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"Georgian Naval Chaplains and a rascally journalist" Topic


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Tango0125 Jun 2020 10:34 p.m. PST

"One seldom comes across any mention of chaplains in Nautical Fiction, despite the fact that by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars period both all line-of-battle ships and frigates were allowed them. The decision to have such men usually referred to as "parsons" may well have rested with individual station commanders. Some admirals and captains were famed for their piety most notably Admiral of the Fleet James Gambier, 1st Baron Gambier (1756 1833) but others were likely to be more casual in their observances in the manner of the 18th Century.

Patrick O'Brian's "The Ionian Mission" does however feature what Jack Aubrey described as "a whole Bleeped texted a whole blessed convocation of clergy", six of whom he was to transport to the Mediterranean "for Admiral Thornton likes to have chaplains aboard." Such men were expected not only to conduct divine service on Sundays and funerals in the case of fatalities, and take their place in the cockpit during battle to assist the surgeon in matters likely to be temporal no less than spiritual, but also to act as schoolmasters for the midshipmen.

It is likely that these clergymen varied enormously in motivation, attitude and piety. Some were almost certainly unlikely to have been able to obtain "Livings" ashore which were often in the gift of wealthy landowners and some might have had good reason to be absent from the country on the grounds of financial or moral embarrassment of one sort or another. Some would have been genuinely pious and for many with a scientific bent the opportunity for research in foreign parts would have been irresistible…."
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