Hobart Pasha: A Forgotten Victorian Hero

“Of the fearless, dashing, adventurous Englishman, ready to go anywhere and do anything, Hobart was a brilliantly representative type.”

Thus, on his death in 1886, the Daily Telegraph’s obituary described Hobart Pasha, head of the Ottoman Navy, to whom  Nicholas Dawlish found himself reporting in late 1877, as recounted in Britannia’s Wolf. Hobart’s service in Turkey was however only one episode in a career that was as colourful and as unlikely as that of Cochrane, the naval hero to whom he bears most resemblance. It was to prove an inspiration to Dawlish himself.

Hobart is largely – and undeservedly – forgotten today. The following is a short account of his life and exploits. It draws on Hobart’s own lively “Sketches from My Life.”


Born in 1822, Charles Augustus Hobart-Hampden was of aristocratic parentage – his father was the Earl of Buckinghamshire. He was however a third son and as such, like other younger sons of his class, was expected to make his own way in the world. Having shown little aptitude for schoolwork, his family decided that he should enter the Royal Navy. He was thirteen years old.

He joined by a well established route – the patronage of a relative. “A young cousin of mine who had been advanced to the rank of captain, more through the influence of his high connections than by any merit of his own, condescended to give me a nomination in a ship he has just commissioned,” Hobart wrote fifty years later. The ties of kinship brought him thus far, and no further. Joining a tradition-dominated sailing navy that was practically unchanged since Nelson’s death, and which still basked in his reflected glory, Hobart found himself exposed as a midshipman to a regime of petty – and not so petty – tyranny which he could only write about with bitterness in later life. Some of the instances he quoted still horrify:

“I have seen a captain order his steward to be flogged, almost to death, because his pea-soup was not hot.”

“On one occasion the captain of whom I have been writing invited a friend to breakfast with him and there being, I suppose, a slight monotony in the conversation, he asked his friend whether he would like, for his diversion, to see a man flogged. The amusement was accepted, and the man was flogged.”

Hobart himself was not immune from what he described as “most shameful treatment” during the three years spent on his cousin’s ship. “I had become …so utterly hardened to it that I seemed to feel quite indifferent,” he wrote. “I had learnt many a lesson of use to me in after life, the most important of all being to sympathise with other people’s miseries and to make allowances for the faults and shortcomings of humanity.”

Much of this period was spent off South America and Hobart survived, stronger and more confident. Another trait was however already obvious: “Experience is a hard taskmaster and it taught me to be somewhat insubordinate in my notions. I fear that this spirit of insubordination has never left me.”

By his sixteenth birthday, though committed to a naval career, Hobart had decided to play, when needed, by his own rules.

First Blood

It was in Spain, during the First Carlist War (1832-39), that Hobart first saw action, being attached to a Naval Brigade sent to assist the forces of Queen Christina against those of her cousin Don Carlos. During the defence of  San Sebastian Hobart found himself standing next to his commander, Lord John Hay, “when a shell dropped right in the middle of us, and was, I thought, going to burst, as it did.” Not unreasonably, Hobart threw himself down only to receive what he described as a severe kick from his commander who had remained standing and who said “Get up, you cowardly rascal; are you not ashamed of yourself?”

Hobart wrote that he did get up, and was ashamed of himself, but that “My pride helped me out of the difficulty and I flinched no more.” Touchingly, Lord John called him over afterwards and “after apologising in the most courteous manner for the kick, he gave me his hand (poor fellow! He had already lost one arm fighting for his country) and said ‘Don’t be discouraged youngster!’ … and so I was happy.”

The First Carlist War 1833-39  – a savage conflict now largely forgotten

Soon afterwards Hobart found himself appointed to another ship – this time a happy one – and headed once more for South America. He was to spend several years off Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina and penetrated to the interior as far as Paraguay, participating in a desperate forcing of a boom across the Paraguay River when the government there tried to bar access to British trading interests. Hobart recorded matter-of-factly in his memoirs that “the vessel I belonged to had 107 shots in her hull, and thirty-five out of seventy men killed and wounded.” Most of Hobart’s service in these years was involved with suppression of the slave-trade, though he found time to get involved in an impromptu duel in Rio de Janeiro in which a brother officer killed a Brazilian who had spat on him during a ball. Hobart noted that “such a terrible row was made about the affair … that I was not allowed to land for many months”.

Slave Trade Suppression

Though the Slave Trade was banned by international agreement, slavery itself remained legal in Brazil until 1888. The demand for slaves there was enough to make running of new slaves across from Angola a profitable, but risky enterprise, since the Royal Navy operated patrols to intercept them. Hobart served on this duty for 1841 to 1845. His view of Brazilian slavery is a disturbing one for the modern reader. He had first-hand experience of the horrors of the transportation but was by no means convinced that the lot of the slaves was worse on the plantations, when they reached them, than they would have had in Africa. Liberated slaves were sent to the British colony of Demerara – now Guyana – where they were “apprenticed” for seven years, a condition Hobart considered as slavery under another name.

British Anti-Slavery vessels cruising off the Brazilian coast sent their open boats on “detached service” to establish a patrol line, keeping contact only every two or three days. Not yet twenty, Hobart typically found himself in command of a ten-oared cutter, two four-oared whalers and a total force, including himself, of twenty well-armed men. He intercepted numerous slavers, typically brigs or schooners of less than 500 tons.

On one typical occasion a single ship contained 460 captives and had been eight-five days at sea. “They were short of water and provisions,” Hobart wrote. “Small-pox, ophthalmia and diarrhoea in its worst form had broken out…On opening the hold we saw a mass of arms, legs and bodies all crushed together. Many of the bodies to whom these limbs belonged were dead or dying…. Water! Water! Was the cry. Many of them as soon as they were free jumped into the sea, partly because they had been told that, if taken by the English they would be tortured and eaten.”

There was worse. “Just after I got on board and unfortunate creature was delivered of a child close to where I was standing, and jumped into the sea, baby and all… she was saved with much difficulty.”

On another occasion Hobart captured a ship carrying some 600 slaves. He consoled the captain for his loss – “as he really seemed half a gentleman” – but ophthalmia had already blinded many of the captives and Hobart himself caught it so that “for several days I could not see a yard.”

Hobart was to be seriously wounded during another boarding operation: “As I was making a jump on board I saw the white of the eye of a great black man turned on me; he brandished a huge axe, which I had a sort of presentiment was intended for me. I sprang as it were straight at my destiny, for as I grasped the gunnel down came the axe, and I received the full edge of the beastly thing across the back of my hand. I fell into the water, but was picked up by my sailors.” Hobart gave the credit for saving his hand to a young surgeon “who bound the wound in a most scientific manner” and he carried the scar to his grave.

A Brush with a Murder Charge

In his memoirs Hobart hints at a number of love affairs in Brazil but his attentions to the daughter of the Governor of Demerara, led to a duel with another suitor who insulted him during a game of whist. Hobart called him out “and next morning put a bullet into his ankle, which prevented his dancing for a long time to come.” The governor, outraged as much by Hobart’s lack of means as by his pursuit of his daughter demanded that he leave the colony, only to be told that Hobart would please himself and was not under his orders. This response “made things worse. I thought the old boy would have a fit.” Calculating however that his income of £120 a year could not keep a wife, Hobart decided to forget the daughter and soon afterwards learned that she had married the wounded suitor.

Royal Navy Anti-Slavery Patrol; HMS Brisk engaging slave Emanuela

Shortly afterwards a Portuguese vessel bound for Africa, and obviously equipped for slaving, was captured off Parnambuco. Hobart’s commanding officer instructed him to take the ship, with a prize crew of six besides himself, to Cape Town. Also on board, for trial on arrival, were the slaver’s master and three of his crew. The master insinuated himself into Hobart’s good graces to such an extent that “we worked our daily navigation together, played at cards together, in fact were quite chums” and the other slaver crew were allowed considerable liberty, though confined at night. Because of the heat Hobart slept on deck, luckily with a pistol under his pillow. One night, after a “pleasant chatty evening” with his prisoner, Hobart woke to find this same prisoner attacking him with a knife.

“To draw my pistol from under my pillow was the work of a second,” Hobart wrote. “To fire it into the body of the man who was trying to stab me, that of another”. He sprang to his feet, hearing noises from forward, and hurried there leaving his assailant “dead as a door nail.” At the forecastle “I saw one of the prisoners in the act of falling overboard, and another extended full length on the deck, while my stalwart quarter-master was flourishing a handspike with which he had knocked one of his assailants overboard and floored the other.” Hobart suspected that the seaman at the wheel, who claimed to have seen nothing, was complicit. He as clapped in irons and he indeed confessed soon after that he had been bribed to participate in taking over the ship.

Hobart’s handling of the aftermath was brisk. “I buried the captain at sea without further ceremony; the man who fell overboard I suppose was drowned (I did not try to pick him up); the man knocked down was put in irons and all went smoothly for the rest of the voyage.” There was trouble at the Cape however. “When I arrived without the captain the lawyers wanted to make out that I had murdered him, and I was very nearly sent to prison on the charge of murder.”

But on this, as so many other occasions, Hobart escaped. It was the end of his Anti-Slavery patrol work but the experience he has gained in stopping blockade-runners would be put to good use in the future – and then he would be doing the running.

Royal and Papal Encounters

Hobart’s next appointment, in 1845, could not have been a greater contrast with what had gone before for, possibly through family connections, he was appointed to the Queen’s yacht, the Victoria and Albert.

Royal Yacht HMY “Victoria and Albert”

This service involved a number of foreign trips, including a voyage up the Rhine to Stolzenfels to visit the King of Prussia. Hobart saw a side of her husband that the Queen may have been unaware of, as she disapproved of smoking and it was only “through the kind consideration of the Prince Consort that we were allowed to indulge in an occasional cigar in the cow-house.” Albert himself was “always ready to join us in a cigar and its accompanying friendly conversation.” The cows referred to, two Alderneys, were kept for supplying the Queen with fresh milk and butter and Hobart once again found himself in hot water when he painted the noses and horns of these animals “a pretty light blue”. It took Albert himself to extricate him from this scrape.

Pius IX

Now a lieutenant, Hobart was now posted to the Mediterranean where the alarums and excursions associated with Italian unification were in full swing. The Papal States were under attack by Garibaldi’s forces, making the Pope, Pius IX, a virtual prisoner in the Vatican. A French force had been sent to intervene on the Pope’s behalf. Britain’s Lord Palmerston played somewhat of an honest-broker role and Hobart found himself appointed to carry despatches to the Pope, to Garibaldi and the French General Oudinot. On his first visit the Pope gave Hobart “his hand to kiss and congratulated me on having been so firm in obeying orders in relation to my despatches.” Hobart thereafter found himself galloping back and forth between the French and Garibaldian camps with further messages “having on my arm a red scarf for a sign that I was not a belligerent” but being fired on anyway. The conclusion of the episode was the escape of the Pope, “enveloped in the large cloak of an English coachman”, on a French warship. Hobart, if nobody else, seems to have enjoyed the entire episode hugely.

War with Russia

Though the Crimean War was the only major war that Britain fought with a European power in Hobart’s lifetime he says very little about it in his memoirs, despite having distinguished himself. This reflects his reluctance to do more than hint at the general inefficiency and lack of drive associated with British naval operations in both the Baltic and the Black Sea. “A finer fleet never sailed or steamed from Spithead than that destined for the Baltic in 1854,” Hobart wrote, and it was under the command of Sir Charles Napier, known as “’Fighting Old Charley’. Hobart remarked however that “it was not long before we discovered that there was not much fight left in him.”

Departure of the Baltic Expedition from Spithead 1854

Hobart was convinced that the Russian base of Kronstadt could have been captured immediately but effort was focussed instead on the insignificant fort of Bomarsund in the Aland Islands. Though Hobart was mentioned in despatches for his role in this he appears to have “given my opinion too freely, as I was left out in the cold” when promotions were given in the aftermath. When he challenged Napier on this he was told “Don’t ye come crying to me, Sir; you are a lord’s son; I’ll have nothing to do wi’ ye!”

Thirty years later Hobart was to deliver the devastating judgement that “if ever open mutiny was displayed – not by the crews of the ships, but by many of the captains, men who had attained the highest rank in their profession – it was during the cruise in the Baltic in 1854.” A new commander was appointed for the theatre the following year and Hobart was given command of a squadron of mortar-boats for shore attack, but Kronstadt had been so heavily reinforced by now by the Russians that its capture was not attempted.

 Bombardment of Bomasund 1854

Now promoted to Commander, Hobart was awarded his own ship and sent to join the fleet off Sebastopol – his first experience of the Black Sea which was to play such a prominent role in his later career. The Crimean War ended soon after his arrival. A period of peace-time Mediterranean service followed, giving Hobart ample opportunity to indulge in his passion for shooting birds and game, and activity that absorbs almost as much space in his memoirs as his other adventures.

Blockade-Running for the Confederacy

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861 Hobart had attained the rank of Post-Captain. He found himself “shelved”, in his own expression, and expected to wait up some four years before he could expect an appropriate command. Unwilling to remain idle, Hobart and three other officers in the same position “looked about for some enterprise, as something to do … the upshot of it was that we thought of trying if we could not conceive of some plan for breaking through the much-talked of blockade of the Southern States of America” by the Union Government. Like many in Britain, Hobart’s sympathies were strongly with the Confederacy, but he was not averse to earning something in the process of assisting it.

In his memoirs Hobart breezily skates over the problem of commissioned officers in the Royal Navy assisting a rebellion against a nation with which Great Britain had peaceful, if not necessarily cordial, relations. “We lent our minds, if not our bodies, to certain alter egos, whom we inspired, if we did not personally control, as to their line of conduct,” he wrote. “My man I will call Roberts, whose adventures I now give, and in whose name I now write. There are people who insist that I was Captain Roberts; all that such people have to do is to prove that I was that ‘miscreant,’ whoever he may have been.” Hobart’s memoirs then continue in the first-person.

The most heavily blockaded Confederate ports were Charleston, Savannah and Wilmington, the difficulty of approach compounded by forts occupied by Union forces. The blockade was a close one, Union cruisers patrolling right up to the shore line. The nearby British possessions of Bermuda and the Bahamas offered bases however for blockade-runners who could not be pursued into, or boarded in, what amounted to British territorial waters.

A Union vessel in chase of a Confederate blockade runner

Hobart offers few details in his memoirs of the financing of his operations but he took command initially of a twin-screw, 400 ton, 250 horsepower, 180 foot steamer, “as handy a little craft was ever floated.” The crew consisted of himself, three officers, three engineers, ten seamen and eighteen stokers, the number of the latter emphasising the need for speed at all times. All were British, so highly paid that “men-of-war on the Wet India station found it a difficult mater to prevent their crews from deserting.”  Hobart prepared his vessel by lowering the masts and funnel and by hiding the boats to reduce her profile, by painting her a dull grey, and by arranging to blow off steam underwater to minimise noise. The furnaces were stoked only with best anthracite to minimise smoke. His measures went so far as to carry no roosters in the hen-coop lest they crow at an inopportune moment.

In his memoirs Hobart details several hair-raising trips into Charleston and Wilmington, as well as a failed attempt to reach Savannah, making maximum use of darkness, mist and bad weather. On more than one occasion he passed unseen within yards of a Union gunboat and he made light of “a broadside from a savage little gun-boat” on his second trip, whose shot passed over his vessel. In another encounter he took another over-high broadside at fifty yards range that resulted only in damage to the funnel. “The marines on board of her kept up a heavy fire of musketry…but only wounded one of our men. Rockets were then throw up as signals to her consorts, two of which came down on us, but luckily made a bad guess at our position and closed with us on our quarter instead of our bow. They also opened fire, but did us no injury. At the moment there was no vessel in sight ahead; and as we were going at a splendid pace, were soon reduced our dangerous companions to three or four shadowy forms struggling astern without a hope of catching us.”

 Confederate blockade-runner “Ella and Annie”   

The cargoes Hobart carried inwards through the blockade included blankets, shoes and “some mysterious cases marked ‘hardware’, about which no one asked any questions, but which the military authorities took possession of.” Hobart also traded on his own account and “before leaving England I had met a Southern lady, who, on my inquiring what was most needed by her compatriots in the beleaguered States replied curtly; ‘Corsages, sir, I reckon.’” Before leaving Glasgow on his first trip Hobart “visited an emporium that seemed to contain everything in the world; and I astonished the young fellow behind the counter by asking for a thousand pairs of stays.” Hobart was to dispose of these vital articles of every respectable lady’s underwear at a profit of nearly eleven hundred percent.

On the return trip Hobart carried bales of cotton, packed not just into the hold but piled closely on deck so as to leave only access to the cabins, engine-room and forecastle. When finally landed in Liverpool the cotton would fetch ten to fifteen times what it has been purchased for in the Confederacy.

Hobart’s memoirs give a fascinating outsider’s view of the privations of life in the Confederacy in its later years. His reputation brought him into easy contact with senior military and political figures, including Judah Benjamin, Jefferson Davis (“a stern-looking man who never smiled…and gave one the idea of a perfect gentleman”) and Robert E. Lee, who impressed Hobart as an “excellent man and good soldier” as he did all who ever met him.  Hobart remarked that Lee “was the only man I met during my travels who took a somewhat gloomy view of the military prospects of the country” and he noted that most others remained confident of victory even in the very last days of the Confederacy.

Apart from running the naval blockade Hobart decided to run what he termed “the land blockade” and find his ways from Richmond to Washington and New York, from where he could return to the Bahamas by regular passenger steamer. His motivation for this potentially suicidal journey is not explained in his memoirs and he was fully aware that “it was always a difficult matter to avoid the pickets of either party … and anyone they suspected of being a spy in those days had a short shrift and a long rope applied before he knew where he was.” The journey proved a difficult one through swamps and across rivers and involved hiding up in daytime while being devoured by sand flies, but Washington was at last reached safely. The rest of the journey back to the Bahamas appears to be uneventful. This incident is the only one in Hobart’s memoirs that is wholly inexplicable and one wonders if some unofficial diplomatic element was involved. He mentioned that he was carrying a packet of despatches for the correspondent of the London Times, but there may have been more to it than that.

Hobart’s last blockade-running venture ended in disaster. He had run into Wilmington twice on a new ship but as he came out in the second occasion yellow fever broke out on board – a disease usually fatal at the time. Hobart headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, to “inhale purer air”, losing men on the way and going down with the disease himself. He survived but “the game was fast drawing to a close” as the Confederacy was now collapsing and he decided to bring “Captain Roberts’s” career to a close.

Into the Sultan’s Service

Hobart was still a Royal Navy post-captain, and still awaiting a ship, when the American Civil War ended. One can but wonder how the late “Captain Roberts” was viewed at the Admiralty, and Hobart might have had similar concerns, for “more by accident than design” he visited Constantinople and presented himself to Fuad Pasha, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. The island of Crete was still an Ottoman possession but its Greek inhabitants were in revolt against their overlords, their insurrection supported by blockade-runners from the independent Kingdom of Greece. Identifying himself as a fox turned gamekeeper, Hobart presented himself as the best man to eliminate the Greek blockade-runners. He was immediately offered the position of Naval Adviser to the Ottoman Government, in succession to a British officer, Sir Adolphus Slade, who had just retired after twenty yeas service. By accepting the position Hobart seems to have caused considerable offence at the Admiralty in London, which considered the post as its own to award. “Even the frowns of the English Ambassador did not affect me a bit,” Hobart wrote. “I believe they called me ‘adventurer,’ ‘artful dodger,’ etc. but I was in every way as much entitled to this position as the Admiralty ‘pet,’ whoever he may have been.”

The Ottoman-Turkish Navy was equipped with expensive modern ships and weapons

On taking the position Hobart immediately equipped a small squadron, including a couple of fast despatch boats and a steam corvette. He established his patrols, not off Crete, but off the Greek port of Syra, from which the blockade-runners were being seen off “with flags flying, bands playing and the hurrahs of the entire population”, but staying carefully outside Greek territorial waters. Within weeks Hobart had cut off supplies to the Cretan insurgents and the revolt collapsed.

Hobart’s reward was to be removed, or “scratched”, from the Royal Navy list (he wrote to the Admiralty Board “You may scratch and be d-d!”) but was appointed a Full Admiral and Chief of Staff of the Imperial Ottoman Navy.

In his memoirs, written in the last months of his life, Hobart reveals little of his Ottoman service “because such anecdotes strike nearer home” and he was determined to be “offensive to no one.” The Ottoman Navy was expanded during his tenure and by the mid-1870s was rated the third most powerful in Europe, a fact aided by the Treaty of Paris of 1856, which brought the Crimean War to an end, prevented the Russian Empire from building significant naval forces in the Black Sea. Turkey also had significant Mediterranean, Adriatic and Red Sea commitments as well. War with Greece, no less than with Russia, was always a possibility. New ironclads and other vessels were purchased in Western Europe, mainly in Great Britain, Hobart’s greatest challenge was to build up the organisations, procedures, discipline and support structures to man them effectively. Financing of this force was a major drain on a corrupt and mismanaged administration. As the “Sick Man of Europe” the Ottoman Empire was dependent on overseas loans that could only be serviced by ever-greater taxation of oppressed populations from the Balkans to Basra, from the deserts of Libya and Arabia to the foothills of the Caucuses. Though a formal treaty was never entered into, it was an article of British foreign policy in this period that the Ottoman Empire must be shored up so as to counter Russian ambitions to control the Eastern Mediterranean and to menace British communications with India. These concerns had in them the seeds of a major European War, possibly even a World War.

Given the overwhelming naval forces at his disposal, Hobart felt considerable bitterness that considerably more could have been achieved against Russia when the Russo-Turkish War erupted in 1877. Incompetent Ottoman Army commanders were as little interested in cooperation with the Navy as they were with each other and Hobart commented that “it was hard on the gallant Turks, hard on the Sultan and his government, and hard on me, to see such magnificent chances thrown away.” He advocated more active use of naval forces in the Danube to prevent the crossing of the main Russian Army and “I was simply told to mind my own business and rejoin my ships, which were at that moment lying at the Sulina mouth of the Danube.”

Hobart’s objective was to dominate the Black Sea. This included blockading Odessa and Sevastopol and intercepting small fast Russian raiders that might sally from them; holding the Danube mouths and Batumi as forward bases. He also oversaw safe transportation of large bodies of troops by sea. This last included shifting forty-thousand troops from Albania to Salonika in just twelve days. An evacuation of a Turkish army from the Caucasian coast at Sukhumi, and of the local Muslim population, a total of over 50,000 people, was executed without loss. Wars however, as Churchill remarked, are not won by evacuations.

Though Ottoman defeat on land was total, Hobart took pride that “the fleet kept the command of the Black Sea during the whole of that disastrous war, cruising at times in the most fearful weather I have ever experienced, for twelve months in a sea almost without ports of refuge.” An increasing hazard in the last weeks of the war was the Russian use of self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes, “carrier vessels” being used to bring small attack craft within reach of the base of Batumi. These operations were masterminded by the future Admiral Makaroff, whose death off Port Arthur in 1904 probably removed the last hope of a Russian victory over the Japanese.

Last Years

Hobart remained another eight years in Turkey after the end of the Russo-Turkish War and appears to have enjoyed himself hugely as regards his favourite sport of shooting. He was less enamoured of international society at Constantinople and was scathing about the diplomatic corps and what he referred to as “the sacred circle” and “the swells”. The sixty-year old Admiral still had the same spirit of insubordination as the young midshipman.

Hobart’s resentment of Istanbul’s expartiate community may have had to do with its attitude to his second marriage – an undertaking that was wholly characteriytic of this independent-spirited man. An entry in the New York World after his death summarises what happened:

The news by cable of the death of the late Hobart Pasha was the ‘ finis’ to as romantic a career as ever farmed the subject of a story, and not the least romantic chanter of it was the Pasha’s second marriage in 1874. It sounds like the plot of an English novel, and the third volume still lives to mourn the loss of the hero. Hobart Pasha, as the papers told, when the story of his death came across the wires, was the fourth son of the Duke of Buckingham and a distinguished naval officer before he entered the Sultan’s service and rose to Mahommedan honours and dignities that no Christian had ever before obtained. During the early part of his career, while he was still in the English service, a brother officer of his was so severely wounded that the surgeon announced to him the mortal nature of his injury. The dying man sent for the future Pasha to whom he was greatly attached and confided to him a secret. He had married a girl who was of rather humble parentage, and because of his family’s opposition the marriage had been kept concealed, and the girl rested under a stigma. A child had been born to them just before he left England. Now that he had been told he was about to die he was anxious that it and its mother should be righted in the eyes of the world. Complications as to its proof had arisen by the death of witnesses, but he trusted to his friend Hobart to repair his fault ” If you will pledge your honour for the truth of the marriage,” he said, ‘the world will believe you, and you will relieve me when I swear to you that it is so.’ When Hobart, now become a Turkish officer, returned to England, he under took to comply with the request of his dead friend, but the young mother under the weight of her grief and the equivocal position she occupied had followed her husband, and the dead man’s relatives, when he at last discovered the child, refused to acknowledge it. Nothing was left to him but to take care of the little orphan himself, so he accepted the charge with what grace he could muster, and when he left England, as he did soon after, he placed her at a famous school for girls in the Isle of Wight, where so many English women of rank have gotten their training and education. Then he went back to his duties and thought no more about her except to send an occasional letter full of good advice, with boxes of Turkish sweetmeats and trinkets. When she was seventeen years  old he got a letter from her full of passionate misery and stained with tears. Some girl enemy had discovered the mystery about her birth and taunted her with it, and she wanted him to come and take her somewhere, anywhere, away from girls who were cruel. So the tender hearted old sailor put himself aboard the next steamer for home and got his little protégé, though what he was to do with her he did not quite know. She was young; she was pretty; she clung to him with tenderest gratitude and love, and the hearts of even bronzed, gray-mustached old warriors are not proof against that, and so, as that, after all, seemed the quickest and simplest solution of the trouble, and they both wished it, they were married. And now at die age of twenty-nine she is left to mourn the loss of one of the most brilliant and daring commanders England ever produced.

“Originally endowed with a most vigorous physique,” according to the Daily Telegraph, Hobart’s health collapsed in 1886, “sapped at last by long years of hardship and fatigue.” He retired to the Riviera and occupied himself with his too-brief but vastly entertaining memoirs. He died shortly afterwards. His body was returned to Constantinople, and was buried on the Asian side, in the British Cemetery at Scutari, close to the troops had died at Nightingale’s hospital during the Crimean War.

Hobart’s life – and his daring, swashbuckling, rebellious, generous and fundamentally decent character – is proof that many heroes of naval fiction may be but pale reflections of the reality of the ages of sail, steam and empire.

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