The Mauritius Command

The Mauritius Command
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Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written. Now, for the first time, they are available in electronic book format, so a whole new generation of readers can be swept away on the adventure of a lifetime. This is the fourth book in the series.Captain Jack Aubrey is ashore on half-pay without a command — until his friend, and occasional intelligence agent, Stephen Maturin, arrives with secret orders for Aubrey to take a frigate to the Cape of Good Hope, under a Commodore’s pennant. But the difficulties of carrying out his orders are compounded by two of his own captains — Lord Clonfert, a pleasure-seeking dilettante, and Captain Corbett, whose severity can push his crews to the verge of mutiny.Based on the actual campaign of 1810 in the Indian Ocean, O’Brian’s attention to detail of eighteenth-century life ashore and at sea is meticulous. This tale is as beautifully written and as gripping as any in the series; it also stands on its own as a superlative work of fiction.

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The Mauritius Command

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.


An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

Copyright © The Estate of the late Patrick O’Brian CBE 1977

Patrick O’Brian asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this ebook on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins ebooks

HarperCollinsPubilshers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication

Source ISBN: 9780006499183

Ebook Edition © DECEMBER 2011 ISBN: 9780007429318 Version: 2017-04-25



Title Page




Author’s Note

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Jack Aubrey’s Ships

Keep Reading

About the Author

The Works of Patrick O’Brian

About the Publisher

1 Flying jib

2 Jib

3 Fore topmast staysail

4 Fore staysail

5 Foresail, or course

6 Fore topsail

7 Fore topgallant

8 Mainstaysail

9 Main topmast staysail

10 Middle staysail

11 Main topgallant staysail

12 Mainsail, or course

13 Maintopsail

14 Main topgallant

15 Mizzen staysail

16 Mizzen topmast staysail

17 Mizzen topgallant staysail

18 Mizzen sail

19 Spanker

20 Mizzen topsail

21 Mizzen topgallant

Illustration source: Serres, Liber Nauticus. Courtesy of The Science and Technology Research Center, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundation

Sometimes the reader of a novel, particularly a novel set in another age, likes to know whether the events have any existence outside the author’s mind, or whether, like the characters, they are quite imaginary.

There is no doubt a great deal to be said for complete freedom within a context of historical accuracy, but in this case the groundwork of the tale, a little-known campaign in the Indian Ocean, is factual; and as far as the geography, the manoeuvres, the ships taken, burnt, sunk or destroyed, the battles, triumphs and disasters are concerned, the writer has kept close to contemporary accounts, to the log-books and despatches of the officers who fought the actions, and to the Admiralty records. Apart from the necessary fictions at the beginning and the very end, he has not done anything to neaten history except for the omission of a few confusing, unimportant ships whose fleeting presence was neither here nor there; nor has he thought fit to gild the lily by adding in any way to the Royal Navy’s pugnacious resourcefulness in time of adversity.


Captain Aubrey of the Royal Navy lived in a part of Hampshire well supplied with sea-officers, some of whom had reached flag-rank in Rodney’s day while others were still waiting for their first command. The more fortunate had large, comfortable houses overlooking Portsmouth, Spit-head, St Helens, the Isle of Wight, and the constant procession of men-of-war; and Captain Aubrey might have been among them, since as a commander and as a young post-captain he had done so well in prize-money that he was known in the service as Lucky Jack Aubrey. But want of a ship, the failure of his agent, his ignorance of business, and the sharp practice of an attorney had reduced him to half-pay and no more; and in fact his cottage lay on the northern slope of the Downs, not far from Chilton Admiral, and the rising hill shut out all the sea, together with most of the sun.

This cottage, though picturesque among its ash trees and even romantic, ideally suited for two in the early days of his marriage, was neither large nor comfortable; it had always been low-ceilinged, pokey and inconvenient, but now that it also contained two babies, a niece, a ruined mother-in-law, some large pieces of furniture from Mapes Court, Mrs Williams’s former home, and a couple of servants, it was something like the Black Hole of Calcutta, except that whereas the Hole was hot, dry and airless, Ashgrove Cottage let in draughts from all sides, while the damp rising from the floor joined the leaks in the roof to form pools in many of the rooms. These people Captain Aubrey maintained on nine shillings a day, paid half-yearly and often long after the anxiously-awaited date; and although in his mother-in-law he had a remarkable economist to help him, the effort of doing so had imprinted an expression of abiding worry on a face that nature had meant to look cheerful – an expression that sometimes had a touch of frustration in it as well, for Captain Aubrey, a scientific as well as a natural-born sailor, devoted to hydrography and navigation, was deeply concerned with a plan for finding the longitude at sea by the moons of Jupiter, and although he ground the mirrors and lenses for his telescope himself he would dearly have loved to be able to spend a guinea or two on brass-work from time to time.

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