"Jane Austen and the Navy"

No, it’s not a porn flick. It’s a 2000 book by Brian Southam about the English author and her two brothers, Francis and Charles, both of whom served in the Royal Navy, and how their experiences are reflected in Persuasion and Mansfield Park, among other works. Austen admired her brothers and almost all of her references to the Navy are positive.

Southam’s book is an interesting take on the Navy and its place in British society at the time. Capturing enemy ships and getting prize money was a major inducement, as it could lead to wealth and thus, to some extent, social standing. Bold and daring officers were generally rewarded, and the Navy was generally meritocratic, although Southam also explains how politicized it was. Francis, in particular, used political clout repeatedly to get assigned - or try to get assigned - to better ships. He missed out on the Battle of Trafalgar, which would have been a huge boost to his career, because Lord Nelson had just previously assigned him to convoy duty elsewhere (he was also later reprimanded for flogging his men too much). Charles lost a ship in a hurricane, apparently through no fault of his own, but it didn’t do his career any good, either. Both brothers eventually became admirals, well after Jane’s death, although in Francis’s case it wasn’t until he was semiretired, very old and hadn’t been to sea for awhile.

Southam also includes interesting bits on Charles Darwin and his studies aboard HMS Beagle, and the scandal caused by Nelson’s notorious affair with Lady Emma Hamilton.

Austen fans (and O’Brien fans, for that matter) might want to check it out.

Never heard of it - I can think of a few folks who would dig it - thanks!

I am a rabid fan of both, and I thank you for the recommendation. I’m off to Amazon to add it to my wish list.

Thanks, Elendil’s Heir.

I read *Persuasion *long before I read O’Brian. I need to re-read it - I’m sure I’d appreciate the naval references much more now.

The final paragraph is a kind of tribute to the British navy (text from Gutenberg):

A couple of years ago on a tour of famous authors’ homes and other literary-related sites in the UK, I met a professor of English Lit who had written a paper on references to Austen’s brothers and their ships in O’Brian’s novels. Apparently, there are a lot of them. I’ve been on the lookout for them whenever I re-read one of the Capt. Aubrey series since then, and I’ve always meant to look that paper up; the professor’s name, IIRC, was Simmons and he was at a southern (American South, I mean) university.

I shall certainly have a look at this book.

Wow, I’ve never heard about those references before, I’ll have to look those up.
(Off-topic, but speaking of references, I recently downloaded the fascinating (and free) The Butcher’s Bill: An accounting of wounds, illness, deaths, and other milestones in the Aubrey-Maturin sea novels of Patrick O’Brian, which among other things points out that the phrase: "There is not a moment to lose” and its variations occur 170 times, and that Jack says: “There you are!” upon seeing Stephen 65 times. And now I really notice those phrases when reading the books.)

We are all of us creatures of habit to some extent.

Hey, that sounds like

Oh, um, nevermind

Have you got a link to this?

What I always remember is Jack Aubrey bragging about how fast his doctor can whip off a leg.

I knew somebody would make the joke… so I did it first. :smiley:

And “rouse out a man’s brains” or “his liver and lights”.


“Always this whipping off of a leg. It is my belief that for you people the whole noble art of medicine is summed up in the whipping off of a leg.”

And Stephen hates both phrases. :slight_smile: