Nat Gould

His life and books

Frederick Marryat 1792-1848

Frederick Marryat
Born: 1792 in London
Died: 1848 at Langham, Norfolk
Joseph Marryat
Charlotte Geyer
Catherine Shairp
Frederick Marryat 1819-1847
William Marryat 1819-1826
Norman Marryat 1822-1823
Samuel Francis Marryat
Charlotte Blanche Marryat 1827-
Florence Marryat 1833-1899
Caroline Cecilia Marryat 1836-
Augusta Marryat 1834-1898
Emilia 1835-1875

Frederick Marryat, naval officer and novelist, was born on 10 July 1792 at Catherine Court, Tower Hill in London, the second son of Joseph Marryat 1757–1824 MP and his wife Charlotte Geyer.

After a troubled early education, he entered the service of the Royal Navy in 1806 and saw a great deal of action in the Napoleonic War. He was promoted lieutenant in 1812 and commander in 1815.

In January 1819 he married Catherine Shairp, daughter of Sir Stephen Shairp, the Consul-General in Russia. They had four sons and seven daughters (1).

In 1822 he published a pamphlet attacking impressment, which damaged his career and earned him the hostility of the Duke of Clarence (later William IV).

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1819, proposed by Charles Babbage, his friend from schooldays. He was awarded the medal of the Royal Humane Society in 1821 for his design of a lifeboat and for his gallantry in saving life at sea. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1826, and the French Legion of Honour in 1833.

While still serving as a naval officer, Frederick Marryat began writing novels, and from 1832 to 1835 also edited the radical Metropolitan Magazine. In 1836 he lived abroad, mainly in Brussels, and travelled from 1837 to 1838 in the United States and Canada, publishing his travel diary in 1839.

In that year he returned to London, but after his marriage broke down in 1843 he finally settled at Langham in Norfolk. Although he had inherited a fortune and made a great deal of money from his writing, he seems to have been permanently short of money, partly because the ruin of his West Indian estate, and partly through his own extravagance and generosity. But he found a fresh source of income when he began to write books for children, on which he spent his last years.

His health, never strong, deteriorated. In July 1847 he applied to return to active naval service, and his rejection by the Admiralty made him seriously ill. The loss of his eldest son Frederick in December 1847 gave him a fatal shock. He died at Langham on 9 August 1848, where there is his tomb in the churchyard.

(1) Only nine children are listed in the pedigree given in Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica 4th Series Volume 3 pages 248. His daughter Florence Marryat in her Life and Letters of Captain Marryat Volume II (1872) at page 291 states that Frederick Marryat “was the father of four sons and seven daughters”. That total of eleven is confirmed by the authoritative entry for Frederick Marryat in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which is evidently not based on Florence’s book. The missing children are probably two daughters Catherine (born 1826) and Petra (born 1828) who may have died in infancy.