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Sea Life in Nelson's Time

John Masefield's Sea Life in Nelson's Time is the brilliantly told story of the ships of Nelson's navy and, more especially, of their sailors and a naval glory 'built up by the blood and agony of thousands of barbarously maltreated men'. From beginning to end, from the floor of the mould-loft where the master shipwrights drew up the plans of their ships, through to the epilogue, a poetic eulogy for sailors long dead and gone, Masefield breathes life into the bare facts of life on board for the men and officers: the duties of each man, the unwholesome food, the cramped and filthy living quarters, the inhuman punishments, the 'floating hell' of a ship in action and the pitifully primitive hospital facilities. The life of the ordinary seaman in the British Navy in the late 18th century fascinated and appalled Masefield, who described it as 'brutalising, cruel and horrible', but it fired his imagination and his prose and this vividly realistic study, the first of its kind, remains the most comprehensive introduction to the subject.
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About the Author

John Masefield (1878-1967) is in the highest class as a writer of clear, muscular English, whether he is writing about the countryside he loved so well, or, as in this book, the sea, with which he maintained that love-hate relationship which is the hallmark of the genuine seaman,' writes Professor Lloyd. Brought up in Herefordshire and soon orphaned, Masefield was trained on the Conway at Liverpool, served his apprenticeship in windjammers, sailed around the Horn and was beached in New York before he was eighteen. His experiences in these impressionable years stayed with him for the rest of his life. Back in England at the turn of the century, Masefield worked for the Manchester Guardian and published two books of verse (one which contained 'Sea Fever') and a collection of short stories before Sea Life in Nelson's Time was published in 1905. He became famous in 1911 with the publication of Everlasting Mercy, when the use of the word 'bloody' created a sensation. Reynard the Fox, published in 1919, consolidated his position. In 1930 he was appointed Poet Laureate and other honours followed, notably the Order of Merit in 1935.

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