Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marshall, John (1784?-1837)

MARSHALL, JOHN (1784?–1837), lieutenant in the navy and author, has himself recorded that he 'went to sea at nine years of age, and served during the whole of the late war in vessels of a class to which no schoolmaster is allowed' (Preface to Royal Naval Biography, 1823), that is, in sloops, cutters, or other small craft. He was therefore probably born in 1784, and first went to sea in 1793. At the conclusion of the war he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant 14 Feb. 1815, and was shelved. It was understood that the step might be counted as a retiring pension.

Marshall began in 1823 the publication of the 'Royal Naval Biography, or Memoirs of the Services of all the Flag-Officers … Post Captains, and Commanders whose names appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the commencement of the present year (1823), or who have since been promoted.' The work was continued till 1836, extending to twelve octavo volumes; which he distinguished by a very puzzling notation; vol. ii., for instance, is 'vol. i. part ii.;' vol. v. is 'Supplement, part i.;' vol. viii. is 'Supplement, part iv.;' and vol. ix. is 'vol. iii. part i.' It is generally bound and lettered in twelve volumes. It has no pretensions to literary merit, and the author seldom attempts any critical judgment of the conduct he describes, On the other hand, many of the lives were evidently contributed by the officers themselves, and though events are thus sometimes described in too favourable a manner, there are commonly interspersed in them copies of official or private letters, and other documents, which give a very real value to the work. Marshall died in the beginning of 1837.

[Navy List; Roy. Nav. Biog.]

J. K. L.