Mr. Midshipman Easyby Frederick Marryat
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As the 18th century gives way to the 19th, an eccentric young man joins Britain's navy to see the world and to practice his own odd brand of philosophy. But fighting sea battles, beating off brigands in foreign lands and earning respect from his superiors convince him that his philosophy is not as sound as he once thought. He returns from sea a man to find love and to inherit his father's wealth.
"Written nearly two centuries ago, this exciting tale has a chuckle on nearly every page." (B-O-T Editorial Review Board)
Richard Snow, The New York Times
"[Marryat's] greatness is undeniable." —Joseph Conrad, Notes on Life and Letters
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Mr Midshipman Easy
By Frederick Marryat
McBooks Press, Inc.Copyright © 1998 McBooks Press
All rights reserved.
Which the reader will find very easy to read.
MR NICODEMUS EASY was a gentleman who lived down in Hampshire; he was a married man, and in very easy circumstances. Most couples find it very easy to have a family, but not always quite so easy to maintain them. Mr Easy was not at all uneasy on the latter score, as he had no children; but he was anxious to have them, as most people covet what they cannot obtain. After ten years, Mr Easy gave it up as a bad job. Philosophy is said to console a man under disappointment, although Shakespeare asserts that it is no remedy for toothache; so Mr Easy turned philosopher, the very best profession a man can take up, when he is fit for nothing else; he must be a very incapable person indeed who cannot talk nonsense. For some time, Mr Easy could not decide upon what description his nonsense should consist of; at last he fixed upon the rights of man, equality, and all that; how every person was born to inherit his share of the earth, a right at present only admitted to a certain length; that is, about six feet, for we all inherit our graves, and are allowed to take possession without dispute. But no one would listen to Mr Easy's philosophy. The women would not acknowledge the rights of men, whom they declared always to be in the wrong; and, as the gentlemen who visited Mr Easy were all men of property, they could not perceive the advantages of sharing with those who had none. However, they allowed him to discuss the question, while they discussed his port wine. The wine was good, if the arguments were not, and we must take things as we find them in this world.
While Mr Easy talked philosophy, Mrs Easy played patience, and they were a very happy couple, riding side by side on their hobbies, and never interfering with each other. Mr Easy knew his wife could not understand him, and therefore did not expect her to listen very attentively; and Mrs Easy did not care how much her husband talked, provided she was not put out in her game. Mutual forbearance will always ensure domestic felicity.
There was another cause for their agreeing so well. Upon any disputed question Mr Easy invariably gave it up to Mrs Easy, telling her that she should have her own way — and this pleased his wife; but, as Mr Easy always took care, when it came to the point, to have his way, he was pleased as well. It is true that Mrs Easy had long found out that she did not have her own way long; but she was of an easy disposition, and as, in nine cases out of ten, it was of very little consequence how things were done, she was quite satisfied with his submission during the heat of the argument. Mr Easy had admitted that she was right, and if like all men he would do wrong, why, what could a poor woman do? With a lady of such a quiet disposition, it is easy to imagine that the domestic felicity of Mr Easy was not easily disturbed. But, as people have observed before, there is a mutability in human affairs. It was at the finale of the eleventh year of their marriage that Mrs Easy at first complained that she could not enjoy her breakfast. Mrs Easy had her own suspicions, everybody else considered it past doubt, all except Mr Easy; he little "thought, good easy man, that his greatness was ripening;" he had decided that to have an heir was no Easy task, and it never came into his calculations, that there could be a change in his wife's figure. You might have added to it, subtracted from it, divided it, or multiplied it, but as it was a zero, the result would be always the same. Mrs Easy also was not quite sure — she believed it might be the case, there was no saying; it might be a mistake, like that of Mrs Trunnion's in the novel, and, therefore, she said nothing to her husband about the matter. At last Mr Easy opened his eyes, and when, upon interrogating his wife, he found out the astounding truth, he opened his eyes still wider, and then he snapped his fingers and danced, like a bear upon hot plates, with delight, thereby proving that different causes may produce similar effects in two instances at one and the same time. The bear dances from pain, Mr Easy from pleasure; and again, when we are indifferent, or do not care for anything, we snap our fingers at it, and when we are overjoyed, and obtain what we most care for, we also snap our fingers. Two months after Mr Easy snapped his fingers, Mrs Easy felt no inclination to snap hers, either from indifference or pleasure. The fact was, that Mrs Easy's time was come, to undergo what Shakespeare pronounces "the pleasing punishment that women bear;" but Mrs Easy, like the rest of her sex, declared "that all men were liars," and most particularly poets.
But while Mrs Easy was suffering, Mr Easy was in ecstasies. He laughed at pain, as all philosophers do when it is suffered by other people, and not by themselves.
In due course of time, Mrs Easy presented her husband with a fine boy, whom we present to the public as our hero.CHAPTER 2
In which Mrs Easy, as usual, has her own way.
IT WAS the fourth day after Mrs Easy's confinement that Mr Easy, who was sitting by her bedside in an easy chair, commenced as follows: "I have been thinking, my dear Mrs Easy, about the name I shall give this child."
"Name, Mr Easy! why, what name should you give it but your own?"
"Not so, my dear," replied Mr Easy; "they call all names proper names, but I think that mine is not. It is the very worst name in the calendar."
"Why, what's the matter with it, Mr Easy?"
"The matter affects me as well as the boy. Nicodemus is a long name to write at full length, and Nick is vulgar. Besides, as there will be two Nicks, they will naturally call my boy young Nick, and of course I shall be styled old Nick, which will be diabolical."
"Well, Mr Easy, at all events then let me choose the name."
"That you shall, my dear, and it was with this view that I have mentioned the subject so early."
"I think, Mr Easy, I will call the boy after my poor father — his name shall be Robert."
"Very well, my dear, if you wish it, it shall be Robert. You shall have your own way. But I think, my dear, upon a little consideration, you will acknowledge that there is a decided objection."
"An objection, Mr Easy?"
"Yes, my dear; Robert may be very well, but you must reflect upon the consequences; he is certain to be called Bob."
"Well, my dear, and suppose they do call him Bob?"
"I cannot bear even the supposition, my dear. You forget the county in which we are residing, the downs covered with sheep."
"Why, Mr Easy, what can sheep have to do with a Christian name?"
"There it is; women never look to consequences. My dear, they have a great deal to do with the name of Bob. I will appeal to any farmer in the county, if ninety-nine shepherds' dogs out of one hundred are not called Bob. Now observe, your child is out of doors somewhere in the fields or plantations; you want and you call him. Instead of your child, what do you find? Why, a dozen curs at least, who come running up to you, all answering to the name of Bob, and wagging their stumps of tails. You see Mrs Easy, it is a dilemma not to be got over. You level your only son to the brute creation by giving him a Christian name which, from its peculiar brevity, has been monopolised by all the dogs in the county. Any other name you please, my dear, but in this one instance you must allow me to lay my positive veto."
"Well, then, let me see — but I'll think of it, Mr Easy; my head aches very much just now."
"I will think for you, my dear. What do you say to John?"
"O no, Mr Easy, such a common name."
"A proof of its popularity, my dear. It is scriptural — we have the Apostle and the Baptist — we have a dozen Popes who were all Johns. It is royal — we have plenty of kings who were Johns — and moreover, it is short, and sounds honest and manly."
"Yes, very true, my dear; but they will call him Jack."
"Well, we have had several celebrated characters who were Jacks. There was — let me see — Jack the Giant Killer, and Jack of the Bean Stalk — and Jack — Jack —"
"Jack Spratt," replied Mrs Easy.
"And Jack Cade, Mrs Easy, the great rebel — and Three-fingered Jack, Mrs Easy, the celebrated negro — and, above all, Jack Falstaff, ma'am, Jack Falstaff — honest Jack Falstaff — witty Jack Falstaff —"
"I thought, Mr Easy, that I was to be permitted to choose the name."
"Well, so you shall, my dear; I give it up to you. Do just as you please; but depend upon it that John is the right name. Is it not now, my dear?"
"It's the way you always treat me, Mr Easy; you say that you give it up, and that I shall have my own way but I never do have it. I am sure that the child will be christened John."
"Nay, my dear, it shall be just what you please. Now I recollect it, there were several Greek emperors who were Johns; but decide for yourself, my dear."
"No, no," replied Mrs Easy, who was ill, and unable to contend any longer, "I give it up, Mr Easy. I know how it will be, as it always is: you give me my own way as people give pieces of gold to children, it's their own money, but they must not spend it. Pray call him John."
"There, my dear, did not I tell you you would be of my opinion upon reflection? I knew you would. I have given you your own way, and you tell me to call him John; so now we're both of the same mind, and that point is settled."
"I should like to go to sleep, Mr Easy; I feel far from well."
"You shall always do just as you like, my dear," replied the husband, "and have your own way in everything. It is the greatest pleasure I have when I yield to your wishes. I will walk in the garden. Good-bye, my dear."
Mrs Easy made no reply, and the philosopher quitted the room. As may easily be imagined, on the following day the boy was christened John.CHAPTER 3
In which our hero has to wait the issue of an argument.
THE READER may observe that, in general, all my first chapters are very short, and increase in length as the work advances. I mention this as a proof of my modesty and diffidence. At first, I am like a young bird just out of its mother's nest, pluming my little feathers and taking short flights. By degrees I obtain more confidence, and wing my course over hill and dale.
It is very difficult to throw any interest into a chapter on childhood. There is the same uniformity in all children until they develop. We cannot, therefore, say much relative to Jack Easy's earliest days; he sucked and threw up his milk while the nurse blessed it for a pretty dear, slept, and sucked again. He crowed in the morning like a cock, screamed when he was washed, stared at the candle, and made wry faces with the wind. Six months passed in these innocent amusements, and then he was put into shorts. But I ought here to have remarked, that Mrs Easy did not find herself equal to nursing her own infant, and it was necessary to look out for a substitute.
Now a common-place person would have been satisfied with the recommendation of the medical man, who looks but to the one thing needful, which is a sufficient and wholesome supply of nourishment for the child; but Mr Easy was a philosopher, and had latterly taken to craniology, and he descanted very learnedly with the Doctor upon the effect of his only son obtaining his nutriment from an unknown source. "Who knows," observed Mr Easy, "but that my son may not imbibe with his milk the very worst passions of human nature."
"I have examined her," replied the Doctor, "and can safely recommend her."
"That examination is only preliminary to one more important," replied Mr Easy. "I must examine her."
"Examine who, Mr Easy?" exclaimed his wife, who had lain down again on the bed.
"The nurse, my dear."
"Examine what, Mr Easy?" continued the lady.
"Her head, my dear," replied the husband. "I must ascertain what her propensities are."
"I think you had better leave her alone, Mr Easy. She comes this evening, and I shall question her pretty severely. Doctor Middleton, what do you know of this young person?"
"I know, madam, that she is very healthy and strong or I should not have selected her."
"But is her character good?"
"Really, madam, I know little about her character; but you can make any inquiries you please. But at the same time I ought to observe, that if you are too particular in that point, you will have some difficulty in providing yourself."
"Well, I shall see," replied Mrs Easy.
"And I shall feel," rejoined the husband.
This parleying was interrupted by the arrival of the very person in question, who was announced by the housemaid, and was ushered in. She was a handsome, florid, healthy-looking girl, awkward and naive in her manner, and apparently not over wise; there was more of the dove than of the serpent in her composition.
Mr Easy, who was very anxious to make his own discoveries, was the first who spoke. "Young woman, come this way, I wish to examine your head."
"Oh! dear me, sir, it's quite clean, I assure you," cried the girl, dropping a curtsey.
Doctor Middleton, who sat between the bed and Mr Easy's chair, rubbed his hands and laughed.
In the meantime, Mr Easy had untied the string and taken off the cap of the young woman, and was very busy putting his fingers through her hair, during which the face of the young woman expressedfear and astonishment.
"I am glad to perceive that you have a large portion of benevolence."
"Yes," replied the young woman, dropping a curtsey.
"And veneration also."
"And the organ of modesty is strongly developed."
"Yes, sir," replied the girl with a smile.
"That's quite a new organ," thought Dr Middleton.
"Philo-progenitiveness very powerful."
"If you please, sir, I don't know what that is," answered Sarah, with a curtsey.
"Nevertheless you have given us a practical illustration. Mrs Easy, I am satisfied. Have you any questions to ask? But it is quite unnecessary."
"To be sure I have, Mr Easy. Pray, young woman, what is your name?"
"Sarah, if you please, ma'am."
"How long have you been married?"
"If you please, ma'am, I had a misfortune, ma'am," replied the girl, casting down her eyes.
"What, have you not been married?"
"No, ma'am, not yet."
"Good heavens! Dr Middleton, what can you mean by bringing this person here?" exclaimed Mrs Easy. "Not a married woman, and she has a child!"
"If you please, ma'am," interrupted the young woman, dropping a curtsey, "it was a very little one."
"A very little one!" exclaimed Mrs Easy.
"Yes, ma'am, very small, indeed, and died soon after it was born."
"Oh, Dr Middleton! — what could you mean, Dr Middleton?"
"My dear madam," exclaimed the Doctor, rising from his chair, "this is the only person that I could find suited to the wants of your child, and if you do not take her I cannot answer for its life. It is true, that a married woman might be procured; but married women, who have a proper feeling, will not desert their own children; and as Mr Easy asserts, and you appear to imagine, the temper and disposition of your child may be affected by the nourishment it receives, I think it more likely to be injured by the milk of a married woman who will desert her own child for the sake of gain. The misfortune which has happened to this young woman is not always a proof of a bad heart, but of strong attachment, and the overweening confidence of simplicity."
"You are correct, Doctor," replied Mr Easy, "and her head proves that she is a modest young woman, with strong religious feeling, kindness of disposition, and every other requisite."
"The head may prove it all for what I know, Mr Easy, but her conduct tells another tale."
"She is well fitted for the situation, ma'am," continued the Doctor.
"And if you please, ma'am," rejoined Sarah, "it was such a little one."
"Shall I try the baby, ma'am?" said the monthly nurse, who had listened in silence. "It is fretting so, poor thing, and has its dear little fist right down its throat."
Dr Middleton gave the signal of assent, and in a few seconds Master John Easy was fixed to Sarah as tight as a leech.
Excerpted from Mr Midshipman Easy by Frederick Marryat. Copyright © 1998 McBooks Press. Excerpted by permission of McBooks Press, Inc..
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Captain Frederick Marryat (17921848) was an actual 19th-century British naval hero who lived a saga worthy of the novels of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian. He survived fifty naval battles on the crack frigate Imperieuse under Lord Cochranethe real-life model for Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey. In addition to plenty of cannonfire, battle strategy, peril, and passionliberally sprinkled with wit and fine turns of phraseMarryat's real-life naval experiences lend his novels a truly remarkable authenticity.
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I LOVE this book, having read it in hard copy. But this edition is a formatting MESS! Odd random characters, hit or miss sizing... A disaster. Try a paid Nook edition! Had to give only one star because of this edition.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! At times, the satire approached being Swiftian. The writer was very skilled at demonstrating the silliness that motivates folk who are so serious about everything. "Our hero," as Marryat refers to him, is a scamp and why he hasn't been killed by angry officers, governors, fathers of sweet young things, and/or pirates is a mystery. Truly, Mr. Midshipman Easy lives a charmed life. After a time, I was wondering "What will he do next?" I am a great fan of sea=faring yarns and have read most of the popular books in the genre. The sea faring here is just a vehicle. This is a very old book that is new in its pacing. A light and quick read.
Reading this book is hardly neccessary. Simply flip through the pages to the illustrations where all of the text truly comes to life. Mr. Polseno rocks my world.