One of my favourite authors is Rafael Sabatini. Now, don't panic if you've never heard of him - not many people have. Sabatini is an English/Italian author who was born in 1875. He was a contemporary of writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island). By the time he was seventeen, he spoke six languages but chose to write in English because he said 'all the best stories are written in English'.
His most famous works are 'The Sea Hawk', 'Captain Blood' and 'Scaramouche'. One of my favourite quotes is the opening line to his novel 'Scaramouche' - He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. This was the same quote that Sabatini had written on his tombstone.
The first novel I read of his was Captain Blood. It is an adventure story of slaves, pirates and love. (And who doesn't love a good pirate book?) Peter Blood is an Irish physician who becomes embroiled in the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth. He is convicted of treason after he treats one of the rebels. From here, he is sent as an indentured slave to the Caribbean colonies. Of course, it is here that he meets the beautiful Arabella - the obligatory love interest. The town is attacked by Spaniards and, while they are celebrating their victory, he steals their ship and embarks on the life of a pirate.
So what is it about the writing of Sabatini that I love so much? The story is good - it is fast paced and includes a number of great descriptions of battles at sea. The writing is descriptive and poetic. There are clever insights and commentary on human nature all the way through. My favourite takes place at Peter Blood's trial with the dreadful Judge Jeffery. Jeffery is described as 'a tall, slight man on the young side of forty, with an oval face that was delicately beautiful.' Peter Blood, as a physician notices the 'dark stains of suffering' on his face and the 'pale face' and can tell that the Judge suffers from an 'agonizing malady'. The Judge shows little sympathy in convicting Peter Blood to death, even though his only crime was to help an injured man. Peter replies with what is one of my favourite speeches in literature:
"Faith, it's in better case I am for mirth than your lordship. For I have this to say before you deliver judgment. Your lordship sees me—an innocent man whose only offence is that I practised charity—with a halter round my neck. Your lordship, being the justiciar, speaks with knowledge of what is to come to me. I, being a physician, may speak with knowledge of what is to come to your lordship. And I tell you that I would not now change places with you—that I would not exchange this halter that you fling about my neck for the stone that you carry in your body. The death to which you may doom me is a light pleasantry by contrast with the death to which your lordship has been doomed by that Great Judge with whose name your lordship makes so free."
I would love to be able to write like this!