1924: The Dark Frigate (or, How to Talk Like a Pirate for Dummies)


Sally’s Rating: 1/5

If you want a summary of this book, all you have to do is read its full titleThe dark frigate: wherein is told the story of Philip Marsham who lived in the time of King Charles and was bred a sailor but came home to England after many hazards by sea and land and fought for the king at Newbury and lost a great inheritance and departed for Barbados in the same ship, by curious chance, in which he had long before adventured with the pirates.

Talk about long-winded! The title pretty much spoils the entire story! 

In Charles Boardman Hawe’s The Dark Frigate, young Philip Marsham flees England and becomes a sailor of the sea. In an unfortunate twist of fate, the boy’s ship is seized by pirates, and he is forced to accompany them on their murderous voyages.

I thought a pirate story would be an exciting read, but this book did not rise to the occasion. It lacked the humor and swashbuckling fun of The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and, instead, The Dark Frigate is nothing more than a boring tale filled with bland characters and a snooze-worthy plot.

The characterization was the biggest problem in The Dark Frigate. The novel follows Philip Marsham, a young man with no distinguishable personality traits. Most of the supporting characters blend together, as well, and I couldn’t be bothered to tell the pirates apart from one another. This may have been a result of the author’s style of language being incredibly dense.

The only good thing that came out of reading this book was that I was able to add some new pirate lingo and insults to my vocabulary. The language and dialogue is unintentionally funny, as characters continually call each other names – lobcock lapwing, puddling quacksalver, etc. Several old proverbs and sayings are littered throughout that also add to the amusement of the modern-day reader. Take this passage for example:

“The host in fury seized the little boy by the ear and dragged him shrieking across the table. ‘Now, sirrah,’ quoth he, ‘of whom mak’st thou this squalling and squealing? A stick laid to thy bum will doubtless go far to keep thy soul from burning.’” (47)

Oh, dear! The language is so stilted and rigid that it is hard to imagine that people use to converse in this way. 

While I did not like the majority of the book, I found myself quite liking the chapter entitled “The Wonderful Excellent Cook” since Hawes instilled some dark humor within the character’s interactions. While trying to make a meal, the cook goes about entertainingly abusing his help and ends up cooking fish that is too salty, and, as a result, the captain punishes him by making him eat the over-salted food and go without water for a couple of days. This type of dark humor would have made for a more enjoyable read, but instead, we end up with a book that was such a slog to get through.

Regrettably, The Dark Frigate’s focus on lackluster characters and dense language sucks all the fun out of a potentially entertaining adventure.


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