The Wreck of the Abergavenny

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Macmillan, 2002 - History - 222 pages
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In February 1805 The Earl of Abergavenny, one of the largest of the East India Company's ships, set sail in convoy from Portsmouth for a voyage round the world to India and China. Her captain, John Wordsworth, was the younger brother of the poet William Wordsworth. On board were more than 400 passengers, troops and crew and a rich cargo of luxury goods and silver dollars. Only three days later, separated from the convoy by stormy weather, the ship struck the notorious Shambles Shoal in Weymouth Bay and sank, drowning 260 souls including her captain.
From the harrowing accounts of the survivors and the detailed official and press reports of the disaster, The Wreck of the Abergavenny brilliantly recreates this tragic event and its contemporary impact. Alethea Hayter centres the narrative on a single dramatic historical event and puts it in the context of the literary world of the day. John Wordsworth's death devastated his brother William, his sister Dorothy and his sister-in-law Mary and his friends Coleridge, Charles and Mary Lamb, William Wilberforce and many others. Their grieving memories, and the effect of the tragedy on Wordsworth's art and view of life, conclude this powerful story, which shows how a catastrophe is transformed from first reports and contemporary reactions into historical record and poetic myth.

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