Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Hundred Days (Aubrey-Maturin Series #19)

The Hundred Days (Aubrey-Maturin Series #19)

4.4 9
by Patrick O'Brian

See All Formats & Editions

"One of the best novelists since Jane Austen....The Hundred Days may be the best installment yet....I give O'Brian's fans joy of it."—Philadelphia Inquirer
Napoleon, escaped from Elba, pursues his enemies across Europe like a vengeful phoenix. If he can corner the British and Prussians before their Russian and Austrian allies arrive, his genius will lead


"One of the best novelists since Jane Austen....The Hundred Days may be the best installment yet....I give O'Brian's fans joy of it."—Philadelphia Inquirer
Napoleon, escaped from Elba, pursues his enemies across Europe like a vengeful phoenix. If he can corner the British and Prussians before their Russian and Austrian allies arrive, his genius will lead the French armies to triumph at Waterloo. In the Balkans, preparing a thrust northwards into Central Europe to block the Russians and Austrians, a horde of Muslim mercenaries is gathering. They are inclined toward Napoleon because of his conversion to Islam during the Egyptian campaign, but they will not move without a shipment of gold ingots from Sheik Ibn Hazm which, according to British intelligence, is on its way via camel caravan to the coast of North Africa. It is this gold that Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin must at all costs intercept. The fate of Europe hinges on their desperate mission. "The Hundred Days is certain to delight O'Brian's fans, for whom happiness is an unending stream of Aubrey/Maturin books....[It] is a fine novel that stands proudly on the shelf with the others."—Los Angeles Times

Editorial Reviews

A. S. Byatt
“Gripping and vivid… a whole, solidly living world for the imagination to inhabit.”
George Will
“O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin volumes actually constitute a single 6,443-page novel, one that should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century.”
Richard Snow - New York Times Book Review
“The best historical novels ever written… On every page Mr. O’Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don’t, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.”
Christopher Hitchens - Slate
“I devoured Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume masterpiece as if it had been so many tots of Jamaica grog.”
James Hamilton-Paterson - New Republic
“Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.”
Keith Richards
“I fell in love with his writing straightaway, at first with Master and Commander. It wasn’t primarily the Nelson and Napoleonic period, more the human relationships. …And of course having characters isolated in the middle of the goddamn sea gives more scope. …It’s about friendship, camaraderie. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin always remind me a bit of Mick and me.”
Tamar Lewin - New York Times
“It has been something of a shock to find myself—an inveterate reader of girl books—obsessed with Patrick O’Brian’s Napoleonic-era historical novels… What keeps me hooked are the evolving relationships between Jack and Stephen and the women they love.”
David Mamet - New York Times
“[O’Brian’s] Aubrey-Maturin series, 20 novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, is a masterpiece. It will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.”
Ken Ringle - Washington Post
“The Aubrey-Maturin series… far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.”
Stephen Becker - Chicago Sun-Times
“There is not a writer alive whose work I value over his.”
E. O. Wilson - Boston Globe
“I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.”
Paul Kennedy
. . .[T]hese naval tales are blended into a larger panorama of Georgian society and politics, science, medicine [and] botany. . . .Is this, then, the end of the line for the O'Brian series?. . . .it seems a fair guess that our famous duo will shortly appear in [the Southern] hemisphere for further adventures.
New York Times
New Yorker
They're funny, they're exciting, they're informative. There are legions of us who gladly ship out time and time again under Captain Aubrey.
John Skow
. . .[T]he series swims . . .on an ocean of wondrous language. . . .If there is a serious flaw, it is that since the novels are mostly about men, they are probably mostly for men. . . . .female characters. . .remain ashore. . .
Time Magazine
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Aubrey-Maturin series (The Commodore, etc.) nears the two dozen mark the way it began, with colorful historical background, smooth plotting, marvelous characters and great style. The title refers to Napoleon's escape from Elba and brief return to power. Capt. Jack Aubrey must stop a Moorish galley, loaded with gold for Napoleon's mercenaries, from making its delivery. The action takes us into two seas and one ocean and continues nearly nonstop until the climax in the Atlantic. We're quickly reacquainted with the two heroes: handsome sea dog Jack Aubrey, by now a national hero, and Dr. Stephen Maturin, Basque-Irish ship's doctor, naturalist, English spy and hopelessly incompetent seaman. Nothing stays the same, alas: Jack has gained weight almost to obesity, and Stephen is desolated by the death of his dashing, beautiful wife--but they're still the best of friends, each often knowing what the other is thinking. The prose moves between the maritime sublime and the Austenish bon mot ("a man generally disliked is hardly apt to lavish good food and wine on those who despise him, and Ward's dinners were execrable"). There are some favorite old characters, notably Aubrey's steward, Preserved Killick: "ill-faced, ill-tempered, meagre, atrabilious, shrewish" and thoroughly amusing. Chief among entertaining newcomers is Dr. Amos Jacob, a Cainite Jew ("they derive their descent from the Kenites, who themselves have Abel's brother Cain as their common ancestor"), who comes from a family of jewel merchants and has an encyclopedic grasp of Hebrew, Arabic and Turkish languages (and politics). Jacob is as expert as Stephen at spying and even more of a landlubber. O'Brian continues to unroll a splendid Turkish rug of a saga, and if it seems unlikely that the sedentary Stephen would hunt lions in the Atlas mountains (with the Dey of Algiers!), O'Brian brings off even this narrative feat with aplomb. (Oct.)
Library Journal
For the benefit of those who are unacquainted with O'Brian, it was nearly 30 years ago that he began writing his elaborately staged historical seafaring novels about the escapades of Tory naval captain Jack Aubrey and his physician-scientist friend Stephen Maturin. Series fans know how O'Brian takes a few established facts of history and contrapuntally builds an adventure story around them in which Aubrey and Maturin play some indispensable role. On this 19th outing, the dauntless duo performs feats of derring-do to help thwart Napoleon's plans to conquer Europe. The book teems with amusing scenes, vivid dialog, glib phrase-making, and the tall-tale-spinner's gift for never taking the picaresque adventures of his characters seriously. Behind these merits, however, the plot moves with a medieval slowness. The spark of life is missing, and even the most ardent O'Brian idolaters would have to admit that he is beginning to show traces of the assembly line. Not recommended except for those libraries determined to have a complete set of O'Brian's works. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/98.]--A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston
Bernard Cornwell
September 1998

The Hundred Days

On February 26, 1815, the deposed Emperor Napoleon escaped from Elba with a thousand soldiers. A Paris newspaper from the period can tell the rest of the story: "The Tiger has broken out of his den, the ogre has been three days at sea, the wretch has landed at Fréjus, the buzzard has reached Antibes, the invader has reached Grenoble, the General has entered Lyons, Napoleon slept at Fontainebleu, the Emperor will reach Paris today, and His Imperial Majesty will address his loyal subjects tomorrow." It was not quite the rest of the story. On June 18, 1815, Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, and less than a month later, he abdicated for the second and last time. The adventure had lasted a little more than a hundred days, but is ever referred to, simply, as the Hundred Days. It was the final, blood-soaked flourish of the Napoleonic Wars, which have provided so many novelists with so many exciting tales.

Patrick O'Brian is far and away the best of the Napoleonic storytellers, and his new book, THE HUNDRED DAYS, is the 19th in a series telling of the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin. It is also one of the best of the series; a classic naval adventure, crammed with incident, superbly plotted and utterly gripping.

The tale is invented. It had to be, for the Hundred Days really belongs to soldiers rather than to sailors. By 1815 Britain's Royal Navy was the world's superpower, unchallengeable by any fleet in any ocean. The fledgling U.S. Navy had tweaked the Royal Navy's pride with its frigate victories in the War of 1812, but when the British fleet appeared, heaping the horizon with sailcloth, even the American frigates fled for harbor. The French Navy had once been a genuine threat, but Nelson had destroyed its morale at Trafalgar, and by 1815, it was a pale shadow of its former greatness. Napoleon, looking to secure his usurped throne, could not expect any help at sea, other than from some privateers who would try to snap up British merchantmen. Not much scope in that background for a naval adventure, but O'Brian has triumphed nevertheless. He devises a plot in which Napoleon's Muslim allies attempt to ship a fortune in gold that will pay for mischief in Europe -- specifically to delay the advance of the Russian and Austrian forces that were marching westward to join their British and Prussian allies in the invasion of France. Jack Aubrey must stop the gold, but first he must find it.

Fans of O'Brian will need no introduction to Jack Aubrey, one of the most attractive heroes of all literature. He is in splendid form in The Hundred Days. "Have you ever noticed," he asks Maturin as they gaze on Cape San Giorgio, "how foreigners can never get English names quite right?" "Poor souls," murmurs Maturin. For many readers Stephen Maturin is the most beguiling of O'Brian's characters (and is widely thought to be a self-portrait of O'Brian himself). He is an Irish intellectual, torn between his patriotism and his detestation of Bonaparte, subtle and merciful, an apparent booby afloat, but as sharp as a scalpel whenever there is political intrigue about. And the good doctor has plenty of intrigue to untangle in this book as he threads the labyrinthine politics of the North African coast.

There is a marvelous evocation of Algiers at the height of its slave-trading days, a lion hunt, and, best of all for me, a wondrously funny subplot about Maturin's supposed Hand of Glory. A Hand of Glory was the murdering hand cut from a hanged man and was supposed to have magical properties, and O'Brian's use of it illustrates his extraordinary knowledge of early-19th-century manners, customs, and technology. At times, in some of the earlier Aubrey-Maturin novels, that encyclopedic background threatened to submerge the characters and plot, but there is no danger of that in The Hundred Days. The detail here is pitched precisely, never deflecting, merely reinforcing verisimilitude (Maturin's operating table is not just covered with sailcloth, but with "number eight sailcloth." That's good.) This is O'Brian at his brilliant, entertaining best, and when he is on this form the rest of us who write of the Napoleonic conflict might as well give up and try another career. Fans of the series will need no encouragement to buy this book, but if you are new to Aubrey and Maturin, then this is as splendid an introduction as you could wish for. I know some people hate reading series out of chronological order, but this book gives away nothing of its predecessors and so can be safely tried. And, once hooked, you will have another 18 novels to read with a promise, thank God, of another to follow.

--Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell was born in London and raised in South Essex. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked for BBC television, mostly as a producer, before taking charge of the current affairs department in Northern Ireland. He is an internationally bestselling author of numerous books, including the Sharpe series, the Starbuck Chronicles, and most recently, the Warlord Chronicles. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod, where he indulges his passion for sailing.

Kirkus Reviews
The 19th volume (The Yellow Admiral) in the most successful modern series of historical fiction indicates no diminishment of power or inventiveness on the part of its author. Loyal fans of the series, which chronicles the martial adventures and complex friendship of Captain Aubrey and the physician/spy Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic Wars, need to know only that the book is available. Others who have yet to sample the series should know that it stands out because of O'Brian's extraordinary ability to match an uncanny, utterly convincing evocation of early 19th-century Europe with subtle depictions of character, all rendered within the confines of plots featuring considerable adventures.

This time out, the (realistically aging) Aubrey and Maturin are called on to help frustrate Napoleon's last, desperate bid for power. The dictator has escaped from confinement on Elba, has rallied his armies, and is marching on British forces. There's a chance that Muslim mercenaries may cast their lot with Napoleon and tip the balance of power, if French gold reaches them in time. First in North Africa, and then across the Atlantic, the duo pursue the gold. There are clashes on land, some brilliantly rendered action at sea, and while the two eventually triumph, their victory is not without cost. More swift, vivid, engrossing work from the dean of historical novelists.

Boston Globe
I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.— E. O. Wilson

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Aubrey-Maturin Series , #19
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE The sudden rearmament that followed Napoleon’s escape from Elba had done little to thin the ranks of unemployed sea-officers by the early spring of 1815. A man-of-war stripped, dismantled and laid up cannot be manned, equipped and made ready for sea in a matter of weeks; and the best vantage-points in Gibraltar were now crowded with gentlemen on half-pay who with others had gathered to watch the long-expected arrival of Commodore Aubrey’s squadron from Madeira, a squadron that would do something to refurnish the great bare stretch of water inside the mole—an extraordinary nakedness emphasized by the presence of a few hulks, the Royal Sovereign wearing the flag of the Commander-in-Chief, and a couple of lonely seventy-fours: no stream of liberty-boats plying to and fro, almost no appearance of true wartime life. It was a wonderfully beautiful day, with a slight and varying but reasonably favourable breeze at last: the sun blazed on the various kinds of broom in flower, upon the Rock, upon the cistuses and giant heath, while an uninterrupted stream of migrant birds, honey-buzzards, black kites, all the European vultures, storks both black and white, bee-eaters, hoopoes and countless hirundines flowed across the sky amidst a general indifference; for all eyes were fixed upon the middle distance, where the squadron had come about on the starboard tack. Among the earlier of the watchers, both carrying well-worn telescopes, were two elderly naval lieutenants who could no longer bear the English climate and who found that their £127 15s. od a year went much farther here. ‘The breeze is veering again,’ said the first. ‘It will be abaft the beam directly.’ ‘They will be in on this leg, sure.’ ‘In at last, after all these weary days, poor souls. Briseis kept them hanging about in Funchal until they almost grounded on their own beef-bones. She was always overmasted; and even now I cannot congratulate her on that botched-together bowsprit. Marsham has always over-steeved his bowsprits.’ ‘Nor on her new foretopmast: their bosun must have died.’ ‘Now they have steadies, and the line is as clear as can be. Briseis . . . Surprise—she must have been called back into service—Pomone, wearing Commodore Jack Aubrey’s broad pennant—that must have put poor Wrangle’s nose out of joint. Dover . . . Ganymede. Dover . . . Ganymede. Dover was fitted as a troopship and now she is in changing herself back into a frigate as fast as ever she can. What a shambles!’ The breeze came aft and the whole squadron flashed out studding sails, broad wings set in a thoroughly seamanlike manner: a glorious sight. Yet now the current was against them and in spite of their fine spread of canvas they made but little headway. They were all of them sailing large, of course, all of them getting the last ounce of thrust from the dying breeze with all the skill learnt in more than twenty years of war; a noble spectacle, but one that after a while called for no particular comment, and presently the old lieutenant, John Arrowsmith, two months senior to his friend Thomas Edwards, said, ‘When I was young I always used to turn to the births and marriages in the Times as soon as I had done with the promotions and dispatches; but now I turn to the deaths.’ ‘So do I,’ said Edwards. ‘. . . and with this last batch that came with the packet I found several names I knew. The first was Admiral Stranraer, Admiral Lord Stranraer, Captain Koop that was.’ ‘Oh, indeed? I sailed with him in the old Defender, a West Indies commission where he taught us the spit and polish of those parts. Gloves at all times, whatever the weather; Hessian boots with tassels, on the quarterdeck; up lower yards and cross topgallant yards in under five minutes or watch out for squalls; no reply allowed to any rebuke. If it were not that he is dead, I could tell you many a tale about him in Kingston.’ ‘Indeed, he was not a well-liked man at all, at all. They say his surgeon and another medico killed him with a black draught or something of that kind: but slowly, you understand me now, like the husband of one of those arsenic wives eager to be a widow but not choosing to swing for it.’ ‘From my acquaintance with his lordship, what you say does not surprise me in the least. On reflection, I believe I should offer each or either of the physical gentlemen a glass of brandy, were the occasions to offer. Do you see Surprise start her stuns’l sheet not to outrun her station?’ ‘Aye. She was always a wonderfully swift sailer; and now they have done her proud, as trim as a royal yacht. Webster saw her in young Seppings’ yard where they were fitting her out regardless, diagonal bracing and everything you can think of—fitting her out for a hydrographical voyage. A lovely little craft.’ For some time they discussed the ship’s perfections; their practised hands holding her steady in their telescopes; but then, the line being perfectly re-established, a cable’s length apart, Arrowsmith clapped his glass to and said, ‘Another death was of quite a different kind of man: Governor Wood of Sierra Leone. He was a fine fellow, very popular in the service, and he kept a noble table—invited whole wardrooms when the King’s ships came in; and youngsters too.’ ‘I remember him very well. John Kneller and I and nearly all our messmates dined with him after some cruel weather off the River Plate and weeks of damned short commons—a sprung butt had drowned the bread-room. Lord, how we ate, and laughed, and sang! So he is dead. Well, God rest him, say I. Though when everything is said and done, we must all come to it; which may be some comfort to those that go before. A very handsome wife, as I recall, but on the learned side, which made her neighbours shy.’ ‘The breeze is strengthening out there. Dover has let fly her foretop-gallant sheets.’ The gust—the series of gusts—disturbed the picture-book regularity for a while, but it was restored after a remarkably short interval (all hands knew that they were being watched not only by an uncommonly exigent commodore and the even more formidable Commander-in-Chief Lord Keith, but also by an increasingly numerous band of highly-informed, highly-critical observers on shore) and presently the two lieutenants’ conversation resumed. ‘And then there was another what you might call naval death, a good deal earlier than the others but only now reported. Did you ever meet Dr. Maturin?’ ‘I don’t know that I did, but I have often heard of him. A very clever doctor, they say—called in to treat Prince William—always sails with Jack Aubrey.’ ‘That’s the man. Well, he has a wife. They live with the Aubreys at his big place in Dorset—but of course you know it, being a Dorset man.’ ‘Yes. Woolcombe; or Woolhampton as some say. It is rather far for us and we do not visit, but I have been to one or two of the Blackstone’s meets there and we used to see Mrs Aubrey and Mrs Maturin at the Dorchester assembly. Mrs Maturin breeds Arabs: a very good horsewoman and an uncommon fine whip.’ ‘Well, yes . . . so they said. But do you know a place called Maiden Oscott?’ ‘Only too well, with its damned awkward bridge.’ ‘The report gives no details, but it seemed she pitched over—the whole shooting-match, coach, horses and all, pitched over right down into the river, and only the groom was brought out alive.’ ‘Oh, my God!’ cried Edwards: and after a pause, ‘My wife disliked her; but she was a very beautiful woman. Some people said she was a demi-rep . . . she had some astonishing jewels . . . there was some talk of a Colonel Cholmondeley . . . and it is said the marriage was not a happy one. But she is dead, God rest her. I say no more. Yet I doubt I ever see her like again.’ They both reflected, gazing out over the brilliant sea with half-closed eyes as the squadron drew inshore and the watching crowd increased; and Edwards said, ‘When you come to think of it, on looking about our ship-mates and relations, can you think of any marriage that could be called a happy one, after the first flush? There is something to be said for a bachelor’s existence, you know: turn in whenever you like, read in bed . . .’ ‘Offhand I cannot think of many—poor Wood in Sierra Leone for example: they entertained without a pause, so as not to have to sit down at table alone. It is said that Wood—but he is dead. No, I cannot think of many without some discord or contention; but unless it is very obvious, who can tell just where the balance lies? After all, as a philosopher said, "Though matrimony has its pains, celibacy can have no pleasure".’ ‘I know nothing about philosophy, but I have met some philosophers—we often used to go to Cambridge to see my brother the don—and a miserable set of . . .’ He checked the word at the sight of his friend’s daughters—the elder charming, though rather shabby—pushing through the crowd towards them, and went on in a disapproving tone, ‘. . . though you always were a bookish fellow, even in Britannia’s cockpit.’ ‘Oh Papa,’ cried the elder girl. ‘which is the Surprise?’ ‘The second in the line, my dear.’ The leading ships were now close enough for people to be seen—blue coats and red on the quarterdeck, white-trousered seamen taking in topsails and courses together with jib and staysails—but scarcely to be distinguished. The young lady gently took her father’s telescope and trained it on the Surprise. ‘Is that the famous Captain Aubrey?’ she asked. ‘Why, he is short, fat and red-faced. I am disappointed.’ ‘No, booby,’ said her father. ‘The Commodore is where a Commodore ought to be, aboard the pennant-ship, of course: Pomone. Come, child, don’t you see the broad pennant, hey?’ ‘Oh yes, sir, I see it,’ she replied, training her glass on Pomone’s quarterdeck. ‘Pray who is the very tall fair-haired man wearing a rear-admiral’s uniform and holding his hat under his arm?’ ‘Why, Lizzie, that is your famous Jack Aubrey. Commodores dress like rear-admirals, you know: and they receive a flag-officer’s return to their salute, as you will hear in about ten seconds.’ ‘Oh, isn’t he beautiful? Molly Butler had a coloured engraving of him in action with the Turks—of his boarding the Torgud sword in hand, and all the great girls at school . . .’ What all the great girls said or thought was lost in the Pomone’s exactly-spaced seventeen-gun salute to the Commander-in-Chief; and the echo of the last report and the drift of powder-smoke had not disappeared before the towering flagship began her fifteen-gun reply. When that too was done, Mr Arrowsmith said, ‘Now in another ten seconds you will see the signal break out Commodore repair aboard flag. His barge is already lowering down.’ ‘Who is that little man beside him, in a black coat and drab breeches?’ ‘Oh, that will be his surgeon, Dr Maturin: they always sail together. He can whip off an arm or leg quicker than any man in the service; and it is a joy to see him carve a saddle of mutton.’ ‘Oh fie, Papa!’ cried the girl: her younger sister gave a coarse great laugh. Aboard Pomone the proper ceremony for the occasion was well under way, and as Jack walked out of the great cabin, stuffing a fresh handkerchief into his pocket and pursued by Killick with a clothes-brush, flicking specks of dust from the back of his gold-laced coat, he found his officers present on the quarterdeck, together with most of the midshipmen, all either wearing gloves or concealing their hands behind their backs. The side-boys offered him the sumptuous man-ropes, and following the reefer on duty he ran down into his barge. All the bargemen knew him perfectly well—they had been shipmates in many a commission, and two of them, Joe Plaice and Davies, had served in his first command, the Sophie; but neither they nor Bonden, his coxswain, gave the least sign of recognition as he settled in the stern-sheets, shifting his sword to give the midshipman more room. They sat there in their formal bargeman’s rig—broad-brimmed white sennit hat with ribbons, white shirts, black silk Barcelona handkerchiefs tied round their necks, snowy duck trousers—looking solemn: they were part of a ceremony, and levity, winking, whispering, smiling, had no place in it. Bonden shoved off, said ‘Give way’, and with exact timing, rowing dry with long grave strokes, they pulled the barge across to the starboard accommodation-ladder of the flagship, where an even more impressive ceremony took place. Jack, having been piped aboard, saluted the quarterdeck, shook hands with the ship’s captain and the master of the fleet, while the Royal Marines—scarlet perfection under a brilliant sun—presented arms with a rhythmic clash and stamp. A master’s mate led the Pomone’s youngster away, and Captain Buchan, who commanded the Royal Sovereign, ushered Jack Aubrey below to the Admiral’s splendid quarters: but rather than the very large, grim and hoary Commander-in-Chief, there rose a diaphanous cloud of blue tulle from the locker against the screen-bulkhead—tulle that enveloped a particularly tall and elegant woman, very good-looking but even more remarkable for her fine carriage and amiable expression. ‘Well, dearest Jack,’ she said, they having kissed, ‘how very happy I am to see you wearing a broad pennant. It was a damned near-run thing that you were not out of reach, half-way to Tierra del Fuego in a mere hydrographical tub, a hired vessel. But how we ever came to miss you on Common Hard I shall never understand—never, though I have gone over it again and again. True, Keith was in a great taking about the naval estimates, and I was turning some obscure lines of Ennius in my head without being able to make any sense of them frontwards or backwards; but even so . . .’ ‘Nor shall I ever understand how I came to be such an oaf as to walk in here, ask you how you did, and sit down by your side without the slightest word of congratulations on being a viscountess: yet it had been in my head all the way across. Give you joy with all my heart, dear Queenie,’ he said, kissing her again; and they sat there very companionably on the broad cushioned locker. Jack was taller than Queenie and far more than twice as heavy; and having been in the wars for a great while and much battered, he now looked older. He was in fact seven years her junior, and there had been a time when he was a very little boy whose ears she boxed for impertinence, uncleanliness and greed, and whose frequent nightmares she would soothe by taking him into her bed. ‘By the way,’ said Jack, ‘does the Admiral prefer to be addressed as Lord Viscount Keith like Nelson in his time or just as plain Lord K?’ ‘Oh, just plain Lord, I think. The other thing is formal court usage, to be sure, and I know that dear Nelson loved it; but I think it has died out among ordinary people. Anyway he does not give a hoot for such things, you know. He values his flag extremely, of course, and I dare say he would like the Garter; but the Keiths of Elphinstone go back to the night of time—they are earl marischals of Scotland, and would not call Moses cousin.’ They sat smiling at one another. An odd pair: handsome creatures both, but they might have been of the same sex or neither. Nor was it a brother and sister connection, with all the possibilities of jealousy and competition so often found therein, but a steady uncomplicated friendship and a pleasure in one another’s company. Certainly, when Jack was scarcely breeched and Queenie took care of him after his mother’s death, she had been somewhat authoritarian, insisting on due modesty and decent eating; but that was long ago, and for a great while now they had been perfectly well together. A cloud passed over her face, and putting her hand on Jack’s knee she said, ‘I was so happy to see you—to have recovered you from Cape Horn at the very last moment—that I overlooked more important things. Tell me, how is poor dear Maturin?’ ‘He looks older, and bent; but he bears up wonderfully, and it has not done away with his love of music. He eats nothing, though, and when he came back to Funchal, having attended to everything at Woolcombe, I lifted him out of the boat with one hand.’ ‘She was an extraordinarily handsome woman and she has prodigious style: I admired her exceedingly. But she was not a wife for him; nor a mother for that dear little girl. How is she? She was not in the coach, I collect?’ ‘No. The only other one on the box was Chalmondeley; my mother-in-law and her companion inside, and Harry Willet, the groom, up behind—happily Padeen did not go that day. And Brigid does not seem very gravely upset, from what I understand. She is very deeply attached to Sophie, you know, and to Mrs Oakes.’ ‘I do not believe I know Mrs Oakes.’ ‘A sea-officer’s widow who lives with us, a learned lady—not as learned as you, Queenie, I am sure—but she teaches the children Latin and French. They are none of them clever enough for Greek.’ A pause. ‘If he does not eat, he will certainly grow weak and pine away,’ said Lady Keith. ‘We have a famous cook aboard Royal Sovereign—he came back to England with the Bourbons. Would an invitation be acceptable, do you think? Just us and the Physician of the Fleet and a few very old friends. I have a crux in this passage of Ennius I should like to show him. And of course he must have a conference with Keith’s secretary and the political adviser very soon . . . Oh, and Jack, there is something I must tell you, just between ourselves. Another Mediterranean command would be too much for him, so we are only here until Pellew comes out; though we shall stay in the Governor’s cottage a little while to enjoy the spring. Do you get along well with Pellew, Jackie?’ ‘I have a great admiration for him,’ said Jack—and indeed Admiral Sir Edward Pellew had been a remarkably dashing and successful frigate-captain—‘but not quite the veneration I have for Lord Keith.’ ‘My dear Aubrey,’ cried the Admiral, walking in from the coach, ‘there you are! How glad I am to see you.’ ‘And I to see you, my Lord Viscount, if I may so express myself. My heartiest congratulations.’ ‘Thankee, thankee, Aubrey,’ said the Admiral, more pleasant than quite suited his wife. ‘But I must say that I deserve to be degraded for having put in that foolish proviso in your orders about waiting for Briseis. I should have said . . . but never mind what I should have said. The fact is that at that time I merely wanted your squadron to guard the passage of the Straits: now, at the moment, the situation is much more complex. Six hundred thousand people cheered Napoleon when he entered Paris—Ney has joined him—a hundred and fifty thousand King’s troops, well-equipped, drilled and officered, have done the same—he has countless seasoned men who were prisoners of war in England and Russia and all over Europe at his devotion, flooding to the colours—the Emperor’s colours. There is the Devil to pay and no tar hot. Is Dr Maturin with you?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Is he up to talking about all this with my secretary and the politicos?’ ‘I believe so, my lord. Although he shuns ordinary company he is dead set on the war and seizes upon any means whatsoever of informing himself—newspapers, correspondence and so on—and I have known him talk for three hours on end with a French officer—royalist of course—whose brig was in company with us during a flat calm off Bugio.’ ‘He would sooner not dine aboard Royal Sovereign, I gather.’ ‘I believe not, sir. But he will discuss the international situation and the means of bringing Napoleon down with the utmost vigour. That is what keeps him alive, it seems to me.’ ‘I am glad he has so great a resource at such a dreadful time, poor dear man. I have a great regard for him: as you will remember, I proposed he should be Physician of the Fleet at one time. Aye, aye, so I did. Well, I shall not pain him with an invitation he might find difficult to refuse. But if, in the course of duty, you could require him to report aboard just after the evening gun, when I hope for an overland packet by courier, he may learn still more about the international situation. A damned complex situation, upon my word. As I said, when first I sent for you I thought your squadron would be enough, at a pinch, to guard

What People are Saying About This

Sebastian Junger
A magnificent book. Life aboard one of His Majesty's frigates during the Napoleconic wars was an elegant exercise in brutality that O'Brian has captured in unsparing detail. (Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm)

Meet the Author

Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).Set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian's twenty-volume series centers on the enduring friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician (and spy) Stephen Maturin. The Far Side of the World, the tenth book in the series, was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. The film was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. The books are now available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book format.In addition to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian wrote several books including the novels Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore, as well as biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, and famed fugitive Henri Cherrière's memoir Papillon. O'Brian died in January 2000.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 12, 1914
Date of Death:
January 2, 2000
Place of Birth:
Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire
Place of Death:
Dublin, Ireland
Shebbear College, Devon

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Hundred Days 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NoahU More than 1 year ago
This book takes place during the short time after Napoleon escapes from Elba and returns to France until his defeat at Waterloo. As Commodore of a small fleet, Jack Aubrey is ordered to the Mediterranean to prevent Napoleon's allies reinforcing the French emperor while Stephen Maturin uses his spycraft to track a shipment of gold heading from Tangiers. I have been enraptured by this series. I am sad that this is the second to the last one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my second trip through the world of Jack and Stephens adventures and the richness of O'brian's tales is such that it truely is better the second time around.