Captain Blood

March 6, 2007

Captain Blood is not only my favorite Sabatini novel; It’s one of my favorite books, period. See, it’s got pirates. The Sea Hawk has pirates, too, but it also has many unreasonable and/or painful bits, including an inexplicably evil younger brother. At some point, I will post about inexplicably evil younger brothers. They turn up more often than you’d think.

Anyway, Captain Blood:

Peter Blood is an Irish doctor who has spent the past few years as a soldier in various parts of Europe. He’s just moved to a small English town, intending to work as a doctor and lead a relatively quiet life, but it turns out that the area he’s living in is heavily involved in the Monmouth Rebellion. Peter Blood thinks it’s pretty stupid, but he’s a doctor, so when he’s summoned to patch up one of the rebels, he doesn’t see anything wrong with that. Unfortunately for him, the dragoons disagree, and when they come around to arrest the rebels, they arrest Peter Blood, too.

The moral of this story is probably that if you’re ever on trial for something, it’s not a great idea to be rude to the judge. Even if he’s being really unreasonable and not listening to your defense, you should not make personal remarks about him and his health and the disease that’s eating away at him inside. If you do, you might get sent to Jamaica as a slave, like Peter Blood.

Okay, so he would have been sent to Jamaica even if he hadn’t made fun of Judge Jeffreys — an actual historical personage, by the way — but Sabatini’s heroes do tend to have problems keeping their mouths shut.

So, Peter Blood and a bunch of other rebels, including his pal Jeremy Pitt, get sent off to Jamaica, where Blood is bought by a beautiful young woman named Arabella Bishop, who feels sorry for him. Now, this means that Blood ends up working for her uncle, Colonel Bishop, who is apparently the second meanest slaveholder around. And that kind of sucks. But Arabella is beautiful and sympathetic, so when Blood and some other slaves run away in the middle of a pirate attack and make off with the pirates’ ship, he names it after her.

Because Peter Blood is terribly, terribly clever, he becomes the best pirate captain around. Eventually he meets Arabella again, and she tells him she hates pirates and he mopes a lot. And then he doesn’t. I don’t want to rehash the whole plot, but I would like to note the conversation in which Captain Blood is offered a commission in the Navy. He’s like, “Are you kidding me? King James sent me and my pals here to Jamaica. We hate King James! Why would we ever even consider working for King James?” And the guy offering him the commission is like, “King James? Yeah, he wasn’t so great. So we sent to Holland and got this new guy to come over. No one’s mentioned King William to you? Huh.”



  1. Oooo, I’m so glad you posted about this book. I remember spying it in the book store about a year ago (at least) after seeing the film of the same name starring Errol Flyn, surprised to know that it was based on a book. Then, somehow, it fell off my radar. Luckily the store still has it, so I’ll have to purchase it tomorrow.

    I really like the idea behind your blog.

  2. I probably should have mentioned the movie, since I love it–it’s the only Sabatini-adapted movie that’s reasonably faithful to the book.

    I’m so glad you like the blog, and even more glad that I’ve prompted someone to start reading Rafael Sabatini. :)

  3. There’s also a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Captain Blood, also with Flynn and De Haviland. I think it’s included as a feature on the recent DVD release (although I haven’t checked, since I have it on CD anyway).

  4. I have that too–you might have sent it to me, actually. Either that or I found it online somewhere.

  5. You’re right, I did — I forgot all about that.

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