The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
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More than two centuries have passed since Master's Mate Fletcher Christian mutinied against Lieutenant Bligh on a small, armed transport vessel called Bounty. Why the details of this obscure adventure at the end of the world remain vivid and enthralling is as intriguing as the truth behind the legend.
In giving the Bounty mutiny its historical due, Caroline Alexander has chosen to frame her narrative by focusing on the court-martial of the ten mutineers who were captured in Tahiti and brought to justice in England. This fresh perspective wonderfully revivifies the entire saga, and the salty, colorful language of the captured men themselves conjures the events of that April morning in 1789, when Christian's breakdown impelled every man on a fateful course: Bligh and his loyalists on the historic open boat voyage that revealed him to be one of history's great navigators; Christian on his restless exile; and the captured mutineers toward their day in court. As the book unfolds, each figure emerges as a full-blown character caught up in a drama that may well end on the gallows. And as Alexander shows, it was in a desperate fight to escape hanging that one of the accused defendants deliberately spun the mutiny into the myth we know today-of the tyrannical Lieutenant Bligh of the Bounty.
Ultimately, Alexander concludes that the Bounty mutiny was sparked by that most unpredictable, combustible, and human of situations-the chemistry between strong personalities living in close quarters. Her account of the voyage, the trial, and the surprising fates of Bligh, Christian, and the mutineers is an epic of ambition, passion, pride, and duty at the dawn of the Romantic era.
the ship. Aaron Graham’s cleverness notwithstanding, it was Muspratt, through Stephen Barney’s tactics and language, who was to give the most coherent legal defense. This began with a bold move, a petition to the court to call upon two fellow prisoners, Byrn and Norman, as witnesses; as he noted, it was “every day’s practice in the Criminal Courts of Justice on the Land” when trying a number of prisoners for the same charges to acquit those whom “the Evidence does not materially Affect . . .
He discussed the tradition of infanticide among the flamboyant arioi, and he recorded the recipe for a delicious pudding made from a turniplike root. One day, Bligh engaged in long theological inquiry, in which he was questioned closely about his own beliefs: Who was the son and who was the wife of his God? Who was his father and mother? Who was before your God and where is he? Is he in the winds or in the sun? When asked about childbirth in his country, Bligh answered as well as he was able,
each side provided sleeping berths, while small arms, such as cutlasses and pistols, were stored aft. Although kept shackled in leg irons, the prisoners were otherwise treated well and made no complaints about the conditions on board the Hector. As Pasley told Nessy, “every attention & Indulgence possible is granted to him.” Friendly interest from another quarter made Peter’s circumstances yet more comfortable. As luck would have it, Captain Albemarle Bertie of the Edgar, already at moorings
Man,” Peter apologized to Nessy for words written in a previous letter. Nessy for her part was also becoming increasingly wrought and inclined to be less sympathetic than before to Mr. Bligh for branding her “amiable Brother with the vile appellation of Mutineer. . . . “His cruelty and Barbarity in loading you with so approbrious an Epithet is therefore the more unpardonable or will so far from injuring you my dearest Peter recoil upon himself,” wrote Nessy in loyal but incoherent passion. She
on board for a brief visit, and was solemnly received with thirteen guns. On Sundays, divine service was performed by the ship’s chaplain, the Reverend Mr. Cole; the prisoners too were permitted benefit of clergy. Tuesday, August 14, had closed on the Hector with the usual firing of the evening gun, and when dawn broke the next day it revealed the fleet at anchor off the Isle of Wight: Lord Hood had returned. By Thursday the entire fleet was anchored at Spithead, the very names of the great