The Unknown Shore

From WikiPOBia

Revision as of 13:37, 16 June 2007 by Oliver Mundy (Talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Unknown Shore is the second of O’Brian’s novels based on Anson’s expedition of 1740; written at Collioure and published in 1959.

Page references are to the HarperCollins paperback edition.

Plot introduction

For more details about the plot, which will contain spoilers, see Summary for The Unknown Shore

Jack Byron and his unconventional friend Toby Barrow – a learned innocent with a passionate devotion to natural history - leave their Nottinghamshire home to join Commodore Anson’s projected expedition to the South Pacific. After some misadventures in London, they join the Wager, one of Anson’s support vessels, as midshipman and surgeon’s assistant respectively. Before them lie shipwreck, famine, desperate journeys around the barren coast of Chile and a slightly surreal period as prisoners of war.

Time July 1740-February 1745.

Historical context

The story is firmly based on the accounts of Anson’s expedition by his chaplain Richard Walter (a prominent character in The Golden Ocean) and by Jack Byron himself. Incidents such as the insubordination and shooting of Cozens, the injury and subsequent sickness of Captain Cheap (p.150) and the Indian cacique’s casual murder of a child who has dropped a basket of fish (p.215) are faithfully reproduced from the sources. O’Brian gives a more favourable report of Midshipman Cozens’s character than Walter, who represents him as a mere trouble-maker from beginning to end; but the greatest modification is the removal of Eliot the surgeon (who in fact remained with Cheap’s party until his death on the way to Chiloe) and his replacement by Toby. This foreshadows the treatment of historical fact in The Mauritius Command, where Jack Aubrey simply steps into the shoes of the historical Josiah Rowley.

Major characters in The Unknown Shore

(f) = fictional

  • Commodore (afterwards Admiral) George Anson (1697-1762)Commodore of the expedition
  • Tobias Barrow (f) Poor boy educated and trained as a surgeon by Mr. Elwes; assistant surgeon of the Wager
  • Midshipman (later Admiral) John Byron (1723-1786) Midshipman aboard the Wager [afterwards Admiral, and known as ‘Foul-Weather Jack’]
  • Campbell Midshipman of the Wager
  • Edward Chaworth Jack Byron’s cousin and guardian
  • Georgiana Chaworth Mr. Chaworth’s daughter, kindly disposed towards Tobias
  • Alexander Cheap Lieutenant of the Tryall and later captain of the Wager
  • Cozens Midshipman of the Wager
  • Crew of the Wager: Andrew (surgeon’s mate), John Bosman, Buckley, Church, Joseph Clinch, John Duck, Moses Lewis, Noble, Plastow (captain’s steward), Rose (quartermaster)
  • Mr. Eliot Surgeon of the Wager
  • Mr. Elwes (f) Country gentleman, ex-surgeon, who takes Tobias in hand as an educative experiment
  • Dr. Patrick Gedd (f) Scottish physician in Santiago de Chile
  • Augustus Keppel, Peter Palafox and William Ransome Midshipmen of the Centurion
  • Morris Midshipman of the Wager
  • Officers of the Wager Bean (lieutenant), Bulkeley (gunner), Clerk (master), Cummins (carpenter), Hamilton (Marine lieutenant), Hervey (purser), Oakley (Marine surgeon)
Personal tools