Amanda Smith

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Amanda Smith is a fictional character in The Surgeon's Mate whom Jack Aubrey meets in Halifax at a ball to celebrate the victory of HMS Shannon over the US frigate Chesapeake. The encounter has important repercussions for Aubrey.

SPOILER WARNING:  Plot or ending details for "The Surgeon's Mate"  follow.

Amanda Smith describes herself as having been brought up in Rutland, that her father kept a pack of fox hounds and that she adored fox-chasing. [1]. Failing to find a suitable match she moved to London to an aunts in Hanover Square to attend several ‘seasons’. Now age thirty, she keeps house for her brother, an army major stationed in Halifax.

Diana Villiers characterization is: "I knew her in India when I was a girl. She came out with the fishing-fleet - stayed with her aunt, a woman with just the same long nose and just the same idea of laying on the paint with a trowel. They come from Rutland, a raffish set: slow horses and fast women. She tried too hard there and she has tried too hard here;" [2]

Jack Aubrey at a particularly low point and despondent over his career, finances and personal life is willingly seduced by Smith. As Villiers notes; "Seducing poor Aubrey is like taking pennies from a blind man's hat...” [3]

The seduction leads to a very public affair to which Amanda Smith draws attention by her dramatic and hysterical behaviour. Jack Aubrey finds the relationship increasingly uncomfortable and is glad to leave Smith and Halifax when he returns to England with the dispatches reporting the Shannon’s victory.

Whether delusional and naive, or scheming and self interested, Amanda Smith writes to Aubrey in England. She claims; to be pregnant, announces her intention to follow him to England and regularly asks for financial help. When Aubrey reveals the cause of his distraction to Maturin, he counsels that the pregnancy may be false or a scam; “The lady may deceive herself; or she may deceive you. You would not be the first man to be cozened so.” [4]

Some time later, while being held as a prisoner by the French in Paris, Aubrey reads in the Naval Chronicle that Miss Smith has married a Captain of the Royal Marines [5] He concludes the pregnancy was “ all air” declaring; “ Lord I do not know I have been so relieved in all my life.”

Aubrey leaves Smiths incriminating letters at home at Ashgrove Cottage. In the Yellow Admiral these are discovered by Mrs Williams which leads Sophie to turn Aubrey out.

Themes and analysis

The Surgeon’s Mate is a novel about marriage and courtship. The character of Amanda Smith provides another aspect to these themes and acts as a foil to Maturin’s pursuit of Diana Villiers and Aubrey’s marriage with Sophie.

Amanda Smith illustrates Georgian society in which roles and opportunities are clearly defined by birth and position. Amanda Smith must make a suitable marriage, and on the verge of spinsterhood in Halifax becomes more desperate to secure her position in society. The Georgian world is the civil counterpart to the martial world of Aubrey and the Royal Navy whose mores and customs O’Brian portrays in the canon.

Smith’s seduction of Aubrey is richly dialogued and enlivened by irony and wry humour. As noted Villiers is scathing in her characterisation of Smith. Smith captivates Aubrey. “...he saw a fine lively young woman, brimming with spirits, quite to his taste - he particularly noticed her bosom.” Her reaction to Aubrey’s tale of the Shannon’s victory was to exclaim; “ How proud of your victory! I am sure my heart would have burst,” clasping her hands over her bosom, which yielded to the pressure.” [6]

Smith’s professed admiration for Nelson leads Aubrey to recount his encounter with the Admiral. This dialogue reprises two Aubrey catch phrases central to his character; “I had the honour of dining with him when I was a mere lieutenant: the first time he only said ‘May I trouble you for the salt?’, though he said it in the kindest way; but the second time he said ‘Never mind manoeuvers; always go straight at em.” [7]

When seduced by Smith, Aubrey is awakened the following morning to escape unseen from her bed. As he struggles to dress Smith laughingly repeats “Never mind manoeuvers: always go straight at em, ha ha ha!” [8]


  1. O’Brian, Patrick. The Surgeon's Mate, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2237
  2. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2243
  3. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2243
  4. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2348
  5. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2534
  6. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2237
  7. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2238
  8. TSM, Omnibus edition, Norton p.2245


O'Brian, Patrick, The Surgeon's Mate, The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels, Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-06011-X

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