:38 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore - a few more thoughts

Isn't it a co-incidence that the next book is 'Yellow Admiral'

With Capt. Aubrey contemplating the dreadful prospect of being 'a Yellowed Jack.

alec


From: Linnea
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 5:58 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore - a few more thoughts

Lots to think about, Sam, and I don't think the lack of responses means much.....sometimes we just can't put brains into gear. I can't comment at all on The Commodore until I creep back out to the library to get a copy again----finally coming out of a miasmatic something virus.

I *can* comment on your posts and thought they were excellent, informative and I think you are in the right of it. I'll re-read The Commodore with new understanding. (And your spelling is excellent!)

~~ Linnea


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 12:59 AM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

on 4/16/03 1:51 PM, Sam Bostock at pobsambostock@YAHOO.CO.UK wrote:

As usual, I was surprised by number of references I found to support my theory [that the major theme of COMMODORE is "love gone wrong"], once I began looking, and there are almost certainly more, both that I have missed and in the rest of the book. If you find any, please post them. In writing this I have convinced myself that PO'B meant to insert a theme of love gone wrong - do you agree?

A remarkably interesting theory, Sam, and it gave me a long pause before I found what might be a useful comment.

Your theme "love gone wrong" is to be found *throughout* most of the books in the canon, and not just in the Commodore, though it may surface more strongly in Commodore than elsewhere. (Wch means I have to read through the whole 20 books once again to see if I agree with my own thoughts on your theory.)

Perhaps sometime we cd create a list of the major themes in the whole series. Here's a quick shot at it. LOVE gone wrong. MONEY gone away. FRIENDSHIP under strain. HAPPINESS damaged. REPUTATION in jeopardy. LIFE at risk. (In the short stories, there's another major theme: GUILT as a burden to carry.)

Having written this, I dunno. To create interesting fiction, the writer needs conflict, conflict long-lasting and conflict on every page; and aren't these some of the basic conflicts that flesh is heir to? (Hamlet, as usual, pops up in my mind.)

And yet... and yet... I think you're likely to be quite right in your thoughts on Commodore.

In an earlier posting, Sam, you say: "With each volume I re-read, it seems more clear that PO'B gives each some defining theme, which the plot reflects. I would guess that the plot and the theme developed concurrently, with PO'B thinking of a plot, and what interesting things it brings up, and then thinking 'I'll develop that.'"

I agree. That's one of the ways a writer of fiction works: he plans a major abstract conflict, and creates specific scenes where aspects of that conflict appear.

It wd be a fascinating chore to extend your statement, examening each book for a defining theme. Each may not have one, but surely many of them do, places where major themes of the work as a whole pop to the surface.

You also say --

Finally, Stephen discusses Sappho with Howard, on page 180, the female classical poet, who hailed from the island of Lesbos, and so providing the inspiration for the term 'lesbian', which incidentally, Howard has just visited, mentioned on page 78.

POB ranges from the hilarious to the melancholy...

Babbington (Ionian mission?) turns up with a whole boatload of women, rescued from Turks who raided a wedding party. A hilarious scene, because the women are from Lesbos, and because Babbington is Babbington. "Virgoes intactoes," I think Jack calls them.

Stephen (Post Captain) finding that Diana has left London, finds a quotation from Sappho written in her rooms, a quotation of sterile and blank longing: Since this quotation is out of context, I have added a few clarifying words in square brackets.

"SMr Lowndes had written some lines of Sappho [probably in Greek] large on the wall in chalk. 'An elegant hand,' said Stephen, as he stood to consider it.

'The moon has set, and the Pleiades; midnight is gone; the hours wear by, and here I lie alone.'

[Stephen thinks of changing the translation to:] Perhaps and here I, Sappho, lie alone, to give the sex. No. The sex is immaterial. It is the same for both."

Charlezzzzz, pointing out that Sappho is one of the great poets, and that translation is nearly impossible


From: Tharp, Katherine
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 10:05 AM
Subject: Grp Rd: Commodore - a few more thoughts

From: Sam Bostock ("pobsambostock@YAHOO.CO.UK)

My last post left you cold, but I'll continue on. I hope the reason for the lack of responses was that it was a poor post, rather than sensitivity to what I refered to as 'bad love' i.e. homosexual. With that term I was echoing it's reception the 19th century mind, and perhaps in PO'B's.

This post and your last were very thought-provoking, which I'm sure is why it took a long time to get any responses. It's easier to respond to trivia.

While you make a good case for love gone wrong and I certainly agree that it's a theme of this book as it is of all the others, I tend to think the theme of The Commodore is more about power than love. For example, certainly as far as Jack is concerned, it isn't the nature of Duff's love that makes it "bad," but his indulging it while on duty. A captain can't maintain discipline while fooling around with the ship's boys. Then there's Thomas, who abuses his power by being petty and tyrannical.

A few other examples: Jack has to adjust to his role as commodore of a squadron rather than commanding an individual ship. Stephen orders the men not to leave the ship because of the miasmata, and is shocked when Jack forbids him to go ashore. And the issue of slavery, of course.

There's a lot going on in this book. It's definitely one of my favorites, although I feel that the ending is a little anticlimactic.

Katherine T


From: Sam Bostock
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 1:56 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

I wrote:

As usual, I was surprised by number of references I found to support my theory [that the major theme of COMMODORE is "love gone wrong"], once I began looking, and there are almost certainly more, both that I have missed and in the rest of the book. If you find any, please post them. In writing this I have convinced myself that PO'B meant to insert a theme of love gone wrong - do you agree?

And Charlezzzzzzzzz replied:

A remarkably interesting theory, Sam, and it gave me a long pause before I found what might be a useful comment.

Your theme "love gone wrong" is to be found *throughout* most of the books in the canon, and not just in the Commodore, though it may surface more strongly in Commodore than elsewhere. (Wch means I have to read through the whole 20 books once again to see if I agree with my own thoughts on your theory.)

Bits like this are me again:

-Yes, I agree!

Perhaps sometime we cd create a list of the major themes in the whole series. Here's a quick shot at it. LOVE gone wrong. MONEY gone away. FRIENDSHIP under strain. HAPPINESS damaged. REPUTATION in jeopardy. LIFE at risk. (In the short stories, there's another major theme: GUILT as a burden to carry.)

-Well, yes. For me, the series details life, its joys and pain and PO'B comes closer to doing so than any other author I've read. So, while there is love gone wrong, there is growing old together, as both friends (JA/SM) and lovers (J&S/S&C[?]), there is the happiness parenthood brings, the pleasure of promotion, and a home to look forward to after a hard year's sailoring. Another pain one might be, LOSS of love(r).

Having written this, I dunno. To create interesting fiction, the writer needs conflict, conflict long-lasting and conflict on every page; and aren't these some of the basic conflicts that flesh is heir to? (Hamlet, as usual, pops up in my mind.)

- In passing, I'll say that I'm not a fan of a conflict idea of literature. It seems a little simplistic to me. Conflict creates interest, but not art. In my opinion, life is swings and roundabouts, joy and pain, and Jack and Stephen experience more because they are fictional characters. I think that Jack and Stephen experience pretty much all the common experiences of adult male life, and this is surely a compliment.

And yet... and yet... I think you're likely to be quite right in your thoughts on Commodore.

In an earlier posting, Sam, you say: "With each volume I re-read, it seems more clear that PO'B gives each some defining theme, which the plot reflects. I would guess that the plot and the theme developed concurrently, with PO'B thinking of a plot, and what interesting things it brings up, and then thinking 'I'll develop that.'"

I agree. That's one of the ways a writer of fiction works: he plans a major abstract conflict, and creates specific scenes where aspects of that conflict appear.

It wd be a fascinating chore to extend your statement, examening each book for a defining theme. Each may not have one, but surely many of them do, places where major themes of the work as a whole pop to the surface.

- Excactly, excactly - the whole thing is bubbling stew, and sometimes there are carrots, dumplings, bits of meat, etc. Or a tapestry. In each book there are many different colours threading away, but some feature a predominance, a glow of a particular colour of life - the absolute brillience of PO'B that stakes his claim as a literary writer for me is the subtle way this is all done: the books feel like life, but each has a smell, a colour, a flavour, that works it's way into your head. That's great writing.

You also say --

Finally, Stephen discusses Sappho with Howard, on page 180, the female classical poet, who hailed from the island of Lesbos, and so providing the inspiration for the term 'lesbian', which incidentally, Howard has just visited, mentioned on page 78.

POB ranges from the hilarious to the melancholy...

Babbington (Ionian mission?) turns up with a whole boatload of women, rescued from Turks who raided a wedding party. A hilarious scene, because the women are from Lesbos, and because Babbington is Babbington. "Virgoes intactoes," I think Jack calls them.

-Another of the joys of life: humour, and your other comments bring out another: the joy of art, philosophy, etc. I've yet to find a common life experience not in the series. I was worried as I wrote yesterday's post (catharsis) that I was generalising too much, and drawing together things which were widely separated in the book. But this is PO'B's genius: there is so much going on that is unrelated to what I am considering as a theme, that it is only be returning through the book (almost reading it backwards!) that the threads can be untangled. Returning quickly to the Commodore, children are an important joy: Jack's offspring are described positively at the start of the book, there is of course Brigid, and also Sahah and Emily - I think a case could be made for seeing them as the counterbalance to the 'bad love' strand: out of love, good or bad, comes children (however, I've only just thought about this, and Jack's cockoo in the nest comment needs to be looked at, I think). The series' subject is not 19th C Royal Navy - this is its setting. Its subject is life, a heightened literary life, in which the highs are higher, and the pain deeper, with plenty of charming, timeless blue-water sailing in between*, but non-the-less, one which reflects our state both bindingly, and movingly.

-Perhaps an experience not found in the series is a character suffering from boredom. Can anyone remember one?

-Sam

*The number of times PO'B talks about the timeless quality of the ocean voyages is surely significant: can any parallels be made between the voyages themselves, and the events taking place during them. Are there storms etc.? I don't want too read too deeply, but for PO'B this would be easy. Do troubled waters coincide with troubled minds? Just a thought.


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 11:16 AM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

At 12:59 AM -0400 4/21/2003, Charles Munoz wrote:

... >Perhaps sometime we cd create a list of the major themes in the whole series.

Ken Ringle had some interesting thoughts on this topic in his presentation at the POB symposium,

"But what about grand themes, we might ask? Don't great works of literature concern themselves ultimately with great themes?

Well, yes. But what are they? When you come right down to it, there are only six: Man vs. God or Fate, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Woman, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Himself. Let me repeat that: Man vs. God, Man vs. Nature. Man vs. Woman. Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Himself. That's really it. All great literary themes boil down to those six. I encourage you as you read and enjoy the works of Patrick O'Brian to notice how skillfully and how profoundly he explores not just one of those themes, but every one. Every one in every book. "

The full text is at

http://www.hmssurprise.org/Ringle_on_POB.html

Don Seltzer


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 12:06 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

on 4/22/03 11:16 AM, Don Seltzer at dseltzer@DRAPER.COM wrote, quoting Ringle:

When you come right down to it, there are only six [great themes]: Man vs. God or Fate, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Woman, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Himself. ... That's really it. All great literary themes boil down to those six.

Well, OK. The trouble is, these Great themes are so Great and so True that they are nearly useless for the practicing writer or for the analytical reader. Like boiling down milk in one pot and brandy in another; when the boiling is finished, both pots are echoing and empty.

The six Great Themes don't help us think about any *real* book: the Odyssey, for instance, or Farewell to Arms, or The Commodore. Because once one has said, "Well, all those themes are present in all those books," then what?

One has to come down from heaven to earth, has to descend from the general to the specific and say that Jack's ability to lose his fortune, and Maturin's ability to do the same -- the loss of money -- is a running theme in the canon, while it is not so in the Odyssey (though the loss of nautical subordinates runs through both) nor is it so in Farewell to Arms.

One might as well say that the search for Aristotle's Four Good Things (fame, wealth, intellectual pleasure, sensual pleasure) drives the world of fiction. They certainly drive Jack and Maturin, though the difference in the proportions of the drives makes for great humor.

We may think in generalities, but we live in specific instances, and the art of fiction (in general) (and for me) lies in manipulating the specific instance --what happens next? -- in service of conflict. Poetry? Well, that's a different matter.

Charlezzzzz, pontificating


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 1:36 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

I previously wrote that I could find few definitive clues about themes from those POB notes that I have seen. What does occasionally surface are plans for the ebb and flow of fortune for some characters. Perhaps the reversals of fortune should be considered as a popular recurring theme throughout the canon.

Specific conflicts, both naval and personal, are often outlined in his notes. I think that much of the character and plot development are directed specifically to bring about these conflicts.

There are notes for COM in the POB collection at the Lilly Library, Bloomington IN, but I have not seen them. There are a few clues, however, in his notes from earlier books as he looks ahead.

POB was considering when to exit from his time warp of 1813 and deal with the last years of the war. An alternate ending of COM had Jack in his battered flagship encountering Bellerophon in 1815, carrying the defeated Napoleon to England.

Of course he did not use this, and I am surprised, and was a little disappointed that he did not have Jack and Stephen participate in Napoleon's surrender. What an ideal opportunity for Stephen ashore in France negotiating with French agents.

But POB partially explained this in one of his last interviews in 1999. To him, Napoleon was such a large character, that he would need to do too much research and devote too many pages to do him justice.

During the discussion of LOM, it was commented that some of the plot seemed to be a repeat of PC, with Jack's quest to regain his captain's rank. COM is easily compared to TMC, as Jack has to once again assume the responsibilites of higher command, dealing with the assorted personalities underneath him. In his earlier notes, POB looks ahead to a possible opening chapter for the future COM, wishing to begin with 'Papa, your uniform has come', a scene later written for chapter 3 of COM. This particular domestic scene has much in common with chapter 1 of TMC.

The wind down of the war presented POB with the problem of what to do about Jack's naval career. The only real action was taking place in North America. Perhaps POB, like CS Forester, was reluctant to send his hero to burn Washington or attack New Orleans.

That left POB the choice of just making up naval missions and battles, and it is here that I believe he began to falter. He once wrote with pride that his naval actions were closely based upon real events, giving them the ring of authenticity. The last battle in WDS, the squadron actions off of Africa, and the final battle in Irish waters do not have this historical underpinning. Invented by POB, they seem contrived to me.

It also strikes me that many of these later plots followed the same pattern of two separate stories, only loosely connected. In COM, we have the unlikely mission of patrolling West Africa for slavers, morphing into foiling an invasion attempt in Ireland. And just like in NOC and WDS, we have a naval action dependent upon extremely timely and unusually specific intelligence gathered by Stephen.

Just some thoughts.

Don Seltzer


From: Bob Saldeen
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 2:30 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

When you come right down to it, there are only six [great themes]: Man vs. God or Fate, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Woman, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Himself. ... That's really it. All great literary themes boil down to those six.

Years ago I heard something similar said about jokes. "There's only six types of jokes" or whatever. I don't recall what they were...

bs


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 2:20 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

on 4/22/03 1:36 PM, Don Seltzer at dseltzer@DRAPER.COM wrote:

To him, Napoleon was such a large character, that he would need to do too much research and devote too many pages to do him justice.

The discussion of Waterloo, told by an army combatant, in


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 4:25 PM
Subject: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

It has been previously observed that the smuggling port of Shelmerston tends to wander around the countryside a bit, no doubt to keep ahead of the revenue agents. In COM, it seems to be at least temporarily entrenched in Dorset, near Weymouth and Portland Bill.

But where is Ashgrove in chapter 1? Generally, as Colin has described, it is to be found just north of Portsmouth, a good 100 miles or so distant from the coast of Dorset and Shelmerston. But in chapter 1, the Surprise arrives home at Shelmerston, Jack hires a chaise and four before sunset, and later that evening or night arrives at Ashgrove. Furthermore, Ashgrove is sufficiently close to Woolcombe in Dorset that Jack can just get on his horse with the intention of riding over.

A few days later, Stephen does much the same thing. Transporting a statue to Weymouth near Shelmerston for Sir Joseph aboard the Ringle, he takes a carriage to Ashgrove, arriving just a few hours later.

By chapter 3, Ashgrove Cottage seems to have reverted to its normal location in the South Downs, where Jack can view his gathering squadron off Portsmouth through his telescope.

BTW, the complete text of Chapter 1 of COM (as well as TYA, THD, and BATM) is available at the www.wwnorton.com website (which makes it much easier to quote 210 word sentences).

Don Seltzer


From: Anthony Gary Brown
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 5:09 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

Yes, poor old POB had a less than firm grip on the geography of southern England - though as our good friend Colin White notes in another (splendid) post, he did have a marvellous eye for the detail of particular spots, and the possibilities they offered for dramatic vistas.

I think in the early parts of COM, POB goes for Woolcombe being near Bridport in Dorset, with Shelmerston some 30 miles to its west (in Devon) and Weymouth and Portland some 30 miles to its east. But he then puts Ashgrove near to Woolcombe, rather forgetting that it used to lie 100 miles or so to the east, near Portsmouth in Hampshire. In the early canon, when Woolcombe first comes up, he has it much closer to Ashgrove's proper Hampshire location (though he once puts it way to the west, in deep Somerset!).

Colin notes the approximate fidelity of 'his' Ashcroft to POB's. Another associated location that I feel sure POB must have visited, and which gave him his Woolcombe, is the home of his long-time editor (and distinguished historian) Richard Ollard, who lived at Bradcombe Farm, just ourside Bridport - as near as dammit to where POB usually puts Woolcombe Place.

This may all be vagueness on POB's part - perhaps even deliberate vagueness, or at least 'devil-may-care. But sometime ago I made the observation that, at least once in the canon, POB confuses the two great bases of a) Portsmouth (in the centre of southern England) and Plymouth (on the western side of the southern coast). I just wonder if he rather more often tangles the geography of these two in his mind, sometimes setting his Aubrey family locations in and around Portsmouth, and sometimes in and around Plymouth. By way of support, I can olny plead that *my* 82-year old mother, a naval widow, regularly confuses the two: she lives in Weymouth, half-way between them!

Gary
in Dallas


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 9:00 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

on 4/21/03 5:09 PM, Anthony Gary Brown at dr_gary@AGBFINEBOOKS.COM wrote:

I just wonder if he rather more often tangles the geography of these two in his mind, sometimes setting his Aubrey family locations in and around Portsmouth, and sometimes in and around Plymouth.

In Faeryland, places have a way of moving about. Jack, Stephen, Sophie, and Diana are not quite dully mortal, are they? They are of the sidhe, fay, and you can see it in their main flaw: Jealousy, wch set the king and queen of the fairies by the ears. Shaxpur shows jealousy in action:

Jack: Ill met by moonlight, proud Sophia.

Sophie: What, jealous Aubreyon. Fairies, skip hence. I have forsworn his bed and company. [My mother told me to.]

With such a background, what can one expect but tangled geography?

Charlezzzzz, noting that Maturin, gathering up two sets of children, fits into another behavior of the good folk.


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 9:24 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

Poor auld Patrick O Brian with his pen and paper. Writing out every word. Long hand. No P.C. Memorising locations,times and events. In 1970 could he ever have envisaged us with computer graphics discussing the location of Ashgrove and re-tracing the Bear walk.

alec


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 9:40 PM
Subject: Jack as a Bear; was, GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

on 4/21/03 9:24 PM, Alec O' Flaherty at alec1@EIRCOM.NET wrote:

In 1970 could he ever have envisaged us with computer graphics discussing the location of Ashgrove and re-tracing the Bear walk.

The bear walk? How cd I have forgotten the bear walk? Another indication that POB saw his people as sometimes being not quite human. The good folk, like the druids, can certainly shape-shift themselves whenever they want to. And bears are easy. When Jack was a were-bear, it's no wonder that nobody saw through his fur.

Charlezzzzz, noting, by the way, that mermen are notorious shape-shifters


From: Linnea
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 10:10 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

Ach, but it's sweet to go off to bed with such lovely posts to bear with me (no pun intended). Where else on the whole WWW could I read such stuff, as dreams are made of?

~~ Linnea


From: Anthony Gary Brown
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 11:00 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

Charles Munoz wrote:

Jack: Ill met by moonlight, proud Sophia.

Sophie: What, jealous Aubreyon. Fairies, skip hence. I have forsworn his bed and company.

But I suggest:

Stephen: Ill met by moonlight, proud Diana.

Diana: What, jealous Maturin. Middies, skip hence. I have forsworn his bed and company.

Is there a better line in the language than: "Ill met by moonlight, pround Titania"?

Gary
in Dallas


From: Mary S
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 10:24 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM Whither Ashgrove?

In a message dated 4/21/2003 10:00:28 PM Central Daylight Time,

dr_gary@AGBFINEBOOKS.COM writes:

Ill met by moonlight

Good enough to have been used twice as a book title - a fantasy novel (the young Shakespeare meets the Fairy Folk), and a non-fiction about intelligence activities (WWII in Crete, I think but am not sure)

I do not pretend to teach you to sail your sloop or poop or whatever you call the damned machine...[HMSS 76]

Mary S
35 58' 11" N
86 48' 57" W


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 2:19 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

This is not particularly germane to Commodore, but has anyone really looked at the other main male relationship that Stephen has that lasts through most of the Canon, not Marting but Sir Joseph Blaine.

Sir Joseph is introduced through the medium of intelligence and at various times earlier on we see him in the position of a cautious employer of a potentially difficult agent. He checks Stephen's previous history and discovers Mona. He is at one time even contemplating disposing of his services as he fears that Stephen may be becoming a liability, whether fatally disposing or not is not completely clear. Yet by the time of the long voyage around the world, Sir Joseph is not only a naturalist friend but an ally in espionage and they have become intimate with Sir Joseph getting very personal and Stephen appointing him a power of attorney. Even signing it by his first name, albeit accidentally!

We know of Stephen's concern to find natural curiosities for Sir Joseph and his wish to please him, but what does Sir Joseph do for Stephen? Helps him with Jack Aubrey's legal problems, introduces him to Jagiello who then runs off with Diana. A pardon for Padeen and Clarissa. But what does he do for Stephen himself?


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 5:14 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

adam asked (full text below).

'But what does he(Blaine) do for Stephen himself?'

Well on the 'quid pro quo' stakes he does get Stephen a pardon also.

But maybe it's wrong to pose your question in the first place-so that maybe the answer is not so important.

If we look at it through Stephen's eyes.

I certainly cannot see him moralising in a 'what's in this for me' dilemma. He has a hatred for Napoleon and Blaine provides him with a vehicle by which his (SM'S)special talents can be used to 'confuse the enemy'.

I think that is his reward-if indeed he is the reward seeking type.

alec


From: Erwin WTP
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 10:30 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

But what does he do for Stephen himself?

I think he was a friend and that was enough. A trusted friend. And in the total scheme of things, those are damned rare and hence damned precious.

Tommy Armstrong


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 7:48 PM
Subject: Re: Grp Rd: Commodore -- a few more thoughts

Adam Quinan asks:

We know of Stephen's concern to find natural curiosities for Sir Joseph and >his wish to please him, but what does Sir Joseph do for Stephen?

"But what takes my breath away, what flabbergasts me to this high pitch,' said Jack, 'is, that they should have given you a temporary commission. The Navy, you know, is uncommon jealous of rank, very sparing of such compliments. I hardly remember ever to have heard of it, except once. They must think the world of you in Whitehall.

..

they mean to cut you in on the prize-money. Depend upon it, they mean you to share as a captain.

..

Seventy-five thousand pounds? How absurd. What could Sir Joseph imagine I should do with such a sum? What could any reasonable man do with such a sum?"

-PC

Don Seltzer


From: Rosemary Davis
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2003 8:15 PM
Subject: Stephen and Sir Joseph

To be someone's friend, it is not necessary for them to "do anything for you," if that is what was meant. Stephen is friends with Sir Joseph because they share common interests: the wish to overthrow Napoleon and their interest in the natural world are two that immediately spring to mind. I think of Stephen finding beetles that he knows will interest Sir Joseph in much the same way that Jack, when he sees some animal or bird, wishes that Stephen were there to see it. -RD


From: Tharp, Katherine
Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2003 3:42 PM
Subject: Re: Stephen and Sir Joseph

Sir Joseph gives Stephen something he would never admit he wanted.

Legitimacy.

Stephen's role as Sir Joseph's favorite intelligence agent gives him authority and protection. He is no longer an itinerant and sometimes impoverished physician, but a powerful actor who can bring about battles and topple thrones. His stature becomes equal to Jack's. For a while he actually has the rank of captain. While Jack has his Articles of War, Stephen has his mysterious sealed and encoded documents. He has only to whisper a word in Jack's ear to be dropped off at the dark of the moon on any coast he chooses.

Sir Joseph knows and accepts everything about Stephen. He understands that Stephen is not motivated by money. Stephen knows he will always be welcomed by Sir Joseph at any time of the day or night. Sir Joseph may have used his influence to get Stephen admitted to his club and the Royal Society.

Apart from their official roles, they have formed a true friendship, based on shared tastes and interests. Stephen knows that he can depend on Sir Joseph always to be there for him. He also knows that it would be best not to make a habit of leaving secret despatches in taxicabs.

Katherine T


From: Jan Hatwell
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 1:41 PM
Subject: Re: Stephen and Sir Joseph

I have frequently thought there was something of the father and son between the two. My vision of Sir Joseph rolling his eyes heavenward at the news of the lost dispatches owes quite a bit to my own father receiving news of my latest, ahem, faux pas.

Sir Joseph is the emblem of Stephen's acceptance, his primacy in a small, secret world where there are catchphrases, traditions and accomplishments only those involved can understand -- not unlike a family.

The delicacy, care and kindness Sir Joseph always exhibits in his actions towards Stephen bears this out, I think. Certainly if you think of other classic spy/controller pairs there is a different, warmer element in the relationship between Sir Joseph and Stephen.

S S S S
P P P P
O O O O
I I I I
L L L L
E E E E
R R R R

Apropos of this, it struck me while reading Desolation Island that Jack's terrible journeys (the flight from the Waakzaamheid and the limping progress to Desolation Island) are both played out against the backdrop of a journey that Stephen begins with his manipulation of Herapath and thus Louisa. Whilst Jack is skillfully throwing off lucky shots and making do and mending rudders and steering amidst the icebergs, Stephen is offstage, puppeteering delicately. I found this a wonderful and piquant contrast to Jack's work.

Jan
running to see just what is making that noise in the kitchen


From: Tharp, Katherine
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 2:43 PM
Subject: Re: Stephen and Sir Joseph

Sir Joseph is the emblem of Stephen's acceptance, his primacy in a small, secret world where there are catchphrases, traditions and accomplishments only those involved can understand -- not unlike a family. The delicacy, care and kindness Sir Joseph always exhibits in his actions towards Stephen bears this out, I think. Certainly if you think of other classic spy/controller pairs there is a different, warmer element in the relationship between Sir Joseph and Stephen.

Very nicely put.

Jack is skillfully throwing off lucky shots and making do and mending rudders and steering amidst the icebergs, Stephen is offstage, puppeteering delicately. I found this a wonderful and piquant contrast to Jack's work.

Yes - and Stephen began his puppeteering before the horrible old Leopard ever sailed. It is entirely to get Stephen close to Louisa Wogan that Jack's ship is used to transport prisoners, much to his distaste. And Stephen, butter not melting in his mouth, says something like "Transportation? I had supposed that to be the natural function of a ship."

Because additional prisoners are brought aboard to divert attention from Louisa, half of Jack's crew dies of gaol fever, and the Leopard becomes dangerously undermanned. All the hardships of that nightmare voyage, and indirectly the loss of 600 lives on the Waakzamheid, are the result of strings being pulled by Sir Joseph and Stephen. But as far as British intelligence was concerned, it was a famous victory.

Katherine T


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2003 5:38 PM
Subject: Re: Stephen and Sir Joseph

I think they just liked each other and shared a common cause.

a


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2003 5:05 PM
Subject: Gropuread: Commadore

In 1798 as Stephen was fleeing Ireland- Thomas Moore wrote

The Minstrel Boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" said the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!"

alec
@ 53 23 N 006 35 W


From: Alec O' Flaherty
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2003 5:08 PM
Subject: Re: Gropuread: Commadore

Yeah It's now called Gropeyouread!

Sorry about the spelling!


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 8:04 PM
Subject: GRP:COM The End

With the sand running out of the watch glass for the group discussion of Commodore, does anyone have any comments about the ending, in which Diana says 'Stephen, you must never go to sea again.'?

Any deeper meaning, or is it just a throw-away line, the kind of thing that any ordinary wife would be expected to say. Any significance to the contrast with Brigid's earlier proclamation aboard the Ringle, 'I shall never go ashore.'

Don Seltzer


From: Charles Munoz
Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 9:58 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM The End

Seems to me that POB is simply loading up the ending of the book with the clatter of funny lines:

D says: Lord, I am so happy to see you, my dear. Come now and rest ...[*Rest?* With Diana? and with Stephen goodness knows how long at sea? hoo boy, that's a nifty meaning for "rest"] ; it is destroyed you are looking. [Is Diana suddenly talking Irish-English?] Come up to my bed.'

S makes one of this best jokes in all the canon, the animal, when he says: "Must I come to your bed?'

D keeps it simple: 'Of course you must come to my bed:["to my bed" echoed three times, like a duet in some Italian opera] and you are never to leave it again.[Slam, bam, thank you ma'am. Clash of cymbals!] Stephen, you must never go to sea any more.' [And the canon cd end here, but praise be, it doesn't.]

Charlezzzzz, opining


From: Linnea
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2003 5:18 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:COM The End

I liked Don's question and then Charlezzzz's opining, but I think this works on several levels.

Stephen had gone in search of the runaway Diana, who had found Brigid's "condition" too much for her. And Stephen wasn't sure whether Diana had run to another man's arms (can't remember for sure). Anyway, when he says, "Must I come to your bed?," I think he is seeking reassurance that she still loves him, and has been true to him, and he is telling her that he still loves her.

And she, realizing how badly she coped with their daughter without him, with her life without him, says he must never go to sea again.

In that passage too, O'Brian notes that the house's three-story centre had a classical portico with a fine flight of steps, many of them whole, and Diana "flew down the steps, missed the last and plunged into his arms, tears running fast." Another "falling" episode in the ascending/falling theme in the books but what it all means, I don't know, except that it is reminiscent of Diana's descents to Stephen in India and in Sweden, where she's run down to greet him after long absence or when he's been searching for her.

~~ Linnea


Return to Main Page