The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

'Fortune of War' Notes

...which I realized I really should post today, as it is the anniversary of the date in 1813 when the HMS Shannon captured the USS Chesapeake off Boston. Oops, does that count as a spoiler? I'm still recovering from "Oh my God!" at the Trojan Horse. *g*

Sequel to this post about my favorite moments from Desolation Island:


8: Killick is trying to get Jack dressed to go see the Admiral but there is a problem with his hat: "'Which it's your scraper, sir, your number one scraper. The wombat's got at it.' 'Then take it away from him, for god's sake.' 'I duresn't, sir,' said Killick. 'For fear of tearing the lace.' 'Now, sir,' cried the captain, striding into the great cabin, a tall, imposing figure. 'Now, sir,' -- addressing the wombat, one of the numerous body of marsupials brought into the ship by her surgeon, a natural philosopher -- 'give it up directly, d'ye hear me, there?' The wombat stared him straight in the eye, drew a length of gold lace from its mouth, and then deliberately sucked it in again. 'Pass the word for Dr Maturin,' said the captain, looking angrily at the wombat: and a moment later, 'Come now, Stephen, this is coming it pretty high: your brute is eating my hat.' 'So he is, too,' said Dr Maturin. 'But do not be so perturbed, Jack; it will do him no harm, at all. His digestive processes --' At this point the wombat dropped the hat, shuffled rapidly across the deck and swarmed up into Dr Maturin's arms, peering at close range into his face with a look of deep affection. 'Well, I can keep it under my arm, together with my reports,' said the captain, picking up a bundle of papers and carefully fitting them round his gold-laced hat to conceal the tear."

19: The Admiral argues with Jack about letting him keep his men on his ship: "'You remind me of that old sodomite.' 'Sodomite, sir?' cried Jack. 'Yes. You who are so fond of quoting the Bible, you must know who I mean. The man who wrangled with the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, that's the name! Beat the Lord down from fifty to five and twenty and then to ten.'"

20: "'Wallis,' said Maturin, 'I am happy to find you here. How is your penis?' At their last meeting he had carried out an operation on his colleague in political and military intelligence, who wished to pass for a Jew: the operation, on an adult, had proved by no means so trifling as he or Wallis had supposed, and Stephen had long been haunted by thoughts of gangrene. Mr Wallis's delighted smile changed to gravity: a look of sincere self-commiseration came over his face, and he said that it had come along pretty well, but he feared that it would never be quite the member it was."

32: "Stephen knew that on his element Jack Aubrey was immensely capable, and that in warfare he was as cunning and foresighted as Ulysses, often deceiving, rarely deceived; but he had little opinion of his friend's wisdom or even common sense by land, and he had done his best to warn him against the projector. 'You did tie him up very rigorously, however, as I recall,' he said, looking attentively at Jack's face. 'Yes,' said Jack, avoiding his eyes. 'Yes, I did follow your advice; or some of it. But the fact of the matter, Stephen -- the fact of the matter is, that in the hurry of leaving, and of seeing to the horses and the new stables, I signed some papers he brought me after dinner without quite attending as much as I should have done. From the way he is carrying would think one of them was a power of attorney.' "You did not read them through, I collect?' 'Not quite through, or I should have smoked it, you know. I am not such a flat as all that.' 'Listen, Jack,' said Stephen, 'if you brood upon it now, without all the data or learned advice, you will do no good, and you will make yourself is your present duty to be reasonably gay, or at least to affect the motions of gaiety. I speak in all gravity, brother, as a physician.'"

50: "Captain Aubrey could not finish: his mirth choked him...he drew so much honest merriment from it that his face, already mahogany-red from the sun and the wind, turned purple. His eyes vanished, and he laughed his deep, intensely amused laugh until the glasses rattled. Yorke watched him affectionately, and Stephen, noticing this, warmed to the Captain of La Fleche."

54: "Two weevils crept from the crumbs. 'You see those weevils, Stephen?' asked Jack solemnly. 'I do.' 'Which would you choose?' 'There is not a scrap of difference. Arcades ambo. They are the same species of curculio, and there is nothing to choose between them.' 'But suppose you had to choose?' 'Then I should choose the right-hand weevil; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.' 'There I have you,' cried Jack. 'You are bit -- you are completely dished. Don't you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils? Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!'"

55: Stephen tells Jack he likes Yorke, Jack tells Stephen that Yorke had visited Sophie to get letters for them when any other captain would have assumed that they were probably dead, and then Jack tells Stephen that Diana wrote from America to tell Sophie that they had survived.

62-3: Stephen reflects on the regularity of sailor's lives and how much they dislike change.

67: Stephen notes Warner's evident lust for Forshaw. "'Poor man,' he reflected. 'The instinct is so very strong, so very nearly unconquerable even in a phlegmatic. If he is, as I suppose, a paederast, small wonder he should be glum. When I consider what desire has done for me, how it has torn my heart -- and mine an avowable desire, glorified by specious, heroic names -- I am astonished that such men do not consume themselves entirely. A hard fate, to be shut up day after day with such a longing in a ship, where everything is known; and where this must not be known; where there must be no approach to an overt act.'" Then he guesses the Flitches do know Warner's inclinations, and also that their captain has little ambition.

68-71: Jack is teaching his midshipmen etiquette since he has time and inclination, and they are miserable. "'Where the Devil would you be, if you neglected your Bible?'" He asks one who Abraham is, having looked to see if Admiral Drury was correct about Sodom, and when Forshaw says Abraham was an ordinary wicked Jew, he decides he is making game of the captain and has him whipped. He also instructs them on brushing their teeth up and down, not only sideways, as Forshaw's mother wishes.

82: "Our captain was very good to us,
He dipped his prick in phosphorus;
It shed a light all through the night
And steered us through the Bosphorus."

Stephen falls asleep listening to this, "and his next impression was one of extreme, general, incoherent violence -- Jack shaking him, pulling him bodily out of his cot, shouting, 'Fire, fire, the ship's on fire. Get up on deck.'"

89: They're starving slowly to death on the little unprovisioned boat after La Fleche blows up, and Stephen wakes with hunger pains. "Jack was still sitting there, the tiller under his knee, the sheet in his hand, as though he had never moved, as though he were as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar and as unaffected by hunger, thirst, fatigue, or despondency. In this light he even looked rock-like, the moon picking out the salient of his nose and jaw and turning his broad shoulders and upper man into a single massive block. He had in fact lost almost as much weight as a man can lose and live, and in the day his shrunken, bearded face with deep-sunk eyes was barely recognizable; but the moon showed the man unchanged. He saw that Stephen was awake, and a white flash appeared as he smiled. He leant forward, patted Stephen's shoulder, and pointed north. 'Ducking,' was the only word he uttered -- all his parched tongue could do."

118: During the battle with the Constitution, Jack asks Bonden how things are below. "'Doctor's as busy as a bee. Sends his love, though.'"

150-53: Jack is explaining in a letter home that in the madhouse where he is recuperating, the patients believe they are the Emperor of Mexico and such. "'Much of it is play. They are persuaded that I am one of them, that I only pretend to be a post-captain R.N. for fun, and so we humour one another, each playing at being madder than the next.'" Thus when he is visited by officers of the U.S. Navy Department, he assumes they are patients pretending as well, and claims to be grandson to the Pope in Rome and says he blew up an American ship he never saw.

159: Louisa Wogan speaks scornfully of Captain Aubrey, and Stephen "recalled that the conditions of Mrs Wogan's captivity aboard the Leopard were such that she could have no conception of their intimacy.'"

176: Jack cannot understand how Mr Herapath had a son like Michael. "'Your own may turn into a book-worm or a Methody parson,' said Stephen. 'Tis just as the whim bites, no more; for as you know, one man may lead a horse to the water, but ten cannot make him think.'" Then he confides in Jack about Diana coming to Boston and how he does not know how to act toward her, and Jack says she behaved very handsomely telling Sophie they were alive.

181: After escaping from the whorehouse by minding his poke, which is empty, as he says, Stephen thinks about Wogan and Johnson trying to recruit him to American intelligence. "There was the danger of being caught by friendship on the other side or by scruples, and above all there was the obligatory extreme depth of dissimulation and he was sick if it, sick of it all. He was sick even of simple dissimulation, dissimulation at one level, and he longed to be shot of it, to be able to speak openly to any man or woman he happened to like: or to dislike, for that matter."

188-9: Stephen sees Diana again: "The same step, the same voice; and he felt the same blow about his heart." He has to wait for the tears to clear from his eyes before his composure returns and he can compliment her. He is startled by how affectionate she is and how she clings to him.

198-9: Stephen studies Jack asleep, reflects that he seems to be suffering, can't talk to him because Jack would only wake from such a sleep if the wind changed on a ship, so Stephen goes and writes himself a note instead, wondering what will become of him if he no longer loves Diana. "What could he do, with his mainspring, his prime mover gone? He had known that he would love her for ever -- to the last syllable of recorded time. He had not sworn it, any more than he had sworn that the sun would rise every morning: it was too certain, too evident: no one swears that he will continue to breathe nor that twice two is four. Indeed, in such a case an oath would imply the possibility of doubt." Yet now he is unsure, and needs laudanum to sleep.

222-7: "'Pray tell me about him now. There is an hour to go before our supper.' Stephen did not very much wish to know about Captain Broke, but he did want the steady background of Jack's deep, kindly voice while his mind revolved upon itself, waiting for the sudden flash that would tell him how to act." Jack describes his long friendship with Broke, saving him from drowning, and Broke's unhappy marriage. Jack also explains about the boatloads of whores that come up to ships at dock, which he has never permitted, and Stephen protests, "'It is true that you talk bawdy with other captains, and that you sing lewd songs when drunk.'"

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