The Letter of Marque

Patrick O’Brian

Jack Aubrey is a naval officer, a post-captain of experience and capacity. When ‘The Letter of Marque’ opens he has been struck off the Navy List for a crime he has not committed. With Aubrey is his friend and ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin, who is also an unofficial British intelligence agent. Maturin has bought for Aubrey his old ship the Surprise, so that the misery of ejection from the service can be palliated by the command of what Aubrey calls a ‘private man-of-war’ – a letter of marque, a privateer. Together they sail on a voyage which, if successful, might restore Aubrey to the rank, and the raison d’etre, whose loss he so much regrets.

Around these simple, ostensibly familar elements Patrick O’Brian has written a novel of great narrative power, exploring his extraordinary world once more, in a tale full of human feeling and rarely matched in its drama.

Reviews of The Letter of Marque

  • ‘Full of the energy that comes from a writer having struck a vein… Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.’ James Hamilton- Paterson

    ‘You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O’Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him.’ Kevin Myers, Irish Times

    ‘In a highly competitive field it goes straight to the top. A real first-rater.’ Mary Renault

    ‘I never enjoyed a novel about the sea more. It is not only that the author describes the handling of a ship of 1800 with an accuracy that is as comprehensible as it is detailed, a remarkable feat in itself. Mr O’Brian’s three chief characters are drawn with no less depth of sympathy than the vessels he describes, a rare achievement save in the greatest writers of this genre. It deserves the widest readership.’ Irish Times