The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Notes on 'The Hundred Days'

Sequel to this post about my favorite moments from The Yellow Admiral, with the rest to be found filed under "O'Brian":


4-5: Two men and their families discuss Jack and Stephen and their fame. "'Did you ever meet Dr Maturin?' 'I don't know that I did, but I have often heard of him. A very clever doctor, they say - called in to treat Prince William - always sails with Jack Aubrey.' 'That's the man. Well, he has a wife. They live with the Aubreys at his big place in Dorset - but of course you know it, being a Dorset man.'" They discuss Diana's death at the bridge at Maiden Oscott, gossiping about her reputation and her jewels as well as the rumors that her marriage to Stephen was not happy. "They both reflected, gazing out over the brilliant sea with half-closed eyes as the squadron drew inshore and the watching crowd increased; and Edwards said, 'When you come to think of it, on looking about our shipmates and relations, can you think of any marriage that could be called a happy one, after the first flush? There is something to be said for a bachelor's existence, you know: turn in whenever you like, read in bed...' 'Offhand I cannot think of, I cannot think of many without some discord or contention; but unless it is very obvious, who can tell just where the balance lies? After all, as a philosopher said, "Though matrimony has its pains, celibacy can have no pleasure".' 'I know nothing about philosophy, but I have met some philosophers - we often used to go to Cambridge to see my brother the don - and a miserable set of...' He checked the word at the sight of his friend's daughters...and went on in a disapproving tone, '... though you always were a bookish fellow, even in Britannia's cockpit.'" One of the other examples they give of an unhappy marriage is Christine Wood's, though her husband has also died.

8-11: "Jack was taller than Queenie and far more than twice as heavy; and having been in the wars for a great while and much battered, he now looked older. He was in fact seven years her junior, and there had been a time when he was a very little boy whose ears she boxed for impertinence, uncleanliness and greed, and whose frequent nightmares she would soothe by taking him into her bed...they sat smiling at one another. An odd pair: handsome creatures both, but they might have been of the same sex or neither. Nor was it a brother and sister connection, with all the possibilities of jealousy and competition so often found therein, but a steady uncomplicated friendship and a pleasure in one another's company. Certainly, when Jack was scarcely breeched and Queenie took care of him after his mother's death, she had been somewhat authoritarian, insisting on due modesty and decent eating; but that was long ago, and for a great while now they had been perfectly well together. A cloud passed over her face, and putting her hand on Jack's knee she said, 'I was so happy to see you - to have recovered you from Cape Horn at the very last moment - that I overlooked more important things. Tell me, how is poor dear Maturin?' 'He looks older, and bent; but he bears up wonderfully, and it has not done away with his love of music. He eats nothing, though, and when he came back to Funchal, having attended to everything at Woolcombe, I lifted him out of the boat with one hand.'" Again there is discussion of whether Diana was a fit wife and mother and the fact that Mrs Williams died in the coach along with her, though Brigid is fine. "[Stephen] will discuss the international situation and the means of bringing Napoleon down with the utmost vigour. That is what keeps him alive, it seems to me.'"

35: "On the way down they walked almost in silence. They had said all that could usefully be said at this point, though more intelligence was to be expected at Mahon - and Stephen very often glanced at the flagship's main yardarm. In these waters the Commander-in-Chief was all-powerful: he could confirm a court's sentence of death without the least reference to the King or the Admiralty. In naval courtsmartial sentence was pronounced at once: it was final, with no appeal: and Lord Keith was not one for delay. By the time they reached the town there was no man hanging from the yardarm; but on the battlements this side of the Southport Gate there were several officers, including Jack Aubrey and some of the Pomone's people, looking earnestly southward along the strand. Stephen joined them, saying, 'Sir, may I introduce Dr Jacob, the assistant surgeon of whom I told you?' 'Very happy, sir,' said Jack, shaking Jacob's hand. He would obviously have said more, but at this moment a strong murmur all along from the bastion increased immensely as two boats left the flagship, pulling for the shore and towing a bare grating, the soaked and wretched prisoners upon it. A few minutes later the grating was cast off: a small surf brought it in and the men scrambled in the shallows. There was some sparse cat-calling from the crowd, but not much; and half a dozen people helped them to dry land, dragging their belongings. 'Dr Jacob, sir,' said Jack, 'I hope that you will be able to come aboard without delay. I am eager to be out of sight of this place.' And privately to Stephen he said, 'I repeated your "No penetration, no sodomy", which floored one and all; though I must say that most of them were glad to be floored. I persuaded the others to find no more than gross indecency.' 'And is being towed ashore on a grating the set penalty for gross indecency?' 'No. We call it the use and custom of the sea: that is the way it has always been.' For several years now Stephen Maturin had been perfectly aware that a life at sea, above all in a man-of-war, was not the waterborne picnic sometimes imagined by those living far inland; but he had never supposed that anything could be quite so arduous as this existence between the two, neither floating free nor firmly ashore, with what conveniences the land might provide."

47-8: Stephen is copying a suite, a forlan, "and showed it to Jack in the evening. Sitting there with the score tilted towards the lamp and what little light there was, with the small rain sweeping in swathes across the sea, his mouth now formed for whistling (but silent), now for a very deep humming where the 'cello came in, Jack came to the end of the saraband, with its curiously reiterated melody. He gathered the sheets and reached for the forlan: 'It is terribly sad,' he observed, almost to himself - words he wished unsaid with all his heart. 'Do you know any happy music?' asked Stephen. 'I do not.' Embarrassment hung there in the great cabin for no more than a moment before it was dissipated."

76-82: "Stephen made the necessary acknowledgements and they talked for a while about colleagues in Whitehall before he took his leave, saying that he must rejoin the Commodore without delay - it was death to keep the Commodore waiting...Jack and Stephen met again, almost on the very steps of the Crown. 'Well met, brother,' cried Jack from a little distance. Stephen considered the Commodore's face and his gait: was he sober? 'You look uncommon cheerful, my dear,' he said, leading him in the direction of the Pigtail Steps. 'I wish you may not have met with some compliant young person, overwhelmed with all the gold lace upon your person.' 'Never in life,' said Jack. 'Aubrey the Chaste is what I am called throughout the service. I did indeed meet a young person, but one that shaves, when he can afford it. Stephen, you may remember that I have told you about our grievous lack of master's mates, and how I yearned to replace poor Wantage?' 'I do not suppose you have mentioned it much above ten times a day.'" Jack explains that he has found John Daniel, a bookseller who was his shipmate after going to sea to keep his father out of debtor's prison. "'He is so prodigiously shabby it would be cruel to introduce him to the berth. He is a poor, short, bent, meagre, ill-looking little creature, very like...that is to say, you are the only grown person aboard whose clothes would fit him. You shall have them back of course, as soon as he can whip up something to appear on the quarterdeck in.'"

131: "'Oh, sir,' cried Daniel, 'I am no mathematician in that glorious sense. I just like to play with numbers - fix the ship's position from a quantity of observations, with as small a cocked hat of error as possible, calculate the rate of sailing, the compound interest on ten pounds invested at two and three quarters per cent a thousand years ago, and games like that.' 'In an early bestiary,' said Stephen after a long pause, 'an antiquarian of my acquaintance once showed me a picture of an amphisbaena, a serpent with a head at each end. I forget its moral significance but I do remember its form - its immensely enviable power of looking fore and aft' - he slightly emphasized the nautical term and went on, 'All this bell I have been twisting and turning like a soul in torment, trying to make out the Pomone behind and the Ringle, God bless her, together with the fabled city of Spalato in front. My buttocks are a grief to me.'" Daniel shows him where to look.

134: "'Commodore, dear,' [Stephen] said some moments later, 'would you know when the moon rises tonight?' 'At thirty-three minutes after midnight; and she is just five degrees below the planet Mars. And Stephen, let me tell you something: Pomone is in this channel, no great way astern. If I were on my own I should send a French-speaking officer aboard the French frigate to tell her captain that Pomone, a thirty-gun eighteen-pounder frigate, and the twelve-pounder Surprise would enter the harbour at first light tomorrow, that they would fire half a dozen blank broadsides at close range, to which he would respond, also with blanks; and that then, decencies preserved, we should all make sail, leaving by the broad north-west passage if this leading wind holds as I expect, and proceed to Malta. But would this interfere with your plans?' 'Not in the least: and if you wish I will carry your proposal over to the Cerbère.' 'That would be very kind of you, Stephen. Should you like me to write it down?' 'If you please.' Jack scratched for a while, and passing the list he said, 'You will see that I have underlined 'blank' every time: but in his agitation the poor man might not think to draw all his guns before the first exchange. You will put him in mind of it, if you please...but tactfully, tactfully, if you know what I mean.' 'What would be a proper time for this visit?' asked Stephen without the least sign of having heard but reflecting upon his friend's large, clear, somewhat round and feminine hand, his instant reaction in time of nautical crisis, and his not uncommon ineptitudes. 'As soon as you have put on your good uniform and Killick has found your best wig. A boat and a bosun's chair will be ready.'"

145-7: "The door opened and the Commodore walked in. Everybody stood up. 'Be seated, gentlemen; I beg,' cried Jack. 'I was so very nearly late that I do not deserve such courtesy. For one who tends to cry up timeliness more than faith, hope or charity it is a very shocking performance. Absurdly enough, I was looking for my glass: I looked in every conceivable place - no glass. But here is consolation' - draining his admirable sherry. A chill fell upon Stephen's heart: without leave he had taken the telescope, and slinging it about his neck in a seamanlike or fairly seamanlike fashion, had carried it up into the maintop. And there, shocked by Peter's news, he had left it, lying on a neat heap of studdingsails. To cover his guilt he said, 'We often hear of people calling their daughters Faith, Hope, Charity, or even Prudence; but never Justice, Fortitude or Temperance; nor yet Punctuality, though I am sure it has its charms.' He helped himself to soup, and the talk flowed on. Nobody said anything particularly witty or profound or really memorable for foolishness but it was agreeable, friendly conversation, accompanied by acceptable food and more than acceptable wine. When they had drunk the loyal toast Stephen excused himself: there 'was something he had forgotten', he told the president, avoiding Jacob's eye. There was indeed: but he had completely overlooked the difficulty, for those unrelated to the more nimble kind of ape, of climbing in tight breeches, buckled shoes, and a fine long-tailed coat. In his hurry he slipped again and again, for the ship, now almost becalmed in the lee of a headland, was rolling, wallowing, in a very disgraceful and uncharacteristic fashion. Sometimes he hung by both hands, writhing to get his feet back onto the ratlines, sometimes by one. He was in this ludicrous posture, much disturbed in his mind, when Bonden came racing up the shrouds, seized him with an iron grasp, wheeled him round to the outboard side and at his faint, wheezing request, propelled him into the top, where he gave him the buckled shoe that had dropped on deck. He asked no questions, he gave no advice; but he did look very thoughtfully at the Commodore's telescope: he was, after all, Jack Aubrey's coxswain. 'Barret Bonden,' said Stephen, when he had recovered his breath, 'I am very much obliged to you indeed. Deeply obliged, upon my word. But you need not mention that telescope to the Commodore. I am about to carry it down to him myself, and explain...' 'Why,' cried the Commodore, heaving his powerful frame over the top-brim, 'there's my glass. I had been looking for it everywhere.' 'I am so sorry - I should not have made you uneasy for the world - thank you, Bonden, for your very timely help: please be so good as to tell Dr Jacob that I may be a few minutes late for our appointment.' When Bonden had disappeared, Stephen went on, 'That dear good fellow gave me a hand when a hand was extraordinarily welcome: I found breeches and shoes a sad embarrassment. The truth is...' He hesitated for a moment. 'The truth is,' he went on with more conviction, 'that there was something on the shore that interested me extremely: I could not be certain of the object without bringing it closer, so seeing your glass on its usual peg, and you not being in the way, I took the perhaps unwarrantable liberty of seizing it and running aloft as fast as my powers would admit; and upon my soul it was worth the journey. And, although it is scarcely decent in me to say so, the liberty.' All this time - and it was not inconsiderable, for diffidence reduced Maturin's ordinarily rapid canter to a hobbling walk with frequent pauses - Jack had been examining his precious telescope, one of Dollond's achromatic masterpieces, with a jealous eye: but finding it quite undamaged he said, 'Well, I am glad you saw your object. A double-headed Dalmatian eagle, I make no doubt.'"

180: "Stephen looked secretly at the stone again: he had rarely seen so true an azure; and the gold rim echoed the golden specks within the stone quite admirably. But a most unwelcome comparison welled up in his mind. Diana had possessed an extraordinary blue diamond - she was buried with it - a blue of an entirely different nature, of course, but he felt the familiar chill grip him, the sort of frigid indifference to virtually everything; and he welcomed the opening door."

201: Stephen and Amos Jacob discuss the Dey. Jacob asks, "'Did the impalements trouble you?' 'I loathed them with all my soul, although they are as traditional in some parts as public hanging is in England. But it was not that which made me doubtful about my first impression: after all, sodomy is a hanging offence with us and a matter of burning alive with some others, whereas it is a joke in this country, as it was in ancient Greece. No: after a while I began to wonder whether the simplicity was quite what it seemed, as well as the apparently complete division between Dey and Vizier where foreign affairs were concerned. But you know as well as I do that an excess of mistrust and suspicion is very widely spread in our calling: it sometimes reaches ludicrous proportions.'"

226: Ringle retrieves Stephen and Jacob, with Mona and Kevin. "'Why, sir, and here you are!' cried Reade, heaving him in-board. 'How very happy I am to see you, and how happy the Commodore will be. He has been fairly eating his heart out in Mahon.'"

244: "'Seeing Dundas hurry off in such a dutiful, truly naval fashion,' said Stephen, 'puts me in mind of an indiscreet question that I have often been tempted to ask you: and since after all I too am essentially concerned in our voyage, I shall venture upon it now. If Heneage Dundas is in danger of being flogged round the fleet for dillying and dallying on his way, may you not run the same risk, when at last your snail's pace brings you to Gibraltar and the Commander-in-Chief, who is not your very closest friend?' 'Stephen,' said Jack, 'I dare say you have noticed that the moon changes both her shape and her hours of rising and setting from time to time?' 'Indeed I have - a most inconstant orb. Sometimes a mere sickle facing left, sometimes right; and sometimes, as I have no doubt you have observed yourself, no moon at all. The dark of the moon! I remember you once landed me on the French coast at just such a time. Yet I am no great lunarian: a priest in the County Clare explained her motions to me, but I am afraid I did not fully retain his words.' 'He did persuade you that it was a regular process - that the changes could be foretold?' 'I am sure he did, at least to his own satisfaction.' 'It is the case, I do assure you, Stephen: and the very first appearance of the new moon at certain seasons is of the utmost consequence to Jews and Muslims. Now you are aware that the commander of the Arzila galley must be either the one or the other - almost certainly a Muslim - and in any case a sailor. Furthermore he is presumably a sailor in his right mind, so wind and weather permitting he must necessarily pass through the Strait at the dark of the moon or as near as ever he can get to it, a night that he can foretell as well as we can. So seeing that both he and I think alike, I hope to give him the meeting somewhere south of Tarifa.' 'To be sure, that puts a different complexion on the matter.' 'Furthermore, I have no wish to lose any spars by cracking on, nor to lie there day after day under the eye of a Commander-in-Chief who dislikes me. He is a very distinguished sailor, I fully admit; and his reputation as a fighting captain was very high indeed; yet as a flag-officer he has been less fortunate...It is very odd, but there is something about the Admiralty board-room table that has a sad effect on some of those who sit there, sensible men who can club-haul their ship off a roaring lee-shore or take a huge Spanish beauty like the Santisima Trinidad and remain perfectly civil and unassuming until this point, this board-room table. It is not invariable, but I have served under some who, on becoming a Sea-Lord, above all First Sea-Lord, who suddenly swell up into creatures of enormous importance, who have to be approached on hands and knees, and addressed in the third person. No. Lord Barmouth will have a monument in the Abbey with a great many fine actions engraved upon it; but he is perfectly capable of doing a dirty thing, and I should rather make my obeisance a very short time before the dark of the moon and then go about my business, looking as much like a distressed merchantman as possible.'"

251: "On the day of the visit, Stephen went ashore early, bought a new wig at Barlow's and searched through the entire market until he found a pot of lilies-of-the-valley in just-opening bud. Returning he gave Mona and Kevin a square of chocolate calculated for solid jaws and iron stomachs.; yet though they thanked him prettily they neither ate nor moved but stood gazing up at him in something between wonder and alarm. At last Mona said, 'You have changed your hair.' 'Never mind, my dear,' he replied. 'It is only a wig.' He took it off to show: and both instantly burst into tears.

254: Stephen turns Mona and Kevin over to Lady Keith to be sent back to Ireland. "'I miss them, I admit, though Lady Keith was so very good and kind: in better hands they could not be. But I do miss them, and when they fully understood my betrayal they howled most pitifully. Yet my grief was somewhat lessened by their fascination with the apes that gathered round, by their continuing suspicion of my seriousness and by the cheerful laughter that reached me when I was quite far away, nearly at the bottom of the hill, watching two intertwined serpents, rising in the air almost the whole of their length in an amorous clasp.'"

281: "'God bless,' called Queenie; and 'Liberate Chile, and come home as soon as ever you can,' called her husband, while the children screeched out very shrill, fluttering handkerchiefs."


     "Stephen,' said Jack, 'I dare say you have noticed that the moon changes both her shape and her hours of rising and setting from time to time?"
     "Indeed I have - a most inconstant orb. Sometimes a mere sickle facing left, sometimes right; and sometimes, as I have no doubt you have observed yourself, no moon at all. Yet I am no great lunarian: a priest in the County Clare explained her motions to me, but I am afraid I did not fully retain his words."
     "He did persuade you that it was a regular process - that the changes could be foretold?"
     "I am sure he did, at least to his own satisfaction." <3

Last night I dreamed, and I am sure there is great psychological meaning in this, that I had been cast in a movie with Gary Oldman but when I arrived at my junior high school gym to film the part (and I am sure it was set there because the hairdressing competition in Blow Dry was set in what looked like a school all-purpose room or community center with a wooden dance/basketball floor and a stage at one end), they told me that I had cut my fingernails too short and I couldn't be in the movie. I could see Gary Oldman not very far away and I was pretty sure that if I could talk to him, he would tell them to let me play the part even though my fingernails were too short, but I didn't want to intrude.

Now I'm reading Maureen Dowd in The New York Times on watching famous women getting beaten up and thinking I should get some tea to see if that makes me feel more awake.

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