HMS Surprise (novel)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, CD)|
|LC Class||PZ3.O1285 Hac PR6029.B55|
|Preceded by||Post Captain|
|Followed by||The Mauritius Command|
HMS Surprise is a 1973 historical naval novel by Patrick O'Brian. It is third in the Aubrey-Maturin series of stories that follow the partnership of Captain Jack Aubrey and the naval surgeon Stephen Maturin. In it Aubrey gains command of HMS Surprise, a fictional version based on the historical HMS Surprise, but with a different back story. She becomes the most important fictional ship in the Aubrey-Maturin series.
After the capture of a Spanish gold shipment (in Post Captain), the Admiralty is debating how to reward the captains responsible, including Jack Aubrey. As Spain was not yet at war, the captured ships are declared not to be prizes and as a result the captains end up with much smaller bounties than they had hoped for. The new and naive First Lord of the Admiralty blunders into mentioning Stephen Maturin's name during the proceedings, despite the information being classified, possibly exposing him to a large audience as an intelligence agent.
Stephen willingly goes on a mission to Spain anyway, and is to be picked up by Jack on HMS Lively on its return to English waters. He is then set down on the coast of Spain. Jack returns to the rendezvous point to learn from a Catalan revolutionary that Stephen has been captured and is being tortured by French intelligence in the now French-held Port Mahon on Minorca. Because he is so well acquainted with both the waters leading into the harbor of Port Mahon and the town itself, Jack decides to lead a rescue mission, saving a ravaged Stephen and killing the French interrogators.
Upon returning to England Jack discovers the Admiralty's decision, is taken by bailiffs and is held in a sponging-house. Stephen returns to Sir Joseph and tells of his capture and Jack’s predicament.
Jack's arrest for debt also puts his would-be marriage to Sophie Williams into doubt, as her mother has stipulated that her husband should be financially stable. Stephen uses his influence to get Jack an advance on his grant of money, far smaller than the prize would have been. This clears some of Jack's debt and he is released. Stephen meets with Sophie and convinces her to see Jack secretly before he takes command of his new ship HMS Surprise. Jack and Sophie meet in a coach in the middle of the night, and promise to marry no one else.
Stephen and Jack leave in the Surprise to ferry an ambassador to the East Indies. He is also interested in tracking down a French squadron commanded by the historical Admiral Linois, as the waters of the Indian Ocean are otherwise devoid of prizes. On their voyage, Surprise gets caught in the doldrums north of the equator, and the crew, especially those who had recently come from long service aboard another ship, begin to show signs of severe scurvy. The ship makes an emergency stop along the coast of Brazil for fresh fruit and supplies. Stephen, temporarily marooned on the waterless guano-covered mid-ocean St Paul's Rock when the ship is driven off by a violent squall, survives on bird-fouled water and the blood of boobies.
As the journey continues the Surprise goes wide around the Cape of Good Hope, held by the Dutch who are at war with England. To avoid encounters, Surprise ventures into the waters of the Antarctic Ocean, where they are forced to endure a severe storm. The ambassador at this time becomes very ill. The Surprise puts into India to refit after the storm and to rest the ambassador. While ashore Stephen meets a local street-wise child, a girl named Dil, who eagerly shows him around the city. Stephen is watching a parade with Dil when he sees Diana Villiers, who has returned to India ahead of her companion, the wealthy merchant Richard Canning, Stephen's rival for her affection. They agree to visit, and spend several days together, at the end of which Stephen asks her to marry him. She does not respond immediately, but promises to at a later date, and Stephen departs. Meanwhile Dil is killed when she is robbed of silver bracelets that Stephen had given her; he supervises her cremation on the shore.
The ambassador dies east of India and the Surprise turns around, setting sail for Britain. They soon encounter the East India Company's China Fleet, returning to England unescorted. A day after leaving the China Fleet the Surprise spots Linois's squadron cruising the Indian Ocean. Surprise engages the smallest ship of the squadron, the corvette Berceau, shredding her rigging, then turns and makes speed back to the China Fleet to warn them and organize a defence.
Choosing the largest ships of the China Fleet, Jack dresses them as men-of-war and sends some of his officers to help them fight. The French squadron closes on the Surprise and the large Indiamen. The Surprise turns and engages the largest French warship, the 74-gun ship of the line Marengo, and exchanges broadsides with the heavier ship, but is outgunned and in peril when one of the Indiamen engages the French ship from the other side, forcing her to disengage. Damage incurred during the action forces the entire French squadron to abandon the chase in order to refit.
Ashore in Calcutta, Jack receives an enthusiastic welcome from the merchants, including Canning, who are happy to refit the Surprise. As a personal reward, they allow him to transport jewels as freight, which will earn him a small percentage of their immense value upon his arrival in England. During the refit, Canning confronts Stephen in Diana's company and they challenge each other to a duel. During the duel Canning shoots Stephen in the ribs. Stephen then shoots Canning in the heart, killing him. Stephen convinces Diana to return to England, though on a merchant ship instead of Surprise - Jack will not give Diana passage aboard the Surprise. Meanwhile, Stephen is running a high fever because the bullet is still lodged in his ribs. With the help of Jack and the ambassador’s surgeon, Stephen stoically operates on himself, removing the bullet near his heart.
As the Surprise sails home they stop at Madeira, and there Stephen finds that Diana has left him for a Mr. Johnstone from America (called "Mr. Johnson" in later books). Jack, on the other hand, had sent ahead for Sophie so that he may marry her now that he is out of debt, but she is not on the island. Within a day’s sailing, Jack overtakes an English frigate in the night and finds that Sophie is aboard. She refuses to marry him then but promises that once they return to England, she will.
- Jack Aubrey - Captain in the Royal Navy and appointed Captain of HMS Surprise.
- Stephen Maturin - ship's surgeon, friend to Jack and intelligence officer.
- Sophie Williams - Jack's love interest
- Mrs. Williams - Sophie's mother
- Diana Villiers - Stephen's love interest
- Dil - Female child, Stephen's Indian guide
- Richard Canning - Rich merchant, Diana's "protector" in India
- Tom Pullings - Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, third of the Surprise
- Barrett Bonden - Jack's coxswain
- Preserved Killick - Jack's steward
- Charles-Alexandre Léon Durand Linois - French Admiral
- HMS Surprise - frigate
- Addington - Indiaman
- Ocean - Indiaman
- Camden - Indiaman
- Bombay Castle - Indiaman
- Alfred - Indiaman
- Wexwood - Indiaman
- Lushington - Indiaman
- Royal George - Indiaman
- Marengo - 74-gun ship of the line commanded by Linois
- Berceau - 22-gun corvette
- Semillante, frigate - 36-gun frigate
- Belle Poule - 40-gun frigate
The capture of the Spanish treasure fleet features in Hornblower and the Hotspur, the last-published full length novel in C. S. Forester's Hornblower series. Forester adds Hornblower in the Hotspur as an extra to the five British ships in the squadron sent to intercept the fleet.
Aubrey's attack on the French squadron is a fictionalization of the 1804 Battle of Pulo Aura.
- "His books can absorb and enthral landlubbers like myself who do not even know the difference between a jib-boom and a taffrail." 
The novel was adapted in three parts in the Afternoon Play strand on BBC Radio 4, adapted by Roger Danes and directed and produced by Bruce Young, with Aubrey played by David Robb and Maturin by Richard Dillane. The rest of the cast was:
- Preserved Killick - Jon Glover
- Barret Bonden - David Timson
- Sir Joseph Blaine - Struan Rodger
- Sophie Williams - Liz Sutherland
- Lieutenant Pullings - David Holt
- Lieutenant Simmons - Dan Starkey
- Mrs Williams / Lady Forbes - Lesley Nichols
- Cecilia Williams / Miss Agatha - Sarah Danes
- Diana Villiers - Adjoa Andoh
- Arthur Stanhope - David Timson
- Midshipman Callow - Carl Prekopp
- Tobias Atkins - Stephen Critchlow
- Lieutenant Nichols - Dan Starkey
- Midshipman Babbington - Chris Pavlo
- Canning - Chris Pavlo
- 1973, UK, Collins (ISBN 0002213168), Pub Date ? ? 1973, hardback (First edition)
- 1973, USA, Lippincott (ISBN ???), Pub date ? ? 1973, hardback (1st American edition)
- W. W. Norton & Company; Hardcover Reprint edition (1994) (ISBN 0393037037)
- W. W. Norton & Company; e-book edition (2011) (ISBN 9780393088465)
- Thorndike Press; Largeprint hardcover edition (2000) (ISBN 0786219343)
- Harper Collins; reprint paperback edition (2002) (ISBN 0006499171)
- Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged Audio CD edition (2004) (ISBN 078618597X)
- Fontana; Paperback edition (1976) (ISBN 0006141811)
- Recorded Books, LLC; Unabridged Audio edition narrated by Patrick Tull
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
- Richard O'Neill (2003). Patrick O'Brian's Navy: The Illustrated Companion to Jack Aubrey's World. Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-1540-1.
- Dean King (2001). A Sea of Words: Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O'Brian's Seafaring Tales. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6615-2.
- Dean King (2001). Harbors and High Seas: Map Book and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6614-4.
- Brian Lavery (2003). Jack Aubrey Commands: An Historical Companion to the Naval World of Patrick O'Brian. Conway Maritime. ISBN 0-85177-946-8.
- Anne Chotzinoff Grossman, Lisa Grossman Thomas (2000). Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which Is a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels. W W Norton & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-393-32094-4.
- David Miller (2003). The World of Jack Aubrey: Twelve-Pounders, Frigates, Cutlasses, and Insignia of His Majesty's Royal Navy. Running Press Book Publishers. ISBN 0-7624-1652-1.
- A.E. Cunningham (Editor) (1994). Patrick O'Brian: Critical appreciations and a bibliography. British Library. ISBN 0-7123-1071-1.
- Webster, Valerie (19 January 1974). "Review of HMS Surprise". Scotsman.