it is an old saying, that you must not work a willing horse to death
Captain Frederick Marryat
Captian Frederick Marryat (1792 - 1848) spent most of his working life at sea, and used his experiences for the basis of much of his writing. His works are now largely forgotten, with the exception of his popular children's book, 'The Children of the New Forest'.
Frederick Marryat was born in London on 10 July 1792, the son of Joseph Marryat, a merchant and member of Parliament. Marryat was educated privately. A natural rebel, he disliked his tutors and school-masters and ran away from home several times. At Holmwood School in Ponder’s End, near Enfield, his classmate was Charles Babbage, the future mathematician.
In 1806, at the age of fourteen, Marryat entered the Royal Navy. He first sailed as a midshipman on H.M.S. Impérieuse (1806-09) under Captain Lord Cochrane. Under Cochrane, whose character left marks on Marryat’s heroes, he cruised along the coast of France, and saw active service in the Mediterranean. Lord Cochrane was also the model for C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower.
During his career at sea, Marryat participated in many campaigns throughout the world. He served on the flagship ‘Centaur’ in the Mediterranean in 1810, on the ‘Aeolus’ and ‘Spartan’ in the West Indies and off the coast of North America in 1811-12. In 1819, Marryat married Catherine Shairp, the daughter of British Consul Sir Stephen Shairp. Marryat and Catherine had four sons and seven daughters. Marryat was involved in suppression of smuggling in the English Channel in 1820-22. He then served in the First Burmese War and in 1824 was a senior naval officer in Rangoon, commanding an expedition up the Bassein River.
While at sea, he pursued various scientific studies, as well as inventing a lifeboat, for which he earned a gold medal from the Royal Humane Society. Based on his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars escorting merchant ships in convoys, he developed a practical, and widely used system of maritime flag signalling known as Marryat’s Code. In recognition of these inventions and other achievments, he was named a Fellow of the Royal Society.
He decided to resign his Royal Naval commission in November 1830 and take up writing full time. In 1843 he moved to a small farm at Manor Cottage, Langham, in Norfolk. During his last years Marryat had health problems and the news of his son’s death destroyed his chances of recovery. He died in Langham, Norfolk, on 9 August 1848.
His Naval career influenced many of his novels, including, The Pirate (1836), The Three Cutters (1836) and The Phantom Ship (1839). He is now best known for the semi-autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy (1836) and his children’s novel The Children of the New Forest (1847).