THE MASTER MARINER: Darken Ship by Nicholas Monsarrat


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The late Nicholas Monsarrat began his mythic fiction-history of British navigation in The Master Mariner: Running Proud (1979); he planned to take his hero, immortal mariner Matthew Lawe, from the time of Francis Drake clear up through the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. All that remains of the second half of the project, however, is one nearly complete chapter and notes for the rest--here gathered, with an introduction, by the author's widow Ann. The near-finished 100-page chapter picks Lawe up in 1808, guiltily sailing the Atlantic slave-trade triangle from Liverpool to the slave coast of Africa, to Barbados, Jamaica, and Virginia with rotating cargoes of slaves, cotton, tobacco, and sugar. And Monsarrat planned for Lawe to then grow rich (and ashamed) as a slaver; to be impressed aboard the frigate Shannon and engage in battle with the American Chesapeake; to sail a clipper ship with Joseph Conrad as First Mate and Galsworthy as passenger; to head a rescue voyage to the Arctic; to survive WW II service; and to fall into temporary desuetude. Other characters were to include Herman Melville and Joshua Slocum, first round-the-world sailor. Monsarrat's fans will certainly find these work plans fascinating (and frustrating); likewise Mrs. Monsarrat's biographical sketch. But there's only a fragment of full-scale storytelling here--no substitute for the vast saga that Monsarrat had in mind.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow