English Literature Of The 19th Century:
Reviewers, Magazinists And Minor Poets Of The First Period
Women Writers Of The First Period
Summary Of The Pre-victorian Literature
Second Or Early Victorian Period—1837-1870
Earle Lytton Bulwer
Captain Frederick Marryat
Read More Articles About: English Literature Of The 19th Century
Captain Frederick Marryat
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In the early numbers of "Blackwood's Magazine" appeared two series of sea-sketches "The Cruise of the Midge" and "Tom Cringle's Log." They were composed by Michael Scott (1789-1825), and contain some fine descriptions of sea-fights, tropical scenery, the flirtations, duels and dangers of West Indian life. This was seventy years after Smollett, who was a ship's surgeon, had already used his knowledge of sailors' lives in his fictions. But the writer who has won highest distinction by his tales of nautical adventure is Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848). As a boy, though the son of a wealthy Londoner, he had frequently run away to sea, and at the age of fourteen he was allowed to enter the navy. Serving under the daring Cochrane (afterwards Lord Dundonald) he witnessed fifty engagements in thirty months. He was highly commended for valor in war and humanity in peace, and was distinguished as post-captain in the Burmese war of 1824-5. After more than twenty years' experience of sea-life, Marryat began to describe it in 1829. His first novel, "Frank Mildmay," was but a thinly disguised rehearsal of the adventures of Cochrane and his crew, and had material for half-a-dozen stories. The second, "The King's Own," is more artistic, and contains, besides some playful writing, a powerful dramatic scene, in which the captain sacrifices the frigate Aspasia in order to wreck a French line-of-battle-ship on a lee shore.
Marryat, having discovered his literary gift, retired from the naval service in 1830 and produced in rapid succession "Newton Forster," "Peter Simple," "Jacob Faithful," "Japhet in Search of a Father," "Midshipman Easy," and "Snarley-yow, of the Dog Fiend." Of these "Peter Simple" is the most popular, on account of the lively succession of humorous incidents, though the wild hilarity of "Dignity Ball" may be too "briny" for serious people. But "Snarley-yow" has been ranked higher for humorous portraiture and richness of incident. From 1832 to 1836 Marryat was editor of the "Metropolitan Magazine," and he produced a dozen more stories, some relating to the land and some intended for juvenile readers. He died at the age of fifty-six. His biography has been written by his daughter, a novelist of ability. Marryat's books have the faults of other sea stories, a certain ferocity and fondness for practical jokes, yet they are full of vivacity and vigor, and show the terrible hardships and heroic actions, as well as the light-hearted fun of the sailor's life. Marryat's sea-stories were directly imitated by Charnier and Captain Howard, but their books did not obtain the same success.