Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Mutiny on the Bounty captain's unexpected resting place draws fans


The tomb of Captain William Bligh, who died 200 years ago, has become a central feature of the Garden Museum in London
' . . It is important to note, however, that Bligh's ‘violence’ was habitually more verbal than physical . . Bligh flogged less than any other British commander in the Pacific Ocean in the later eighteenth century. What most threw Bligh into 'those violent Tornados of temper' . .  during which he gestured violently with his hands, was perceived dereliction of duty by officers and seamen's incompetence.

When either of these occurred Bligh's invective could bruise men's egos as much as any lash their backs. After the Bounty left Tahiti, Bligh fretted excessively about the plants' welfare. When officers and crew offended he called them 'damn'd Infernal scoundrels, blackguard, liar, vile man, jesuit, thief, lubber, disgrace to the service, damn'd long pelt of a bitch'; he told them he would make them 'eat grass like cows'; he told the officers that he would make them jump overboard before they reached Torres Strait . .

Interestingly, this ‘bad language’ was not obscene in the modern sense; rather, it was humiliating and dislocating. As Dening puts it, '[Bligh's language] was bad, not so much because it was intemperate or abusive, but because it was ambiguous, because men could not read in it a right relationship to his authority' . . Bligh's great failing was that he was so unaware of the effect his mood swings and harsh criticisms had on those about him . . '


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