Book Review – ‘My Inestimable Friend: An account of the life of Rear-Admiral William Brown (1764–1814)’ by Thomas Malcomson

By Thomas Malcomson, published January 2021


The path of William Brown from captain’s servant to rear-admiral is the subject of this book, by retired surgeon Alastair R. Brown, William’s great-great grandson. This is a good story, fleshed out with an abundance of archival material. William Brown’s numerous interactions with some of the greatest naval officers of the era and his brushes with significant naval events makes his story well worth telling.

The author discusses all 19 ships with which William was associated, from the ones to which he was appointed but never really served in, to the longer active assignments. The shortest assignment was the luckily brief month aboard HMS Bounty. William found a berth on board this troubled ship as a result of the patronage of Joseph Banks, but was whisked away into HMS Ariel by the patronage of Lord Howe. Chapters are organized around each ship and the detail comes from letters, the ship’s logs and muster tables and from other sources, not always named. The details range from daily ship- board activity, taking on of supplies, chases of unknown or enemy vessels, to the weather conditions. In command of twelve different ships William Brown sailed in squadrons with some of the finest British officers of the period, including Cuthbert Collingwood, Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth, and Edward Codrington, the latter becoming a life long friend.

Serving under both Lord St Vincent and Lord Nelson, William Brown was there to participate in interesting events and times.

This is a self-published work. It has not been subject to the analysis of anonymous reviewers, who would have probably remarked on all the concerns this reviewer has with the book …

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Filed under: Nelson | Napoleonic War | Eighteenth Century | Nineteenth Century | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Biography | Navies

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