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Peter Simple

Peter Simple

4.5 4
by Frederick Marryat

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In this seminal story of naval life during the Napoleonic War, Frederick Murrayat's young hero embarks upon a life at sea and finds it be a rough school indeed. Simple's trials and triumphs, alongside his faithful mentor, Terence O'Brien, Mirror Marryat's personal experience, from the hand-to-hand combat of cutting-out missions to the devastating hurricane off St.


In this seminal story of naval life during the Napoleonic War, Frederick Murrayat's young hero embarks upon a life at sea and finds it be a rough school indeed. Simple's trials and triumphs, alongside his faithful mentor, Terence O'Brien, Mirror Marryat's personal experience, from the hand-to-hand combat of cutting-out missions to the devastating hurricane off St. Pierre and the mutuny aboard the Rattlesnake. Peter Simpleis a towering tale from the great age of sail, filled with keen wit, vivid characters, and gripping adventure.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The enduring popularity of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels has fortuitously stimulated Norton's new Heart of Oak Sea Classics. This first installment (along with Dudley Pope's nonfiction The Black Ship, a vigorous tale of a notorious 1797 mutiny, and James Norman Hall's entertaining collection of nautical tall tales, Doctor Dogbody's Leg) includes Marryat's charming 1834 novel, a robust Dickensian romance about a "simple" young midshipman's growth to manhood at sea during the Napoleonic Wars. The adventures of Peter, a kind of Don Quixote kept alive by the raffish wit of his shipmateþSancho Panza Terence O'Brienþinclude imprisonment and narrow escapes from worse fates in France and the West Indies, a struggle to reclaim his inheritance from a deliciously wicked blood relation, and a satisfyingly improbable happy ending. This is one of the most attractive and neglected early Victorian novels, and its selection alone bodes well for a very promising series.

Product Details

London : Saunders and Otley, Conduit Street
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Barnes & Noble
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Read an Excerpt

The great advantage of being the fool of the family -- My destiny is decided, and I am consigned to a stockbroker as part of His Majesty's sea stock -- Unfortunately for me Mr Handycock is a bear, and I get very little dinner.

IF I CANNOT NARRATE a life of adventurous and daring exiploits, fortunately I have no heavy crimes to confess; and, if I do not rise in the estimation of the reader for acts of gallantry and devotion in my country's cause, at least I may claim the merit of zealous and persevering continuance in my vocation. We are all of us variously gifted from Above, and he who is content to walk, instead of to run, on his allotted path through life, although he may not so rapidly attain the goal, has the advantage of not being out of breath upon his arrival. Not that I mean to infer that my life has not been one of adventure. I only mean to say that, in all which has occurred, I have been a passive, rather than an active, personage; and, if events of interest are to be recorded, they certainly have not been sought by me.

As well as I can recollect and analyze my early propensities, I think that, had I been permitted to select my own profession, I should in all probability have bound myself apprentice to a tailor for I always envied the comfortable seat which they appeared to enjoy upon the shopboard, and their elevated position, which enabled them to look down upon the constant succession of the idle or the busy, who passed in review before them in the main street of the country town, near to which I passed the first fourteen years of my existence.

But my father, who was a clergyman of the Church of England, and the youngest brother of a noble family, had a lucrative living, and a "soul above buttons," if his son had not. It has been from time immemorial the heathenish custom to sacrifice the greatest fool of the family to the prosperity and naval superiority of the country, and, at the age of fourteen, I was selected as the victim. If the custom be judicious, I had no reason to complain. There was not one dissentient voice, when it was proposed before all the varieties of my aunts and cousins, invited to partake of our new-year's festival. I was selected by general acclamation. Flattered by such an unanimous acknowledgment of my qualification, and a stroke of my father's.hand down my head which accompanied it, I felt as proud, and, alas! as unconscious as the calf with gilded horns, who plays and mumbles with the flowers of the garland which designates his fate to every one but himself. I even felt, or thought I felt, a slight degree of military ardour, and a sort of vision of future grandeur passed before me, in the distant vista of which I perceived a coach with four horses and a service of plate. It was, however, driven away before I could decipher it, by positive bodily pain, occasioned by my elder brother Tom, who, having been directed by my father to snuff the candles, took the opportunity of my abstraction to insert a piece of the still ignited cotton into my left ear. But as my story is not a very short one, I must not dwell too long on its commencement. I shall therefore inform the reader, that my father, who lived in the north of England, did not think it right to fit me out at the country town, near to which we resided; but about a fortnight after the decision which I have referred to, he forwarded me to London, on the outside of the coach, with my best suit of bottle-green and six shirts. To prevent mistakes, I was booked in the way-bill "to be delivered to Mr Thomas Handycock, No. 14, St Clement's Lane -- carriage paid." My parting with the family was very affecting; my mother cried bitterly, for, like all mothers, she liked the greatest fool which she had presented to my father, better than all the rest; my sisters cried because my mother cried; Tom roared for a short time more loudly than all the rest, having been chastised by my father for breaking his fourth window in that week;--during all which my father walked up and down the room with impatience, because he was kept from his dinner, and, like all orthodox divines, hewas tenacious of the only sensual enjoyment permitted to his cloth.

At last I tore myself away. I had blubbered till my eyes were so red and swollen, that the pupils were scarcely to be distinguished, and tears and dirt had veined my cheeks like the marble of the chinmey-piece. My handkerchief was  soaked through with wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, before the scene was over. My brother Tom, with a kindness which did honour to his heart, exchanged his for mine, saying, with fraternal regard, "Here, Peter, take mine, it's as dry as a bone." But my father would not wait for a second handkerchief to perform its duty. He led me away through the hall, when, having shaken hands with all the men and kissed all the maids, who stood in a row with their aprons to their eyes, I quitted my paternal roof.

What People are Saying About This

John Harland
"Although Peter Simple was written 160 years ago, fans of Patrick O'Brian, Richard Woodman, C.S. Forester, et al. will find that the story reads as well as ever...One of the pleasures of rereading this volume is Marryat's take on the technical stuff, the highlight being his spirited description of a ship being club-hauled." -- Author of Seamanship in the Age of Sail
Victor Suthren
"Whether swigging off on a halyard or pursuing a comely lass ashore, Simple and other characters created by Marryat give the reader a glimpse into the minds and emotions of the men of Britain's sailing navy, backed by the authentic voice of a writer who was part of it. There is a humor and gentility to it all that, married to the harsh realities of frigate life, transports the reader into a vanished world in a way that points to where Patrick O'Brian found inspiration. Even the language is a delight." -- Author of the Edward Mainwaring naval series
Joseph Conrad
"[Marrykat's] adventures are enthrallling; the rapidity of his action fascinates... His greatness is undeniable."

Meet the Author

Captain Frederick Marryat (10 July 1792 - 9 August 1848) was a British Royal Navy officer, a novelist, and an acquaintance of Charles Dickens. He is noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story, particularly for his semi-autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy (1836), for his children's novel The Children of the New Forest (1847), and for a widely used system of maritime flag signalling, known as Marryat's Code.

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