One of the great things about blogging on a specialty topic is running into lots of people with similar interests. In the past I’ve introduced you to Old Grey Pony’s chronicles of life in Georgian England as drawn from contemporaneous literature, romance novelist Sophia Nash’s lexicon of period slang, and scaryfangirl’s Hornblower fansite.
Just a few days ago I found this gem. If you are interested in high quality conversation on Nelson, his contemporaries, and his navy, Nelson and His World is the place for you. Please register and join the discussion.
from MacDarra Ó Raghallaigh
One of the bugbears afflicting the British government during the Spithead mutiny was the notion that the mutiny was actually operating under the control of either the French revolutionary regime, the United Irishmen, or some similar seditious element. The idea that the men could be reacting to a history of being the victims of officially condoned brutality and sharp financial dealings on the part of the government had a great deal of trouble registering with the Admiralty’s collective brain even after commanders in the Channel Fleet voiced sympathy with some of the demands.
Wild rumors flourished. Valentine Joyce, a Jerseyman raised in Portsmouth, was portrayed as a failed Belfast tobacconist. Thomas Grenville, brother of the Marquess of Buckingham, wrote:
I cannot help fearing the evil is…deeply rooted in the influence of Jacobin emissaries and the Corresponding Society.
I am more and more convinced that Jacobin management and influence is at the bottom of this evil.
In the third of Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels, The King’s Commission, freshly commissioned Lieutenant Alan Lewrie finds himself assigned the mission of escorting a covert British mission to arm Indians in North Florida and encourage them to raid into Georgia. The trade network of a company called Panton, Leslie & Company is used to contact the Indians and facilitate the transfer of arms and trade goods.
In The Captain’s Vengeance, Lewrie is again detached to undertake a covert mission against pirates based in Spanish New Orleans. Again, Panton, Leslie & Company is the front used for the operation.
As with most of the side trips Lambdin takes us on, Panton, Leslie & Company was real and it did work hand in glove with the British government.
From Baltic Gambit as Captain Alan Lewrie’s HMS Thermopylae joins Admiral Sir Hyde Parker’s frigates moving to attack the Danish fleet at Copenhagen:
Sails sprang aloft, even as the best bower was rung up, catted, and fished, and Thermopylae paid off the breeze from her anchorage, a faint wake beginning to form as she gained a bit of steerageway among the many warships preparing for battle, slowly threading her way to join up with Capt. Riou’s HMS Amazon.
“A tune, there!? Lewrie yelled. “Desmond, gather the lads, and carry us in!”
A moment later, and the Marine drummer lad, the fifer, Desmond and his uillean pipes, and the ship’s fiddler began One Misty, Moisty Morning, a gay, uplifting tune. Sailors began to stamp their feet in time, and several bellowed out the brief repeating chorus, of “And How D’ye Do, and how d’ye do, and how d’ye do, again!” whenever it came around.
As I’ve noted earlier, part of the enjoyment of Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels is that they immerse you in the 18th century.
I’m also a fan of Steeleye Span, so on this occasion a favorite music group and a favorite author coincide.
Life as a British naval officer during the Age of Sail was tough. Ships were typically commissioned for three years and it would not be uncommon for a naval officer to spend that entire period of time aboard ship. A captain, after Lord St. Vincent assumed control of the navy, could not spend a night out of his ship without the written permission of his admiral.
Such a life had to be hard on families and the general consensus is that the service discouraged marriage until later in one’s career. Some famous officers never married, but is seem that most of those who married did so in their late 20s (Nelson married at 29) or early 30s.
Some admirals definitely disapproved of married officers. When St. Vincent, then only Vice Admiral Sir John Jervis, was assembling his expedition directed at French possessions in the West Indies in 1793 he received letters from officers whom had previously been rewarded by his patronage asking for positions in his ships. One unfortunate received this response:
You having thought fit to take to yourself a wife, are to look for no further attentions from
Your humble servant,
A little while ago I introduced you to an intriguing blog devoted to life in Georgian England.
As I said at the time, more than most other Age of Sail novels, Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie books take you into the culture, politics, and social mores of Georgian England. Another site well worth the time of visiting is that of historical romance novelist Sophia Nash if for no other reason than the compendium of period slang.
The plot in Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels Sea of Grey, Havoc’s Sword, A King’s Trade, and Troubled Waters takes place in the context of slavery. Slavery in Haiti and British possessions in the West Indies, specifically, but more broadly in the context of the political and social struggle in Britain to abolish the slave trade.
We’ve discussed some of the esoteric armaments that have come in the possession of Dewey Lambdin’s naval character, Alan Lewrie. In The French Admiral he acquired a Ferguson rifle. In The Captain’s Vengenace he picked up a Girandoni air rifle. At least since The Captain’s Vengeance, though possibly as early as Havoc’s Sword, he has been in possession of a pair of double barrel dueling pistols by gunmaking legend Joseph Manton.
We’re not sure of the provenance of these pistols but these pistols were the pinnacle of the gunmaker’s art in the late 18th century.
One of the things that I find sets Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels apart from others in the genre is that the hero, a rather roguish British Navy officer, lives in the culutral context of the times. When you read one of the novels you encounter the songs, literature, politics, and cultural of Georgian England.
One of those instances is his reference to the song Johnnie Cope in the novel Havoc’s Sword.