open/close all folders
Aubrey and Maturin
Captain John "Jack" AubreyLucky Jack Aubrey, Goldilocks, a tall, blond beefy Englishman, at sea since he was eight years old, beloved by his men, rather less so by his superiors. A lion at sea, and particularly inept on land.
- Acrofatic: He's described as somewhat heavy, but he's extremely nimble and coordinated as a result of a life at sea.
- A Father to His Men: He feels it strongly when any of his men die, and takes a personal and abiding interest in the lives and careers of his personal followers and officers. This is particularly true of his midshipmen (the "squeakers"), who come to him at a very young age and whose education and moral upbringing he takes a direct hand in.
- A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted
- A Man Is Always Eager: This gets him into a great deal of trouble personally and professionally beginning with the first book and lasting much of the series. It's less that he's a slut and more that he's spent his entire life at sea and has no clue how to behave on land (let alone say "no".)
- Animals Hate Him: Although people tend to love him, he simply cannot catch a break with animals. Horses throw him, a wombat eats his hat, and he has to get a sloth drunk to keep it from wailing in despair at the sight of him.
- Boisterous Bruiser
- The Captain
- The Chains of Commanding: Jack has to write letters home to the parents of the officers and the midshipmen killed under his command. Additionally, the authority of the position means that it's nearly impossible for a captain and his officers to really become friends, a kind of social burden that falls on Jack quite often.
- Clueless Chick Magnet: At a party, two women are talking about the beautiful man. Jack turns around to see who they're talking about. He honestly has no idea.
- Companion Cube: The violin he's had since he was a boy. He's distraught when it breaks.
- Cultured Warrior: Jack is incredibly fond of music, and as an adult has taken to math and astronomy like a fish to water.
- The Drunken Sailor: Occasionally the result of a really good party, it only gets him into trouble once or twice, usually ashore.
- Duet Bonding: With Stephen
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Well, a Snake. Jack Aubrey has a serious fear of snakes, and at one point in Master and Commander jumps up onto a chair when one crawls into the room, not coming down until Stephen removes it. Stephen doesn't help matters any by being a Deadpan Snarker about it, pulling Jack's leg about the (nonpoisonous) snake being a deadly and aggressive viper.
- Genius Bruiser: Jack is a tall, burly, heavily scarred war hero and immensely successful naval commander. He is also, along with his good friend Dr. Maturin, a Fellow of the Royal Society (Britain's most prestigious academic society). He has written a number of well-received papers on astronomy and geometry, and built his own observatory and telescopes.
- Genius Ditz: For all his incredible talent as a navigator, seaman, and man of war, Jack is spectacularly incompetent ashore, getting himself into every kind of trouble imaginable. In the same way, his prowess in the fields of mathematics, astronomy and oceanography have made even the the Royal Society sit up and pay attention, but he has absolutely no aptitude for languages, delivers malapropisms like he was on commission and firmly believes that Noah's sons were named Cain, Abel and Moses.
- Get Rich Quick Scheme: Some of Jack's problems involve falling for one of these. Fortunately, he managed to give his wife power of attorney, putting everything in a tangle and keeping him from complete destitution.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Stephen.
- Historical-Domain Character: Master and Commander in particular was heavily based on the real-life exploits of Captain Cochrane (particularly the Sophie-vs-Cacafuego/Speedy-vs-Gama duel, accurate down to the number of guns and the number of crew), who really was captured by Christy-Palliere in the same way that Jack Aubrey was captured—and the real-life Christy-Palliere was so impressed by Cochrane's exploits that he refused to accept his sword in surrender, the same as with Aubrey.
- If I Were a Rich Man: Jack wasn't born into poverty, but he also never had money, and spends much of the series wishing he were rich, and usually doing exactly the wrong thing to get that way.
- In-Series Nickname: Aubrey is referred to as "Goldilocks" by the crew (though never to his face, of course), for his blond hair. In the wider world, he's well known as "Lucky Jack Aubrey" for his good fortune in capturing prizes.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Always goes by Jack never John, to the point that you wouldn't have to be stupid to forget what his real first name is.
- Living Legend: Captain Jack Aubrey, globe-trotting badass much caressed by the Admiralty, astronomer and geometer, member of the Royal Society.
- Mixed Metaphor: Jack couldn't keep an aphorism straight if it walked in the room and put a bird in the bush.
- Mugging the Monster: Someone demands of an unhappy Jack, "Your money or your life". It doesn't end well for the erstwhile cutpurse.
- Must Have Caffeine: While he's not as bad as Stephen, Jack is inhuman without his morning coffee.
- Nouveau Riche
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot:Jack: Why won't you answer me, Mr. King! Haven't you got a tongue in your head!?Sailor: Actually, Captain... he doesn't. Slavers took it...
- Perpetual Poverty: Jack's money will never last. He's a genius at sea and completely at a loss ashore.
- Privateer: During a particularly low point in his career, Jack ends up one of these.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's "no friend to the cat" - he prefers not to have his men beaten for punishment unless discipline starts to go by the wayside. He likes a taut ship, but a taut ship and a happy ship go hand in hand.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to Stephen's Blue.
- Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Despite a star-studded career, people mostly remember Jack's first absurd success, taking the Cacafuego with a ship half her size.
- Renaissance Man: Astronomer/telescope builder/mathematician/Member of Parliament/musician. Not that he doesn't have his glaring flaws.
- Stout Strength: He weighs about 18 stone (~250 pounds), and Dr. Maturin often frets about his weight and tries to get him to eat less. But he's still fit enough to lead his crew into hand-to-hand battles and scramble up the ship's ropes like an ape. If you have ever tried to climb up a sailing ship's rigging, you will grasp that he is, even by modern standards, quite physically fit. Jack is quite tall (his exact height isn't recorded, but is probably at least 6 feet, in a period where most men were under that; Napoleon is always depicted as being short but was probably actually of average or slightly less-than-average height for the time). His 18 stone probably doesn't hang on him in such an unseemly manner as might be supposed by modern readers.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Though a good-looking man in general, Aubrey is covered in scars, including missing most of his right ear (getting it reattached is almost a Running Gag), and when you consider his wife...
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Almost literally; he practically rattles when he walks, he's got so many bits of metal floating in his various scars.
- Worthy Opponent: Jack accumulates these, whereas Stephen tends to cut their throats.
Dr. Stephen Maturin (Sr. Esteban Maturin y Domanova)In the first book, Stephen is something of a genius ditz and Audience Surrogate. He gets more fleshed out starting in the second book, as a physician, as a lover, as a fighter, and as a badass secret agent. From then on, he's reliably the Deuteragonist, if not a second protagonist.
- Addiction Displacement: As soon as he swears off the alcoholic tincture of laudanum, he purchases some coca leaves. Purely for medicinal purposes. And when those run out, he begins chain-smoking cigars instead.
- All Love Is Unrequited: It takes a long time for him to get the girl.
- Ambiguously Bi: He tells Diana in Post Captain that he is "not in the least degree interested in women as such. Only in persons." He is thought to be gay several times, his tolerance is stated loudly just as often, and there are further ambiguities in the text.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: His first marriage proposal is a painful thing.
- Audience Surrogate: His main purpose in the first book was to have all things nautical explained to him so the audience wouldn't be completely at sea. We still tend to drown in jargon. This declines later and he comes into his own and other surrogates come and go.
- Autopsy Snack Time: Whereas Jack is a stickler for cleanliness, Stephen will frequently eat while surrounded by the decaying remains of his collection (including gallows-corpses he bought for sixpence).
- Badass Bookworm: He's 5'6", gaunt, clumsy, "small, indefinably odd and even ill-looking" man as well as a doctor, polyglot, natural philosopher and all-round intellectual. He is also Britain's greatest spy. Over the course of the books he is seen shooting the pips out of playing cards, winning several duels, operating on himself, and dispatching his enemies in very badass ways. And then dissecting them.
- Berserk Button: It's always dangerous to disparage the Irish and the Catholics around Stephen, who is both. He doesn't mind when Jack occasionally puts his foot in his mouth with anti-Catholic sentiment, though, since he knows Jack never does it intentionally, and he always apologizes for it.
- Stephen also harbors an especial hatred for informers, especially due to his own background as an ex-revolutionary in the '98 Irish Uprising, where friend after friend were betrayed and arrested. This causes not a few hard choices for him as a spy and as a ship's officer.
- Betty and Veronica: With Jack in the second book, to Diana.
- Byronic Hero
- Celibate Hero: At one point, so celibate that the Admiralty was worried he might be a blackmail target by foreign intelligence services. Then he had a love affair go badly (with a woman), and so they were relieved.
- Cloudcuckoolander: He may be able to speak half a dozen languages and cut your head opennote without killing younote , but god help him if he tries to do anything else. The sailors view him as just this side of completely helpless.
- Cool Shades: He frequently wears glasses with colored lenses. This helps him win at cards. It also helps him be the best intelligence agent in the Empire. It also helps disguise his distinguishing feature, his pale, almost reptilian eyes. (Though shades, it seems, weren't actually considered cool at the time; in the seventh book he meets with another spy who's heard his towering reputation, and "had been expecting a more heroic figure - certainly not one who wore dark glasses against the sun".)
- Cold Sniper: In an Offscreen Moment of Awesome, he takes out two enemy agents. Then he and a friend dissect them and hide the bodies.
- Combat Medic
- Cultured Warrior: Stephen plays the cello and attends the opera. At sea he prefers to be a physician and natural philosopher, professionally, though this also acts as a cover for his intelligence work, which occasionally sees him fighting for his life and enduring Cold-Blooded Torture.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Stephen is illegitimate and an orphan, fostered in the back of beyond, sent from uncaring relative to relative, spends time in several prisons in Spain and Portugal, a Catholic who goes to a Protestant university in his mid-teens, survives the Terror, flees to Ireland, survives the 1798 rebellion, loses Mona, loses Lord Edward Fitzgerald, becomes a fugitive, and ends up penniless. All before the first page of the first book. As an adolescent, he also spends "a long time" locked in a prison cell with a convicted rapist.
- Deadly Doctor: He'll go to the ends of the earth to keep you alive if you're his patient. But test his patience and he can kill you with sword, pistol, or notebook.
- Deadpan Snarker: To Jack's lame punnery. In the second book, he shows a flash of wit that continues to amaze and delight the Navy until the end of the series, twenty books later. Not the wit mind you, the very same joke continues to delight.
- Deconfirmed Bachelor: A good example of the trope. As a philosopher, he has no particular attachment to the married state, and many view him as likely to be a lifelong bachelor, what with being a very odd, very solitary man. His eventual marriage really does surprise the hell out of everyone. That he and his wife maintain separate residences causes them to nod wisely.
- Destructive Romance: His affair with laudanum begins at roughly the same time as his affair with Diana.
- Duet Bonding: With Jack
- Friend to All Living Things: Another running gag, including sloths, orangutans, dogs, wombats and aardvarks. The only exception is a llama.
- Genius Ditz: At one point, while talking to himself on the beach, he fails to notice the tide and nearly loses his shoes. He then nearly drowns saving them. This sort of thing happens a lot.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jack
- Honey Trap: By French agents in Malta. He doesn't fall for it, but plays along to keep the woman out of trouble because he knows she is being blackmailed.
- Hopeless Suitor: First to Jack, then Canning, then Johnstone.
- Impoverished Patrician: He owns a castle and earns a few hundred pounds a year just from rent, but the castle is in disrepair and, anyway, it's in Spain. When we first meet him, he's completely broke, wondering how he's going to get back to England from Gibraltar, and also wondering whether to eat or sleep well that night.
- Informed Self-Diagnosis: Stephen is generally quite good at this, with the notable exception of failing to diagnose his own addiction to laudanum.
- Insistent Terminology: He's an intelligence agent, not a spy.
- The Klutz: Stephen somehow contrives to get into accident after accident at sea, ranging from falling out of the boat to somehow turning a complete somersault in a particularly violent sea. As a result, the seamen around him look upon with real affection and considerable respect for his medical prowess—and stand wary in case he manages to take yet another improbable tumble.
- La Résistance: A passionate member in his youth, fighting for Irish independence.
- Like Brother and Sister: With Sophie, Jack's wife.
- Living Legend: World-renowned naturalist, physician, and the James Bond of the Napoleonic Wars personally responsible for the destruction of at least one branch of the French intelligence service.
- Love Hurts: His relationship with Diana certainly doesn't bring him happiness for quite some time.
- Loving a Shadow: Stephen's feelings for Diana run the gamut over the course of the series, from dangerous passion to a memory of fondness to genuine abiding romantic love.
- Married at Sea: So Diana can get her British citizenship back.
- Minored in Asskicking: The Irish are very fond of "stepping out" and Stephen has never lost a duel.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Due to the Honey Trap incident in Malta. His messages explaining the situation to Diana go astray, and their relationship is nearly destroyed because he appears to be having a very public affair.
- Money to Throw Away: A few times, he manages to acquire a good sum of money, and is usually happy to throw it at the nearest friend. The earliest may be when a wealthy and foolish Marine insults a woman Stephen likes and so Stephen takes him for a year's pay at cards.
- Stephen can always be counted on to lend Jack a few pounds, and has been known on occasion to simply point Jack at wherever he's storing his bankroll and tell him to peel off whatever amount he needs. This leads to a funny moment on at least one occasion, when Jack goes to get Stephen's bankroll out of his coat and is appalled both at its size and that Stephen is carrying it around without any sort of protection or concealment.
- Motor Mouth: Stephen has been known to go on and on about exotic birds. He knows this and uses it deliberately; while he's babbling on about the feathers of an albatross no one would expect him to be a spy.
- He uses this to get out of a potentially sticky situation early on in the series, when he and Jack are visiting Christy-Palliere during the brief Peace of Amiens; Stephen is caught snooping around a French naval base, but talks himself out of trouble (with a bit of help from Jack) by explaining that he was tracking down a rare local bird.
- Must Have Caffeine: Without his morning coffee, Stephen is a complete monster.
- Perpetual Poverty: Less so than Jack, as he has a Spanish castle to fall back on, and he doesn't really care about money, but he fell in with Jack at a good time and his fortune tends to rise with Jack's.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue to Jack's Red.
- Renaissance Man: physician/zoologist/cellist/duelist/James Bond
- Running Gag: Stephen's complete inability to board a naval vessel.
- Smart People Know Latin: Maturin will often use Latin around patients both to keep them from knowing what he is saying (when he is talking to another physician or an assistant who also speaks Latin) and because patients are reassured by the fact that their doctor is learned enough to speak Latin. The crews of the ships he serves on often brag that their ship has a real physician who speaks Latin and Greek.
- Spy Drama: Beginning in the second book.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Partly by personal inclination, but also professional (he's required to be secretive both as a physician and a spy), he's cold and distant with most people. Those few who get close to him discover he's incredibly warm and caring. Even they don't really know the full depth, as they see him as an incredibly competent, contained, and certain figure, little knowing the vasty sea of passion and doubts within.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Stephen is generally described by himself and the narrator as a dark, scrawny, ill-looking man, but women generally find him attractive, suggesting he's more of a Byronic Hero.
- With This Ring
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Up until his courtship of Fanny Harte, Babbington's most noticeably characteristic is the constant pursuit of female companionship. First comes up in Post Captain, when he makes a pass at Diana (on their first meeting, at the age of thirteen and the height of about four feet.)
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Actually little larger as an adult than a Plucky Middie, but a capable captain.
- Plucky Middie / Child Soldier: Starts out as one in Master and Commander: because of the amount of time covered by the novels, he grows out of these roles.
- Number One: Even after he attains commander's rank, he tends to act as Aubrey's chief officer.
- Shrinking Violet: He's this on shore.
- Undying Loyalty: He'll do anything for Jack Aubrey.
- Hook Hand: After losing one in battle, but soon adapts to it.
- Plucky Middie: One of the second 'generation', now that Babbington and Pullings command ships of their own.
- The Drunken Sailor: Often when ashore, even by naval standards.
- Old Retainer: Has accompanied Jack as his cabin steward throughout his career.
- Anyone Can Die: After surviving numerous battles he is abruptly killed in an inconsequential skirmish.
- The Everyman: One of the regular sailors who always ships out with Captain Aubrey.
- The Reliable One: Not particularly intelligent or sober, with no outstanding skills except tying knots: but he can be counted on.
- Abhorrent Admirer: A notably clumsy and violent sailor, he insists on following Aubrey from ship to ship, after Aubrey saved him from drowning.
- The Berserker: Aubrey notes that he foams at the mouth while boarding a ship. He also howls.
- The Vicar: Though usually serves as Maturin's medical assistant.
- Animals Hate Him: A keen amateur naturalist, he gains his knowledge at a price, including losing an eye in an encounter with an owl.
Sophia Aubrey née Williams
- Betty and Veronica: With Diana in the second book. Once Jack marries Sophie, he has a sort of dread of Diana (and his own temptations) which takes a long time to pass.
- English Rose
- Lie Back and Think of England: Her love for Aubrey is genuine, but a bit on the spiritual level by Jack's tastes.
- Like Brother and Sister: She's very fond of Stephen, but there's no love triangle involved. She's almost the only person to support his pursuit of Diana. It's mentioned they are "perhaps closer than if they had been lovers".
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: She mentions this at times but seems willing to risk delays in order to get Jack.
- Naïve Everygirl
- Old Maid: Rather resigned to this fate, as she's willing to wait for Aubrey, even if she can't have him.
- The Unseen: Since she remains in England, her 'appearances' in several of the books are limited to her role as correspondent for both the main characters.
Diana Maturin, née Villiers
- Action Girl: Of a sort. She's a very competent horsewoman.
- After her escape from Boston and a very jealous Johnson to the blockading HMS Shannon in The Fortune of War, Diana faces the risk of recapture should Shannon lose to the Chesapeake. She deals with her seasickness and the anxiety of possible defeat by picking off rats with Stephen's pistols; later, in The Surgeon's Mate, when the England-bound packet she is aboard faces possible recapture by Johnson's privateers, she is perfectly prepared to shoot her way if necessary. (Luckily it's not, and the only person she aims at—Stephen—rebukes her with "put those pistols down at once. Do not you know it is very rude to point a pistol at a person you do not mean to kill?")
- Betty and Veronica: With Sophia in the second book.
- Broken Bird: She's orphaned and widowed at a very young age due to a revolt in India. Her determination to win a rich, influential husband and willingness to use sex to get him ends up destroying her reputation and leads her into the power of unscrupulous men, until she's desperate to get away.
- Cool Big Sis: Of a sort, to Sophia. She's a few years older and a war widow who grew up in India, whereas Sophia is a sheltered naïf who cried to learn men had hairy chests. Diana's the cynical slut variety.
- Cry into Chest: During a moment of despondency in India, she gets comfort from Maturin. Then Canning walks in and violence ensues.
- Determined Widow
- Distracted by the Luxury: Given to be the reason she keeps throwing over Stephen for other men. She doesn't just want any old marriage, she wants to marry a wealthy man. "Love in a cottage" isn't her style.
- Does Not Like Men: She views men as the enemy, figuring they're just out to screw her (literally) so she has to do what she has to do to get by. Stephen is her only male friend.
- First Girl Wins: She's not the first girl Maturin meets, but she is the first he shows any interest in.
- Gamer Chick: Nineteenth century version; we meet her riding a horse on a fox hunt.
- Girl in the Tower: While living with her crazy cousin, she has a room on the second floor. At one point Jack, visiting late at night, climbs up to visit her.
- The Lad-ette: To a degree. She drinks, swears, rides, games, fucks.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Not so much wanting children, but desperate to get remarried before age steals her beauty.
- Romancing the Widow
- Runaway Bride
- Sleeps with Everyone but You: To Stephen, because she actually values his friendship and doesn't see him as a potential husband, ironically. Maybe. The text states that they kissed a few times, so it's hard to know what they might have done.
- Smells Sexy: Stephen gives her a bottle of scent in the second book, a gift he greatly regrets as he recurringly picks up traces of the aroma on other men.
- Slut-Shaming: A penniless widow, she rather transparently uses her charms to befriend men in the hopes of securing a second marriage. This does absolutely nothing for her reputation in England, and she bounces from her cousin's home, to her mad cousin's home, to the care of a Jewish merchant in England (where she's friends with the notorious mistress of the Prince of Wales), to the care of the merchant, only in India, to the care of an American businessman in Boston, to a respectable marriage... to an illegitimate foreign Catholic, which is pretty low by the standards of English society. Still, at least she's finally an honest woman.
- Wartime Wedding: As part of her confused relationship with Johnstone, she gave up her British citizenship, which leads to problems when she wants to return during the war of 1812. She and Stephen quickly get married to rectify that.
Mrs. WilliamsSophia's mother, Diana's aunt, Jack's mother-in-law. She's conniving, bitter, a pain in the ass, and she will see her daughters well set up in good marriages or she'll die trying.
- Coattail-Riding Relative: When introduced, she's the wealthy widow in charge of Mapes Court and her daughters' dowries. Her financial cunning is of the sort that soon has her moving in with Jack and Sophie and relying on them for her old age.
- Evil Matriarch: No one who knows her is at all fond of her. With the exception of her grandchildren, the only people she shows any kindness to.
- Manipulative Bastard: During Post Captain and HMS Surprise: whenever her opinion of Aubrey's fortune or prospects is high, she's constantly shoving Sophie at him. Whenever he's in debt or disgrace, she takes the girls with her on a trip to some inaccessible location. Unfortunately for her she's up against Stephen, who is easily her better in the manipulation business.
- Pet the Dog: Despite her overall nastiness, is quite fond of her grandchildren.
Brigid MaturinStephen and Diana's only child.
Sir Joseph Blaine
- Benevolent Boss: a close friend of Stephen's, as well as his boss. Both are naturalists and entomologists of rare dedication and skill, which provides a cover for their meetings. Plus, Blaine's influence is essential in getting Jack reinstated.
- Lovable Sex Maniac/Dirty Old Man: one comical subplot is his rediscovery of his sex drive and his asking advice from Stephen on whether or not to marry the young lady that he's courting.
- The Spymaster: Maturin's boss in British Intelligence.
- 10-Minute Retirement: Blaine's enemies—including Wray and Ledward—force him out of his job as intelligence chief by the time of The Reverse of the Medal. Fortunately, as Blaine himself notes, he still retains many of his contacts at the highest level of government, and with their help he slowly carries out his own hunt for the mole before Duhamel's defection to Stephen closes the net. After that, he pulls a Smiley and returns to his post as head of intelligence.
Admiral HarteThe admiral under whom Aubrey first served as a commander.
- Hidden Depths: Jack discovered just before Harte's death that his most despised commander did have one redeeming virtue - whenever he sent a captain to the Barbary Coast he'd hand over enough money to buy the freedom of a couple of the Christian slaves there.
- Jerkass: His most notable trait from Aubrey's point of view. Does his best to keep him from getting any ship or promotion, ever. Though as detailed in the next trope, this is rather understandable.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Harte correctly suspects that Jack Aubrey seduced his wife. This makes his vendetta a bit more understandable, if no less petty.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: He's not hugely interested in helping out any of his captains, but Aubrey managed to become his foremost target.
Andrew WrayA gentleman whose gambling losses lead him eventually to cheating and to trading British secrets for French gold.
- Bury Your Gays: He and his lover/accomplice Ledward end up being shot and then dissected by Maturin and his anatomist friend Van Buren.
- The Mole: Does considerable damage to England's secret service efforts until he is discovered.
- Villainous Breakdown: A long, drawn-out one, but there nonetheless. Though we first meet him in Desolation Island, we get to know him in detail in Treason's Harbour, where Wray appears to be a competent and dangerous double agent, albeit one with a gambling addiction and a growing drinking problem. By the time he re-appears in The Reverse of the Medal, Wray is a confirmed drunkard who is nearly insolvent due to gambling debts. By the time that Stephen meets him for the last time in The Thirteen-Gun Salute, Wray is completely useless, with the French deciding that Ledward is a better agent (he is) and Wray being allowed just enough of an income to live.