Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Re: Cognitive disorders in the canon.

Don Seltzer

Clonfert is certainly near the top of the list of interesting, disturbed characters. He even made such an impression on POB that he had Stephen reflect back on Clonfert many books later, in TGS:

---When they were alone with their coffee Stephen, after a long brooding pause, said, 'Do you remember I once said of Clonfert that for him truth was what he could make others believe? ... I expressed myself badly. What I meant was that if he could induce others to believe what he said, then for him the statement acquired some degree of truth, a reflection of their belief that it was true; and this reflected truth might grow stronger with time and repetition until it became conviction, indistinguishable from ordinary factual truth, or very nearly so.'---

Rev Martin comes to mind.  His secret lustful thoughts about Clarissa Oakes led him to believe that his salt-caused skin sores were some dread venereal disease.

And then there is envoy Fox in TGS.  He is haunted by some dark secret that he wishes to confess to Stephen, who puts him off, not wanting to share the burden.  It is strongly implied that is related to a hidden homosexual past, perhaps related to Ledward in their youth.

On Sun May 28, The Last of the True French Short Bastards wrote
>It suddenly occurred to me that O'Brian's books include a great many more cognitive disorders, or sometimes simple character peculiarities, than most other historical novels... or indeed any novels. We have:

>- Stephen's addictions to laudanum and coca leaves (and his evident depression)

>- The Teapot

>- Diana's chaperone in India, who couldn't help speaking aloud what was in her mind

>- Stephen's daughter Brigid's apparent autism

>- Padeen's near-inability to speak

>- The warrant officer who always mistook his right and his left and lost his life as a result

>- Clonfert's obsessive competitiveness and strange illness that caused him to sweat on only one side of his body

>- Alcoholism in numerous cases

>Whom else am I missing?

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