The book opens with a domestic scene with the boy Sydney having just finished dinner with his father, a Captain in the navy, and his uncle, an Admiral. They are discussing Syd's career, which the two old gentlemen hope will be as a naval officer. Syd, however has other ideas: he has been on his rounds with the local doctor, and thinks that he might like to be a doctor, too. The time of the story is in the middle of the eighteenth century, but the only real evidence of this is the fact of people wearing cocked hats. Other than that the story might fit a hundred years later, though there is a point late in the story where the French are the enemy.
There is an episode in which Syd runs away from home, in company with the son of his father’s gardener, the latter having been his boatswain in his naval days. On his return he realises that he does really want to be a naval officer, too. His father tries to get him an appointment as a midshipman with a captain he formerly served with, but was rebuffed. He realises that the present First Sea Lord, the title of the Admiral in command of the whole navy, is someone he used to serve with in former days, so they go to see this eminent officer. The outcome is that Syd's father is appointed to command the Sirius, and is invited to take Syd with him as a midshipman.
From here on we have an excellent and well-told narrative, describing Syd's early days in the Navy, and then an episode when he finds himself in command of a naval party holding a rock in the Caribbean.
George Manville Fenn lived from 1831 to 1909, and was a prolific writer of boys' adventure stories. He also wrote serialised books for the various boys' periodicals.
The feature that is common to most of his books is the method of sustained suspense that he employed. He wrote, in explaining this, that he relied upon the human desire to unravel a mystery, to retain his readers' attention. He was able to retain their interest right up to the very last page, by building up mysterious and dire situations one upon the other. You are constantly left asking, "How does he get out of this one?" It is just this aspect that makes transcribing his books to e-texts such fun.
George Manville Fenn, English writer of juvenile stories, was born in London January 3, 1831. He was educated at private schools, then attended Battersea Training College for Teachers from 1851 to 1854. He was Master of a small school in Lincolnshire for a time, then became a printer and published a small magazine of poetry, "Modern Metre," in 1862. Two years later he was part owner of the Hertfordshire and Essex Observer, another unsuccessful venture. He then began writing for various periodicals, such as Chamber's Journal and All the Year Round, and was editor of Cassell's Magazine in 1870, and of Once a Week from 1873 to 1879. He soon began to pour out a flood of books for boys, as well as a few novels, many of which were reprinted in America, and before his death he had published between 175 and 200. He was married in 1855 to Susanna Leake, and by her had two sons and six daughters. He died August 26, 1909.(www.athelstane.co.uk
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