A new translation by Scot James Hogarth for the first unabridged English edition of the novel, which tells the story of an illiterate fisherman from the Channel Islands who must free a ship that has run aground in order to win the hand of the woman he loves, a shipowner's daughter.
A WORD WRITTEN ON A WHITE PAGE Christmas Day in the year 182- was somewhat remarkable in the island of Guernsey. Snow fell on that day. In the Channel Islands a frosty winter is uncommon, and a fall of snow is an event. On that Christmas morning, the road which skirts the seashore from St. Peter's Port to the Vale was clothed in white. From midnight till the break of day the snow had been falling. Towards nine o'clock, a little after the rising of the wintry sun, as it was too early yet for the Church of England folks to go to St. Sampson's, or for the Wesleyans to repair to Eldad Chapel, the road was almost deserted. Throughout that portion of the highway which separates the first from the second tower, only three foot-passengers could be seen. These were a child, a man, and a woman. Walking at a distance from each other, these wayfarers had no visible connection. The child, a boy of about eight years old, had stopped, and was looking curiously at the wintry scene. The man walked behind the woman, at a distance of about a hundred paces. Like her he was coming from the direction of the church of St. Sampson. The appearance of the man, who was still young, was something between that of a workman and a sailor. He wore his working-day clothes—a kind of Guernsey shirt of coarse brown stuff, and trousers partly concealed by tarpaulin leggings—a costume which seemed to indicate that, notwithstanding the holy day, he was going to no place of worship. His heavy shoes of rough leather, with their soles covered with large nails, left upon the snow, as he walked, a print more like that of a prison lock than the foot of a man. The woman, on the contrary, was evidently dressed for church. She wore a large mantle of black silk, wadded, under which she had coquettishly adjusted a dress of Irish poplin, trimmed alternately with white and pink; but for her red stockings, she might have been taken for a Parisian. She walked on with a light and free step, so little suggestive of the burden of life that it might easily be seen that she was young. Her movements possessed that subtle grace which indicates the most delicate of all transitions—that soft intermingling, as it were, of two twilights—the passage from the condition of a child to that of womanhood. The man seemed to take no heed of her.
A maritime history of the Delmarva Peninsula's Atlantic coast describes twenty-five disasters that have occurred in the area between the seventeenth century and the present day, recounting the 1750 loss of a Spanish treasure fleet, the Revolutionary War blockade of the Delaware, the 1933 hurricane, Confederate raids during the Civil War, and the Nazi U-boat offensive during World War II.
“There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea,” wrote Joseph Conrad. And there is certainly nothing more integral to the development of the modern world. In The Sea: A Cultural History, John Mack considers those great expanses that both unite and divide us, and the ways in which human beings interact because of the sea, from navigation to colonization to trade. Much of the world’s population lives on or near the cost, and as Mack explains, in a variety of ways, people actually inhabit the sea. The Sea looks at the characteristics of different seas and oceans and investigates how the sea is conceptualized in various cultures. Mack explores the diversity of maritime technologies, especially the practice of navigation and the creation of a society of the sea, which in many cultures is all-male, often cosmopolitan, and always hierarchical. He describes the cultures and the social and technical practices characteristic of seafarers, as well as their distinctive language and customs. As he shows, the separation of sea and land is evident in the use of different vocabularies on land and on sea for the same things, the change in a mariner’s behavior when on land, and in the liminal status of points uniting the two realms, like beaches and ports. Mack also explains how ships are deployed in symbolic contexts on land in ecclesiastical and public architecture. Yet despite their differences, the two realms are always in dialogue in symbolic and economic terms. Casting a wide net, The Sea uses histories, maritime archaeology, biography, art history, and literature to provide an innovative and experiential account of the waters that define our worldly existence.