This week: From the archive.
From the archive….
We have recently acquired two volumes of ‘Peter Simple’ by Captain Marryat. They were illustrated by Robert William Buss, our founder’s father.
Frederick Marryat, born in Westminster, London, was the second son of Joseph Marryat, a wealthy banker and Member of Parliament. He was not well educated, and both his home and school life made him miserable. After repeated attempts to run away—each attempt ending in capture and caning—he was allowed to join the Royal Navy at the age of fourteen. He saw combat in the Napoleonic and Burmese wars and soon became a commander. In 1819 he married Kate Shairp, daughter of a diplomat.
His articles against flogging and impressment were frowned on by the Admiralty, but his important Code of Signals became the standard manual of communication by the navy and maritime services for many years. Promoted to post-captain in 1825, his interests turned to writing fiction.
Marryat tried to be both man of fashion and man of letters. Always in debt, he worked rapidly. From 1832 to 1835 he edited Metropolitan Magazine, and during that period five of his best novels appeared in its pages. Influenced by Tobias Smollett, most of Marryat’s novels were comedies that often went into farce. The major theme was the initiation of a young man to the brutality and humour of life aboard a man-of-war.
While Frederick Marryat had achieved commercial success with his previous books, Peter Simple was perhaps his first "classic." Indeed, Peter Simple is considered by many to be the best of Captain Marryat's novels.
Peter Simple goes to sea as a young, naive, midshipman during the Napoleonic wars. He is taken under the wing of Terence O'Brien, a Master's Mate, who, a bit at a time, brings Peter into a mature adulthood. Together they form a kind of nautical Don Quixote/Sancho Panza team that experiences the best and the worst that the nautical life has to offer.
From action against pirates, to hurricanes, to mutiny, Peter Simple set the standard for presenting vivid characters and heart stopping adventure to the nautical reader.
Our edition dates from 1929 and includes both published and unpublished illustrations by Robert Buss, two of which are below. This is a fascinating addition to our archive. Many thanks to David Aronsohn, who found the volumes in a second-hand bookshop, and very kindly donated them to the school.