Early 19th century popular sailor narratives

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1830 – Present Day Early 19th century popular sailor narratives

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #2779
    C. G. Maxworthy

      I am working on the manuscript memoirs of James Choyce (1777-1836). Choyce completed his autobiography in 1825, shortly after he had retired from his seafaring life.
      I am trying to ascertain what might have been the current or popular sea narratives prior to 1825. One example I have is The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner, published by John Howell, Edinburgh 1822.
      I would appreciate any pointers by members to other popular sea narratives, though my sense is that this genre only really took off later during the Victorian era.

      [Editor’s note: The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner, was reprinted in 1937, and in a new edition with introduction in 2001. The original Blackwood edition of 1822 is available as a digital book on the Internet at:
      Free access requires Athens or Shibboleth authorisation.]

      Brian D. H

        I have the following to hand if the information is of use to you, latest date for publication:
        The Adventures of John Wetherell, 1780-1834, edited Forester, Michael Joseph, 1954;
        Landsman Hay: the memoires of Robert Hay, 1789-1847, edited M D Hay, Hart-Davis, 1953;
        ‘Jack Nastyface’, Memoirs of William Robinson 1805-1811, Chatham, 2002;
        Above and under Hatches, Recollections of James Anthony Gardner c.1780-1814, edited R Vesey Hamilton and J K Laughton, Chatham, 2000;
        A voice from the Main Deck, being a record of the thirty year adventures of Samuel Leech, [up to 1848] Chatham, 1999.
        Slightly earlier:
        The narrative of William Spavens, a Chatham pensioner : a unique lower deck view of the navy of the Seven Years War, written by himself, Chatham, 1998

        My own best source is a book called The Log Book, published c.1830 and composed of some 500 pages of Yarns, historical Tales, Stories, Naval Biographies, Accounts of Battles, Poetry, Anecdotes, Witticisms, none longer than two pages but some serialised throughout the book. I believe this can be referenced through the British Library Catalogue but cannot be certain. The only other note I have for this is: J & W Robins, c.1830.

        [Editor’s note: The Log Book, or Nautical Miscellany, is a compilation made by the Victorian journalist and novelist, Matthew Henry Barker, using the pseudonym ‘An Old Sailor’, and was originaly published in 32 weekly numbers and then 8 monthly issues from 1826. The only copies listed in COPAC – the catalogue of the UK research libraries’ collections – of the collected edition (published by Robins c.1830) are held in the University of Edinburgh Library and the Bodleian Library Oxford, who also hold the only catalogued copy of the somewhat unsatisfactorily edited second edition published
        by Cohn in 1934. Several copies of an apparently similar compilation of nautical tales by ‘An Old Sailor’, Tough Yarns, are available online]


          Have you tried Project Gutenberg? It is a website which gives free access to out-of-copyright books. It certainly has stuff from that period but it does seem to lack publishing information. I’m not sure it would be any help but it’s definitely worth a look:

          Many other members might find stuff of interest; Beatty’s Trafalgar narrative is available as are many of Hakluyt’s works.

          Mark Howard

            I am almost finished reading the 1973 George Mann reprint of The Log of Jack Tar. Along the way I have compared the details Choyce gives of his whaling voyages with a number of recently published books on the subject and a relevant web site under construction. These seem to generally agree with the details in the book.

            His book is so well written I wonder how heavily the original 1825 memoir was edited for its first publication in 1891.


          Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
          • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.