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'The Ionian Mission' (1981) is a historical novel by Patrick O'Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars. It is the eighth in the Aubrey-Maturin series.
The book opens with Captain Jack Aubrey and his lieutenants Pullings and Mowett aboard , waiting for Jack's friend, and the ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin to embark. Stephen is late because his wife, Diana, had thrown a party. He drives to the coast to meet his ship, but the carriage, driven by his friend Jagiello, has an accident. Finally Stephen arrives in time and they set sail for the Mediterranean.
'Worcester' joins the blockade off Toulon under the command of Admiral Thornton. The ship soon settles into the blockade routine, with some of the crew improvising a choir and the midshipmen's berth acting out 'Hamlet'. Jack's relationship with his aristocratic third lieutenant Somers deteriorates during the long blockade, culminating in a confrontation when a drunken Somers causes the ship to miss stays. Somers is transferred to another ship. In the meantime Stephen befriends Mr Martin, an impoverished parson and fellow bird lover, before he joins . Stephen, after consulting with Admiral Thornton, is set ashore in Spain and spends his time there setting up a meeting with French royalists. While Admiral Thornton is in Malta, Admiral Harte, Thornton's second-in-command, sends Jack and William Babbington, the latter commanding the brig HMS 'Dryad', to take presents to the Pasha of Barka and deliver a new envoy, Mr Consul Hamilton. Upon discovering two French ships in Medina (now part of the city of Tunis), Jack and Babbington both enter the port, hoping to fight the French. However, as the port is a neutral location, the French are required to fire first and this they refuse to do. Despite tempting the French several times, the British have to leave and Jack's reputation as a fighting captain is dented.
Upon returning to the fleet Jack is summoned by Admiral Thornton and severely reprimanded, stating it was the British intention to have 'Dryad' captured so that the British could have sent a squadron to oppose the Bey. Admiral Harte claims that he had explained this, but Jack had asked him write his orders which stated that 'scrupulous respect will be paid to the laws of neutrality' so is in the clear.
'Worcester' is ordered to Mahon to pick up Stephen. At Mahon Jack runs into his old lover Mercedes at the Crown, but before he can do anything Stephen enters and tells him he must set sail immediately. The crew, thinking that Jack is after a prize, are excited but eventually realize it is not to be: their mission is a more covert one in which they will land Stephen in France. Stephen is to meet with the royalists in a duck blind in an uninhabited coastal marsh. But the plan goes awry as another British agent has set up a meeting in the same area. The two groups stumble into each other and, in the confusion, exchange sporadic fire. While Stephen is hiding in the sand dunes waiting for 'Worcester's launch, he captures the other British agent, the same Professor Graham that 'Worcester' brought to Mahon earlier in the book. Upon returning to the fleet Stephen hands him over to the Captain of the Fleet to act as his Turkish translator.
During a strong storm the French fleet leaves port, hoping to evade the British and enter the Atlantic. The British fleet gives chase, and although they catch them, the wind changes direction and the French men-of-war return to Toulon. The fastest British ships attempt to cut off their rear and 'Worcester' exchanges a few shots with the slowest ship - the 80-gun 'Robuste' - before giving up the chase. Admiral Thornton is too worn down by disappointment to continue and leaves the station. Admiral Harte, overcome by the political complexity of his temporary position as Commander-in-Chief, appoints Jack and his officers to command - 'Worcester' having been sent to Gibraltar for repairs and Captain Lambert, 'Surprise's former commander, and his first lieutenant having been killed by the same cannon ball. Also, in a show of false goodwill, he allows Jack to hand-pick his crew.
Harte then sends 'Surprise' and Babbingtons 'Dryad' on a mission to the Ionian Sea to put one of three Turkish Beys in control of Kutali and remove the French from Marga. After talking to all three claimants to the city Jack promises British support to Sciahan Bey, the present occupier of the island. The crew spends several days rigging out their cables to bring the expected cannons up to the city's citadel. However, Mustapha, one of the claimants that Jack didnt back, rebels against the Ottomans and captures the British transport ships. Professor Graham returns from a mission into Turkey and hastily informs Jack about what has happened. Aubrey immediately sets sail and overtakes Mustaphas two ships - the 32-gun 'Torgud' with two thirty-six pounders on board, and the 20-gun 'Kitabi'. After a long engagement 'Surprise's crew board and take the 'Kitabi' and 'Torgud', leaving the 'Torgud' sinking and the 'Kitabi' a prisoner. Lieutenant Pullings is injured but Mowett informs Jack that he has survived.
*Jack Aubrey - appointed captain of
*Stephen Maturin - ship's surgeon, friend to Jack and an intelligence officer.
*Sophie Aubrey - Jack's wife
*Mrs. Williams - Sophie's mother
*Diana Maturin (formerly Mrs Villiers) - Stephen's wife
*Lieutenant Pullings - first lieutenant of HMS 'Worcester'
*Lieutenant Mowett - second lieutenant of HMS 'Worcester', and a poet
*Somers - the drunken aristocratic third lieutenant of HMS 'Worcester'
*Rowan - third lieutenant of HMS 'Worcester', and a poet
*Admiral Thornton - Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet
*Admiral Harte - Second-in-Command
*Admiral Mitchell - an admiral of the blue and commander of the inshore squadron; reached his position from the ranks of the foredeck.
*Captain Heneage Dundas - Captain of and a close friend of Jack's
*Captain William Babbington - Captain of HMS 'Dryad' and a former midshipman of Jack's
*Professor Graham - a professor of moral philosophy
*Mr Martin - an impoverished naval parson
*Dr Harrington - Physician of the Fleet
*Captain Harry Bennet - Captain of
*Sciahan Bey - a Turkish Bey supported by Jack
*Mustapha - ruler of Karia and Turkish Capitan-Bey
*William Collins; 1981
*Fontana; paperback edition 1982
*HarperCollins; paperback edition 1993
*HarperCollins; B-format paperback edition 1996
*HarperCollins; paperback edition 2003. (ISBN 0 00 649922 8)
*Recorded Books, LLC; Unabridged Audio edition narrated by Patrick Tull (ISBN 1402591810)
*W. W. Norton & Company, USA, e-book edition 2011.
Category:Napoleonic War novels
Category:Novels by Patrick O'Brian
it:Duello nel Mar Ionio
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