The Mauritius Command
April 15, 2018 1:33 AM - by Patrick O'Brian - Subscribe

In the fourth book of the series, Captain Aubrey flees Ashgrove Cottage to Capetown, to hoist a pennant on the Boadicea. Made a temporary Commodore, three captains are his to manage and command: stalwart Pym of the Sirius, the flogging Captain Corbett of Néréide, and the dashing Captain Scroggs Lord Clonfert of the Otter. The mission: seize Mauritius and Réunion from the French to preserve the disgusting British Empire's flow of treasure. Meanwhile Doctor Maturin distributes subversive literature whilst enduring the barbed insights of Dr. McAdams and the cruel forks of Governor-designate Farquhar.

• The double dog leg channel and Île de la Passe show up nicely on Google maps.
• A map of Rodrigues from 1701 by a Huguenot castaway who ate many a solitaire.
• Jo Walton's 2010 Tor.com reread. (Though tetsudo aubreii was the previous book.)
• More links in the Post Captain post.


Bonden Bulletin: Takes fifty lashes aboard Néréide, transfers to be Aubreys cox'n once again. Babysits Maturin on his many missions and boardings. Corrects Stephen's account ("'Poop,' muttered Bonden."). Takes part in boarding of the Wenus, saved Jack from getting bayonetted when he "caught the muzzle, wrenched the musket free, flogged three men flat with the butt and broke the line."

Pullings Tracker: Captain of the transport Groper (not to be confused with the Grappler). Winds up in the Emma when the Groper is broken to bits trying to shelter a troop landing. The first to wish Aubrey joy of his son, while bringing Admiral Bertie's orders too quickly.

Babbington's Doings: Not present.

Which It's Killick: Came with Bonden. Had sent a shark's backbone walking stick present for the twins girls. Also two pieces of coral for them to gnaw on. Remembers Ashgrove's pathetic cabbages in an ecstasy of nostalgia. Tongue described as a flannelly object of inordinate length. Unwillingly serves pot of rat shit coffee.

Maturin on: Babies
    ‘No, no. I am not doggedly, mechanically set against them, though I freely admit I find most babies superfluous, and unnecessary.’
    ‘Without there were babies, we should have no next generation.’
    ‘So much the better, when you consider the state to which we have reduced the world they must live in, the bloody-minded wolfish stock from which they spring, and the wicked, inhuman society that will form them. Yet I do admit of exceptions: the replication of such a creature as Sophie, and even I may say of yourself, can be seen as a good.’
posted by fleacircus (4 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's been a while since I read the earlier books in the series, but may I say, fleacircus, these posts are wonderful. Thank you for putting such effort and series-appropriate style into them.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:17 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Thanks! I want to keep doing the Bonden/Killick etc summaries. It helps me order the memories and I hope it jogs others' memories. "This is the book where [this shit] happens!" seems necessary when there's so many of them.

I was going to start listing ships and their fates, but this book has about thirty ships in it.

I remember when I read these books the first time, McAdam and Clonfert reminded me strongly of two friends (or 'friends') of my stupid early 20s. It all came back this time too, especially Clonfert. I feel like I knew exactly that person, especially from lines like, "Truth is what he can persuade others to believe," or treating conversation companions as audience; the habitual looking in a mirror when they were talking; the obvious lies and shit that didn't happen.. A surprisingly high-functioning person who is also so self-captivated and full of bullshit you can't believe it. Maybe that's a more common type other places though...

Pym and Corbett aren't nearly so well studied in this book. It's interesting though how all three of them fail. Pym is not daring enough. Corbett's crew don't learn how fight and frag him. Clonfert is sort of unlucky... maybe if the flag hadn't caught fire and blown up the tower on the Île de la Passe things would have gone brilliantly. O'Brian seems to place blame on Clonfert for lack of preparation. It appears IRL all the captains were "cleared and praised" in their courts-martial.
posted by fleacircus at 7:58 PM on April 15


what no why am i reading desolation island, who did the thing
posted by poffin boffin at 10:22 PM on April 15


This is one of the less satisfactory volumes in the series, because O’Brian sticks so closely to its historical template that he fails to make the naval plot dovetail with the psychological and personal plot. Jack is reduced to an onlooker for large parts of the novel—yes, a realistic portrayal of the historical situation of Commodore Josias Rowley, but not one that’s dramatically compelling.

However, this is a rare occasion on which O’Brian looks at the issue of corporal punishment. Jack’s opposition to flogging is, I suppose, a necessary concession to modern sensibilities, but to some extent it whitewashes the casual brutality of the institutions of the period. There’s nothing in the Aubrey–Maturin series that conveys the strain of being subject to arbitrary punishment in the manner of, say, Lieutenant Hornblower. But in this book there’s a glimpse:
… from the mute, weary sullenness of her crew and the anxious, jaded, harassed look of her officers, every man jack aboard had been hard at it, gilding the lily for this occasion. Jack liked a taut ship, and of course a clean ship, but the total perfection of the Néréide’s vast expanse of brass alone oppressed him
One of O’Brian’s distinctive techniques is to use animals to reflect and comment on the human characters. In Post Captain the characters of Diana and Sophie are introduced partly through the behaviour of their horses during the fox-hunt. Here in The Mauritius Command we have commentary on Jack and Sophie’s marriage displaced to their livestock:
“Well, the fact of the matter, Stephen,” said Jack, staring at the cow, “the fact of the matter is that she refuses the bull. He is game enough, oh Lord, yes; but she will have nothing to say to him. Then he flies into a hellfire passion, bellowing and tearing up the ground; and we go without milk.”
posted by cyanistes at 5:49 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


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