Patrick O’Brian was born on 12th of December in the year 1914 in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, England. He died on second of January 2000. His birth name was Richard Patrick Russ. He wrote several novels in his lifetime including the famous Aubrey-Maturin series. These are a series of 20 novels that are set in the sea during a Napoleonic wars describing events by the Royal Navy. They are highly praised for their vivid description of 19th-century life.They are based on the main character, English naval captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish-Catalan physician Stephen Maturin.
Patrick O’Brian was also a French to English translator and thus he translated several works in his career.
The Aubrey-Maturin series became a major hit later on in his life while he was in his seventies after it caught the eyes of an American publisher. Patrick O’Brian changed his name after after the world wars. This was a secret that came to be known during the end of his life after it was let out by the British media causing a lot of distress to him and his fans.
He was born to Charles and Jessie Russ. His father was a physician. Patrick lost his mother at the age of four. His childhood had its fair share of poverty and isolation, seeing him miss out on school at times and spending a lot of time with his father and stepmother in Lewes, East Sussex.
He began his literary career in his childhood. Some of his earliest works include :
Hussein, An Entertainment, Beasts Royal short story collection etc. This made him a quite popular and famous young author. At the age of fifteen, he published his first novel, Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard with aid of his father.
In 1934, Patrick started training as a pilot with the Royal Air Force after his application to the Royal Navy had been rejected due to medical reasons. He left the Royal Air Force shortly afterwards when his training became unsuccessful.
Patrick was living in London in 1935 where he married his first wife, Elizabeth Jones, in 1936. They had two children. The second born was a daughter who died from spina bifida in 1942 at the age of three. Brian worked in London all throughout the war. Details of Patrick’s work during the second world war are quite unclear. He worked as a driver of an ambulance and also stated that he worked in intelligence organizations. Some claim that he was very much actively involved in intelligence work and maybe even special operations overseas during the war.
He separated from his wife and later married his second wife Mary Wicksteed Tolstoy in 1945 who was a co-worker and fellow intelligence operative.
The O’Brians lived in Cwm Croesor, north Wales between 1946 and 1949 before moving to Catalan town in southern France later on in 1949. His second wife, Mary died in 1998. His first book under his new name was the called A Book of Voyages. He continued working on his naval novels until his death in early 2000 at Trinity College in Dublin where he had been living. He was buried next to his wife in Collioure, France.
Patrick published two novels under his original name, Richard Patrick Russ namely: Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda-Leopard which he wrote at the age of 12 and published at the age of 15. It was a success with positive reviews in the New York Herald Tribune, Saturday Review of Literature and New Statesman.
Beasts Royal collection of short stories
Hussein: An entertainment
He published very little under his original name of Russ during world war II and nothing after 1940. He changed his name in 1945 abandoning the reputation he had built as a writer under his original name of Russ.
After the war, under his new name of Patrick O’Brian, he wrote books such as:
A Book of Voyages (1947
The Last Pool (1950)
The Road, to Samarcand
The Golden Ocean
The Unknown Shore
The first of the Aubrey-Maturin series was written in 1969 at the suggestions of American publisher J.B.Lippincott, following death of C.S. Forrester in 1966, a writer of popular nautical novels.
Starling Lawrence, of W.W.Norton publishers revived interest in series in early 1990’s and they became extremely popular then thus giving O’Brian his major success as an author.
The Aubrey-Maturin series
The first of the 20-volume series popularly known as Aubrey-Maturin series is the famous book which has also been acted as a movie. The book is known as Master and Commander. It was published in 1969. Its movie is known as Master as well as Commander: The Far of the Side of the world (2003) acted by famous actors Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany and Billy Boyd.
Jack Aubrey is a fictional character in the, Aubrey-Maturin, series who rises from lieutenant to rear-admiral in the Royal Navy when the Napoleonic War. Some of his actions are based on the chequered career of Thomas Cochrane. Aubrey is much interested in mathematics and astronomy and loves music especially playing the violin. He has a lot of proverbs that he uses as he speaks.
He commands the Sophie, a naval ship which joined several naval battle. He views the Algeciras campaigns as the French prisoner of war.
Master and Commander begins in April 1, 1800. Jack and Stephen disagree in a governor’s concert but later become friends when Aubrey is given a ship to command in which they sail together to wars.
Stephen Maturin is the penniless doctors who become a naval surgeon after the meeting Aubrey at the musical performance of Port Mahon.
The second of the Aubrey-Maturin series is known as Post Captain. It was published in 1972. In this novel, Aubrey and Maturin live in a country house during the brief peace of Amiens where they meet the women whom they marry. Aubrey loses his money due to decisions of the prize-court and a dishonest prize-agent. The war begins a fresh and Aubrey has a command, seeing action while gaining fewer prizes yet succeeding in his military goals. His love life emotions interfere with his ways at the sea.
Other books in Aubrey-Maturin series, include the The Mauritius,HMS surprise Command, Desolation Island etc.
Patrick O’Brian received several awards and honors such as the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in 1995 for his lifetime’s writings, a CBE in 1997 and an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin in 1997.
Patrick preferred using ink and quill to do his work which his wife would then type for publishing.
Since his death there have been two of his biographies published. One is by Dean H.King known as Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed which was well advanced by the time he died.
The second is by his stepson, Nikolai Tolstoy and is known as Patrick O’Brian: The Making of the Novelist which is the first volume in a two-part biography of O’Brian using material from their families sources which his step-son inherited.
Patrick O’Brian was indeed a great author and novelist who will be remembered through history.
Books in order of publication by series:
|Master and Commander||(1969)|
|The Maritius Command||(1977)|
|The Fortune of War||(1979)|
|The Surgeon’s Mate||(1980)|
|The Ionian Mission||(1981)|
|The Far Side of the World||(1984)|
|The Reverse of the Medal||(1986)|
|The Letter of Marque||(1988)|
|The Thirteen-Gun Salute||(1989)|
|The Nutmeg of Consolation||(1991)|
|The Wine-Dark Sea||(1993)|
|The Yellow Admiral||(1996)|
|The Hundred Days||(1998)|
|Blue at the Mizzen||(1999)|
|21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey||(2004)|
|Hussein, An Entertainment||(1938)|
|The Road to Samarcand||(1954)|
|The Golden Ocean||(1956)|
|The Unknown Shore||(1959)|
|The Chian Wine||(1974)|
|Collected Short Stories||(1994)|
|No Pirates Nowadays and Other Stories||(2015)|
|Beasts Royal: Twelve Tales of Adventure||(2015)|
|The Uncertain Land and Other Poems||(2019)|
|Pablo Ruiz Picasso||(1976)|