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Roger Willoughby A Story of the Times of Benbow   By: (1814-1880)

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Roger Willoughby, A Story of the Times of Benbow, by W.H.G. Kingston.

Sadly, this was the last book Kingston wrote. He was diagnosed with a rapid fatal illness while he was writing it, and he used the opportunity of bidding his young readers farewell in the Preface.

There is a lot of action in the book, from encounters with the Barbary Pirates in what is now called Morocco, to military goings on in Somerset and Dorset, to trials by Jeffreys, the Chief Justice (or Injustice might be a better name). It's just a little bit confusing! An example of how confusing is that there's a ship called Benbow, and a couple of chaps of that name as well. We have tried to sort out some inconsistencies in spelling, for example Axminster and Axeminster, Tregellen and Treleggen, but I think few of us would do any better if we were trying to finish a book in the few remaining days of our life.

It's not a long book, and not a short one, either. About ten hours to read aloud.



"Hillo, Roger! glad to find you at last. I have been hunting up and down along the cliffs for the last hour or more, till I began to fear that you must have been carried off by a Barbary corsair, or spirited away on the end of Mother Shipton's broomstick."

The speaker was a fine looking lad of sixteen, dressed in the costume worn by Puritans in the time of the second Charles a long cloth coat of unobtrusive hue, knee breeches, high heeled shoes with large buckles, a thick neckcloth tied in a bow, and a high crowned, broad brimmed hat; but the brim of the lad's hat was looped up on one side by a rosette of silver lace, his shoe buckles were of massive silver, his neckcloth was of silk, and his coat of fine cloth, betokening that he was of the rank of a gentleman, and that, if a Puritan, he had taken no small pains to set his person off to the best advantage.

"Faith! I had no idea that I had been so long hidden away in my cosy nook, and if you had not ferreted me out, Stephen, I should likely enough have lain perdu for another hour or more," answered Roger, a sturdy blue eyed boy, apparently a year or two younger than Stephen Battiscombe, and of the same station in life; but his dress, though of gayer colours and less precise cut than that of his friend, was somewhat threadbare, and put on as if he had not troubled himself much about the matter. "See, I have been studying the art of navigation, and begin to hope that I shall be able to sail a ship through distant seas as well as Drake or Cavendish, or Sir Martin Frobisher, or Sir Richard Grenville, or the great Christopher Columbus himself, ay, and maybe to imitate their gallant deeds," he continued, holding up a small well thumbed volume. "I have not made as much progress this morning as I expected to do, for I have ever and anon been watching yonder fine ship, which has long been in sight, striving to beat down Channel against this light westerly breeze, but for some time past she has made no progress, or rather has been drifting back to the eastward."

"It seems to me that she is standing in this way," observed Stephen, shading his eyes with his hand from the noonday sun. "Certes, she is a goodly craft, and light as is the wind slips swiftly through the water."

"Would that I were on board of her!" exclaimed Roger. "She is doubtless bound out to some of those strange lands of which I have read in Master Purchas Pilgrims , and many another book of voyages. How I long to visit those regions, and to behold with mine own eyes the wonderful sights they present!"

"Many, you should understand, are mere travellers' tales lying fables such as Sir John de Mandeville would make us believe about monsters, half man and half beast, and people walking about with their heads under their arms, and cities of marble, the windows of precious stones, and the streets paved with gold, and such like extravagances," observed Stephen... Continue reading book >>

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