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The Daily Aubrey-Maturin: H.M.S. Surprise (Book 3), Chapters 1-4 (pg. 885-976)

Your daily dose of off-topic shenanigans.

Cutting Out The Hermione
The real life HMS Surprise, in 1799
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Book three opens with a scene at the Admiralty, where we learn that there’s been a shift in power and the new First Lord is not nearly as keen on Aubrey as his predecessor. He’s also a bit of an idiot, and accidentally reveals Maturin to be a secret agent. Oopsies.

We also learn that due to a technicality, the great prize of the Spanish galleons from the previous book won’t be given to the captains and their crew — because war hadn’t been officially declared against Spain just yet! Ah, politicians.

In better news, Aubrey and Sweet Sophie are now officially engaged. Awww...


Meanwhile, Captain Jack, still in command of the Lively, is part of the blockade of Toulon, alongside Admiral Nelson. That sounds glamorous, but is in fact an awful bore.

And then comes the sad news the Jack’s got to give the ship back to General Hammond, who’s now done with his politicking and is ready to get back to sea. The handover’s supposed to happen in Gibraltar, though not before the Lively’s ordered to pick up Maturin in Menorca, after his latest trip home to his castle / secret-agenting for the Admiralty.

Aubrey receives a note from Maturin ahead of their reunion, but Jack recognizes that it’s not Stephen’s handwriting. Maturin’s been captured and tortured! (Turns out revealing the identities of your secret agents is not helpful, Mr First Lord...)


Mission Impossible: Menorca, or the rescue of Stephen Maturin by Tom Cruise.

Aubrey learns that Maturin’s being kept in Port Mahon, setting of the first book, which has since been given back to the Spanish. And in fact, his prison / torture chamber is the former house of Lord Harte (and Molly Harte) — how fitting. As luck would have it (Lucky Jack, after all), the Lively had just captured a French gunboat and its signal book, and Aubrey devises a plan to use those to infiltrate the port and land unnoticed with a small team.

Rainbow 18-0-Six (actually probably 1805) is a smashing success, and not only Maturin, but several other captured spies are liberated. Huzzah!


We’re all happily back in Portsmouth, sans the Lively, though Maturin’s not in good shape and like most doctors, is a bad patient. And in the process of taking Maturin to his rehab place, Aubrey’s been captured by the debtors who have been chasing him forever. He had not risked going onshore for a long time, but broke that wow to help his friend. No good deed unpunished.

Stephen’s Admiralty contact, Sir Joseph, feels something awful for his best secret agent being discovered and tortured, and he pulls some strings to not only get Aubrey out of debtor’s jail but give him (temporary?) command of the famous HMS Surprise (there’s your episode title!), with the mission to deliver a political envoy to Malaysia. Maturin’s set to go along because he thinks a tropical vacation will help his recovery.

Before departure, Sophie and Jack renew their engagement vows, while I’m sure Maturin remembers that towards the end of the previous book, he had learned that Diana, the heartless, had eloped with a certain Mr. Canning to India, which just happens to be on the way to Malaysia.





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