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 Thomas Cochrane Biographies list - simultaneous reading 
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Post Thomas Cochrane Biographies list - simultaneous reading
Thomas Cochrane Biographies list and a weird question

Has anyone attempted to simultaneously read several biographies about the same person? I was about a third of the way through David Cordingly's biography and realized that, while I own TC's autobiography and Christopher Lloyd's biography, it has been a number of years since I had read them. I was enjoying Cordingly's work but wondered how it compared to TC's version or even Lloyd's. I thought it might be interesting to read about each event in several versions to see how they are treated. Since biographies are usually written in chronological order, this might be fairly easy to do.

I went looking for other versions and original publish dates and came up with the following list (below). Please note that I am not certain that this list is complete nor accurate as there were a number of re-issues with author and title changes. Any help in correcting this information would be appreciated.

I realize that several of the books listed below are specific to certain events in TC's life, notably the scandal and his exploits in South America, rather than a complete life history.

I am idling at the moment, trying to make a decision whether to continue reading the Cordingly book by itself or try a simultaneous reading. Anyone's thoughts on this would be appreciated.

I found out a few things that I did not realize. One was that Thomas Cochrane's autobiography (pub. 1860) was unfinished due to his death in that same year. His son "completed" his father's work by collecting his papers and hiring a new author which he assisted with his own memories. This work included a summary of the last four chapters in TC's autobiography and went on from there. If I am going to compare any later biography to the original by TC, I assume I should include the son's biography to be through. Anyone read this 1869 work?

I have read that Brian Vale's 2005 "The Audacious Admiral" is pretty good and has the added value that it might contain more accurate information from modern research compared to the 1947 biography by Christopher Lloyd that I own, for example. Anyone else have any suggestions from their own reading?

Would you ever try this and what books would you read?


List of books (in published date order):

pub: 1860 -- Cochrane, Admiral Lord – "Autobiography of a Seaman"

pub 1869 -- Cochrane, Thomas Barnes (11th Earl of Dundonald) & Bourne, Henry Richard Fox -- "The Life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane: Tenth Earl of Dundonald, G.C.B., Admiral of the Red, Rear Admiral of the Fleet, etc. etc." (two volumes). Notes: The son of Thomas Cochrane is sometimes listed as Thomas Barnes Cochrane Dundonald, Thomas Cochrane, or other variations. It seems that the writing was entrusted to H. R. Fox Bourne using the original documents of the Tenth Earl with the memory and assistance of the 11th Earl, although Cochrane is listed above Bourne as author. The son is "completing" his father’s autobiography. Both volumes are available for download through Goggle books as well as modern re-formats.

pub: 1947 -- Lloyd, Christopher – "Lord Cochrane: Seaman, Radical, Liberator"

pub: 1965 -- Tute, Warren – "Cochrane: A Life of Admiral the Earl of Dundonald"

pub: 1978 -- Grimble, Ian – "The Sea Wolf: The Life of Admiral Cochrane"

pub: 1978 – Thomas, Donald Serrell – "Britannia’s Last Sea King" re-issued in 2002 as "Britannia’s Sea Wolf" with the author now listed as Donald Thomas (no middle name).

pub: 2000 -- Harvey, Robert – "Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain"

pub: 2005 -- Vale, Brian – "The Audacious Admiral Cochrane: The True Life of a Naval Legend"

pub: 2006 -- Dale, Richard – "Napoleon is Dead: Lord Cochrane and the Great Stock Exchange Scandal"

pub: 2007 -- Cordingly, David – (US title) "Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander" aka (UK title) "Cochrane the Dauntless: The Life and Adventures of Thomas Cochrane"

pub: 2008 – Vale, Brian – "Cochrane in the Pacific: Fortune and Freedom in Spanish America"

Thanks, Don


Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:07 am
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Another book to note is Cochrane's account of his South American service: Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil: From Spanish and Portuguese Domination (1859).

I have one of Brian Vale's other books, which is about the frigate Doris. I'd like to read more of his books related to South America, because they tie in to BHall's story as well (Cochrane mentions him in the above account :D ).

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Sat Jan 26, 2008 2:27 am
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susan wrote:
Another book to note is Cochrane's account of his South American service: Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil: From Spanish and Portuguese Domination (1859).

Thanks Susan. I appreciate you giving me the complete title as I ran into variations of TC's name again when doing a search. It appears that in addition to the original 1859 edition being available for download from Goggle Books, there are at least three modern, modestly priced reprints at Amazon. At least one of these is a facsimile and at least one has been reformatted. TC's name is listed as Thomas Cochrane, Thomas Cochrane Dundonald, or Thomas, Earl of Dundonald. No wonder some of these did not pop up on my first search.

I bet this book would be a great one to simultaneously read (compare) with Brian Vale's "Cochrane in the Pacific: Fortune and Freedom in Spanish America" published this month.

Don


Sat Jan 26, 2008 3:18 am
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On your list, I can recommend "Britannia's Sea Wolf" by Donald Thomas.

I have never attempted to read several biographies of the same person simultaneously (which sounds like a pretty mammoth undertaking!), but I do often stop and check out a particular section against other biographies or other books, and it can be very enlightening.

When reading early biographies, it can also be quite entertaining to compare the biography of one person against the biography of another person mentioned. Sometimes there are some real spats between biographers on behalf of their respective "heroes", and sometimes it escalates as successive editions are published! One example is Brenton in his biography of Jervis versus Newnham Collingwood in his biography of Collingwood. Another I have come across is William Beatty in his "Death of Nelson" versus William James in his "History" (OK not a biography, but it's in respect of their accounts of Nelson's death).

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Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:08 pm
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Tony wrote:
On your list, I can recommend "Britannia's Sea Wolf" by Donald Thomas.
What did you find particularly good about Thomas' work? Does he concentrate on any particular aspect of TC's life? Does he mention how extensively he relied on original documents? Did he have access through the family? What other biographies of TC do you consider inferior to Thomas?

I think that Mary and others here have mentioned that they have read this one and I'm really looking for comments on all these books to help decide which to employ in this project. Thomas was published in 1978, the same year as Grimble. Tute was in 1965 and Lloyd was even earlier in 1947. These early biographies are the ones that are the most difficult to pick between. I only own (and have read) Lloyd's bio and that was long enough ago that I did not take any notes when I read it. Which books and how many are in the air at the moment.

Tony wrote:
I have never attempted to read several biographies of the same person simultaneously (which sounds like a pretty mammoth undertaking!), but I do often stop and check out a particular section against other biographies or other books, and it can be very enlightening.
I'm relatively new at reading AoS and never really had a system. When I started, I read only fiction, and for enjoyment only. After joining here, I became interested in the history of the period and started taking some notes of individual books but, unlike you (and others here), I never tried comparing books. Rarely have I even read more than one biography of a person. If I had realized at the time that Lloyd's book was originally written in 1947, I probably would have read Thomas instead or Harvey (2000), if it had been out at the time, I don't remember.

Your "mammoth undertaking" comment is "spot on" as I ponder the final reading list and the logistics of taking notes across several books. I have no plan as of yet as to how to create some meaningful system that would allow comparison and future reference.

I think this is going to be "fun" but I don't think it's going to be easy.

I think I have selected the right person since TC had such a colorful life. His naval experiences were so varied with service not only with the RN and in South America but in Greece also. Throw in the scandal and his technical inventions as well as his penchant to irritate many people in his wake and there's a lot to write and read about.

I have decided that TC's autobiography and his son's continuation will be my book number 1 (I'm sure that they are self-serving but I have to start somewhere). Other than that, I may have to read a bit from the others in order to decide. Since I always find the beginnings of biographies to be a real snore (family estates, relatives, schooling, etc.), I may pick something sure to appear in every one (like Speedy/Gamo or the scandal) and do a test comparison to pick the final list of books. But I am not planning on buying every single one on the list and that is why any recommendations from people here are important to me.

Thanks for the input.
Don


Sun Jan 27, 2008 3:04 am
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timoneer wrote:
Since I always find the beginnings of biographies to be a real snore (family estates, relatives, schooling, etc.), I may pick something sure to appear in every one (like Speedy/Gamo or the scandal) and do a test comparison to pick the final list of books.

Tony, another thing I am considering trying is to pick a minor detail in TC's life and see if it even appears at all, and if so, how detailed.

For instance, I noticed a puzzling comment in the Wikipedia article on TC. It says "After a brief enlistment in the British Army, which ended in fiasco." [my underlining]

I have reviewed this early episode in the three books I currently own (TC's autobiography, Lloyd, & Cordingly) and, while his early commission in the 104th Regiment of Foot is noted in all three, treatments are slightly different. The Wikipedia comment originally seemed to indicate to me that TC did something wrong while in the Army, but this seems to be false. It seems that the uniform (designed by his dad) was a major cause of embarrassment, and while he did attend a military school, TC never took up the commission purchased by his dad. Looking at the Wikipedia comment, it seems like the contributor there didn't really express this very accurately. Maybe one of the biographies makes similar mistaken nuances.

What does Thomas say about this incident?

It might be telling to select a small detail like this (or several) and make a cross comparison to help narrow the field.

Don


Last edited by timoneer on Tue Jan 29, 2008 1:17 am, edited 2 times in total.



Sun Jan 27, 2008 6:41 am
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I have always had a sneaking suspicion that St. Vincent's description of Cochrane -"money getting and not truth telling" - was not too wide of the mark. It seems to me that most of the biographies accept too much of the content of the two autobiographies (a loose term given the number of hacks involved) at face value without contributing original research. I have not yet read the two books by Vale but I am looking forward to doing so as Vale seems to be something of a cynic where Cochrane is concerned and his books should prove a valuable corrective to Thomas et al.

I can only admire Don's proposed comparative reading of two biographies at the same time, without proposing to emulate him.


Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:08 pm
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Post Re: Thomas Cochrane Biographies list - simultaneous reading
timoneer wrote:
Would you ever try this and what books would you read?

The closest thing I've considered doing is reading Basil Hall's account of his travels with his family (wife and young daughter) in North America alongside the book of his wife's letters written during the same period.

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Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:25 am
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IONIA wrote:
I have not yet read the two books by Vale but I am looking forward to doing so as Vale seems to be something of a cynic where Cochrane is concerned and his books should prove a valuable corrective to Thomas et al.
I agree with you that Brian Vale's efforts might be invaluable to evaluate the life of TC in a more balanced way. I have ordered "The Audacious Admiral Cochrane" partly from comments like yours and the review at Amazon written by Charles Stephenson.

Click Here and scroll down to see his review. I do not know who Stephenson is but since he remarks that Vale used him as a reference (and misspelled his name), he might be the author of "The Fortifications of Malta 1530-1945."

Don


Mon Jan 28, 2008 4:32 am
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That review by Stephenson is encouraging – and much superior to the generality of reviews on Amazon.

I based my own view of Vale’s likely approach on comments he had made in the Mariner’s Mirror some years ago.


Mon Jan 28, 2008 9:09 pm
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IONIA wrote:
I based my own view of Vale’s likely approach on comments he had made in the Mariner’s Mirror some years ago.

I went looking to see what the Mariner's Mirror was and found that it is the quarterly journal for the Society for Nautical Research(Click Here). I am not a member but it looks interesting.

Don


Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:03 am
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timoneer wrote:
What did you find particularly good about Thomas' work? Does he concentrate on any particular aspect of TC's life? Does he mention how extensively he relied on original documents? Did he have access through the family? What other biographies of TC do you consider inferior to Thomas?

I can't say that Thomas' biography is better than others, having only dipped into one or two others, but it is well written, it seems reasonably objective, and it paints a vivid picture of his life. It covers his whole life, including his final years, and is good on areas such as his radical politics. He references manuscript sources in the British Museum, PRO, and National Library of Scotland, but doesn't appear to have had access through the family. He does make extensive use of the autobiography (and acknowledges its authorship and unreliability), but has used many other sources, and there are extensive footnotes with source references.

Quote:
What does Thomas say about this incident?

Thomas' version of the story of his quitting the army is drawn from the autobiography and is that it was through embarrassment at his absurd bright yellow (Whig party colour) "pantomime" suit and shorn hair plastered with candlegrease and flour. There is no mention of any wrong doing, but as the source is the autobiography, there wouldn't be, would there?

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Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:46 pm
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More books about TC uncovered.

In another thread, Don Seltzer told me of a biography of the Cochrane family titled "The Fighting Cochranes: A Scottish Clan Over Six Hundred Years of Naval and Military History" by Alexander Cochrane, in collaboration with the 14th Earl of Dundonald, pub. 1983.

While searching for a copy of that book, I stumbled across another early biography of TC titled "Dundonald" by John William Fortescue, English Men of Action series, pub. 1895. It is long out of print, but available as a free pdf download from Goggle Books.

Don


Thu Jan 31, 2008 3:46 pm
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timoneer wrote:
I do not know who Stephenson is but since he remarks that Vale used him as a reference (and misspelled his name), he might be the author of "The Fortifications of Malta 1530-1945."
Stephenson did indeed write the book about Malta but, more appropriately, he is the author of "The Admiral's Secret Weapon: Lord Dundonald and the Origins of Chemical Warfare" (2006). Another of the specialized biographies of TC to add to the list.

I found another autobiographical work, published in 1847. Thomas Cochrane Dundonald -- "Observations on Naval Affairs: And on some Collateral Subject, Including Instances of Injustice Experienced by the Author, with a Summary of his Naval Service and a Copious Appendix" This appears to have been a pamphlet which not only laid out TC's naval record in detail but listed all the hardships experienced by him after the Stock Market trial. I couldn't find a copy listed anywhere.

In addition, I ran across another biography, this time one by E. G. [Eric Gilbert] Twitchett, titled "Life of a Seaman: Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald" (1931)

Don


Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:11 pm
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Post Update
Simultaneous readings of Thomas Cochrane biographies – Update

I have begun this project and wanted to review my actions and thoughts to date, hoping that I could solicit some comments and suggestions before I proceed too much farther.

To prepare, I gathered as many short biographies as I could. Mary helped me get copies of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) article written by Andrew Lambert (who I believe is the Laughton Professor of Naval History at King’s College, London) and Cochrane’s obituary. To that duo, I added an earlier Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) article, chapter 24 of "The Fighting Cochranes" by Andrew Cochrane (relative), the Wikipedia article, and several other, short biographical articles I found on-line.

1. Using these short articles, I have created a basic list of events in TC’s life. Examples:
14 December 1775 - born
6 May 1801 - "Speedy" vs "El Gamo"

2. Now I am in the process of expanding the descriptions in the basic list by reading the short biographies above for the second time. Please note, I am ignoring any "opinions" and detailed descriptions. I am trying to keep to facts only at this stage.

Examples (corresponding to the 2 examples above):

14 December 1775 - born at Annfield, near Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The eldest son of Archibald Cochrane (9th Earl). Mother was Ann Gilchrist.

6 May 1801 - While commanding sloop-of-war "Speedy" (158 tons, 54 men, 14 four-pounders) captured Spanish Xebec "El Gamo" (600 tons, 319 men, 22 twelve-pounders, 8 nine-pounders, 2 cannonades).

Actually, I am traveling slowly right at the moment due to the differences in the many articles. I guess this is just normal for anyone dealing with secondary source material.

If I could look at the official document showing TC’s birth, I might be able to tell exactly where he was born and his legal name. "The Fighting Cochranes" (written by a relative) spells his birthplace "Annfield," the ODNB spells it Annesfield. Other sources spell it variously "Annefield" or "Annisfield." Did the name change over the years? Both "The Fighting Cochranes" and the ODNB list Thomas Cochrane "without" a middle name. I have a tendency to believe that he had none but many of the other articles show "Alexander" as his middle name. I wonder what the truth is? Frustrating!

With "El Gamo," the 2 cannonades are sometimes listed as carronades. Did the Spanish have carronades in 1801? I can understand why many of the biographers list the 32 guns of "El Gamo" as "heavy" and forgo describing them.

How can I judge the accuracy of the biographies I plan on reading if I do not know the basic facts to start with?

After the list is finished, I still have to pick the biographies to read. Right now I am thinking of not using any autobiographical material by TC or any of the material written by Fox (and overseen by his son Thomas Barnes Cochrane), since most of this was plainly biased toward the 10th Earl’s viewpoint. I’m still not 100% convinced that I should ignore this, however.

With regard to the other biographies, I do not plan on reading Brian Vale’s "Cochrane in the Pacific" or Stephenson’s "The Admiral’s Secret Weapon" as they are too focused on just a section of TC’s life. However, I probably will read the Stephenson book later. I also do not want to read the "older" biographies as further research and recently uncovered documents might have left their material lacking in some way. It's possible that ignoring some of these older books may be a mistake but....

Therefore, my short list of biographies to read includes David Cordingly’s , Brian Vale’s "The Audacious Admiral Cochrane," and Robert Harvey’s. All three of these have been published since 2000.

Any comments?

Don

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Sat Mar 01, 2008 10:50 pm
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