Cap’n Eri

April 15, 2012

Joseph Crosby Lincoln was a recommendation from Mel, and from the long list of his books at Project Gutenberg I picked Cap’n Eri.

It’s the story of three retired sea captains keeping house together who advertise for a wife — not to be shared between them, but to be married by whichever of them draws the short straw.

Captains Jerry and Perez are meant to be amusing, and occasionally they are. Captain Eri, though, is wonderful — smart, competent, and sensible. And so is Martha Snow, the prospective bride. Personally, I’d rather have one novel where two sensible, respectable middle-aged people fall in love than a hundred where enterprising young men fall in love at first sight with heiresses.

Cap’n Eri isn’t just — or even primarily — a romance, though. There’s blackmail, some political machinations, a wayward youngster who needs discipline, religious fervor, arson, daring rescues, and a fair amount of bad weather. And, you know, boats. Lots of boats. Early on in the book, I kept looking askance at new subplots — it didn’t seem like there could possibly be room for all of them. But there was. My main takeaway from the book wasn’t adoration for Captain Eri, although I have that to spare — it was respect for Joseph Crosby Lincoln, who took an array of elements (most but not all of which I liked) that should have been a mess, and created something solid and functional and extremely entertaining.


  1. It sounds promising!

    • It’s adorable!

  2. It sounds ready-made for Masterpiece Classic.

    • Apparently it was made into a movie a few years ago.

  3. The sweet and sensible, middle-aged spinster/widow housekeeper/landlady is almost as common in Lincoln’s books as the canny old sea captain, and I, for one, just love him to pieces for that.

    • I’ve read a few others now, but I’m not seeing nearly as many sensible middle-aged women as (more or less) canny retired sea captains. Any particular books you’d recommend?

  4. Ooh–I just say this; sorry for the delay in responding. to answer your question: Thankful’s Inheritance, Keziah Coffin, Galusha the Magnificent, and Extricating Obadiah are four I remember for the mature female characters.

    FYI–I just had occasion to see “The Golden Boys”, the movie based on Cap’n Eri. It was surprisingly faithful to the book, with the inexplicable exception of changing Cap’n Eri’s name to Zebulon, and they cut the subplot with Cap’n Perez’s nephew. I did find it a little dull. And I think I would have liked Bruce Dern and David Carradine’s roles switched–Dern was a good Perez, but he would have been even better as Eri/Zeb. Rip Torn and Charles Durning were okay as Cap’n Jerry and Cap’n John, and Mariel Hemingway was decent as Martha. The guy playing Mr. Hazeltine was wooden and there was zero chemistry between him and the actress playing Elsie. Bottom line, it was worth seeing because I’m a Lincoln fan, but I don’t know if I would recommend it on its own merits.

    • Cool — I picked up Galusha the Magnificent in a used book store a few weeks ago, and it and its heroine are awesome, so I look forward to the rest of these.

      Hmm. I’d been wondering about the movie, but it doesn’t sound like I need to see it. The same people did a version of The Woman-Haters, too, right?

      Also, I may have stumbled across your blog, if you have one at diaryland. Is that you and do you mind if I read it?

      • Oh, sure, if you want…but be warned: it’s more of a diary than a blog, and I blow off lots of steam there, so there’s swearing, strong opinions, and complaining about my husband! :D

        • I don’t mind the venting — mostly I just want to see what you’re reading — I just wanted to make sure my reading it wouldn’t bother you. Sometimes people feel like things on the internet are a lot more private than they actually are.

  5. I’m late to the JCL party, but I just read Cap’n Warren’s Wards and loved it. I normally skip over any folksy, down-home dialect, but Cap’n Warren’s wry pronouncements made me giggle. On his obsessively tidy housekeeper: “If godliness wants to stay next to cleanliness when she’s around it has to keep on the jump.” Cap’n Eri next!

    On an unrelated note, very surprised that a 1904 novel was adapted for film over 100 years later! Maybe there’s hope for films of Georgette Heyer novels after all. And maybe remakes of the bad Sabatini movies. What 19th-C novel do you think would make a good movie, Melody?

    • Oh, man, I have so many thoughts on movie adaptations. Not 19th century ones, but lots of early 20th century ones. The Clarion is one. The Riddle of the Sands. A screwball When a Man Marries. In the Bishop’s Carriage.

      Also I’ve spent a bunch of time thinking about a version of A Woman Named Smith where it’s set sometime post-1950 and Sophy is black.

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