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Aubreyisms

Many thanks to all the lissuns who have directly or indirectly contributed with their posts over the years, and thanks in advance to those that will contribute with correction, additions, and general improvements.

Page numbers refer to the HarperCollins edition. Bruce Trinque has provided an excellent synoptic table of the pagination of all UK and US editions.

Anna Ravano


Master and Commander The Fortune of War The Reverse of the Medal The Wine-Dark Sea
Post Captain The Surgeon's Mate The Letter of Marque The Commodore
HMS Surprise The Ionian Mission The Thirteen-Gun Salute The Yellow Admiral
The Mauritius Command Treason's Harbour The Nutmeg of Consolation The Hundred Days
Desolation Island The Far Side of the World Clarissa Oakes Blue at the Mizzen

Master and Commander

p. 29

'What is Catalan?'

'Why, the language of Catalonia – of the islands, of the whole of the Mediterranean coast down to Alicante and beyond. Of Barcelona. Of Lerida. All the richest part of the peninsula.'

'You astonish me. I had no notion of it. Another language, sir? But I dare say it is much the same thing – a putain, as they say in French.'

'Oh no, nothing of the kind – not like at all. A far finer language. More learned, more literary. Much nearer the Latin. And by the by, I believe the word is patois, sir, if you will allow me.'

'Patois – just so. Yet I swear the other is a word: I learnt it somewhere,' said Jack.

putain = whore: patois = dialect

p. 78

'And there is little to be done with a thoroughly unwilling crew.'

'No,' said Jack. 'There is no forcing a willing mind.' He was reminded of his conversation with Stephen Maturin, and he added, 'It is a contradiction in terms'

? forcing an unwilling mind

pp. 138-9

'It is a very curious thing, you know,' he went on, gazing out of the stern window with a look of mild, ingenuous wonder, 'a prodigious curious thing, but there cannot be many men who are both damned fools and no seamen, who reach post rank in the Royal Navymen with no interest, I mean, of courseand yet it so happens that I have served under no less than two of them. I really thought I was dished that timecareer finished, cut down, alas poor Borwick. I spent eight months on shore, as melancholy as that chap in the play, going up to town whenever I could afford it, which was not often, and hanging about that damned waiting-room in the Admiralty.'

'Alas, poor Yorick' (Shakespeare, Hamlet, V.i)

p. 239

'[T]here I was, turning all the women ashore as righteous as Pompous Pilate, and they knew all the time ... well, well.'

p. 374

'Well,' said Captain Pallière, 'let it not spoil our breakfast at all events. [...] Come, sir: gather we rose-pods while we may.'

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may (a line by Robert Herrick, 1591-1674)

p. 395

'Come on. I have a thirst like Achilles, no, Andromache.'


Post Captain

p. 230

'Must I not go ashore?'

'No, of course you must not, and that's an end to it. You must make your bed and lie on it.' He paused with a feeling that this was not quite the epigram that he had wished

you have made your bed, now you must lie on it

pp. 387-9

'Well, I will wear the bees, like Damon and Pythagoras – ho, a mere sixty thousand been in the cabin don't signify, much.'

Damon and Pythias


HMS Surprise

p. 44

'Hey, hey!' cried Jack, with a bright and lively eye. 'Here's a palm in Gilead, by God – private signals – code by numbers – lights recognition in fog – Spanish and other allied signals.'

a balm in Gilead (from Jer. 8:22)

p. 147

'It is not what you would call handsome,' said Jack laughing, 'but a bird in the hand is worth any amount of beating about the bush, don't you agree?'

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
to beat about the bush

p. 181

'... they have chosen their cake, and must lie in it.'

'You mean, they cannot have their bed and eat it.'

'No, no, it is not quite that, neither. I mean – I wish you would not confuse my mind, Stephen.'

you've made your own bed, now you must lie on it
you can't have your cake and eat it

p. 196

Autres pays, autre merde

lit. "other countries, other shits"
Autres pays, autres moeurs, "other countries, other customs"

p. 293

'Give them leave to part company, throw out the signal to tack in succession again, and there you have two birds in one bush.'

to kill two birds with one stone
a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

p. 302

In the middle watch Jack woke for a few minutes to find the ship pitching heavily his prayer had been answered, and a heavy swell was setting in from the south. He need not dread the Frenchman's distant fire. Accuracy, long range and a calm sea were birds tarred with the same feather.

birds of a feather flock together
to be tarred with the same brush


The Mauritius Command

p. 50

Jack was obliged to take the jolly-boat a quarter of a mile away fom his morning's swim, while at the same time he caused the crew to row their ship, thus rendering the view more agreeable and training them in the art of managing an ora, so beating two birds with one bush, as he put it [...]

to kill two birds with one stone
one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
to beat about the bush

p. 176

'Was you to marry every girl you play love-tokens with, when ashore, this place would very soon come to look like Abraham's bosom.'

Abraham's seed (Genesis, 13:16, And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, [then] shall thy seed also be numbered.)

Abraham's bosom = heaven


Desolation Island

p. 30

'[S]till, 'tis an ill wind that spoils the broth'

'tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
too many cooks spoil the broth

p. 56

'I will observe, Jack, that a bird in the hand waits for no man, as you often say yourself.'

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
time and tide wait for no man

p. 56

'[T]here is something to be said for making hay when no clouds obscure the sun; and that it is your rolling stone that gets the worm.'

make hay while the sun shines
a rolling stone gathers no moss
the early bird catches the worm

p. 118

'Oh, if only the Admiralty had attended to my plea for Richardson or Ned Summerhayes – but if only pigs had wings, we should have no need for tinkers' hands, as they say.'

pigs might fly if they had wings
if ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers' hands

p. 170

'Now I may not see much farther through a brick wall than the next man,' Jack went on, 'but I know damned well that for all his black coat, that man wants to come to her bed.'


The Fortune of War

p. 11

'Oh, come sir,' cried Jack. 'My lieutenants – and Babbington has followed me since my first command – my midshipmen, and all my bargemen, in one fell sloop? Is this justice, sir?'

'What sloop, Aubrey?'

'Why, as to that, sir, I do not mean any specific vessel: it was an allusion to the Bible.'

at one fell swoop (from Shakespeare, Macbeth, IV, iii: 'What! all my pretty chickens and their dam / At one fell swoop?')

p. 146

'[...] and then again, they hate the very name of Leopard, naturally enough. I am connected with her; and any stick will do to hang a wicked dog.'

a stick with which to beat someone
give a dog a bad name and hang him

p. 201

'Captain Aubrey is the most complete British sea-officer, the kind that taught our men their trade. But he puzzled me once or twice: would it be indiscreet to ask who the Admiral Crichton to whom he compared you may be? I cannot remember any such name among Lord Nelson's companions. And what can he have meant by saying that Napoleon was killing the golden calf in Russia? I did not like to linger, because really he has been so shockingly knocked about, and Dr Choate insisted that I should not fatigue him.'

'The Crichton in question was no doubt the ingenious Scotchman of some two centuries ago who spoke so many languages and who was called the Admirable for his shining parts: Captain Aubrey has long been persuaded that he served in the Royal Navy. As for the golden calf, I can only hazard the guess that there may have been some confusion between the error of the Israelites and the goose of our childhood that laid those golden eggs, poor bird.'

to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs
to worship the golden calf

p. 207

'What a memory you have,' said Jack. 'Like a...'

'Bull of Bashan?'

'Just so.'

the memory of an elephant
to roar like a bull of Bashan (from Psalms, 22:12-13; Amos 4:1)

p. 211

'I wondered that he could bear it; but he did, just like one of your old Stoics; or a patient on the Monument, as they say.'

Shakespeare, The Twelfth Night, II. iv:

Viola. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief.


The Surgeon's Mate

p. 66

'I never thought I should like a fellow who ran so openly – who ran like a hare, without beating about the mulberry bush, or making any bones about it, although he has a neat little broadside, quite enough to make the schooner cry peccavi if he knows how to ply it.'

to beat about the bush
'Here we go round the mulberry bush'

p. 93

'That is the children,' said Sophia.

'Yes,' said Jack, 'I saw them marching about like thrones and dominions.'

'For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him' (St. Paul, Epistle to the Colossians, 1: 16)

p. 133

'I am very pleased with him. A capital man of business, clear-headed, and as brisk as a bee. He is carrying the war into their camp, the infernal dogs: that is what I like to see. Says a writ of duces tecum will compel them to show the paper I signed, and put an end to the uncertainty; and he has already sued one out. Duces tecum: that's the stuff.'

'What does it mean?' asked Sophie.

'I never was much of a fist at Latin,' said Jack. 'Not like Philip Broke. But I do remember dux, a leader, an admiral as you might say: and the plural is duces. So you could construe duces tecum as the admirals are with thee; and I don't ask better than that. Excellent Mr Skinner.'

p. 151

'...we will go snacks for the chaise, and stay at the Grapes, and that will kill three birds at one blow.'

to kill two birds with one stone

p. 166

'This is an urgent business, as I said – I will telegraph Portsmouth and they will tell her to expect you back next month with a feather in your cap – but time and tide wait for no man, you know.'

'No, sir,' said Jack; and not to be outdone he added, 'And they say that a feather in the cap is worth two in the bush.'

a feather on someone's cap
a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

p. 214

'Many a stitch saves time,' said Jack. 'But I doubt we hold on to our royals much longer.'

a stitch in time saves nine
many a mickle makes a muckle

p. 216

'You are confident of taking her, I find.'

'Oh, I should never say anything as unlucky as that. I should never count the bear's skin before it is hatched: oh no.

to sell the bear's skin before one has caught the bear
to count one's chicken before they are hatched

p. 256

'[A] good many of these omens are all cry and no wolf.'

'Is it not wool, sir?'

'Come, come, Mr Pellworm,' said Jack, laughing aloud. 'Who would cry wool too often? What would be the point of crying wool? There is no danger in wool, you know; indeed, London Bridge is founded on it, and you cannot say fairer than that, I believe.

all cry and no wool
to cry wolf


The Ionian Mission

pp. 39-40

'Shall we make an attempt upon the D minor double sonata?' said Jack, 'and knit up the ravelled sleeve of care with sore labour's bath?'
'By all means,' said Stephen. 'A better way of dealing with a sleeve cannot be imagined.'

'Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care, / The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath' (Shakespeare, Macbeth, II. ii. 38-9)

p. 116

'Your Mr Martin carries on about the harshness of the service,' he observed after the fourth cup, 'and although I must confess that a flogging round the fleet is not a pretty sight, I feel that perhaps he may carry it a trifle high. He may exaggerate. It is unpleasant, to be sure, but it is not necessarily death and damnation.'

'For my part I should prefer hanging,' said Stephen.

'You and Martin may say what you like,' said Jack, but there are two ends to every pudding.'

'I should be the last to deny it,' said Stephen. 'If a pudding starts, clearly it must end; the human mind is incapable of grasping infinity, and an endless pudding passes our conception.'

there are two sides to every argument
the proof of the pudding is in the eating

p. 123

'[T]here was Bennet driving up and down the Marina in an open carriage with this nymph of his and an ancient gentlewoman for decency's sake, looking as pleased as Pontius Pilate.'

as pleased as Punch

p. 280

'Why, as to that,' said Jack, blowing on his coffee-cup and staring out of the stern-window at the harbour, 'as to that ... if you do not choose to call him a pragmatical clinchpoop and kick his breech, which you might think ungenteel, perhaps you could tell him to judge the pudding by its fruit.'

'You mean, prove the tree by its eating.'

'No, no, Stephen, you are quite out: eating a tree would prove nothing.'

the proof of the pudding is in the eating
a tree is known by its fruit

p. 283

'[N]avigation in that choked-up harbour, with whole trees aground or floating, was neither beer nor yet skittles.'

no small beer
not all beer and skittles


Treason's Harbour

p. 184

'Mr Williamson, Mr Calamy,' he called, and the midshipmen came running, their faces all aglow. 'Do you know what a lame duck does?'

'No, sir,' they said, beaming.

'It attempts to pull wool over your eyes. Lapwings do much the same when you are near their nest.'

p. 255

'They very nearly set about the Turks, so as not to be done out of a fight altogether, and my Pope – they have any number of popes in these parts, you know – and the Bey had to lay about them, roaring like bulls in a basin.'

to roar like a bull of Bashan (from Psalms, 22:12-13; Amos 4:1)

p. 317

'There's a great deal to be said for making hay while the iron's hot.'

to make hay while the sun shines
to strike while the iron is hot


The Far Side of the World

p. 232

'I beg your pardon a thousand times,' said Jack. 'I am in the D minor piece - I have been gathering moss.'

woolgathering
a rolling stone gathers no moss

p. 153

'[I]n a near-run thing it is a captain's duty to be on deck, urging his ship through the water by the combined effort of his will and his belly-muscles: you may say it is buying a dog and barking at the stable door yourself -'

'The stable door after it is locked,' said Stephen, holding up his hand.

'Just so: the stable door after it is locked, yourself. But there are more things than heaven and earth, you know.'

to keep a dog and bark yourself
to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (Shakespeare, Hamlet, I. v. 166)

p. 203

'If I cannot promise them locusts and wild honey at once, at least there is every likelihood of warmth and dry beds very soon.'

'and his meat was locusts and wild and honey' (Matthew, 3:4; said of John the Baptist in the wilderness)
'a land flowing with milk and honey' (Exodus, 3:8; said of the Promised Land)

p. 232

'Heaven knows I am not one to fling a hundred thousand dollars in a gift-horse's teeth'

to look a gift horse in the mouth
to fling something in someone's teeth

p. 235

'[T]his would be killing both birds ...' He paused, frowned, muttered 'over one stile', and went on, 'Well never mind – that would be the most seamanlike way of dealing with the situation [...].'

to kill two birds with one stone
to help a lame dog over a stile

p. 295

'No, it is not that,' said Jack, catching his look. 'That would be locking the horse after the stable door is gone, a very foolish thing to do.'

to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted

p. 303

'Only this morning I was thinking how right they were to say it was better to be a dead horse than a live lion.' He gazed out of the scuttle, obviously going over the words in his mind. 'No. I mean better to flog a dead horse than a live lion.'

'I quite agree.'

'Yet even that's not quite right, neither. I know there is a dead horse in it somewhere; but I am afraid I'm brought by the lee this time, though I rather pride myself on proverbs, bringing them in aptly, you know, and to the point.'

'Never distress yourself, brother; there is no mistake, I am sure. It is a valuable saying, and one that admonishes us never to underestimate our enemy, for whereas flogging a dead horse is child's play, doing the same to a lion is potentially dangerous, even though one may take a long spoon.'

it's better to be a live dog than a dead lion
to flog a dead horse
he that sups with the devil must have a long spoon


The Reverse of the Medal

p. 12

'You will tip it the civil to them, Aubrey, when you run each of 'em to earth. These medicos are a stiff-necked, independent crew, and you must never cross them just before they dose you.'

'No, sir,' said Jack, 'I shall speak to them like a sucking dove.'

'Pig, Aubrey, sucking pig. Doves don't suck.'

Bottom: 'I will aggravate my voice so that I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you an 'twere any nightingale' (Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, I. ii)

p. 49

'Yet you are not to suppose that they are all tarred with the same feathers. Most privateers arc very fine vessels, built for speed of course, and well manned, often with prime seamen; and their officers are sometimes perfectly respectable.'

birds of a feather flock together
to be tarred with the same brush

pp. 54-5

'Sailed? The Devil she has,' said Jack, a dark gleam coming over his face. 'Then I may be able to cook two geese with one – I may both get out of this damnable hanging and have a chance of nobbling the privateer.'

to cook someone's goose
to kill two birds with one stone

p. 75

'You are in a fine study, brother,' said Stephen, not unkindly, when he had been waiting a very long while.

'Lord, yes,' cried Jack. 'I do beg your pardon. it is that I was just wondering whether the infernal ptarmigan was there when Sam called at Ashgrove Cottage: not that it really signifies, however.'

ptarmigan - termagant


The Letter of Marque

p. 53

'Surprise is so damned recognizable: it is this most uncommon mainmast – you can smoke it ten miles away, like a bear with a sore thumb.

like a bear with a sore head
to stick out like a sore thumb

p. 58

'And although Fanny Harte may be neither Scylla nor Charybdis, they are very, very fond of one another, and when all is said and done, that is what really signifies.'

? neither a Siren nor a Circe

p. 129

'It will not do to meddle with him. He is the kind of lamb that lies down with the lion, in wolf's clothing.'

'the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together' (Isaiah, 11:6)

a wolf in sheep's clothing

p. 146

'These night exercises of yours are a most capital notion.'

'I hope they may prove so. At least it is better than rushing at a bull in a china shop without a plan.'

like a bull in a china shop
to go at something like a bull at a gate

p. 171

'That is surely selling the ... that is surely counting your bears ...' He hesitared. 'In any case the question is premature and likely to bring misfortune.'

to sell the bear's skin before one has caught the bear
to count one's chicken before they are hatched


The Thirteen-Gun Salute

pp. 3-4

'A lovely young woman indeed, Heaven,' said Jack. 'Mrs Heaven, if I do not mistake?'

'Why, sir, in a manner of speaking: but some might say more on the porcupine-lay, the roving-line, if you understand me.'

'There is a great deal to be said for porcupines, Heaven. Solomon had a thousand, and Solomon know what o'clock it was, I believe.'

porcupines - concubines

p. 92

'He did it as handsomely as the thing could be done,' he said. 'No humming and whoreing, no barking about the wrong bush, no God-damned morality: just shook my hand, said "Captain Aubrey, let me be the first to congratulate you" and showed me these.'

humming and hawing
to beat about the bush
to bark up the wrong tree

p. 110

'Why, Stephen, some people are in a hurry: men-of-war, for instance. It is no good carrying your pig to market and finding...' He paused, frowning.

'It will not drink?'

'No, it ain't that neither.'

'That there are no pokes to be had?'

'Oh well, be damned to literary airs and graces – it is no good hurrying as we have been hurrying these last few days and carrying your ship half way round the world, cracking on to make all sneer again, if you are going to balance your mizen all night once you are past Java Head.'

to drive one's pigs to market
you can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink
to buy a pig in a poke

pp. 154-5

'Perhaps your unwilling mind had already perceived the signs but refused to acknowledge them. How often have I not said "Ha, it is six months since I had a cold", only to wake up the next day streaming and incapable of coherent speech?'

'What an unfailing source of cheer and encouragement you are, upon my word, Stephen. A true Job's muffler if ever there was one.'

Job's comforter (comforter = one who gives comfort; also, a type of scarf)

pp. 160-1

'What do you know about the last American war?'

'Not very much, sir, except that the French and Spaniards joined in and were finely served out for doing so.'

'Very true. Do you know how it began?'

'Yes, sir. It was about tea, which they did not choose to pay duty on. They called out No reproduction without copulation as they tossed it into Boston Harbour.'

'No taxation without representation'

p. 280

'The position is this: I had invited the envoy and his colleagues to dine with me tomorrow: foolishly I took their consent for granted and here is poor Killick in a cloud of powdered chalk, while my cook is working double tides at two or even three courses and God knows how many removes. But this morning I find that I had counted my geese without laying their eggs – that I had killed my geese – that is to say, pressure of work prevents Mr Fox and his people from dining with me tomorrow.'

to count one's chicken before they have hatched
to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs


The Nutmeg of Consolation

p. 42

'In any case, what is the alternative? Sit here and watch the sun go down on the last of the ring-tailed apes? No, no. Better a dead dog than a lead lion. That is to say...'

it's better be a live dog than a dead lion

p. 89

'He counted his chickens without reckoning with his host,' said Stephen.

to count one's chicken before they are hatched
to reckon without one's host

pp. 129-30

'[L]et us hope that the first plan of running in and boarding her straight away comes to root. That is to say ...' He paused, frowning.

'Rules the roost?'

'No... no.'

'Takes fruit?'

'Oh be damned to it. The trouble with you, Stephen, if you do not mind my saying so, is that although you are the best linguist I was ever shipmates with, like the Pope of Rome that spoke a hundred languages - Pentecost come again...

'Would it be Magliabechi you have in mind?'

'I dare say: a foreigner, in any case. And I am sure you speak quite as many, and like a native, or better; but English is not one of them. You do not get figures quite right, and now you have put the word clean out of my head.'

to bear fruit
to take root
to rule the roost
to come home to roost

p. 153

Killick was in many ways a wretched servant, fractious, mean, overbearing to guests of inferior rank, hopelessly coarse; but in others he was a pearl without a thorn. For a moment Jack passed some other expressions in review, and having reached bricks without price he went to sleep.

a pearl without price
a rose without thorns
to make bricks without straw

p. 173

'Since then he has said nothing and although from time to time I have thrown out what I hope were delicate hints and suggestions he has not seemed to notice them; and with a man Lucifer could not hold a book, bell or candle to for pride I cannot raise the subject directly.'

cannot hold a candle to
bell, book and candle

p. 199

'Well,' said Jack, 'I am sorry I flew out. I am sorry I spoke so chuff. My tongue took the bit between its teeth, so I was laid by the lee again'

p. 199

Out of this silence Jack said 'I went round the ship this afternoon to ask our shipmates how they did, and I noticed that they were many of them older than when I saw them last. That made me think perhaps I was older too; and when you spoke of the barky as an aged man-of-war it quite put me about. And yet it was absurd in me to toss all these together in one gloomy pot; for although the Sethians may have grown beards a yard long, and although no doubt I ought to wear lean and slippery pantaloons, a ship and a man are different things.'

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well saved a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.

(Shakespeare, As You Like It, II. vii)

p. 228

'I am so sorry you will not see Captain Holroyd this bout,' said Jack as they gathered for supper. 'You would like him, I am sure. He has a very pure sweet voice, a true tenor, which is a rare thing in a service that requires you to roar like a bull in a basin.'

to roar like a bull of Bashan (from Psalms, 22:12-13; Amos 4:1)


Clarissa Oakes

p. 46

'Miss Harvill,' said Jack, rising, 'pray be seated. Oakes, place a chair and sit down yourself.' She sat, her eyes cast down, her ankles crossed, her hands in her lap, her back quite straight, looking as nearly like one wearing a skirt as possible, and Jack addressed her: 'Mr Oakes tells me that you might consent to marry him. May I take it that this is so, or is the fish wather to – that is to say, or does he flatter himself?'

'No, sir: I am quite ready to marry Mr Oakes.'

'Of your own free will?'

'Yes, sir: and we shall be infinitely obliged for your kindness.'

the wish is father to the thought

p. 54

The Surprise had always been a tuneful ship and much given to dancing, but never to such a degree as this evening, when the crowded forecastle saw the ranks of country-dancers advance, retreat and caper in perfect time despite the swell, while fiddles, horns, Jew's harps and fifes played with barely a pause on the bitts and even perched on the windward cathead. Hornpipes, with several dancing at once, each encouraged by his own division; jigs; the strange evolutions of the Orkney-men, and their rhythmic howls.

'They are enjoying themselves, sir,' said Pullings.

'Let them gather their peasecods while they may,' said Jack. 'Old Monday he's a-dying. They will have a ducking before we muster the watch.'

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may (a line by Robert Herrick, 1591-1674)

p. 182

'I say nothing about my report to the Admiralty, but I do promise you this: unless I find you have taken great notice of my words by the time we have dealt with Moahu, by God you shall sow what you have reaped, and I shall supersede you by two of the master-mariners from before the mast. We have at least a score. That will do.'

As you sow, so shall you reap


The Wine-Dark Sea

p. 26

Jack considered for some moments and then said, 'Well, sir, I must say you are an anomalous kind of prisoner, rather like the creature that was neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring but partook of each: the Sphinx. You are a sort of owner, a sort of commander, though absent from the muster-roll, and a sort of what I can only call a pirate. I am not at all sure what I ought to do with you.'

p. 20

The andante wound its slow length along with a curious gasping unpredicatable rhythm; and when they had brought it to its hesitant end, each looking at each other with disapproval at each false note, Jack said, 'Let us drink to Zephyrus, the son of Millpond.' He was in the act of pouring a glass when the ship pitched with such extraordinary violence – pitched as though she had fallen into a hole – that he very nearly fell, and the glass left the wine in the air, a coherent body for a single moment.

p. 59

'There you are, Doctor,' cried the Captain as Stephen came on deck, still looking rather stupid. 'Have you been asleep?'

'Not at all,' said Stephen, 'I very rarely sleep.'

'Well, if you had been asleep, here is a sight that would wake you even if you were a Letter to the Ephesians. Look over the leeward quarter. The leeward quarter.'

the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus

pp. 105-6

Jack said, 'In some parts of the West Country rams are called Roger, as cats are called Puss; and of course that is their duty; though which came first, the deed or the doer, the goose or the egg, I am not learned enough to tell.'

'Would it not be the owl, at all?'

'Never in life, my poor Stephen. Who ever heard of a golden owl?'

which came first, the chicken or the egg?
to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs
the golden calf

p. 122

'Now, brother, your boat has been hooked on this age. You will be much better by yourself for a while. I am afraid I have been like a bear in a whore's bed these last few days.'

'Not at all, not at all: quite the reverse.'

like a bear with a sore head
? as drunk as a louse in a whore's bed

pp. 155-6

'If you please, sir,' said Reade, coming in, 'the Captain enquires for Mr Martin and desires me to tell the Doctor that we are bearing down on a heavy pirate engaged with the Franklin: there will be some broken omelettes presently.'

you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs

p. 231

Jack, recovering his gravity, shook his head, saying, 'Come, gentlemen, do not let us tempt Fate; do not let us say anything presumptuous that may prove unlucky. We must not sell the bear's skin before we have locked the stable door. And locked it with a double turn.'

to sell the bear's skin before one has caught the bear
to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted

p. 249

Jack gazed, changed the glass to his good eye, gazed again, his tired face lighting with a great smile; he stamped upon the frozen deck, and cried, 'He counted his chickens without his host, by God! Ha, ha, ha!' for the big frigate lay motionless, her sails brailed up; and she was getting her boats over the side.

to count one's chicken before they are hatched
to reckon without one's host

p. 250

Tom,' he went on, 'let us not crack on at all, but proceed east-north-east at a walking-pace until we are out of this infernal ice. Let us not rush upon our doom like a parcel of mad lunatics or gabardine swine.'

the Gadarene swine (Mark 5:1-13)

p. 257

'The Doctor has been choked off for being a satyr,' said Killick to Grimble.

'What's a satyr?'

'What an ignorant cove you are to be sure, Art Grimble: just ignorant, is all. A satyr is a party that talks sarcastic. Choked off something cruel, he was; and his duff taken away and eaten before his eyes.'

satyr - satirist


The Commodore

p. 6

'I am amazingly flush – Crocus is my middle name.'

as rich as Croesus

p. 78

'Even without the Terrible and in spite of our old crocks it is a very fine squadron. I am as proud as Pontius Pilate.'

as proud as a peacock
as pleased as Punch

p. 135

'She will learn Spanish too, Castellano. I am sorry it will not be Catalan, a much finer, older, purer, more mellifluous language, with far greater writers – think of En Ramón Llull – but as Captain Aubrey often says "You cannot both have a stitch in time and eat it."'

a stitch in time saves nine
you cannot have your cake and eat it

p. 207

'I trust you enjoyed your dinner?'

'James Wood did us proud as Pompous Pilate, bless him,' said Jack. 'Four hours, and never without a glass in my hand. Though Lord, sometimes I feel I am no longer twenty.'

as proud as a peacock
as pleased as Punch

p. 242

'Many of the old African hands say there is nothing like a potto for luck; and after all, there is a potto's field in the Bible, is there not?'

potter's field (Mt. 27.7: And they took counsel, and bought with them [Judas' thirty pieces of silver] the potter's field, to bury strangers in)

p. 268

'There's many a slip twixt the cup and the sip, you know.'

there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip


The Yellow Admiral

p. 17

'And what do you mean, if you were ever to hoist your flag? You are quite near the top of the list, and no one can deny you the right to one.' She spoke with the particular emphasis, even vehemence, of those who wish to establish the truth of their words; although as a sailor's wife she knew perfectly well that the Navy List contained twenty-eight superannuated rear-admirals and (even worse) thirty-two superannuated post-captains.

'Of course,' said Jack. 'That is the usual way: you go up and up, like Jacob on his ladder. But with something so important it would be courting ill-luck to speak of any certainty about it.'

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:12)

p. 24

'Why, Stephen, there you are,' called Jack from the breakfast-room, hearing him on the stairs. 'Good morning to you. What an early worm you are, to be sure.'

the early bird catches the worm

p. 58

Yet I don't know how it is...' He paused for quite a while and then in the tone of one quoting an aphorism he went on, 'The heart has its reasons that the...that the...'

'Kidneys?' suggested Stephen.

'That the kidneys know not.' Jack frowned. 'No, hell and death, that's not it. But anyhow the heart has its reasons, you understand.'

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of (Blaise Pascal: Le coeur à ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas)

p. 60

'From Lord Stranraer's reputation, would you say he was a man whose love of his country, of high station, and incidentally of a considerable addition to his fortune, might induce him to bend the ordinary course of morality so that good might result?'

[... Jack] considered for a moment. 'No. From the cut of his not very attractive jib, I should never have 'said he was a man to do good that evil might come of it; yet to tell you the truth, Stephen, the older I get, the less I trust in my own judgment. I have been wrong so often.'

p. 73

'[H]e let me know in a very tactful and what you might call alluvial fashion that his boy was down for election and he should be very grateful for my name in the candidates' book.'

alluvial - allusive

p. 108

'There, Doctor,' said Jack, pointing to a truly dreadful reef half a mile on their larboard beam. 'There are the Penmarks.'

'I have often heard them mentioned,' said Stephen. 'Always with strong disapprobation and even loathing.'

'Scylla and Charybdis ain't in it, with a strong southwester and a falling tide,' said Jack. 'Nor the Gorgonzola.'

Gorgonzola - Gorgon

pp. 236-7

'Please forgive me: it was only a weak, foolish burst of superstition ... lycanthropy might be a better word, perhaps.'

'Perhaps it would ... but tell me, Jack, you have not forgot the promise of reinstatement, have you?'

'Oh dear me, no. I cling to it day and night, like a bull in a china shop."

? lycanthropy - melancholy
to cling to something like a leech
like a bull in a china shop


The Hundred Days

p. 31

'I am very sorry for the pandemonium, Stephen,? he said as at last they sat down to their breakfast, brought by a now silent, timid Killick. 'All this mad rushing up and down, bellowing like Gadarene swine . . .'

bellowing like a bull
rushing ahead madly like the Gadarene swine (see Mark 5:1-13)


Blue at the Mizzen

p. 49

'Getting a ship at all, when so many are being paid-off, is a near impossibility, like . . .' He searched for the word.

'Making a mountain out of a molehill?'

'Even worse, Stephen, even worse.'