Thursday, April 5, 2018

"The Mariner's Chronicle" and thrill-seeking literature of the Regency era

When I first encountered "The Mariner's Chronicle" I thought it might be some worthy treatise of sea-faring matters for an island people. I was soon disabused of that notion; the 'purple prose' and the melodramatic illustrations were clearly aiming to provide a different sort of instruction. The title page made it plain.

This was no informational exposition. This was entertainment.
Lieut. Jones exhorting the Crew of the Wager to their Duty
There are however a great many facts among the stories, and some of them may be true. The shipwrecks described cover one hundred and fifty years of history, and some no doubt were dramatized from years of retelling. The more recent accounts have a ring of authenticity, but all the stories are told to elicit emotion from the reader.

The story of the Proserpine is harrowing:
Loss of the Proserpine Frigate in the River Elbe Feb. 1799

As are the details about the Winterton:
The Loss of the Winterton East Indiaman, off the Island of Madagascar, Aug. 20, 1792
 The story of the Apollo and its companion ships is epic.
Narrative of the Loss of the Apollo Frigate, and Twenty-nine Sail of West Indiamen, near Figuera, on the Coast of Portugal, April the 2d, 1804


This genre of Regency literature is far from the decorous presentation of information in the Gentleman's Magazine and the likes of La Belle Assemblee or Ackermann's Repository of Arts. And there were more books like The Mariner's Chronicle available.  

The Criminal Recorder looks titillating. Search for it here
 And The British Trident is sure to stir patriotism. It can be found here
These books give a fascinating view of a certain segment of Regency society: what they found entertaining, what they found noteworthy, and even the styles of writing they preferred. But I am sure the appeal crossed all kinds of boundaries--an earl's teenage son would find them as interesting as a printer's apprentice would, and a squire's daughter would shed tears over shipwrecks as readily as a debutante. Take a look; you will be entertained!

'Til next time,