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Ben Burton Born and Bred at Sea   By: (1814-1880)

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Ben Burton; or, Born and Bred at Sea, by W H G Kingston.

The story really consists of a series of nautical and shore incidents, to do with Ben Burton and his family. During the course of the story he goes from being born, to a senior Naval rank. Shortly after he is born they come across a dinghy drifting with an ayah and a small white girl, who grows up in parallel with Ben, though she is spared some of his more martial adventures.

It's always difficult to get a timescale with books like this one, as the years seem to go past much faster than the supply of adventures.

I was somewhat baffled by the paragraphing in this book. For most of the book the paragraphing is as you would expect it to be, but there is an over supply of very long paragraphs, and some of these contain quite complex conversations, so that one is tempted to split them up so that passage looks more conventional and readable. I have not done so, except in one flagrant case, because I suspect that Kingston may have been experimenting in some way. On the other hand it may be that he had contracted to write a book of so many pages, and this was a way of condensing a long conversational exchange.

There were some other strange things to be noticed, such as places and people changing their spelling (Benjy and Benjie, for instance), within a few lines. And there were some words that Kingston spells correctly in other books, but anomalously in this one. It's almost as though he dictated the book to a typist, and then never actually read it for himself. It lends weight to the theory that Kingston books were authored by more than one person, because this one is within his rules of style, except for the really quite numerous typographical anomalies mentioned above.

Apart from that, the story is quite good to read or to listen to, just as Kingston books always are.



"Dick Burton, you're a daddy! Polly's been and got a baby for you, old boy!" exclaimed several voices, as the said Dick mounted the side of the old "Boreas," on the books of which ship he was rated as a quarter master, he having just then returned from a pleasant little cutting out expedition, where he had obtained, besides honour and glory, a gash on the cheek, a bullet through the shoulder, and a prong from a pike in the side.

"Me a what?" he inquired, bending his head forward with a look of incredulity, and mechanically hitching up his trousers. "Me a daddy? On course it's a boy? Polly wouldn't go for to get a girl, a poor little helpless girl, out in these outlandish parts."

"On course, Dick, it's a boy, a fine big, walloping younker, too. Why bless ye, Quacko ain't no way to be compared to him, especially when he sings out, which he can do already, loud enough to drown the bo'sun's whistle, let me tell you," was the reply to Dick Burton's last question.

That baby was me. Quacko was the monkey of the ship. I might not have been flattered at being compared to him, though it must be owned that I stood very much in the light of his rival. I soon, however, cut him out completely. My mother was one of two women on board. The other was Susan King, wife of another quarter master. The two men enjoyed a privilege denied to their captain, for they could take their wives to sea, which he could not. To be sure, Polly and Susan made themselves more generally useful than the captain's wife would probably have done had she lived on board, for they washed and mended the men's shirts, nursed them when sick or wounded, prepared lint and bandages for the surgeons, and performed many other offices such as generally fall to the lot of female hands. They had both endeared themselves to the men, by a thousand kind and gentle acts, but my mother was decidedly the favourite... Continue reading book >>

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