The Far Side of the World

The Far Side of the World

Infobox Book |
name = The Far Side of the World

image_caption =
author = Patrick O'Brian
country = United Kingdom
language = English
cover_artist = Geoff Hunt
series = Aubrey-Maturin series
genre = Historical novel
publisher = Harper Collins (UK)
release_date = 1984
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, CD)
pages = pages (first edition, hardback) & pages 366 (paperback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-393-03710-X, (first edition, hardback) & ISBN 0-393-30862-6 (paperback edition UK)2003 / ISBN 0-393-32476-1 (paperback movie tie-in edition)
preceded_by = Treason's Harbour
followed_by = The Reverse of the Medal

"The Far Side of the World", (1984) is a historical novel and tenth in the Aubrey-Maturin series. It was first published by HarperCollins in 1984. The novel provided part of the title and some of plot-structure for the 2003 Peter Weir film, "".

Plot summary

"The Far Side of the World" continues the story of Jack Aubrey's exploits during the War of 1812. Aubrey reports to his commander-in-chief at Gibraltar, who sends him and HMS "Surprise" to intercept the American frigate USS "Norfolk" which plans to attack British whalers in the South Seas. Jack makes all haste to have the "Surprise" victualled as quickly as possible and recruits a new master, a Mr Allen. Not only is he an excellent seaman but he also has an in-depth knowledge of whalers, having sailed previously with Colnett on a semi exploration-whaling expedition to the South Atlantic. Stephen Maturin also persuades Jack to take Mr Martin along with them, a clergyman who Jack approves of and who is unhappy with his current ship.

Maturin receives disturbing news from his intelligence-chief in London, Sir Joseph Blaine, which tends to confirm his suspicions of treason and infiltration by the French. He also hears from his wife, who has heard rumours of the infidelity he pretended in Valetta, Malta with the red-haired Mrs Fielding for intelligence reasons. He sends a letter to reassure her via Andrew Wray, unaware of the latter's role as a French agent.

The "Surprise" encounters many setbacks, suffering delays in Brazil from a lightening-struck prow before they round Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean to locate the Norfolk, which has captured and burnt several whalers. The British, having nearly been shipwrecked by the tail of a typhoon, finally discover the "Norfolk" wrecked on a reef by the same typhoon and her crew encamped on an island. Aubrey, Mr Martin and some of the crew take Stephen ashore as he has fallen unconscious from an accident and needs to be on land to recover. However, although Stephen makes a recovery, another heavy storm blows the "Surprise" away and they are left stranded. Relations between the two marooned groups deteriorate rapidly, particularly after Jack announces to the American Captain Palmer that he will have to take his crew prisoner. Some of them are from the "Hermione" that mutinied in the West Indies and they know they will be hanged if caught. The situation reaches a crisis point after Jack orders to Surprises to extend their boat so they can sail away, pushing them particularly hard when he sees an American whaler on the horizon. The Norfolks sabotage the boat after spotting the same whaler but it is at this point that they see her strike her colours, having been pursued through a gap in the reef by the "Surprise".

A sub-plot in the book is the illict affair between the sweet singing but otherwise untalented Hollom, a passed midshipman but too old to become a lieutenant, and the pretty wife brought aboard by the sexually impotent gunner, Horner. Hollom is considered a Jonah by the crew - someone who brings bad luck to the ship - and the two lovers are beaten to death by the ferocious, brutal and jealous husband on an island whilst the "Surprise" is being provisioned. Horner himself sinks into a black despair and is discovered hanging in his cabin.

Characters in "The Far Side of the World"

*Jack Aubrey - Captain of HMS "Surprise".
*Stephen Maturin - ship's surgeon, friend to Jack and an intelligence officer.
*Sophie Aubrey (née Williams) - Jack's wife
*Mr Hollom - midshipman on HMS "Surprise"
*Mr and Mrs Horner - master gunner on HMS "Surprise" and his young wife
*Mr Allen - master on HMS "Surprise"
*Mr Martin - a Royal Navy parson
*Captain Pullings - a volunteer on HMS "Surprise"
*Barret Bonden - Jack Aubrey's coxwain
*Mr Mowett - lieutentant on HMS "Surprise"
*Preserved Killick - Jack Aubrey's shrewish manservant on HMS "Surprise"
*Padeen Colman - Stephen Maturin's huge, gentle Irish manservant and loblollyboy on HMS "Surprise"
*Captain Palmer - Captain of the USS Norfolk
*Haines - a British Navy deserter on the USS Norfolk

hips in "The Far Side of the World"

The British

*HMS "Surprise" - Aubrey's favourite command
*"Intrepid Fox" - a whaler burned by the "Norfolk"

The Americans

*USS "Norfolk"

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

The Chesapeake Leopard Affair:

The marooned captain of the "Norfolk" reminds Aubrey of the Chesapeake Leopard Affair as a way of protecting members of his crew, who are mutineers off of the HMS "Hermione".

The USS "Chesapeake" lay off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, and was under the command of Commodore James Barron. HMS "Leopard", under the command of Salisbury Pryce Humphreys, hailed and requested to search the "Chesapeake" for suspected deserters from the Royal Navy; when the "Chesapeake" refused, the "Leopard" began to fire broadsides, killing three aboard the "Chesapeake" and injuring another 18 (one of whom, Robert Macdonald, later died from his wounds ashore). The "Chesapeake", her decks cluttered with stores in preparation for a long cruise, managed to fire only a single gun in reply to the "Leopard", and Barron quickly struck his colors and surrendered his ship; however, Humphreys refused the surrender, and simply sent a boarding party to search for the deserters.

HMS "Leopard" found four Royal Navy deserters among the "Chesapeake" crew: David Martin, John Strachan, and William Ware, run from HMS "Melampus"; and Jenkin Ratford, run from HMS "Halifax". Of the four, only Ratford was British-born: Strachan was a white man born in the United States (though later serving in the Royal Navy), and Martin and Ware were African Americans (place of birth uncertain). "Leopard" carried the men to Halifax for trial: the British citizen, Ratford, was sentenced to death and hanged on the "Halifax"; the three Americans - as non-British nationals - were sentenced to 500 lashes each, but the sentence was later commuted, and the British government eventually offered to return them to the U.S. and pay reparations.

The USS "Essex": The USS "Norfolk" also recalls the historical expedition of the USS "Essex". "Essex" sailed in South Atlantic waters and along the coast of Brazil until January 1813 when Captain Porter undertook the decimation of English whale fisheries in the Pacific. Although her crew suffered greatly from a shortage of provisions and heavy gales while rounding Cape Horn, she anchored safely at Valparaíso, Chile, on 14 March, having seized schooners "Elizabeth" and "Nereyda" along the way. The next five months brought "Essex" 13 prizes.

In January 1814, Essex sailed into neutral waters at Valparaiso, only to be trapped there for 6 weeks by the British frigate, HMS "Phoebe" (36 guns) and the sloop-of-war "Cherub" (18 guns). On 28 March 1814, Porter determined to gain the open sea, fearing the arrival of British reinforcements. Upon rounding the point, "Essex" lost her main top-mast to foul weather, forcing her return to the harbour. The British, disregarding the neutrality of the harbour, proceeded with the attack on the crippled ship. For 2½ hours, Essex, armed almost entirely with powerful but short range guns called carronades, resisted the enemy's superior fighting power and longer gun range. A fire erupted twice aboard the "Essex", at which point about 50 men abandoned the ship and swam for shore; only half of them landing. Eventually, the hopeless situation forced the frigate to surrender. The "Essex" suffered 58 killed, 97 wounded, while the British casualties were 5 dead, 10 wounded.

Literary significance & criticism


"These eccentric, improbably novels seem to have been written by Patrick O'Brian to please himself in the first instance, and thereafter to please those readers who may share his delight in precision of language, odd lands and colors, a humane respect for such old-fashioned sentiments as friendship and honor. Like Aubrey and Maturin playing Mozart duets beneath a Pacific moon, he works elegant variations on the tradition of the seafaring adventure story." — Thomas Flanagan, "New York Times Book Review" [ [ Thomas Flanagan, "New York Times Book Review"] ]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel provided much of the overall plot-structure for the 2003 Peter Weir film, "", though the fictional USS "Norfolk" morphed into the fictional American-built French privateer "Acheron", and episodes also migrated from other books in the series, including "Master and Commander" and "HMS Surprise". The design and size of the fictional "Acheron" reflect those of the USS "Constitution".


*Collins (1984)
*Fontana; Paperback edition (1985)
*W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint Paperback edition (1992) (ISBN 0393308626)
*Books on Tape; Audio edition (1993) (ISBN 5555768079)
*HarperCollins; Paperback edition (1994)
*W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint Hardcover edition (1994) (ISBN 039303710X)
*HarperCollins; B-format paperback edition (1997)
*Thorndike Press; Large-print Hardcover edition (2002) (ISBN 0754017834)
*Thorndike Press; Large-print Paperback edition (2002) (ISBN 0754091759)
*HarperCollins; Paperback edition (2003)
*W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue (movie tie-in) Paperback edition (2003) (ISBN 0393324761)
*Soundings Ltd; Audio CD Edition (2003) (ISBN 1842832689)
*Recorded Books, LLC; Unabridged Audio edition narrated by Patrick Tull (ISBN 1402591764)

ources, references, external links, quotations


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