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 Jack Tar: Roy & Lesley Adkins 
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Post Jack Tar: Roy & Lesley Adkins
You've been kind enough to mention my previous books on this forum (Nelson's Trafalgar - known simply as Trafalgar in the UK; and The War for All the Oceans, co-authored with my wife Lesley). Our latest book is Jack Tar, which may well be of interest to some of you here. The hardback title was Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy, but it was changed to Jack Tar: The extraordinary lives of ordinary seamen in Nelson's navy. It is published by Little, Brown (and by their imprint Abacus for the paperback), and deals mainly with the seamen and to a lesser extent the officers, as well as marines, from 1771 (when Nelson joined the Royal Navy) to a decade after his death. It has 429 pages. Unfortunately, the book isn't (yet?) available in the US, though you can get hold of it online. There is more information about the book on our website:

http://www.adkinshistory.com/jacktar.aspx

Roy Adkins


Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:24 pm
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Hi Roy,

Thanks for posting the information about your latest. I'm sure it will be of interest to SN forum members.

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susan


Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:55 am
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I'd like to commend this book which is of interest to the layman and scholar alike. One feature in particular that appealed to me was the vast number of authentic voices the Adkins' have unearthed from long-forgotten diaries, letters etc. which help to bring life and colour to the bare facts of history.

Although a scholarly and meticulously researched work, 'Jack Tar' is written in a clear, accessible style that is a pleasure to read. Enjoy!


Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:59 pm
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I am enjoying this detailed examination of seamen's experiences in the Georgian Navy, with the wealth of excerpts from journals and letters.

Can the authors shed light on the dust-jacket illustration? Some alarming event while reefing a sail is strikingly portrayed in W.J. Huggins's painting. At first I thought that it was just that a gust of wind had caught the sailors unawares, but then noticed that the stuns'l boom was not parallel with the yard. Has the boom come adrift at its inboard end, with the man at the yard-arm endangered by having the boom under his left arm?

Martin


Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:10 pm
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Hello Martin,

Thank you for your kind comments (and thanks of course to Polly above) – much appreciated.

Book jacket designs are an interesting topic, and I could go on and on about them! We were given this design by the publisher and were told ‘we love the design and hope you do too’, meaning ‘and it’s far too late to change anything if you don’t love it’. As you say, the picture is from a painting of W.J. Huggins, and we were concerned because the date of the painting is somewhat later than the period we are dealing with. But we did like the humour, with the sailor’s hat flying off and the surprised expressions on their faces.

As we didn’t choose the jacket artwork, we have to admit that we have never studied deeply what is happening. In Brian Lavery’s large-format illustrated book Nelson’s Navy (Conway), on page 161 under ‘Basic Seamanship’, he includes a black-and-white version of the illustration, called ‘Reefing Topsails’. In his caption, he says ‘Men working on a yard. The studding sail boom has been lashed up to keep it out of the way of the seamen’. In another illustrated book, Marine Art & Antiques: Jack Tar: A Sailor’s Life 1750–1910 by J.Welles Henderson and Rodney P Carlisle, the same illustration is included in colour on page 247, with the caption ‘Simply doing the daily work on a sailing vessel could be risky. This 1832 print by W.J. Huggins shows six men in a high wind trying simultaneously to hold on for their lives and to furl a sail. Their expressions, the hat lost to the wind, and the flapping sail, all tell of the hazard.’

If you have the hardback of our book, Jack Tar: Life in Nelson’s Navy, the design is red, white and blue, or actually red, muddy grey and blue, with a bit of white. The Huggins picture was tilted about 30 degrees, so that the expressions on the seamen’s faces should probably have been one of total alarm. For the paperback, the title was changed to Jack Tar: The extraordinary lives of ordinary seamen in Nelson’s navy, and the picture was no longer tilted. This time a red and salmon pink hue was used as the main colours.

It would be good to hear from anyone who can explain better what the original picture shows (and why it was painted).

Roy

www.adkinshistory.com


Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:02 pm
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Hello Roy,

Many thanks for the detailed reply. I now think that your quote from Brian Lavery's book is correct. I have been doing a little hunting about myself and found in John Harland's magnificent Seamanship in the Age of Sail a similar comment. In his Chapter 10, Studdingsails, he has a diagram of a studdingsail boom hauled up at the inboard end: "boom jigger in use as a tricing tackle". I am too ignorant of the practicalities of square rigger procedures to know exactly why this would be done, but in the text he also mentions that the topmast studding sail boom could be "'triced up' out of the way" when furling or reefing.

I find the full-colour dust jacket for your Jack Tar ... delightful. The expressions of the men, seeing one of their mates losing his hat in a gust of wind, is rather comical - even if it does illustrate the ever present dangers. No need to postulate a stuns'l boom adrift at the inboard end: the wind alone was enough to cope with.

Some years ago a fellow-member of another list introduced me to Cicely Fox Smith's moving (and somewhat ambivalent) poem Lee Fore Brace with his comment that it "illustrated why he was glad that men no longer had to earn their living by driving square riggers around Cape Horn".

Martin


Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:00 pm
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Hello Martin,

At last I have located our copy of the Harland book - a classic work that everyone should own (I hope it's still in print). And, yes, that's a very good chapter on Studdingsails.

Regarding Jack Tar, if you have the first printing of the hardcover, the endpapers (the pages just inside the book) are also interesting. The illustration used is a blue-and-white version of the Rowlandson print 'Portsmouth Point'. We wanted something very attractive as endpapers, because it's the sort of thing that sways people to buy hardcover books as presents. We asked for this print to be used, because it is also full of humour. Alas, when it was reprinted, the publisher dropped the endpapers to save money - so if you have those endpapers, then you have a first edition.

Roy

www.adkinshistory.com[url][/url]


Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:36 am
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Roy: Thanks for the info about Jack Tar. Unfortunately our copy is not a first edition. It is a 2009 reprinting and lacks the endpapers.

John Harland's Seamanship in the age of sail seems to be out of print, though there are many second-hand copies on offer. All rather expensive, but it was GBP 30 when first published in the 1980s. We have always thought it well worth the price.

John Harland is still quite active. I believe that he served on corvettes in WW2. He still contributes regularly to a maritime discussion list and I occasionally see notes from him in The Mariner's Mirror.

Martin


Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:14 am
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