Captain Frederick Marryat (British, 1792-1848) 'Puzzled which to choose'
Lot 73
Captain Frederick Marryat (British, 1792-1848) 'Puzzled which to choose'
Sold for £3,360 (US$ 5,641) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Captain Frederick Marryat (British, 1792-1848)
'Puzzled which to choose'
bears extensive inscription (verso)
27.5 x 39cm (10 13/16 x 15 3/8in).


    Gifted by the artist to his brother Mr Horace Marryat

    The inscription to the reverse reads:
    "Puzzled which to choose" or the King of Timbuctoo offering one of his/ daughters in Marriage to Capt ____ (anticipated result of the African Mission)/ Drawn by my father Captain Frederick Marryat R.N. C.B. and/ presented by him to his brother Mr Horace Marryat/ Florence Marryat/ Vide "Life & Letters of Capt. Marryat" Vol. I. P.82

    Novelist, caricaturist and captain in the Royal Navy, Frederick Marryat first went to sea in 1806 and served throughout the Napoleonic Wars. He served in St Helena (1820-1821), in Rangoon during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) and in Canada (1837-1838). Marryat was a personal friend of caricaturist George Cruikshank (1792–1878), who often worked from suggestions by amateurs, and Marryat provided ideas for many images. The 1818 Cruikshank engraving of the present lot, published in 1821 by G. Humphrey, differs only in the figures in the background on the left.

    The passage that Florence Marryat refers to in her inscription reads:
    "The caricature...wherein Captain Marryat himself is depicted standing with his hand on his heart in an attitude of perplexity, before three dusky ladies dressed in the highest fashion of their country" (F. Marryat 1872, p.82)

    The story goes that Captain Edward Jones (1775-1862), the artist William Linton (1791-1876) and Marryat were dining together one evening:

    "Captain Marryat had obtained, or was endeavouring to obtain, a ship that was to cruise off the coast of Africa, and the gentlemen were joking with him as to the preferment he might win by visiting the king of Timbuctoo. 'Come, Marryat,' said Captain Jones, 'stand up, and let me take your head off. Now, put on your most winning smile whilst his sable Majesty offers you one of his daughters!'

    "Captain Marryat rose from his seat and put himself in position, whilst Captain Jones sketched him - in full naval uniform, cocked hat in one hand, the other hand placed over his heart, as he bows and smiles admiringly to the sable beauties all but naked, one of whom his Majesty, seated on a large stone, appears to be specially recommending to the novelist on account of her superior plumpness. In the background are officers of marines and sailors ogling and admiring the sable princesses, who are guarded by a line of naked savages, armed with spears surmounted by human heads." (Hibbert Ware 1882, p.262)

    Florence Marryat, Life & Letters of Capt. Marryat, (London, 1872), Vol. I. p.82
    Mary Hibbert Ware, The Life and Correspondence of the Late Samuel Hibbert Ware (Manchester, 1882)
    Marcus Wood, Blind memory: visual representations of slavery in England and America, 1780-1865, (New York, 2000), p.163

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the inscription is to the mount and not to the reverse of the work itself.