Tag: Patrick O’Brian

Patrick O’Brian for St. Patrick’s Day

Sunday, 17 March, 2019

Top o’ the morning to all Rainy Day readers on this St. Patrick’s Day. We’re celebrating with a tribute to one of the many Patricks who have brought honour and glory to the saint’s chosen name: Patrick O’Brian, the author of the popular Aubrey-Maturin historical novels.

The language Patrick O’Brian uses in his Aubrey-Maturin series impresses not just because of the breadth and depth of the terminology, but because of how it’s used. In O’Brian’s hands, language paints a vivid canvas filled with nature, machines, humour, humanity and horror. O’Brian invents language and makes words do his bidding in a way that few writers have achieved. In this snippet from The Far Side of the World, Jack Aubrey, in a hurry to continue his voyage, constructs a device to raise the anchor because the usual mechanism — the capstan — has jammed:

“With scarcely a pause Jack called the midshipmen. ‘I will show you how we weigh with a voyol,’ he said. ‘Take notice. You don’t often see it done, but it may save you a tide of the first consequence.’ They followed him below to the mangerboard, where he observed, ‘This is a voyol with a difference.’ “Bonden, a fellow officer, brings the heavy sheaved block.” ‘Watch now. He makes it fast to the cable — he reeves the jeer-fall through it — the jeer-fall is brought to the capstan, with the standing part belayed to the bitts. So you get a direct runner-purchase instead of a dead nip, do you understand?'”

The Far Side of the World Do you understand? Most readers don’t, especially since “mangerboard” and “jeer-fall’ do not appear in the 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary or its several supplements. Still, most readers can see for themselves what O’Brian has left unsaid: Aubrey bent under a hanging lantern in the dappled half-light below decks surrounded by his midshipmen in their top hats, showing them an alternative way to raise an anchor.

Writing in The New York Times, Jason Epstein noted: “There is something immensely satisfying about the power of such passages to create within the reader’s own imagination the scene in question, whether the subject is nautical technology or Maturin’s rare species or Admiralty politics — advancement is always on Aubrey’s mind — or in hushed tones Maturin’s main profession, spycraft.”

Many years ago, Mark Liberman delved deeper into the etymological aspects of O’Brian’s vocabulary in a post at Language Log. Jack says that he may “perish of mere want” when his dinner is delayed and this leads Liberman to observe: “The modern accretion on mere, which typically seems to be missing in the earlier usage, is the implication that the referent of the modified noun is somehow paltry: a mere trickle, a mere drop in the ocean, a mere gesture.”

See, regardless of whether one is an escapist or a linguist, Patrick O’Brian offers endless entertainment and enlightenment.

“We will wet the swab and when it is handsomely awash, why then perhaps we might try a little music, if that would not be disagreeable to you,” says Jack to Maturin early in the first chapter of Master and Commander. What’s a swab? And why wet it? Well, when Captain Jack Aubrey returns to his Gibraltar hotel room after having spent a pleasant evening listening to a performance of Locatelli’s C major quartet, he’s presented with a letter confirming his command of His Majesty’s Sloop Sophie. Elated, he immediately orders “cold roast pollo” and “two bottles of vino.” When he wakes up the following morning the first thing he does is go to a naval outfitter’s and have a “heavy, massive epaulette” fixed on his left shoulder. That’s the “swab” and wetting it means drinking a toast to his good fortune.

Today, let us toast to St. Patrick and all the great Patricks named after him.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 4

Thursday, 14 December, 2017 0 Comments

Jaesik Lim studied music at Hanyang University, one of the leading private research institutions in South Korea, and then moved to Madrid to continue his studies, saying: “I didn’t want to fly to Italy like everyone else does. I wanted something different.” Furthermore: “Both Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras are from Spain, so I thought this country must be special,” he told the Korea JoongAng Daily. There was a phase of culture shock, however, when he discovered that most Spaniards spoke Spanish instead of English. Still, he didn’t shirk the challenge of survival so he set up a stall at a flea market “for earrings and women’s underwear.”

Perseverance pays. Here, the maestro conducts the Master and Commander segment of Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid performed by the Orquesta de Cámara y Grupo Vocal Millennium in Madrid’s Teatro Monumental.

“‘Are you very much attached to money?’ asked Stephen. ‘I love it passionately,’ said Jack, with truth ringing clear in his voice. ‘I have always been poor, and I long to be rich.'” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, we end our series on the Master and Commander Boccherini with an interpretation by el dúo Bagatela from Galicia.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 3

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 0 Comments

All was well in the world of the Italian composer Luigi Boccherini when he was in service to the Spanish Court, until a succession of unfathomable tragedies occurred. The series began in 1785 with the death of his Spanish patron, and in that very same year his wife passed away. The first of their four daughters died that year as well and the remaining three died between 1802 and 1804. Boccherini remarried but his second wife died in 1805. It was all too much and he died that same year. The body of Boccherini lay buried in Madrid’s Pontifical Basilica of St. Michael until 1927, when his remains were repatriated to Italy and buried in the church of San Francesco in his native Lucca.

Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn give us their version.

“The pleasant thing about fighting with the Spaniards, Mr Ellis, said Jack, smiling at his great round eyes and solemn face, is not that they are shy, for they are not, but that they are never, never ready.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, the Master and Commander Boccherini gets the full orchestral treatment with Jaesik Lim conducting.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 2

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 0 Comments

Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805) was an Italian composer whose music was written in a courtly style that quickly became popular in the major European musical centres of the day. His patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, a talented amateur cellist and flautist. Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid (String Quintet in C major, Op. 30 No. 6, G324), became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the piece.

“Where there was no equality there was no companionship: when a man was obliged to say ‘Yes, sir,’ his agreement was of no worth even if it happened to be true.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, a duet interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini by Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 1

Monday, 11 December, 2017 0 Comments

Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid is a quintettino for stringed instruments written around 1780 by Luigi Boccherini, an Italian composer who was in service to the Spanish Court at the time. The main violin theme from the work was used throughout the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and in the final scene, Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturin, play the piece together in the captain’s quarters.

“I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium. I speak only for myself, mind — it is my own truth alone — but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have — for what they are —- are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini.