Summary for Post Captain

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SPOILER WARNING:  Plot or ending details for "Post Captain"  follow.



The book begins in 1802 with the conclusion of the French Revolutionary Wars and the start of the Peace of Amiens. Commander Jack Aubrey returns to England to take up the life of a country squire. He meets the Williams family, and their cousin Diana Villiers. Aubrey courts Sophia Williams (the eldest daughter), but is also attracted to Diana, with whom he commences an affair.

Aubrey plans to marry Sophia Williams, but his fortune soon disappears when he is forced to repay the prize money for a merchant ship which has been deemed an unlawful capture and his prize-agent absconds with much of the rest. Aubrey flees the country to avoid going to debtors' prison.

While in France, war with England breaks out following the failure of the Treaty of Amiens and the French authorities begin rounding up all English subjects. Tipped off by Jean-Anne Christy de la Pallière, the French captain who had captured him in Master and Commander, Stephen smuggles Jack out of the country dressed in a bear costume. Finally making it to Gibraltar, Jack and Stephen take passage aboard an East India Company ship. The ship is captured by the privateer Bellone, but a British squadron overtakes them and rescues Jack and Stephen.

Returning to England at the outbreak of war in 1803, Jack is offered a letter of marque by a Mr. Canning. Jack turns Canning down and is soon given command of Template:HMS, an odd ship that was designed to launch a secret weapon. The ship is a structurally unsound and sails poorly, and its first lieutenant is very free with punishment. Placed under the command of Admiral Harte, with whose wife Jack had an affair, Jack is given a free hand in the hope that his lucky streak of capturing prizes will continue. Jack's luck does not prevail, only managing to drive the privateer Bellone aground outside a Spanish port, but with no other prizes. Disappointing Admiral Harte, Jack is assigned to escort convoys up and down the channel. During this time, he gets a reputation for lingering in port as he carries on an affair with Diana.

Meanwhile, Stephen is sent on an intelligence gathering mission in Spain. Upon returning, Stephen is advised by Heneage Dundas, a close friend of Jack's, to warn him about visiting Diana. When Stephen does so, Jack is angry and accuses Stephen of lying to him as to where he had been during his absence. Soon they challenge each other to a duel. While in port, Jack calls on Diana, but finds her with Canning. Prior to the date of the duel, Jack is ordered to raid the French port of Chaulieu to sink the assembled French troopships and gun boats and to destroy the corvette Fanciulla. On the way, the crew plans to mutiny because of the treatment they receive from Lieutenant Parker. Stephen overhears their plans and goes to Jack - the first time they have spoken since the challenge. Forewarned, Jack quashes the mutiny by separating the instigators and some loyal crew in a ship's boat.

During an engagement in Chaulieu, the Polychrest runs aground. Jack leads three of the ship's boats to board the Fanciulla. After a short battle, the Polychrests capture the ship and pull off the Polychrest from where it is stranded on a sand bar. However, after hours of pounding by the shore batteries, the Polychrest founders and sinks soon after leaving Chaulieu. After the battle, their duel is forgotten by both Stephen and Jack. Jack returns to England in the Fanciulla and is promoted to Post-captain. Jack is offered a ship that is currently being built but will not be ready to sail for six months. Afraid of being seized by his creditors, he declines and asks for a temporary command. He is assigned to HMS Lively whose Captain, Hamond, has just left to take up his seat in Parliament.

Stephen is again sent to Spain to gather more intelligence. This time, he returns with news that the Spanish will declare war as soon as four ships full of bullion from Montevideo are safely in port. While Stephen is gone, Sophia, at Stephen's urging, asks Jack to transport her and Cecilia to the Downs. While on board, Sophia and Jack come to an agreement not to marry anyone else; Jack is currently too poor to propose a satisfactory marriage settlement to Mrs. Williams. Stephen, while attending an opera, also becomes aware of Diana's affair with Mr. Canning.

Fearing that a change in parliamentary leadership will leave Jack without a command, Stephen asks that the Lively be included in the squadron sent to intercept the Spanish. The Admiralty grants this request, assigns Stephen the title of captain pro tem so he will receive a generous share of the prize money, and tasks him to negotiate the treasure fleet's surrender. Because of Stephen's temporary rank and his now-obvious connection to the Admiralty, Jack realizes that Stephen has been a spy for Britain.

The Spanish convoy refuses to surrender and a quick battle breaks out. One Spanish frigate explodes and the other three surrender.

Chapter by Chapter break down

A chapter by chapter look at Post Captain


Charwell frigate chasing French 74, Dee frigate far behind - peace declared - quarterdeck reactions - Jack and Stephen foxhunting on Polcary Down, sighting of Diana - Jack thrown - Williams household - Admiral Haddock's account of Jack (and Stephen).


Haddock introduces Williams family - dinner at Mapes Court -Williams call at Melbury - Diana gets horse - Sophia and Diana learn sea terms - hunt, Sophia exhausted, Diana triumphant - Stephen and Diana ride together, he gets material for ball gown - Babbington fetches Diana to ball - Diana speaks frankly and hurtfully to Stephen.


Stephen writes diary - Jack, Diana - piquet - visit to London- Sir Joseph Blaine, Stephen's political activity - Jack buying Amati - Sophie Bentinck describes Jack toasting Sophie/Sophia - Jack's agent fails - farewell to Sophia - returns to London, annoys Lord St Vincent - Williamses gone to Bath - Stephen visits Diana, nearly quarrels over Jack - Jack sees them in Bath - cockfight - Sophia reported engaged to Mr Adams - Stephen finds Jack visiting Diana, announces departure for Spain - visits Diana to break, she refuses - bums call for Jack - escape to France, farewells with Diana - Sophia writes, denies Adams story.


Jack and Stephen lunch with Christy-Palliere and Penhoet - Jack innocently dispels suspicion of Stephen - Jack feels committed to both girls - Dr Ramis, agent - peace over, British all arrested - escape over Pyrenees, Jack disguised as bear.


Jack and Stephen sail from Gibraltar in Lord Nelson Indiaman - Tom Pullings lieutenant - Lucy and Susan Lamb passengers - taken by Bellone privateer - Jack hurt - both robbed - British frigate lured away by Bellone - prize attacked by British cutter, beats her off - then by brig Seagull - standoff - prize retaken by powerful squadron.


Jack calls on Melville - begs off land appointment, half promised ship - housekeeping with Stephen, dodging bailiffs, gaff blown by Miss Lamb - Queenie Keith's rout - Canning offers privateer, copied from Bellone - Mrs Williams impressed - Jack and Diana, she despises his timidity - Jack waylaid on Hampstead Heath, takes Scriven home - Scriven tells his history to Stephen - Melville offers Polychrest, under Harte - Stephen and Sophia - Stephen and Jack (convoyed by Scriven) at the Grapes.


Stephen's diary, conflict with Jack over Diana - Pullings made lieutenant - fitting out - Jack and Stephen dine at inn, discuss Polychrest - Scriven helps with handbills - Jack has doubts about Parker - Bonden and Plaice volunteer - dinner with Pullings family - bums attack Jack, pressed for seamen - Polychrest box-hauled off Selsey Bill - Stephen meets officers, history and description of Polychrest - encounters British frigates - nine days gale - Parker hurt - Parslow drunk, abuses Goldilocks - Jack discusses discipline, defects of ship with Stephen - Jack received by Admiral Harte in Downs - Stephen attacks Parker, leads to showdown, Jack asserts authority over Stephen.


Stephen visits Sophia, she dreadfully worried about Jack, rejects Mr Bowles, Stephen encourages forwardness; Sophia's quarrel with Diana, he admits tendre - he visits Diana with the Teapot, gift of perfume - reports to Jack, estrangement - Killick rejoins with Captain's stores from Mapes Court - Canning invited - Jack to preach sermon, Stephen laughs - good dinner with Canning - Ossian - Polychrest rendezvous off Gris Nez - misses Deal guinea-boat - Stephen understands Gaelic - action at rendezvous - Harte displeased at missing guinea-boat - Polychrest to sail with convoy for Lisbon - Jack dallies on shore with Diana - floggings - Stephen on Goodwin Sands - soaking - Jack appears smelling of perfume - purser Jones seeks antaphrodisiac - Stephen worries at Jack's neglect of duty.


Polychrest off Lisbon - muster, awful crew - rerigged, Parker useless - Jack rescues Bolton fallen overboard - Stephen shows skill with sword and pistol - Bellone sighted with two merchantmen - action, chase, Bellone on Spanish rocks - Jack leaves merchantmen to make sure - Harte furious - Polychrest sent to Baltic - sealed orders for Stephen.


Stephen and Diana see dew ponds, jealousy (Jack and Canning) - Stephen visits Sophia, discuss Jack's infatuation - Stephen goes to Spain, welcomed in Whitehall - Heneage Dundas in Deal warns Jack misbehaving - Stephen back in Polychrest, unhappy ship - skins Smithers at cards - quarrel with Jack, challenge - Mr Goodridge, history of phoenix - Stephen borrows pistols from Lieutenant Macdonald, practises in dunes - Jack goes to Diana, Canning at home - Harte orders Polychrest to Chaulieu with malice - Goodridge shows Stephen charts etc of Chaulieu.


Stephen reports incipient mutiny - Jack consults Lieutenant Smithers - sets sail for Chaulieu, addresses crew, ringleaders in barge, cracks on - master mistakes shoals in fog, Polychrest aground in Chaulieu bay - can't pull off, cuts out Fanciulla instead - Jack swims to Polychrest with line - Polychrest pulled off, sinks - Fanciulla takes transport - Jack wounded.


Babbington's arm in danger - Jack takes post to London, in fear of the tipstaffs, but almost unrecognisable from loss of blood - warmly received by Melville, made post - Parker gets Fanciulla - Polychrests dispersed - Gazette hints Harte at fault - Jack pumps church organ - ordered to Lively - Stephen comes aboard weirdly dressed, carrying narwhal horn and 60,000 bees - discussed in gunroom - no coffee in ship - Lively sets sail with amazing skill - gibbon in tops - forecastle quarrel overb gibbon's head - bees in captain's cabin - Jack describes sea-battles - Stephen explains dog watches - Parker grateful to Jack - Jack won't go ashore.


Stephen visits New Place, empty house - Dashwood's sister and child get lift to Portsmouth - bees invade gunroom - Stephen operates - Lively destroys Balbec battery - General Aubrey returned for Parliament - more batteries destroyed - Jack declines visit to Sophia at Admiral Haddock's.


Stephen at Mapes Court - told Diana gone with Canning - persuades Sophia to go aboard Lively for lift to the Downs - Admiral Haddock comments on General Aubrey - Jack does up captain's cabin, sublime, for Sophia and Cecilia - Stephen visits Spain, returns with news of war declaration and River Plate treasure ship - Sophia and Jack reach understanding off Isle of Wight - Lively and Stephen ordered to squadron intercepting Spaniards - Stephen sees Diana at opera, much upset - parley with Spanish Admiral, action, Lively takes Fama with treasure.

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