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O'Brian, Patrick

Patrick O'Brian


Born Richard Patrick Russ, December 12, 1914, in Chalfont St. Peter, England; died January 2, 2000, in Dublin, Ireland; married; wife's name, Mary. Education: Attended Shebbear College, Devon, England.


Writer and translator.

Awards, Honors

Commander of the British Empire, 1995; honorary degree, Trinity College, Dublin.



(As Richard Patrick Russ) Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard, 1930, second edition (as Patrick O'Brian), Norton (New York, NY), 1999.

(As Richard Patrick Russ) Hussein: An Entertainment, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1938, revised edition (as Patrick O'Brian), Norton (New York, NY), 2000.

The Last Pool, and Other Stories, Secker and Warburg (London, England), 1950.

Testimonies, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1952, published as Three Bear Witness, Secker and Warburg (London, England), 1952.

The Catalans, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1953, published as The Frozen Flame, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1953.

The Road to Samarcand, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1954.

The Walker, and Other Stories, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1955, published as Lying in the Sun, and Other Stories, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1956.

The Golden Ocean, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1956, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1957, revised edition, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1970.

The Unknown Shore, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1959.

Richard Temple, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1962.

The Chian Wine, and Other Stories, Collins (London, England), 1974.

Collected Short Stories, HarperCollins (London, England), 1994.

The Rendezvous, and Other Stories, Norton (New York, NY), 1995.


Master and Commander, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1969.

Post Captain, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1972.

H.M.S. Surprise, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1973.

The Mauritius Command, Collins (London, England), 1977, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1978.

Desolation Island, Collins (London, England), 1978, Stein and Day (New York, NY), 1979.

The Fortune of War, Collins (London, England), 1979, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

The Surgeon's Mate, Collins (London, England), 1980, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

The Ionian Mission, Collins (London, England), 1981, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

Treason's Harbour, Collins (London, England), 1983, Norton (New York, NY), 1992.

The Far Side of the World, Collins (London, England), 1984, Norton (New York, NY), 1992.

The Reverse of the Medal, Collins (London, England), 1986, Norton (New York, NY), 1992.

The Letter of Marque, Collins (London, England), 1988, Norton (New York, NY), 1990.

The Thirteen-Gun Salute, Collins (London, England), 1989, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

The Nutmeg of Consolation, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

The Truelove, Norton (New York, NY), 1992, published as Clarissa Oakes, HarperCollins (London, England), 1992.

The Wine-Dark Sea, Norton (New York, NY), 1993.

The Commodore, Norton (New York, NY), 1995.

The Yellow Admiral, Norton (New York, NY), 1996.

The Hundred Days, Norton (New York, NY), 1998.

Blue at the Mizzen, Norton (New York, NY), 1999.


Jacques Soustelle, The Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1961.

Philippe Erlanger, St. Bartholemew's Night: The Massacre of Saint Bartholemew, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1962.

Christine de Rivoyre, The Wreathed Head, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1962.

Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, Hawthorn (New York, NY), 1962, published as Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1962.

Andre Maurois, A History of the U.S.A.: From Wilson to Kennedy, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1964, published as From the New Freedom to the New Frontier: A History of the United States from 1912 to the Present, McKay (New York, NY), 1963.

Louis Aragon, A History of the USSR: From Lenin to Khrushchev, McKay (New York, NY), 1964.

Françoise Mallet-Joris, A Letter to Myself, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1964.

Haroun Tazieff, When the Earth Trembles, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1964.

Henri Nogueres, Munich: Peace in Our Time, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1965, published as Munich: or, The Phoney Peace, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1965.

Françoise Mallet-Jorris, The Uncompromising Heart: A Life of Marie Mancini, Louis XIV's First Love, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1966.

Simone de Beauvoir, A Very Easy Death, Putnam (New York, NY), 1966.

Maurice Goudeket, The Delights of Growing Old, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1966.

Michel Mohrt, The Italian Campaign, Viking (New York, NY), 1967.

Clara Malraux, Memoirs, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1967.

Lucien Bodard, The Quicksand War: Prelude to Vietnam, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1967.

Joseph Kessel, The Horsemen, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1968.

Simone de Beauvoir, Les Belles Images, Putnam (New York, NY), 1968.

Bernard Faae, Louis XVI: or The End of a World, Regnery (Chicago, IL), 1968.

Simone de Beauvoir, The Woman Destroyed, Putnam (New York, NY), 1969.

Robert Guillian, The Japanese Challenge, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1970.

Andre Martinerie, A Life's Full Summer, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1970.

Henri Charriere, Papillon, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1970.

Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age, Putnam (New York, NY), 1972, Norton (New York, NY), 1996, published as Old Age, Deutsch/Weidenfeld and Nicolson (London, England), 1972.

Miroslav Ivanov, The Assassination of Heydrich: 27 May 1942, Hart-Davis (London, England), 1973.

Charriere, Further Adventures of Papillon, Morrow (New York, NY), 1973.

Simone de Beauvoir, All Said and Done, Putnam (New York, NY), 1974.

Pierre Schoendoerffer, The Paths of the Sea, Collins (London, England), 1977.

Yves Berger, Obsession: An American Love Story, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.

Simone de Beauvoir, When Things of the Spirit Come First: Five Early Tales, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1982.

Simone de Beauvoir, Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1984.

Jean Lacouture, De Gaulle, Norton (New York, NY), 1990, published as De Gaulle: The Rebel, 1890-1944, Collins (London, England), 1990.


(Editor) A Book of Voyages, Home and Van Thal (London, England), 1947.

Men-of-War, Collins (London, England), 1974, Norton (New York, NY), 1995.

Picasso: A Biography, Putnam (New York, NY), 1976, published as Pablo Ruiz Picasso: A Biography, Collins (London, England), 1976.

Joseph Banks: A Life, Harvill, 1987, Godine (Boston, MA), 1993.


Master and Commander was adapted for film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe, 2003.


"The historical fiction-reading public is divided into two groups," declared Booklist critic Brad Hooper. "Those who love Patrick O'Brian already and those who stand to fall in love with him once they've read him." O'Brian, who died in early 2000, enjoyed international recognition late in his life as the author of dozens of historical novels and translations. Although his first book of fiction was published in 1950, it wasn't until the appearance of his 1969 Master and Commander, the initial installment in his twenty-volume series featuring British naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician cum spy Stephen Maturin, set during the time of the Napoleonic Wars between England and France, that he endeared readers around the world. His later works, including The Wine-Dark Sea, The Commodore, Yellow Admiral, The Hundred Days, and Blue at the Mizzen, the final novel in the "Aubrey-Maturin" saga, earned O'Brian an avid following in the United States as well as a spot on the bestseller lists. O'Brian's "Aubrey-Maturin" novels sold over three million copies during the author's lifetime, much of that volume occurring in the final decade of his life.

Critics have also lauded O'Brian's work. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Richard Snow praised O'Brian for his historical verisimilitude: "Without ever seeming antiquarian or pedantic or showy, O'Brian summoned up with casual omniscience the workaday magic of a vanished time." Snow further noted that the novelist "presents the lost arcana of that hard-pressed, cruel, courageous world with an immediacy that makes it workings both comprehensible and fascinating." Chicago Sun-Times contributor Stephen Becker noted that "there is not a writer alive whose work I value over his." Mark Horowitz similarly declared in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that "O'Brian is a novelist, pure and simple, one of the best we have." Time's John Skow commented that O'Brian's score of "Aubrey-Maturin" historical novels of "blood, storms and friendship" comprise "the author's masterwork," and constituted "an astonishing naval saga." Skow further observed: "This is not genre writing, agreeable trash to be pigeonholed. If salt-soaked comparison is required, O'Brian's adventures suggest Joseph Conrad's sea tales more than those of C. S. Forester and his Horatio Hornblower." O'Brian's work has also been likened to other British authors, such as Anthony Trollope and Anthony Powell in their sequential novels, as well as to Marcel Proust and Herman Melville. Ian Williams, writing on, noted that "some readers might find the leisurely pace—Jane Austen on the quarterdeck—difficult to get into, but once they have, the never-tedious attention to detail and wry humor will carry them along." As will the "ocean of wondrous language," as Skow described O'Brian's narrative style.

O'Brian's talents extended beyond writing historical thrillers. Fluent in French, he was a distinguished translator who brought the words of numerous authors, including those of Simone de Beauvoir, to English speakers around the globe. An accomplished biographer, O'Brian has also profiled the lives of painter Pablo Picasso and explorer and naturalist Joseph Banks. Intensely secretive about his private life, he kept interviewers at arm's length. Speaking with Francis X. Clines in the New York Times, O'Brian was adamant about the sanctity of a public person's rights to privacy: "About my books, that's all that I think the public has, in its normal way to know. My private life is, by definition private." For O'Brian, who lived most of his working life in a secluded village in the south of France, writing was everything. "They turn in my mind constantly," O'Brian once said to Clines, describing his absorption in the adventures of his two fictional protagonists. "Human interplay—that's the essence of it. I've never set out to seduce my reader. I don't see him at all clearly."

A Mystery-shrouded Past

O'Brian employed many of the fictional techniques from his books in recreating his own life. He carefully built up a fabricated biography that had him born in Galway, Ireland, and educated at home by a governess. This fictional Patrick attended Trinity College, Dublin, was fluent in Irish and Latin, a Roman Catholic, and a well-trained sailor. The truth was somewhat less romantic, though nonetheless amazing. Born Richard Patrick Russ, O'Brian was not Irish, but English. His birthplace was near London in Buckinghamshire, the son of an English doctor with a specialty in treating gonorrhea. His father was in turn the son of a successful German-Jewish businessman who immigrated to England and became furrier to Queen Victoria. O'Brian's mother died of tuberculosis when he was four, at a time when the child was also sick. Though well off, O'Brian's father managed to squander the family money, and the young O'Brian was educated at a "minor boarding school in Devon," according to a contributor for the Economist. As a boy, O'Brian loved reading adventure stories and began writing his own at an early age. And as O'Brian's estranged brother suggested, this author of life on the high seas never got closer to sailing than as a passenger on the cross-Channel ferry between England and France.

O'Brian exhibited his writing talent early on. His first short novel, Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard, was written when he was twelve and published three years later in England. In this tale, Caesar's father is a giant panda and his mother is a snow leopard. This panda-leopard mix relates his life story, one that is "filled with graphic accounts of Caesar's killing other animals and eating them, the bloodier the better," according to Vivian E. Berg in Kliatt. Another boy's adventure tale, Hussein, the adventures of a young elephant handler in India, appeared in 1938. O'Brian married young, to a Welsh woman who was, apparently, a former servant and semi-literate. He had a son and daughter by her; the daughter later died of spina bifida. O'Brian's literary career was interrupted by World War II, when he worked for the Foreign Office in its Political Intelligence Division. It was there that he met English-born Russian countess Mary Wicksteed Tolstoy. He and Tolstoy fell in love and at the end of the war each left their spouses and married. It was then O'Brian also changed his name from Russ; the couple created a new life for themselves by leaving England altogether, settling in the village of Collioure in the south of France, and living in a one-bedroom cottage with no electricity or running water. A vineyard behind the cottage kept the impoverished writer in wine.

In France O'Brian made a living as a translator and by writing several historical novels, such as The Catalans, The Road to Samarcand, The Golden Ocean, The Unknown Shore, and Richard Temple. Between 1955 and 1974 he also wrote several volumes of stories. His translations included histories, as well as several works by Simone de Beauvoir, whom he helped to introduce to the English-speaking world. He also translated the well-known prison-escape adventure, Papillon, by Henri Charriere, as well as a major biography of De Gaulle by Jean Lacouture. Unbeknownst to O'Brian, however, his name would become synonymous with the heroes of a book he fashioned in 1969, introducing readers to life in the English navy at the time of the Napoleonic wars. The book came about partly on the suggestion of an editor of O'Brian's who—noting the 1966 death of writer C. S. Forester of "Horatio Hornblower" fame—thought that a seafaring adventure story might sell.

Begins "Aubrey-Maturin" Series

O'Brian's popular historical adventure series, encompassing twenty books, follows the exploits of two friends, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. The protagonists are introduced in 1969's Master and Commander, the first book of the series. The two men meet by chance at a musical performance in Spain where Maturin riles Aubrey with a remark about the latter's lack of musical timing. Although this first encounter does not end well, the two come across one another again the next day, and Aubrey, who has just been offered command of a ship in the British navy, recruits Maturin as the vessel's surgeon. This is the beginning of both the friendship between the men as well as the series of adventures set mainly during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s.

The characters are very different from each other, except for their common interest in music. Aubrey, a robust and cheerful man, is perfectly at home on his ship, which he commands powerfully and fearlessly. In 1989's The Thirteen-Gun Salute, O'Brian writes of Aubrey: "Ordinarily he was not at all aggressive—a cheerful, sanguine, friendly, good-natured creature, severe only in the event of bad seamanship—but when he was on a Frenchman's deck, sword in hand, he felt a wild and savage joy, a fullness of being, like no other; and he remembered every detail of blows given or received … with the most vivid clarity." Aubrey is, however, unsure of himself and out of his element on land. Maturin is a doctor by profession and is the more serious of the two. Highly prone to skepticism, he is a philosopher and naturalist who collects specimens through the duo's travels. In the same book, O'Brian writes that, unlike Aubrey, Maturin "disliked violence and … took no pleasure in any battle whatsoever." Despite vastly different dispositions and a lack of common interests, the men develop an enduring friendship that lasts through the series. Quoted in Entertainment Weekly, O'Brian biographer Dean King commented that these books are "probably the most profound literature on friendship" to be written in the second half of the twentieth century.

O'Brian received critical praise for his portrayal of this relationship. However, although the friendship is central to the books, the series is more than a biographical account of the camaraderie between the protagonists. Rather, O'Brian used this liaison as the basis on which he introduced his readers to the world and time these characters inhabit. Snow commented in the New York Times Book Review that "on the foundations of this friendship, Mr. O'Brian reconstructs a civilization." Snow, who titled his review of O'Brian's work in the New York Times Book Review as "An Author I'd Walk the Plank For," called O'Brian's books "the best historical novels ever written." The reviewer reported similar praise of O'Brian by British critic Peter Wishart, who has claimed that "the relative neglect of Patrick O'Brian by both critics and the book-buying public is one of the literary wonders of the age. It is as baffling as the Inca inability to invent the wheel; or conversely, it is as baffling as the Inca ability to possess an ordered, sophisticated society without the wheel."

Thomas Flanagan asserted in the New York Times Book Review that in O'Brian's "strange, agreeable world … the central themes are friendship and music, poetry, food, scholarship, astronomy, scientific curiosity and the delights of the natural world." And Ken Ringle, writing in the Washington Post, believed that many times, O'Brian was equally, if not more, interested in people and their relationships with one another. "Often he's content simply to submerge his reader in the microcosm and metaphor of shipboard life, implicitly asking us to consider how and why such a brutal and confining society … could nourish such triumphant humanity." Thus, the critic opined, the scope of O'Brian's work goes much beyond typical genre fiction.

Flanagan also expressed appreciation for the realism of O'Brian's imaginary world, the authentic speech of his characters, and the unique turns the books take. In particular, Flanagan referred to O'Brian's treatment of the plot in Thirteen-Gun Salute. In this book, Aubrey and Maturin set sail toward the South China Seas to foil a French plot. The reviewer related, however, that the implied urgency of the mission does not detract from O'Brian's detailed narrative. Flanagan illustrated the distinctiveness of O'Brian's writing style by referring to a description of the sunrise observed by Maturin while standing on the deck of his ship: "First there was the sky, high, pure and of a darker blue than he had ever seen. And then there was the sea, a lighter, immensely luminous blue that reflected blue into the air, the shadows and the sails.…Tothese there was added the sun, unseen for so long and unseen even now, since the topsail hid it, but filling the world with an almost tangible light. It flashed on the wings of an albatross that came gliding into the wind so close to the quarterdeck rail that it could very nearly be touched." According to Ringle, such detailed descriptions are uncommon in historical fiction, which often focuses primarily on the action of the story rather than leisurely descriptions of the surroundings. In contrast, O'Brian's vision, believes Snow, goes beyond the intricacies of plot and resolution of incidental tension.

Ringle also expressed his appreciation of O'Brian's writing technique: "His characters don't just navigate the earliest years of the last century: they talk, eat, breathe and exude them, immersing the reader in the process in all the civility and cruelty, elegance and filth, erudition and ignorance of their age." John Bayley, writing in the New York Review of Books, also commended O'Brian's detailed narratives, citing a chapter from The Mauritius Command. In this section of the book, Aubrey's ship is being chased through icebergs and giant waves by a larger vessel. Bayley felt that this episode is akin to Herman Melville's style in Moby Dick, but he added that "no other writer, not even Melville, has described the whale or the wandering albatross with O'Brian's studious and yet lyrical accuracy."

Builds U.S. Readership

O'Brian toiled away in near-obscurity for almost two decades with his series, enjoying favorable reviews in England, but selling to a relatively small and loyal fan base. Then Starling Lawrence, an editor for W. W. Norton publishers in New York, read one of O'Brian's novels on a transatlantic flight and decided that Norton should publish him in the United States. Beginning in 1991 with Nutmeg of Consolation, the publishing house did just that, as well as back-issuing in uniform paperback the entire "Aubrey-Maturin" series. O'Brian quickly became a celebrity writer in the United States. The Nutmeg of Desire follows the story of Aubrey and Maturin, picking up where the shipwreck of the Surprise of the South China Sea at the end of The Thirteen-Gun Salute left off. They encounter more adventures on the high seas aboard their new boat, a small Dutch ship named the Nutmeg. Aubrey captures an enemy ship then flies off to the Solomon Islands to rescue children from a small-pox-ridden island. Eventually, their wanderings take Aubrey and Maturin to Sydney, Australia, where they find more trouble still. The New York Observer's John Gregory Dunne praised O'Brian's language as "elegant, erudite, and dense." A Kirkus Reviews writer found Maturin the most interesting character, and assessed the novel as "witty, literate and engaging."

O'Brian's popularity continued to grow, culminating with The Commodore, which was a bestseller and brought O'Brian ever greater popular and critical attention. After their ill-fated journey to Peru, Aubrey and Maturin return home to marital problems, then set out again on behalf of the English government to intercept illegal slave-traders off the coast of West Africa and to intervene in a French attempt to support anti-British insurgency in Ireland. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that "O'Brian writes with clipped efficiency and relies heavily on the arcane and specialized naval and military lexicons." More and more, critics were tempted to theorize about the secret of O'Brian's success. Katherine A. Powers, writing for the Atlantic Monthly, made this observation: "The best historical novelists have bridged the gap of time and made a by-gone reality accessible by bringing, without anachronism, the insights of the present to bear upon the past. Patrick O'Brian is sui generis. Unlike any other writer of historical novels, he truly belongs to the era in which the majority of his works are set."

In 1996's The Yellow Admiral, described by critics as a return to the style of his earlier novels in the series, Aubrey is a member of Parliament and is embroiled in politics. Exhibiting a change of pace when compared to previous series novels, much of the action of The Yellow Admiral takes place on land. The plot concerns the Aubrey estate and the Aubrey marriage, as naval politics and peacetime threaten to make the captain a "yellowed" admiral—that is, a ranking admiral who is not in command of a ship. However, pal Maturin does come into play, returning from his work with the Chilean independence movement, and Aubrey is finally called to action with the rise of the Napoleonic Wars. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly said that in The Yellow Admiral "O'Brian is at the top of his elegant form." An Economist contributor categorized this book as a "thinking man's infonovel," assessing it as "authentic, intelligent, humane, and written wittily and well."

The Hundred Days finds Napoleon escaping from Elba and reestablishing himself in France; thus the Allies must mobilize once more. Aubrey, a commodore, ships off at the head of a less-than-adequate squadron to the Mediterranean with the newly widowed Maturin aboard—this plot detail was perhaps a tribute to O'Brian's own wife, who died in 1998. Their mission is two-fold: to stop Napoleon's warships and to intercept a gold shipment that is intended for Muslim mercenaries meant to attack the eastern Allies. The novel offers intrigues and narrow escapes, as well as O'Brian's usual stylish writing. According to Booklist's Roland Green, "O'Brian's is the finest depiction of sailing warfare since C. S. Forester's in the Hornblower series." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised the novel's "colorful historical background, smooth plotting, marvelous characters and great style." The same contributor went on to note that O'Brian "continues to unroll a splendid Turkish rug of a saga." For Paul Kennedy, writing in the New York Times, the key to the series and this individual title is still characterization: "O'Brian's brilliant device for making his works more than naval history is, of course, his invention of dual heroes."

The final installment in the "Aubrey-Maturin" cycle of novels, Blue at the Mizzen, appeared in late 1999, a short time before O'Brian's death. After the Battle of Waterloo, the frigate Surprise sails for South America, supposedly to survey the Straits of Magellan as well as the southern coast of Chile. In reality, the English are coming to help Chilean rebels in their attempts to achieve independence from Spain. Romance intrudes on the way: a brief interlude in Gibraltar for Aubrey, and a new love for Maturin, with the naturalist Christine Wood. Love letters follow, even as the heroes reach their destination in Chile and adventures ensue, both on land and at sea. Aubrey is, at the end of this tale, finally promoted to admiral. "Meanwhile," noted Roland Green in Booklist, "his creator has long since earned the rank of admiral of the fleet on the seas of literature." Writing in Europe, Robert J. Guttman noted that the book's "most striking feature is its elegant language." Similarly, Amanda Foreman, writinginthe New York Times, found that O'Brian "has presented his readers with a shining jewel.…an intricate, multifaceted work—one of those rare novels that actually bears up under close scrutiny." The reviewer for Publishers Weekly had to resort to one of Maturin's favorite expressions to describe the book: "'What joy!'"

A Writer of Many Parts

Besides fiction, O'Brian authored biographies of Pablo Picasso and Joseph Banks. James R. Mellow, reviewing Picasso: A Biography in the New York Times Book Review, called O'Brian's portrayal of the artist "sharply etched." Mellow felt that O'Brian maintains equilibrium between the events in the Spanish painter's life, his art, and social surroundings. The critic also praised O'Brian's research into the history of Spain, noting that this gives the book added authority. O'Brian's volume about Banks, who traveled with James Cook on an expedition to Tahiti, was lauded by the New York Times Book Review's Linda Colley for its "brilliant" descriptions of the voyage, and she surmised that O'Brian's familiarity with ships and such journeys, due to the author's historical research for the "Aubrey-Maturin" books, led him to write authoritatively about Banks's travels.

If you enjoy the works of Patrick O'Brian, you might want to check out the following books:

James L. Nelson, By Force of Arms, 1996.

C. S. Forester, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, 1950.

Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe's Trafalgar, 2001.

O'Brian continued to work until the last. He stayed on in his simple cottage in southern France after fame and wealth and after his wife's death, rising early and writing until noon—in a room under the house during the hot months. After lunch he would go back to work, taking his tea promptly at 4:30. He wrote in longhand, eschewing modern conveniences such as word processing programs or even typewriters. He drank the wine from vines in back of his house, and when traveling, did so circumspectly, staying at his quiet and conservative club in London. Ironically in so far as O'Brian claimed Irish heritage all his life, he died in Dublin, Ireland, in a hotel room, on January 2, 2000. Born in the early years of the twentieth century, this scrupulous detailer of the past, made it into the twenty-first with a day to spare.

Summing up O'Brian's major contribution to historical fiction, New York Times contributor Amanda Foreman concluded of the "Aubrey-Maturin" saga that "there is nothing in this century that rivals Patrick O'Brian's achievement in his chosen genre. His novels embrace with loving clarity the full richness of the 18th-century world. They embody the cruelty of battle, the comedy of men's lives, the uncertain fears that plague their hearts; and yet, not far away, is the vision of an ideal existence."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Contemporary Popular Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Cunningham, A. E., Patrick O'Brian: A Bibliography of First Printings and First British Printings, Thrommett, 1986.

Cunningham, A. E., editor, Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography, Norton (New York, NY), 1994.

King, Dean, Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

King, Dean, with John B. Hattendorf, Harbors and High Seas: An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1996.

King, Dean, with John B. Hattendorf and J. Worth Estes, A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O'Brian's Seafaring Tales, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

O'Brian, Patrick, The Thirteen-Gun Salute, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.


Atlantic Monthly, July, 1995, p. 92.

Booklist, October 1, 1993; December 1, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of Men-of-War, pp. 607-608; July, 1996, Barbara Bakin, review of The Wine Dark Sea (audiobook), p. 1838; September 15, 1996, Brian McCombie, review of The Yellow Admiral, p. 222; September 1, 1998, Roland Green, review of The Hundred Days, p. 7; October 1, 1999, Roland Green, review of Blue at the Mizzen, p. 308; April 1, 2000, Brad Hooper, review of Master and Comrade, p. 1443.

Economist, July 19, 1997, p. S16.

Europe, March, 2000, Robert J. Guttman, review of Blue at the Mizzen, p. 31.

Forbes, January 22, 1996, Steve Forbes, review of Men-of-War, p. 24.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 23, 1991, p. C8.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1991; September 1, 1993.

Kliatt, January, 2000, Vivian E. Berg, review of Caesar (audiobook), p. 39.

Library Journal, September 15, 1998, A. J. Anderson, review of The Hundred Days, p. 113; September 1, 1999, James Dudley, review of The Hundred Days, p. 250; November 1, 1999, A. J. Anderson, review of Blue at the Mizzen, p. 124; March 15, 2000, Michael Rogers, review of Caesar, p. 133.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 8, 1991, p. 4.

National Review, January 24, 1994, p. 65.

New York Review of Books, November 7, 1991, pp. 7-8; March 9, 2000, Christopher Hitchens, "O'Brian's Great Voyage," pp. 11-16.

New York Times, November 7, 1990; October 18, 1998, Paul Kennedy, "Naval Gazing"; October 19, 1998, Frank J. Prial, "The Seas of Adventure Still Beckon a Storyteller"; December 5, 1999, Amanda Foreman, "Still Doing Their Duty."

New York Times Book Review, July 4, 1976, p. 4; January 6, 1991, Richard Snow, "An Author I'd Walk the Plank For," pp. 1, 37-38; August 4, 1991, p. 9; March 28, 1993, p. 8.

Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1995, p. 34; September 16, 1996, review of The Yellow Admiral, p. 70; September 7, 1998, review of The Hundred Days, p. 83; October 11, 1999, review of Blue at the Mizzen, p. 55.

Rolling Stone, May 14, 1992, p. 83.

Saturday Review, January 23, 1971, pp. 64-66.

Time, October 26, 1998, John Skow, "A Square-rigged Saga," p. 94.

Times (London, England), March 28, 1991, p. 20.

Washington Post, August 2, 1992, pp. F1, F4.

ONLINE, (March 21), 2000, Ian Williams, review of Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed.

W. W. Norton Web site, (September 22, 2003), "World of Patrick O'Brian."



Economist (US), January 15, 2000, "Patrick O'Brian," p. 88.

Entertainment Weekly, January 21, 2000, "His Ship Sails On," p. 16.

Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2000, p. A16.

New York Times, January 7, 2000, p. A20.

Times (London, England), January 8, 2000.

Washington Post, January 8, 2000, p. B5.


BBC News Online, (January 7, 2000), "Patrick O'Brian: Master of the Seafaring Saga.", (January 7, 2000)., (January 13, 2000), Ian Williams, "Patrick O'Brian." *

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