The Victor of Mauritius in Old Age

Although this painting might be taken as being that of an elderly Admiral Jack Aubrey in his red sash of the Order of the Bath, it is actually a portrait of Josias Rowley, the Royal Navy officer whose activities during the Mauritius Campaign formed the basis for those of Jack Aubrey in Patrick O'Brian's novel on that subject.


HMS Suffolk

"Suffolk might not have been called a very taut ship, nor more than ordinarily crack, but she could never have been likened to the Margate hoy ... "

1817:  In 21: The Final, Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey, the unfinished fragment of Patrick O'Brian's intended twenty-first novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series,  Jack Aubrey has the 74-gun Suffolk as his flagship in his new capacity as a Rear Admiral of the Blue, and we have the pleasure of seeing him actually raise his flag.  Ordinarily, of course, as an admiral Aubrey would not directly command his own flagship, but in the present case he was sailing without a flag captain and also with a badly under-strength crew, although he had somewhat alleviated this situation by transferring men from his beloved Surprise. Patrick O'Brian's revised typescript breaks off as Jack aboard the Suffolk is about to sail with his squadron for St. Helena (where the former-Emperor Buonaparte is a prisoner) and thence to the Cape.  [In the handwritten extension to the manuscript, the Suffolk actually reaches the African shore.]

The Suffolk was launched in 1765 and served the Royal Navy until she was broken up in 1803. As in several other cases, O'Brian altered the history of a genuine vessel for fictional purposes. (The 74-gun Sultan, launched in 1775, was renamed Suffolk in 1805; however, all of her service subsequent to 1797 was as a prison ship.)  The plans presented below are those of the Berwick, another ship-of-line of very similar dimensions to the 1765 Suffolk and launched in 1775.

The data below are for HMS Suffolk (Winfield 45):

Launched Length Keel Breadth Hold Tonnage Crew
1765 168' 1 1/2" 138'  9" 46' 9 5/8" 20' 2 1/2" 1616 57/94 550

Armament:  Gun Deck twenty-eight 32-pound long guns, Upper Deck twenty-eight 18-pound long guns, Quarterdeck fourteen 9-pound long guns, Forecastle four 9-pound long guns. (This was the Suffolk's armament when originally commissioned; in later years some of the quarterdeck and forecastle long guns were replaced with carronades.

 WAmphion.jpg (80288 bytes)Plans for HMS Berwick (Lyon 70)


Ringle [Tender]

"... the Ringle, an American schooner of the kind called a Baltimore clipper, Jack's private property, much coveted by the Admiral for her fast sailing and her outstanding weatherly qualities."

1813 and onwards [as tender]:  The Ringle, although originally unnamed, is first encountered in the closing pages of The Wine-Dark Sea, serving as the privately-owned tender to Heneage Dundas's HMS Berenice;  the Ringle, a "Baltimore clipper" employed as an American privateer, had been found abandoned at sea.  Prior to the opening of The Commodore the Ringle had been won by Jack Aubrey in a game of cards; Aubrey thereafter used her as his tender, frequently commanded by Midshipman William Reade.  

Serving as a possible model for the Ringle's lines is HMS Musquidobit, formerly the American privateer LynxThe Musquidobit (Lynx) was launched in 1812, was captured by the Royal Navy early in 1813, and served the Royal Navy until she was sold in 1820. The size of the Ringle as envisioned by Patrick O'Brian is not certain, although she was large enough for transoceanic voyages not to be considered either extraordinary or unduly dangerous.

The data below are for HMS Musquidobit (Lyon 283):

Launched Length Keel Breadth Hold Tonnage Crew
1812 94' 7" 73' 1" 24' 10' 3" 224 50

Armament:  2 6-pound long guns and 8 12-pound carronades.

 WRingle.jpg (53800 bytes) Plans for HMS Musquidobit (Lavery [JAC]  58)

For a pictorial comparison of Jack Aubrey's ships, continue to the next page.