Captain Marryat's The Children of the New Forest is a wonderful tale in narrative, historically rich and quite fascinating. This story of adventure, treachery, and love takes place during the English Civil War, when fellow countrymen are found enemies, and are set against each other, Roundhead and Cavalier, Parliament and the King. Many hoped for the same thing: justice. But, for a long time, neither could find it. In the midst of all were the Beverlies, the family of a faithful Cavalier, who died in service of the king. His four children were left orphaned when their mother died of grief. Then, word came to them that the Roundheads were going to burn down their estate, Arnwood. Fate sent them into the hands of an old forester, Jacob Armitage, and they escaped to his cottage. From there, the story unfolds. It is a classic worthy of shelving in libraries, in private or in public collections, recommended by many educators with all due praise.
Captain Frederick Marryat (July 10, 1792 – August 9, 1848) was an English Royal Navy officer, novelist, and a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story. He is now known particularly for the semi-autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy and his children's novel The Children of the New Forest, and for a widely used system of maritime flag signalling. From 1832 to 1835 Marryat edited The Metropolitan Magazine. He kept producing novels, with his biggest success, Mr Midshipman Easy, coming in 1836. He lived in Brussels for a year, travelled in Canada and the United States, then moved to London in 1839, where he was in the literary circle of Charles Dickens and others. He was in North America in 1837 when the Rebellion of that year in Lower Canada broke out, and served with the British forces in suppressing it. He was named a Fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his invention and other achievements. In 1843 he moved to a small farm at Manor Cottage in Norfolk, where he died in 1848.
His daughter Florence Marryat later became well-known as a writer and actress. His son Francis Samuel Marryat completed his late novel The Little Savage. Marryat's novels are characteristic of their time, with the concerns of family connections and social status often overshadowing the naval action, but they are interesting as fictional renditions of the author's 25 years of real-life experience at sea. These novels, much admired by Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway, were among the first sea novels. They were models for later works by C. S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian that were also set in the time of Nelson and told the stories of young men rising through the ranks through successes as naval officers. His later novels were generally for the children's market, including his most famous novel for contemporary readers, The Children of the New Forest, which was published in 1847 and set in the countryside surrounding the village of Sway, Hampshire.
In the opening of this historical adventure tale Captain Frederick Marryat directly addresses his juvenile audience, telling them to look up 1647, the year in which his narrative takes place. The historical backdrop is thus set as the English Civil War. Four children of a cavalier who’s been killed in the war must hide out in England’s New Forest when their family home is burned down.
British actor Barnaby Edwards voices the impetuous and resourceful youths skillfully, as well as their neighbors in the British countryside with their authentic and varying accents and vernaculars. Juvenile listeners will greatly enjoy these youths' adventures during tumultuous times.
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Plucky Kids in the English Civil War
- Brian Abel Ragen