Captain Frederick Marryat (July 10, 1792 – August 9, 1848) was an English novelist, a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story. He is now known particularly for the semi-autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy and his children's novel The Children of the New Forest.(Wikipedia)
In this nautical book Marryat leads us much more closely into the horrors of naval warfare. The story opens with the hanging of a man who had been a ring-leader in the Mutiny of the Nore, which had affected practically all of the fleet. The way in which the prisoner is tortured before the hanging is pretty gruesome.
Later on, we are taken into the cock-pit during a battle, the place where the ship's surgeon performed amputations of severely wounded limbs, with no anaesthetic, of course; and we peep over the side where a shark is so gorged with human flesh that it can scarcely move.
Yet the hanged man, whose wife's soul also fled at the moment of the hanging, left a child on board the ship. This child was branded with the same mark as are all the King's articles aboard a ship, a broad anchor. Now we are let into a secret: the hanged man had been the estranged son of a very highly born gentleman. For the rest of the book we, the readers, know about this, but it takes a long time for the true facts to become apparent to the old seaman who was bringing the boy up. In fact the only person to catch on is the vicar of the noble lord's home parish. This is surely a very unusual situation, yet throughout, the mark of the brand on the young boy, later a fully-grown young man, is what distinguishes him so that people can be sure that he is indeed the son of the hanged man. (Athelstane)
Nicely illustrated, dramatic, good inside view of a seaman's life.
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