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The Patrick O'Brian Newsletter: Volume 2, Issue 2October 1993
From the Editor's ColumnFor the many admirers of Patrick O'Brian, autumn 1993 will be a season of celebration, with several new publications (and the prospect of more to come) and a visit to these shores by the author himselfthe first in twenty years.
Those of you who have not been to your bookshop lately will be delighted to learn that The Nutmeg of Consolation and The Truelove (#14 and #15 in the Aubrey/Maturin series) were published in paperback in July. In August we shipped out copies of The Patrick O'Brian Calendar 1994 with nine of Geoff Hunt's wonderful paintings (including the cover art for books 1-6), a J. M. W. Turner painting of the battle of Trafalgar, and two fine ornithological prints with captions by O'Brian.
In early November comes the main event: publication of the hardcover edition of The Wine-Dark Sea (#16), for which the author has agreed to do a two week publicity tour, visiting New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to give readings and sign books.
Looking ahead to spring of 1994, we expect to issue a paperback reprint of O'Brian's thorough and perceptive biography of Picasso; and in May we have scheduled the first American edition of The Golden Ocean in hardcover. While this novel is not part of the Aubrey/Maturin series, it might be seen as a precursor to those books, being O'Brian's first effort at writing about the sea and the Royal Navy. The tale, about an Irish boy who goes off to sea as a midshipman with Anson in 1740, is wonderfully exciting, with glimpses of life in the far reaches of rural Ireland. Also to appear in the spring is a book about Patrick O'Brian. The title is Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography, edited by A. E. Cunningham of the British Library. The volume will contain essays on the nautical, political, and military background to the Aubrey/Maturin series by such experts as Brian Lavery and N. A. M. Rodger, an autobiographical essay by O'Brian, and a complete bibliography of his works.
Patrick O'Brian Answers Your QuestionsQ. I am curious as to the exact nature of "the liberty of the Savoy," as you refer to the London district where The Grapes, Stephen Marturin's London lodgings, is to be found. Is this district's freedom from process servers, debt collectors etc. a status that dated from ancient times? What is the exact nature of this status? Does it still exist?
A. The Liberty of the Savoy came into being in 1245, when Henry III gave the area where the hotel and Simpson's now stands, together with many streets of suburban houses, to his wife's uncle, Peter, Earl of Savoy, who built a palace there; and somewhat later Queen Eleanor gave it to her son Edmond of Lancaster. It came down, by descent and marriage, to old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster, thus becoming part of his palatinate duchypalatinate in the sense that the duke had virtually sovereign power. This being the case, the King's writ did not run in his dominion, so that obviously the local London and Westminster courts had no jurisdiction in the Liberty (or the liberties) of the Savoy. This continued into the last century, and the Duchy of Lancaster is still very much aliveits Chancellor is one of the great men of the state, a cabinet minister, and of course a privy councillor.
RakingEveryone knew that a man-of-war had nearly all her strength, both offensive and defensive, on her sides. Her bows carried few guns, and the structure there was relatively weak, especially in the case of a ship-of-the-line before the round bow was introduced. The stern was even weaker, in both frigates and ships-of-the-line. There was at least one row of glass windows, perhaps even galleries. At best, the structure was very light, with little of the strength and thickness of the timbers which formed the sides. Therefore, the most effective move in any combat between two ships, whether alone or part of a fleet battle, was "raking." To rake a ship was "to cannonade her on the stern, or head, so as that the balls shall scour the whole length of her decks; which is one of the most dangerous incidents that can happen in naval action." Raking shot would pass along the deck, until it met some obstruction. It would kill men, dismount guns and wreak carnage as long as it continued.
One way to rake a ship by the bows was to wear as the chasing ship approached. To rake by the stern, it might be possible to let the enemy pass a little ahead, and then wear under her stern. When passing the bow or stern, it was best to let each gun fire as it bore on the enemy ship. Thus the raking fire was continuous, and devastating. Raking required skilful manoeuvering; if it went wrong, the advantage could go to the other side. "The Caesar was nearly up with their van ship, when she, luffing up too much in the wind to rake us, came about on the other tack, which put them in great confusion, and we peppered them well during this time."
Photo of O'Brian by Rex Features.
Photo of O'Brian by Rex Features.
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