Twice PATRICK O'BRIAN consented to come to the U.S. to promote his books, queasy engagements because he was shy and reclusive and edgy about any attempt at curiosity about him and his life and his (obfuscated) personal history. A BBC reporter once asked when the grapes ripened in the region of France where he lived. Reply: "That is a rather personal question." I was asked to introduce him at one of his New York City appearances, which amounted to readings (he would not consent to give a speech). He was courtly and dutiful, but his mind was beating loudly elsewhere. It was dumbfounding to weigh his knowledge, as a naturalist, linguist, translator, biographer, the most evocative writer on the sea since Homer--and, through his stories of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin, portraitist unrivaled about life at sea, at war, at home and in the shadows of the warmakers of Britain, France and Spain. He was only two or three chapters into the 21st of his series when he died, consigning his remains to Collioure near the Spanish border, where he lived for 50 years and, by his industry and talent, gladdened the reading of his and successor generations.
--By William F. Buckley Jr.