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Seafarers' Voices 5: Life of a Sailor (Hardback)

Maritime > Seaforth Publishing > Seaforth: Seafarers' Voices

By Frederick Chamier, Edited by Vincent McInerney
Seaforth Publishing
Series: Seafarers' Voices
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781848320970
Published: 23rd May 2011



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Chamier was a Royal Navy officer, who like his exact contemporary Captain Marryat is best remembered for a series of naval novels. The Life of a Sailor was his first publication and is usually catalogued as fiction, which may be a tribute to Chamier’s story-telling skills but it is wrong – the book is an exact account of his naval career, with every personality, ship and event he describes corroborated by his service records. By the time he went to sea in 1809, the heroic age of Nelson was over, but the war was far from won, and he was to see a lot of action, from anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812.
His descriptions of the latter were to prove highly controversial. Like many liberal officers, he deplored the strategy of bringing the war to the civilian population, and the book was much criticised by more senior naval officers for saying so. Chamier represents a new generation of post-Nelsonic naval officer, more gentlemanly, better educated and perhaps more open-minded – he certainly got on well with Lord Byron, whom he met in Constantinople – and his sympathies generally look forward to the Victorian age. He was too young to rise to high rank, and after the Napoleonic War, like many others, he was condemned to a life on half-pay and perhaps forced into a literary career, but out of it came one of the era’s most authentic accounts of a junior officer’s naval service.

The articulate Chamier vividly describes life on ship and in port, and Mark Twain could have written parts of this wry and entertaining tale. Life of a Sailor is a valuable resource for anyone writing about the seafaring life, and readers who love the sea will thoroughly enjoy this book.

Historical Novel Society

Another excellent little book in the series 'Seafarers' Voices' published by Seaforth. Once regarded as fiction this book is now accepted as a memoir. He vividly describes the War of 1812 and controversially criticised the British policy of attacking civilians. His other adventures included anti-slaver and anti-pirate patrols and roaming the Mediterranean and north Atlantic . All are delightfully described.


Chamier was a well educated gentleman, well connected and at ease financially, and took it upon himself to write of his experiences without deference to popular opinion or, more importantly, to the sensitivities of serving and retired naval personnel. Chamier shocked and astonished the reading public with not only an unclouded account of the war's destruction, but his own revulsion and disgust at having been a part of it. That this frank opinion did not sit well with other more conventional naval writers was not surprising, but to the modern eye, Chamier presents a clear, lucid account of the realities of the war written by an articulate and perceptive observer. The same clarity applies to his descriptions of life at sea, and the unexpected difficulties and joys of a sea officer's life. The book as published is a condensed account, reduced from 160,000 to 50,000 words, mainly at the expense of Chamier's accounts of his Latin American adventures and social exploits ashore. Chamier writes well and with perceptive irony. For any reader interested in both the nature of life in the Regency navy, and a clear-eyed, refreshingly honest narrative of a naval officer caught in all the possibilities and limitations of his era, Chamier's account of his luck and progress in a profession he loved is well worth an evening's read by a warm fire, with a tot of good naval rum at hand.

The Northern Mariner

Those with an interest in the early nineteenth century European and American conflicts will find it an excellent addition to their library.

Nautical Research Journal

A gripping page-turner that holds the reader as would a well-written novel, and it opens a new view to a neglected period of history...an excellent book

Fire Trench
Perfect Partner

Seafarers' Voices 6: Whale Hunter (Hardback)

This is the narrative of a harpooner in the whale-ship Charles W Morgan, whose four-year voyage in 1849-1853 took him from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to the South Pacific and on around the world. Before the days of the whale-gun and its explosive warhead, whaling was a dangerous and far from one-sided pursuit – indeed, one of Haley's earliest experiences was the destruction of his boat by a whale attack, and even when the harpoon hit the target, the whaleboat would be towed at speed until the wounded whale was exhausted, a terrifying experience that was known to whalemen as a 'Nantucket sleigh…

By Nelson Cole Haley, Vincent McInerney

Click here to buy both titles for £27.98
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