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The Yellow Admiral

From: Linnea
Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2003 4:14 PM
Subject: GP RD: The Yellow Admiral: Open and Shut

This seems to be a peculiar book in a way, just a ramble perhaps. However, I found it very satisfying on the question of enclosure, clarifying that enormous land and economic revolution in Britain, and I'm always happy when Jack is at home in the bosom of his growing family and we learn about his life and the pursuits of a country gentleman, as he is now the lord of his ancestral manor.

Jack and Stephen take a long walk over his land, while Jack patiently and knowledgeably describes his concern that Simmons Lea may be enclosed, which he adamantly opposes and which he hopes to lobby against in Parliament. As one learns about inclosure and looks back at the opening chapter, suddenly the entire book seems to be about enclosures, constraints, blockades, break-ins, break-outs, escapes, pardons, resolution, revolution.

For instance: In the very beginning, Stephen has the happy idea of _confining_ his family in a coach for their tour of Spain so that Diana and Brigid can become acquainted as mother and daughter, with the further happy outcome that no intelligence agents can find them as they haphazardly travel around. [p. 9 Norton's ppbk.]

Stephen's treasure is in a vault in Corruna, but he has fortunately left the receipt in England or he would have gone to claim his fortune and been arrested. Both Jack and Stephen's fortunes are once again constrained, bottled up---Stephen's in Spain and Jack's prize money to be resolved.

Jack worries about his standing on the naval list, that he'll be stuck on the ladder to promotion and "yellowed."

Before our heroes are sent off to their ship, there is to be a boxing match in Simmons Lea, the commons which is the focus of Jack's discourse on enclosure. Here we have box within box (no pun intended): Within Simmons Lea is a hollow, which is called the Dripping Pan and within that is built the boxing ring, where poor Bonden is beaten by Griffiths's gamekeeper after he and Bonden had an altercation. Bonden himself is invested with the men's hopes, and when he is defeated Jack takes it as a very bad omen. (Griffiths is the owner of the adjoining land to the commons and has come out in favor of enclosing Simmon's Lea. To complicate things, he is the nephew and heir of Jack's admiral on the Brest blockade, Lord Stranraer, whose very name suggests strangle, stranded. The Admiral is vehemently for inclosure.)

Just after the boxing match, Jack is alerted that he is to be recalled to the Bellona and won't be able to vote against the inclosure, but he escapes to London, pretending that the news hadn't reached him yet.

Jack is sent off to the Brest blockade to command the Bellona under Admiral Stranraer. Diana drives Jack, Stephen and Dundas to Torbay, taking the Maiden Oscott bridge in her daredevil way with l/2 inch to spare as she makes the turn; she breaks out and they dash to the coast. But once again, the men are bottled up for a time, unable to find a boat to take them to their tender and thence to the fleet off Ushant.

Jack is trapped in misery over his marital problems, as is Sophie. This crisis is brought about by Sophie's mother who breaks into Jack's private papers in his study. Stephen's intelligence problem is solved by a break-in at Sir Joseph Blaine's library.

Then we have breakouts: Pardons are finally granted to Padeen and Clarissa, and to Stephen for his part in the events of 1798. Sophie has a breakthrough in her understanding of marriage and sex, thanks to Clarissa and Diana's counsel. Napoleon escapes from Elba. Before that escape, which summons those in the Royal Navy back to their war ships, Stephen can offer Jack a way out of being yellowed by captaining a hydrographic vessel to Chile, where Stephen hopes to foster that nation's independence from Spain.

I think O'Brian wrote the following on purpose which must refer to the wonderful book by Flora Thompson, "Lark Rise to Candleford," which describes her hamlet and the impoverished conditions that existed in the 1880's, the effects that enclosure had had on the working class landsmen:

"Lalla whinnied again, encouraging her, and they all walked along together, larks rising on either hand. [p. 40]

Larks "rise again" on page 171 when Stephen and Sir Joseph are dining together and Stephen has Black's steak and kidney pudding whose recipe calls for larks. After a survey of other topics, their serious talk is of Jack's conduct in the Commons and his opposition to inclosure.

Other of my notes show that Griffiths holds the seat of Carton, and Stranraer's name before his becoming a lord was Koop. [Thanks to PASC.] Both these names seem chosen by POB to play upon the boxed-in, cooped-up themes. But, that may be a stretch.

As Jack considers giving up his hopes of advancement and sailing to Chile on a hydrographic expedition, a whale scrapes its side against his ship--perhaps to shed barnacles, an allusion to "off with the old, on with the new."

In the very beginning of The Yellow Admiral when Stephen returns to England, he presents Sir Joseph with a melanistic Charaxes jasius, the Two-Tailed Pasha butterfly, which he had observed emerging from its chrysalis. One later realizes that perhaps this is another of POB's allusions to events which will unfold. This emergence can hint at almost everything in the book, especially Sophia's new understanding of marriage, the emergence of a new relationship between Diana and her daughter; the pardons, the escapes, et al.

~~ Linnea Angermuller


From: Astrid Bear
Sent: Friday, May 02, 2003 12:00 AM
Subject: Re: GP RD: The Yellow Admiral: Open and Shut

What a spendid post, Linnea! And I'll second your recommendation of "Lark Rise to Candleford", a grand book.

Astrid Bear


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 10:32 AM
Subject: GRP:TYA Just some final overdue thoughts

There wasn't much discussion last month about TYA, and Linnea's long post many weeks ago is the only one I can recall. Perhaps it is because TYA doesn't have a lot worth commenting about, and comes across to many as just filling in space between the action of COM and THD. The last time I had read it fully from start to finish was six years, and I was disappointed at the time.

Among the faults that I found with TYA at that time was that what little action that occurred was further diminished by taking place "offstage." This is a technique that POB has often used in the Canon, of relating events through letters, diary entries, and conversations after the fact. But in TYA, I think he carried it too far, making almost all of the major events second hand affairs. Consider:

-Stephen and Diana's trip to Spain, their reunion with Brigid, Padeen, and Clarissa, and their subsequent adventures travelling the countryside. Also the actions of the Spanish authorities to capture Stephen.
- The London hearing on the Woolcombe Enclosure.
- Stephen's mission ashore in France.
- Sophie's discovery of the letters.
- Diana and Clarissa's "education" of Sophie.
- In the final battle, Bellona is too far away to take an active role.

Even then, we are sent below with Stephen, and only find out what happened afterwards.

Other objections were that the dialog was very plain, even boring compared to earlier books, and the final chapter seemed sloppy and rushed. Just a mediocre book.

In my latest reading, I still find the same faults. On the positive side, I recognized a minor theme running through of Jack in a mid-life crisis. In modern terms he has reached upper middle management, and is concerned with his career prospects. Because of politics, recent bad luck, the likelihood of future 'down-sizing', a particularly unfriendly boss, and even self doubt about his own abilities, Jack has legitimate concerns about his long anticipated promotion to upper management, and even being forced into early retirement. All of this against a backdrop of domestic problems, including troubled finances, a meddlesome mother-in-law, sexual frustration in marriage, and then the bombshell of the discovered letters.

Stephen's offer of the South American expedition can only add to the stress. For Jack, it must have held risks similar to that of a home office manager being given the opportunity to start up an independent spinoff operation in a remote third world country, on the gamble that he would achieve success and recognition, and that there would be a job to come back to. I really feel for the poor guy.

I've always liked Jack's walk through Woolcombe Common, more so than any of Stephen's nature walks. I think it is because Stephen seems obsessed with individual birds, plants, and animals, as though he were trying to rack up a score of how many different and unusual varieties he could spot. Jack has a wonderful ability to see everything as a whole, and how they relate. Not just the individual critters and plants, but how the combination of meadows, woodlands, marshes, waterways, roads, fences, cottages, farms, villages, and estates work together and support both the human and animal communities. To use a simplified cliche, Stephen can only see the individual trees, but Jack appreciates the forest.

Don Seltzer


From: Anthony Gary Brown
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 10:47 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Just some final overdue thoughts

Don Seltzer wrote:

In my latest reading [of TYA], I still find the same faults. On the positive side, I recognized a minor theme running through of Jack in a mid-life crisis. In modern terms he has reached upper middle management, and is concerned with his career prospects. Because of politics, recent bad luck, the likelihood of future 'down-sizing', a particularly unfriendly boss, and even self doubt about his own abilities, Jack has legitimate concerns about his long anticipated promotion to upper management, and even being forced into early retirement.

Long ago, several lissuns commented that the title "Yellow Admiral" relates more to Jack's fear of that prospect than to any particular character in the book being yellowed.

And Don went onto discuss the "Woolcombe Walk" conversation between Jack and Stepehen, concluding:

To use a simplified cliche, Stephen can only see the individual trees, but Jack appreciates the forest.

I'm of the opinion that this is more widely true in the canon as a whole than is generally supposed. Contrary to the popular view, I see Jack as by far the more complex and more rounded character of the two, with Stephen as a prickly miniaturist and particularist. His 'science' is observational rather than constructive (a point ex-lissun Jane Skinner made to POB himself way back when, and gob a rather huffy reply.....); his 'liberation politics' seems to me more rhetorical than actual (on both Stephen's and POB's part). No, I'm a Jack Aubrey fan, through and through.

And, if I can venture into hot sea-water here, I have a feeling that the big fuss amongst aficionados when the dreaded film appears will be the balance between Jack and Stephen - everything I've read and heard leads me to think that Jack is front and center, and Stephen only the 'side-kick', with much of his book-character left out.

Gary
in Dallas


From: Susan Wenger
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 11:00 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Just some final overdue thoughts

Anthony Gary Brown wrote:

everything I've read > and heard leads > me to think that Jack is front and center, and Stephen > only the > 'side-kick', with much of his book-character left out.

I make no doubt of it. How many people have heard of Russell Crowe?

Now, how many people have heard of Paul Bettany?

So, which of them is going to have the most screen-time?


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 2:17 PM
Subject: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

I think that everyone who has read as far as TYA understands that senior captains at the top of the list were normally next promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue. An unlucky few suffered a different fate. As described by Jack:

'What happens if they do not like the cut of your jib is that they make you a rear-admiral "without distinction of squadron". You have a rear-admiral's half-pay: you have the nominal rank. But you are neither red, white nor blue; neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring; and when sailors call you admiral the decent ones look away - the others smile. In the cant phrase you have been yellowed.'

But why Yellow?

I have not seen this explanation anywhere, but I have read that when a flogging or an execution was being conducted on board ship, a flag was hoisted. A Yellow flag with the meaning 'Administering Punishment'.

Don Seltzer


From: Gerry Strey
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 2:47 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Or possibly the yellow referred to a non-existent admiral's flag of a non-existen yellow squadron?

Gerry Strey
Madison, Wisconsin


From: Jim Starkey
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2003 3:37 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

But why Yellow?

Quarantine flag perhaps?

Jim Starkey


From: Isabelle Hayes
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 8:07 AM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Just some final overdue thoughts

Even though we very rarely go to the movies, we certainly will see M&C, mainly because it is going to be accurate about the sailing, as we've been told, and that's pretty rare.

But if Stephen isn't an important character, then the story will be nothing like what we know from the books. It may turn out to be a good movie, or not, but it won't be POB.

Isabelle Hayes


From: Robin Welch
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 12:51 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Perhaps because paper yellows as it ages, indicating that it's old, withered and washed up?

Robin


From: Sterling Hada
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 1:14 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Perhaps "...you shine like a shaft of gold when all around is dark...?"

Might there be connotations of cowardice in the term? Since a Yellow Admiral is one who ascends to that rank through seniority alone, without benefit of seeing any action (the term my brother would use is "chairborne ranger"), perhaps that person would be seen in a somewhat jaundiced eye by the rest of his peers. (No pun or clench intended)

Sterling
("...His majesty is like a jelly doughnut.")


From: Mary S
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 2:18 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Yellow is also the only primary color left once you've used up Red and Blue.

Deeply, obstinately ignorant, self-opinionated, and ill-informed,
Mary S
35 58' 11" N
86 48' 57" W


From: Adam Quinan
Sent: Friday, June 06, 2003 5:33 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Yellowed paper is a relatively new phenomenon of the acid based wood pulp process. 18th and early 19th century paper does not yellow at anything like the same rate.


From: Robin Welch
Sent: Saturday, June 07, 2003 1:20 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Hmmmmmm.........this doesn't bode well for that genuine pirate map I bought on ebay!

Robin


From: Marian Van Til
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 3:17 PM
Subject: Re: GRP:TYA Why a Yellow Admiral?

Adam responded:

Yellowed paper is a relatively new phenomenon of the acid based wood pulp process. 18th and early 19th century paper does not yellow at anything like the same rate.

Good point. However, the OED points out that yellow is "of the complexion of age or disease; also the color of faded leaves." I think that fits rather well with the notion of being by-passed, as a yellow admiral essentially was. The OED quotes Parliamentary History, 1788, in mentioning the term "yellow admiral," but doesn't explain the term's origin.

Sterling Hada, in another post, wondered whether there might be connotations of cowardice in the term. OED doesn't cite that usage in print until rather too late for Jack's time: 1856; and then, it's originated in American English. (And "yellow journalism," is a late 19th century term.) However, yellow was associated with jealousy from the beginning of the 17th century. Maybe there's a connection there, as well as in the aging/faded meaning.

Marian


From: John Finneran
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2003 12:24 AM
Subject: GRP: TYA: The Recommencement of Time

I liked Linnea's description of "The Yellow Admiral" as "just a ramble perhaps"; and, certainly, in many ways it seems to be: it seems that there were a number of esoteric topics that O'Brian had floating about in his mind that he wanted to set to paper at some point, and in TYA, he put them down: long discussion about enclosures and prize-fighting, the ramifications of Sophie discovering Jack's infidelities, a vivid description of Stephen and Diane in bed immediately before and after the sexual act, with discussions of sexuality and fidelity, and Sophie's understanding of them. Why does PO'B write about all these things now? I think part of the answer may be the passage of time, both in real and in literary terms.

In real terms, we must not forget that PO'B was growing older, and was, perhaps, increasingly reflective of his own mortality. An awareness that his own time was running out may have prompted him to try to fit in now, even if somewhat awkwardly, items that he he had considered including over many years. He had also to consider the final end of his great Aubrey-Maturin series. Older lissuns might remember that as the later books appeared there was a persistent rumor that PO'B planned to end the Aubrey-Maturin series at 20 books, and perhaps he had, at one point; but I think that he was unable to leave the world he had created, and would have gone on and on writing the series as long as he lived, so that, in a sense, God was his co-writer, and the co-writer would alone decide the series' ending.

The ending of each of the final books (The Commodore, The Yellow Admiral, The Hundred Days, and Blue at the Mizzen) could potentially have been the end of the entire series (i.e., they are true endings as individual books but false endings for the series as a whole), and in this light they fall into an interesting pattern: TC and THD would have been brilliant true endings (though TC works much better as a false ending), but TYA and BATM have relatively pedestrian endings, with TYA much the weakest of the four, suggesting to me that although PO'B was prepared to end the series at any of these books, he would have been least satisfied to have ended the series with TYA or BATM, and most especially to have ended it with TYA. There is perhaps a clue to this in the books title, for what is a yellow admiralship but the thwarting of one's deepest ambition after years of waiting and accomplishment?

In literary terms, the most interesting thing about this book is the recommencement of time. Ambiguous dates in an endless 1813 come to a halt at last at the beginning of Chapter 9 (p. 208) with Christmas, 1813; endlessly stopped time then races along, so that Christmas 1814 comes barely a chapter and a half later (p.252). And then, at the end of the book (p.261), comes another definited date: 28 February 1815: the date of Lord Keith's letter telling Jack that Napoleon has escaped. Indeed, I have to wonder whether PO'B was having a bit of fun with this last date: It was the end of February, and Boney was on the march.

John Finneran


From: Batrinque@AOL.COM
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2003 8:04 PM
Subject: Re: GRP: TYA: The Recommencement of Time

This sounds like a "Post of the Day" to me ...

When I was reading the last four volumes of the Canon as they were published, I was very much aware that each might become the last of the series due to circumstances beyond POB's control. And it occurred to me that O'Brian was indeed trying to provide each volume with an ending that, need be, would also be the series ending.

I suppose that other authors have faced similar pressures. I don't know the background to the death of "Ellis Peters" but her final volume in her Brother Cadfael series, published shortly before she died, had all the hallmarks of of being intended as a series-concluding book. And I have heard that "Ed McBain", author of the very-long-running 87th Precinct series keeps an updated version of an intended final volume to that series, to be published after his death or retirement.

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


From: Dr Roger Parks
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2003 8:41 PM
Subject: Re: GRP: TYA: The Recommencement of Time

Greetings!

This sounds like a "Post of the Day" to me ...

Second! Call for the division of the Hovse!

When I was reading the last four volumes of the Canon as they were published, I was very much aware that each might become the last of the series due to circumstances beyond POB's control. And it occurred to me that O'Brian was indeed trying to provide each volume with an ending that, need be, would also be the series ending.

I also wondered, upon reading TYA then THD, that POB was feeling the passing of his beloved Mary as much as I would the going into the Summerlands of my own best girl. The feeling of the watch mainspring being let wind down, as the Owner simply had lost not only the desire to know the time, but felt knowing such things was now without use or utility.

Recall the scene in Ionian Mission where Jack has his final interview with ADM Thorton?

Cheers,

Roger


From: Gerry Strey
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 8:44 AM
Subject: Re: GRP: TYA: The Recommencement of Time

I believe Agatha Christie also held back a novel (Poiroet, I believe) to be pubished after her death.

Gerry Strey
Madison, Wisconsin


From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2003 8:18 AM
Subject: Re: GRP: TYA/THD The Recommencement of Time

At 01:24 AM 6/9/2003 -0400, John Finneran wrote:

I liked Linnea's description of "The Yellow Admiral" as "just a ramble perhaps"; and, certainly, in many ways it seems to be: ...

The rest of John's post follows at the bottom. I think that among the reasons for the rambling nature of TYA were the numerous distractions during the writing. When he had the luxury of being unknown and poor, POB had a regular routine of writing a page or two of manuscript a day, 20 or so days a month, for about 7 to 9 months to churn out a book. Occasionally he would complain that he lost a week to the fall wine vendage.

POB wrote much of TYA in 1995 when he was being assaulted with the slings of new found fortune. A triumphant book tour of the US, both east and west coasts where he was mobbed by his fans as he promoted The Commodore which had reached best seller status, entertained by Hollywood moguls who threw a pile of money at him for signing a movie option, his friends creating the Heywood Hill Literary Prize specifically to honor Himself, selling off those old manuscripts and notes cluttering up the study to some library in Indiana for another pile of money, taking a Mediterranean cruise on a super yacht courtesy of an admiring fan, and probably a few other interruptions to his normal working schedule. Not a typical year for a recluse author.

Interestingly, for a year in which he made a quantum jump in both fame and financial gain, he chose to write about a Jack Aubrey who had stalled in his career and was facing possible professional oblivion. The next book, THD, might have been a closer reflection of his own life. It was written from 1996 through the spring of 1998, a period during which Mary's health declined. POB completed the manuscript about the time of Mary's death.

John's post below also discusses the recommencement of real time in the canon, with the quick passage of 1814. POB's notes in the Lilly Library show that he was considering this period as far back as the middle of the canon, when he first entered the timeless zone of 1813. Even before he wrote ROM, he was considering using the Hundred Days period of 1815 when Napoleon escaped from Elba as the excuse to reinstate Jack to the RN list. Many books later, his original planning for Commodore considered an ending with a post-battle battered Bellona encountering the Bellerophen carrying Napoleon to England after his final surrender.

I think that he was leery of setting a story in 1814, because the logical role for Jack and Stephen would have been on the American station, attacking Washington and Baltimore, and later attempting the conquest of New Orleans. Terrific topics for an Alexander Kent or Dewey Lambdin, but just the sort of well-known naval actions that POB almost always avoided. I'd guess that he didn't feel up to the level of historical research required to meet his personal standards.

Instead, he chose to skip over most of 1814, with Jack and Stephen at home, and the Surprise undergoing a remarkably extended overhaul at Steppings Yard until mid-February 1815. Here POB makes a careless historical mistake; he assumes that the American war ceased with the signing of the treaty at the end of 1814. In fact, it had yet to be ratified in Washington in February of 1815, and the naval warfare would continue for many months until the treaty took full effect. The Surprise was in great danger when Jack took his family to Madeira in late February. The Constitution was in those very waters , capturing two British frigates at about that time.

More thoughts about the transition from TYA to THD, but I'll save those for another post.

Don Seltzer
Favoring neither the Top-endians or Bottom-endians, with a middle reply; see the remainder of John's post below -

[Note from JF: I've omitted Don's quoting of the rest of my earlier post since the entire post is included above.]


From: Nick Coleman
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2003 9:34 PM
Subject: POB's Ideas (was Re: GRP: TYA: The Recommencement of Time)

Having read John's post, I started reading The Letter of Marque and came across the passage early in the book where Maturin while walking in the country lane comes across the writer, Blue Breeches, exclaiming out loud and gesturing while he goes over the chapter in his novel. I wonder whether this character is POB himself. POB's rhythmn and inflection of the spoken word is so acute that I think he must have tried the lines out loud to gain a sense of them. Was he caught too, and inserted this episode into the book?

Anyway, the point to this is that Blue Breeches mentions the large number of ideas and plot convolutions that he has in his mind: "I have...conceived, worked and entirely composed at least ten times as many [as he has already published], ...excellent tales, capital tales that have made me... laugh aloud with pleasure." He then goes on to complain about publishers' demands. POB confirming John's idea that he had a lot of ideas floating around in his mind?

Nick


From: Isabelle Hayes
Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2003 10:29 AM
Subject: Re: POB's Ideas (was Re: GRP: TYA: The Recommencement of Time)

I was lucky enough to have found POB's house in Collioure, and right next to it is the vineyard in which he said he would find inspiration for his writing while pruning the plants. The house is a little away from the village, and was probably the only house there when he moved in, but since then many homes have been built around it, including a number of high rise apartment buildings. So it is more than possible that POB would have found that someone was observing his mutterings.

Isabelle Hayes


From: Jan Hatwell
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 1:11 PM
Subject: Yellow Admiral

When we were having that discussion about why POB called it The Yellow Admiral, did anyone pick this up? There is a butterfly called the Yellow Admiral see it on

http://faunanet.gov.au/wos/factfile.cfm?Fact_ID=194

And I am nearly sure the wildlife/naturalist link with the Navy terminology is no coincidence.

Jan


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