CAPTAIN BLIGH & MR. CHRISTIAN: The Men and the Mutiny by Richard Hough

CAPTAIN BLIGH & MR. CHRISTIAN: The Men and the Mutiny

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hough, an old hand on the quarterdeck (The Potemkin Mutiny, The Long Pursuit, Blind Horn's Hate) manages to reanimate the frequently told tale of Captain Bligh, the ogre of the Bounty and the infamous mutiny led by handsome Fletcher Christian. Using the journals and logbooks of both mutineers and loyalists, Hough reconstructs the personalities and events from the hour the ill-fated ship set sail for Tahiti to that day, some twenty years later, when the last of the Bounty mutineers, ""Reckless Jack"" Adams, was found on the Polynesian island of Pitcairn, benevolently presiding over a hail-caste community -- the women and children of the mutineers. Unlike most chroniclers of the high-seas melodrama, Hough doesn't treat Bligh as a sadist and tyrant, tout court. Irascible, explosive and despotic he was; but unlike the mutineers, Bligh was a superb seaman, an ""unsurpassed foul-weather commander"" whose bullying instincts only came to the fore in untroubled waters. And Christian, far from being presented as a young hero striking a blow for freedom and human dignity, is revealed as a weak, vacillating and rather foolish creature totally unsuited to command a ship -- and a miserable failure as would-be leader of the Rousseauesque Pitcairn community. As for the underlying cause of the mutiny itself, Hough postulates a homosexual relationship gone sour between Bligh and his erstwhile protege and favorite, Christian -- an unprovable but plausible hypothesis if you remember Winston Churchill's characterization of the 18th-century British Navy as ""rum, sodomy and the lash."" All that plus nubile Tahitian women, the treacheries of wind and weather, and Hough's expert navigation of the tricky psychological shoals should snare more than a few readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1972
Publisher: Dutton