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15 Jan

Chapter XXIII

I was reasonably twisted on the laudanum I had packed in case of seasickness, washed down with gin and water, when a relentless hammering on the door of my cabin recalled me from the depths. It was McIntyre, bearing an enamel mug of steaming black coffee and a request from Captain Lakeman to join him for a conference in Major Seton’s private quarters in fifteen minutes. I accepted the coffee with bleary-eyed thanks. Lakeman had obviously got the measure of me already, and it was disconcerting to accept that I was so transparent: the tortured and self-destructive artist, the doomed romantic. It had been a stylish affectation in my youth, but now, like Coleridge and De Quincey,...
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4 Sep

Chapter XXI

Making life on the ship a deal more complicated than it had been, women and children had now boarded. The presence of more civilians at least made my position more tenable and less isolated, but the young families in particular made my heart ache for my own. I had managed thus far to not dwell upon this lack by immersing myself in the company of military men by day, while tapping the admiral and then writing at night, so as to have something halfway decent to dispatch to the Chronicle before we sailed. Thus far all these activities and attendant mental states (observer, reporter, and drunk) had served as albeit very different distractions from a loneliness upon...
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24 Jul

Chapter XVII

Money
In the long summer of 1834, I became the success story of the season, at least in literary terms, leaving poor old Ainsworth behind in the end, for his family soon spoiled his fun. But I was yet young, and unblessed by either wife or children as far as I knew. I would like to claim that it was the quality of my work that caused my star to rise so far and so fast, but the truth, at least in part, was that the public enthusiasm for Ainsworth and myself was more of an indication of the state of English letters in those days, in particular the yawning void left by Walter Scott, who had died...
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17 Apr

Chapter III

Chapter 3 - Mermaids
To the main, I preferred the company of the lower ranks to that of their officers, although in truth I fit no better with the former than the latter. Like the ship, I was an awkward hybrid: too educated to feel comfortable with most working men, yet lacking the breeding to move freely among the so-called upper classes, despite wasting several years in a foolish and ultimately disastrous attempt to do so when I was young. I had more recently come to understand that my place in the world was with my family. I rather liked Lakeman, the condottiere. He was of my kind, although he would likely not have admitted this, being considerably richer than I (though...
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10 Apr

Chapter II

Marine
A few passengers, including myself, had embarked at Portsmouth a month earlier, on the first day of January, 1852. This gave us a day or so of relative peace in which to become acclimated to the ship and to each other, before she took on the bulk of her human cargo at Cork. The 12th Foot (the East Suffolks) were already on board, seventy-odd men and their officers, Granger and Fairtlough, as well as the mercenary Lakeman and his contingent, the Lancers Rolt and Sheldon-Bond, and about a hundred Highlanders from the 73rd, 74th, and 91st Regiments, including Major (soon to be Lieutenant-Colonel) Seton and Captain Wright, the senior military officers on the ship. With the beginning of the...
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