The Fighting Temeraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship that Inspired J. M. W. Turner's Most Beloved Painting

The Fighting Temeraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship that Inspired J. M. W. Turner's Most Beloved Painting

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by Sam Willis
     
 

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The H.M.S. Temeraire, one of Britai&ngrave;s most illustrious fighting ships, is known to millions through J.M.W. Turne&rgrave;s masterpiece,
The Fighting Temeraire
(1839), which portrays the battle-scarred veteran of Britai&ngrave;s wars with Napoleonic France. In this evocative new volume, Sam Willis tells the extraordinary story of the vessel

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Overview

The H.M.S. Temeraire, one of Britai&ngrave;s most illustrious fighting ships, is known to millions through J.M.W. Turne&rgrave;s masterpiece,
The Fighting Temeraire
(1839), which portrays the battle-scarred veteran of Britai&ngrave;s wars with Napoleonic France. In this evocative new volume, Sam Willis tells the extraordinary story of the vessel behind the painting and the making of the painting itself.

Turner's Temeraire was the second ship in the Royal Navy to carry the name. The first, a French warship captured and commandeered by the British in 1759, served with distinction during the Seven Years' War before being sold off in 1784. The second
Temeraire
, named in honor of her predecessor, was a prestigious three-decked, 98-gun warship that broke through the French and Spanish line directly astern of Nelso&ngrave;s flagship Victory at Trafalgar in 1805, saving the Vice-Admiral at a crucial moment in the battle. This tale of two ships spans the heyday of the age of sail:
the climaxes of both the Seven Years War (1756-63) and the Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815).

Filled with richly evocative detail, and narrated with the pace and gusto of a master storyteller, The Fighting Temeraire is an enthralling and deeply satisfying work of narrative history.

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Editorial Reviews

Sunday Times [London]
“Absorbing and enjoyable. Willis is a reliable and readable guide to the naval history embodied in the Temeraire. His book cleverly uses the microcosm of the life story of one ship to reflect the wider narrative of the decades-long struggle between Britain and France for mastery of the seas.”
Library Journal
On the list of iconic ships, we know the Bismarck, Victory, Titanic, and Constitution, with the Bellerophon and Temeraire slightly lesser known. There were actually two ships named Temeraire, the first a French warship captured by the British in 1759, which served with distinction throughout the Seven Years' War. The second, named in honor of her predecessor, was a magnificent three-decked, 98-gun behemoth that broke through the French and Spanish line of battle directly behind Lord Nelson's flagship Victory at Trafalgar in 1805. This second Temeraire is the subject of J.M.W. Turner's famous painting of 1839, depicting the ship being moved by steam-powered tugboats upriver to be broken up. This book is much more than a biography of these two ships and of Turner's painting. Willis (Fighting Ships), an expert on both maritime painting and tall ships, covers every aspect of life in the sailing navy, comparing two technologically different eras (1759 and 1805). In a readable narrative, he emphasizes disease, blockade duty, mutiny and amphibious warfare, and, of course, the men (and occasionally women) who served in the "wooden walls." VERDICT Readers of naval and Napoleonic history should not pass this one up, and art history buffs should consider as well. Strongly recommended.—David Lee Poremba, Keiser Univ., Orlando, FL
Kirkus Reviews

Willis (Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare, 2008, etc.) follows the adventures of theTemeraire, which played an integral role in British military successesand was the subject of J.M.W. Turner's masterpieceThe Fighting Temeraire (1839).

A little-known fact about the Temeraire is that two famous ships carried the name; the first was a French warship that the British captured in the Battle of Lagos in 1759. She was so symbolic in stature and design that the British, 15 years later, named their most important new ship after her. Immediately the newTemeraire was in the thick of the Napoleonic Wars, battling not only the enemy, but the more common disturbances found at sea—constant battles with scurvy, lack of fresh supplies and mutiny. So hazardous was the mutiny of 1801 that the ship was forced to return to England, and 12 mutineers were hanged in a highly publicized trial. Not long afterward, Horatio Nelson was named leader of the fleet designated to (once again) wage war with France. Under his command, the Victory and Temeraire fought side-by-side at the famed Battle of Trafalgar. It was in this battle that the mighty Temeraire lived up to its fame as one of the best British warships of all time. Just as the lead ship, theVictory,was compromised and Nelson injured, "theTemeraireappeared out of the smoke...and rammed the [French ship] Redoutable with such force" that the French were ultimately forced to surrender. Upon the great ship's heroic return to Britain, masses thronged the port to catch a glimpse. It's possible that Turner, already a successful artist at the time, was one of the revelers, and drew on this experience later when he created his famous painting. In this compelling narrative, Willis captures the atmosphere of great change that marked the era, writing with infectious enthusiasm about the warship and the art it inspired.

Exciting and informative—every detail contributes to a greater understanding of British maritime history.

Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating. Sam Willis’s The Fighting Temeraire is an elegant lament for the vanished warships of the world and an eloquent plea for the preservation of those still afloat. Anyone who has the smallest interest in naval history will treasure this book.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Absorbing and enjoyable. Willis is a reliable and readable guide to the naval history embodied in the Temeraire. His book cleverly uses the microcosm of the life story of one ship to reflect the wider narrative of the decades-long struggle between Britain and France for mastery of the seas.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781605981246
Publisher:
Pegasus
Publication date:
11/15/2010
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Sam Willis has lectured at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, and consults on maritime painting for Christie's. Sam spent eighteen months as a Square Rig Able Sea-man, sailing the tall ships used in the Hornblower television series and award-winning film Shackleton. He is the author of Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare and the highly successful Fighting Ships series.

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