Marryat, Frederick (DNB00)
MARRYAT, FREDERICK (1792–1848), captain in the navy and novelist, born in Great George Street, Westminster 10 July 1792, of a Huguenot family, which fled from France in the end of the sixteenth century, was the grandson of Thomas Marryat [q. v.] and the second son of Joseph Marryat of Wimbledon, member of parliament for Sandwich, chairman of Lloyd's, and colonial agent for the island of Grenada. On the side of his mother, Charlotte, daughter of Frederick Geyer of Boston in North America, he was of German origin. He received his early education at private schools, where his boisterous temperament brought him into repeated collision with the imperfect discipline. Several times he ran away, always with the intention of escaping to sea, and at last, in September 1806, his father got him entered on board the Imperieuse frigate, commanded by Lord Cochrane [see Cochrane, Thomas, tenth Earl of Dundonald]. The service of the Imperieuse under Cochrane was peculiarly active and brilliant, not only in its almost daily episodes of cutting out coasting vessels or privateers, storming batteries and destroying telegraph stations, but also in the defence of the castle of Trinidad in November 1808, and in the attack on the French fleet in Aix Roads, in April 1809. The daring and judgment of his commander were traits which he subsequently reproduced in Captain Savage of the Diomede in 'Peter Simple' and Captain M in 'The King's Own,' In June the Imperieuse sailed with the fleet on the Walcheren expedition, from which, in October, Marryat was invalided with a sharp attack of fever. Before leaving the vessel he had formed friendships which lasted through life with Sir Charles Napier [q. v.] and Houston Stewart. In 1810 he served in the Centaur flagship of Sir Samuel Hood in the Mediterranean, and in 1811 was in the Æolus in the West Indies and on the coast of North America. He was afterwards in the Spartan, with Captain E. P. Brenton, on the same station, and was sent home in the Indian sloop in September 1812.
On 26 Dec. 1812 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and in January 1813 was again sent out to the West Indies in the Espiegle sloop. From her he was obliged to invalid in April, and though in 1814 he returned to the coast of North America as lieutenant of the Newcastle, and assisted in the capture of several of the enemy's merchant ships and privateers, his health gave way, and he went home in the spring of 1815. On 13 June he was made commander. In January 1819 Marryat married, and in June 1820 he was appointed to the Beaver sloop, which was employed on the St. Helena station till the death of Napoleon, when he was moved into the Rosario and sent home with the despatches. The Rosario was afterwards employed in the Channel for the prevention of smuggling, and was paid off in February 1822. In March 1823 he commissioned the Lame for service in the East Indies, where he arrived in time to take an active part in the first Burmese war. From May to September 1824 he was senior naval officer at Rangoon, and was officially thanked for 'his able, gallant, and zealous co-operation' with the troops. The very sickly state of the ship obliged him to go to Penang, but by the end of December he was back at Rangoon, and in Februarv 1825 he had the naval command of an expedition up the Bassein river, which occupied Bassein and seized the Burmese magazines. In April 1825 he was appointed by the senior officer to be captain of the Tees, a promotion afterwards confirmed by the admiralty to 25 July 1825. He returned to England in the Tees in the beginning of 1826, and on 26 Dec. 1826 he was nominated a C.B. In November 1828 he was appointed to the Ariadne, which he commanded on particular service in the Atlantic, at the Azores or at Madeira till November 1830, when he resigned on the nominal grounds of 'private affairs,'
Marryat had been hitherto known as a naval officer of good and, according to his opportunities, of even distinguished service, lie had won a C.B. by his conduct in Bur- mah ; he had been awarded in 1818 the gold medal of the Royal Humane Society for his gallantry in saving life at sea, in addition to which he held certificates of having saved upwards of a dozen, by jumping overboard, often to the imminent and extreme danger of his own life. He had also been elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1819, mainly in recognition of his adaptation of Sir Home Popham's [q. v.] system of signalling, to a code for the mercantile marine (1817), which also won for him some years later (19 June 1833) the decoration of the Legion of Honour, conferred by the king of the French, 'for services rendered to science and navigation.' In the meantime, while still in the Ariadne, he wrote and published a novel, under the title of 'The Naval Officer, or Scenes and Adventures in the Life of Frank Mildmay,' 1829, 3 vols. 12mo, for which he received an immediate payment of 400l. The brilliant and lifelike narrative of naval adventure, most of which he had seen or experienced, took the public by storm ; the book was a literary and financial success. He had already written 'The King's Own,' which was published in 1830, and settling down to his new profession of literature, he produced with startling rapidity 'Newton Foreter,' 1832 ; 'Peter Simple,' 1834 ; 'Jacob Faithful,' 1834 ; 'The Pacha of Many Tales,' 1835 ; 'Mr. Midshipman Easy,' 1836; 'Japhet in Search of a Father,' 1836; 'The Pirate, and the Three Cutters,' 1836; 'Snarleyyow, or the Dog Fiend,' 1&37; 'The Phantom Ship,' 1839; 'Poor Jack,' 1840; 'Joseph Rushbrook, or The Poacher,' 1841 ; 'Percival Keene,' 1842 ; 'The Privateer's Man,' 1846 ; and 'Valerie,' published, after his death, in 1849.
But novel-writing was not his only literary work. From 1832 to 1835 he edited the 'Metropolitan Magazine,' and kept up a close connection with it for a year longer. In it most of his best novels first appeared : 'Newton Foreter,' 'Peter Simple,' 'Jacob Faithful,' 'Midshipman Easy,' and 'Japhet,' and besides these, many miscellaneous articles, afterwards published collectively, under the title 'Olla Podrida,' 1840, as well as others which were allowed to die. In 1836 he lived abroad, principally at Brussels, where he was popular, speaking French fluently and being' full of humorous stories ; 1837 and 1838 he spent in Canada and the United States, his impressions of which he gave to the world as 'A Diary in America, with remarks on its Institutions,' 1839, 3 vols. 12mo, and part second, with the same title, 1839, 3 vols. 12mo. After his return from America in the beginning of 1839 he lived principally in London or at Wimbledon till 1843, when he finally settled at Langham, a house and small farm in Norfolk, which had been in his possession for thirteen years, bringing in very little rent. Notwithstanding a considerable patrimony and the large sums he made by his novels, he seems at this time to have been somewhat straitened in his means, owing partly to the ruin of his West Indian property, and partly to his own extravagance and carelessness. When the readiness with which he had poured out novels of sea life at the rate of two or three a year began to fail, he found a new source of profit in his popular books for children. To these he principally devoted himself during his last eight years. The series opened with 'Masterman Ready, or the Wreck of the Pacific,' 1841, and continued with 'Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora, and Western Texas,' 1843 ; 'The Settlers in Canada,' 1844; 'The Mission, or Scenes in Africa,' 1845; 'The Children of the New Forest,' 1847 ; and, , published after his death, ' The Little Savage,' 2 pts., 1848-9. The work told on his health, which was never very strong. He imagined that change of occupation and scene might re-establish it, and in July 1847 applied for service afloat. The refusal of the admiralty to entertain his application exasperated him, and in his anger he broke a blood-vessel of the lungs. For six months he was seriously ill, and was barely recovering when the news of the death of his eldest son, Frederick, lost in the Avenger on 20 Dec. 1847, gave him a shock which proved fatal. He died at Langham on 9 Aug. 1848.
As a writer Marryat has been variously judged, but his position as a story-teller is assured. He drew the material of his stories from his professional experience and knowledge; the terrible shipwreck, for instance, in 'The King's Own,' is a coloured version of the loss of the Droits de l'homme [see Pellew, Edward, Viscount Exmouth], and Mr. Chucks was still known in the flesh to the generation that succeeded Marryat. As a tale of naval adventure, 'Frank Mildmay was avowedly autobiographical, and there can be little doubt that Marryat's contemporaries could have fitted other names to Captain Kearney, or to Captain To, or to Lieutenant Oxhelly. Marryat has made his sailors live, and has given his incidents a real and absolute existence. It is in this, and in the rollicking sense of fun and humour which pervades the whole, that the secret of his success lay; for, with the exception perhaps of 'The King's Own,' his plots are poor. According to Lockhart, 'in the quiet effectiveness of circumstantial narrative he sometimes approaches old Defoe,' Christopher North was an enthusiastic admirer of his career in the navy, of his writings, and his conviviality; while Hogg placed his character of Peter Simple on a level with that of Parson Adams. Edgar Allan Poe found Marryat's works 'essentially mediocre,' and his ideas 'the common property of the mob.' Besides the works already enumerated, Marryat was the author of 'Suggestions for the Abolition of the present System of Impressment in the Naval Service,' 1822, 8vo, a pamphlet which at the time caused some flutter in naval circles, and is said to have drawn down on him the ill-will of the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV; though other stories describe William, when king, as on terms of homely familiarity with both Marryat and his wife. He also published several caricatures, both political and social. One of these—'Puzzled which to Choose, or the King of Timbuctoo offering one of his Daughters in Marriage to Captain ––(anticipated result of the African Expedition),' — obtained considerable popularity, and, according to Mrs. Lean, was not without influence on his election as an F.R.S. 'The Adventures of Master Blockhead' was, on the same authority, one of the most popular of his drawings. Others were less fortunate, and one or more — presumably not published -—'stopped for some months his promotion from lieutenant to commander,' In January 1819 Marryat married Catherine, second daughter of Sir Stephen Shairp of Houston, Linlithgow, and for many years consul-general in Russia. By her he had issue four sons and seven daughters. Three of the sons predeceased him, the youngest, Frank, favourably known as the author of 'Borneo and the Indian Archipelago,' 1848, and 'Mountains and Molehills, or Recollections of a Burnt Journal,' 1865, died of decline in his twenty-ninth year, in 1855. Of the daughters, one, Mrs. Lean, has attained some distinction as a novelist under her maiden name of Florence Marryat. An engraved portrait has been published.
[Florence Marryat's Life and Letters of Captain Marryat, and There is no Death; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. ix. (vol. iii. pt. i.) 261; Hannay's Life of Frederick Marryat (Great Writers Series); Athenæum, 18 May 1889, p. 633; Fraser's Magazine May 1838; Temple Bar, March 1873; Notes and Queries, 7th ser., vii. 294. 486; Dundonald's Autobiography of a Seaman.]