Blue at the Mizzen

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Blue at the Mizzen is the twentieth and last completed novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series, published in 1999.

Plot introduction

For more details about the plot, which will contain spoilers, see Summary for Blue at the Mizzen

Jack Aubrey is in high feather after the successful capture of a Turkish treasure-galley, but there are signs of trouble ahead; his crew disintegrates into riot and desertion at Gibraltar after the distribution of prize-money, a token of the much greater dissolution that must surely follow now that the war is over. First, however, there is the long-delayed mission to Chile, to support the local independence movement under the guise of a hydrographical survey. Surprise first returns to England for refitting and Jack receives a possibly two-edged compliment from a royal personage; then, on the voyage out, she calls at Freetown, where Stephen has a rendezvous of intense personal significance with a most unusual zoologist. Ahead lie a perilous voyage round the Horn and a bewildering course amongst the shifting policies and influences of the Chilean revolutionary factions, still further complicated by an unruly subordinate captain. There is no lack of action, and at the end Jack receives a piece of news for which he has been preparing throughout his seagoing life.

Time Summer 1816-early 1817.

Historical context

Blue at the Mizzen ranks only a little behind The Mauritius Command as a book that is grounded in actual history. Admiral Lord Cochrane, whose career had provided a foundation for Master and Commander and The Reverse of the Medal, returns to cast a double shadow; on the one hand there is an incipient portrait of him under the name of Sir David Lindsay, and on the other the principal incidents of Chapters 9 and 10 – the Valdivia action and the capture of the Esmeralda – are taken from real exploits achieved by Cochrane in 1817. The dissensions among the Chilean leaders are also founded on fact, although O’Brian seems to have brought them forward in time, partly no doubt to provide a plausible reason for Jack’s ultimatum in chapter 10, but also because of the author’s long-standing fascination with the idea of conflicting powers around and behind the throne; in fact O’Higgins and San Martín (here represented as O’Higgins’s supplanter) worked together in the early years of Chilean independence, and it was not until 1823 that a reaction by clericalists and landowners undermined O’Higgins and drove him into exile.

Books in the Aubrey-Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian

Master and Commander | Post Captain | HMS Surprise | The Mauritius Command | Desolation Island | The Fortune of War | The Surgeon's Mate | The Ionian Mission | Treason's Harbour | The Far Side of the World | The Reverse of the Medal | The Letter of  Marque | The Thirteen-Gun Salute | The Nutmeg of Consolation | Clarissa Oakes/The Truelove | The Wine-Dark Sea | The Commodore | The Yellow Admiral | The Hundred Days | Blue at the Mizzen | 21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey

Other books by Patrick O'Brian
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