Capt. Daniel Roberts (British 1789-1869) Watercolour panorama of Genoa
Lot 155
Capt. Daniel Roberts
(British 1789-1869)
A panorama view of Genoa from the sea
Sold for £ 17,500 (US$ 24,273) inc. premium

The Marine Sale

15 Apr 2014, 14:00 BST

London, Knightsbridge

Lot Details
Capt. Daniel Roberts (British 1789-1869) Watercolour panorama of Genoa Capt. Daniel Roberts (British 1789-1869) Watercolour panorama of Genoa
Capt. Daniel Roberts (British 1789-1869)
A panorama view of Genoa from the sea
watercolour over etched outline on seven sheets, laid onto linen and bound into a morocco folio with gold-tooled titles
31.3 x 311.5cm (12 5/16 x 122 5/8in).


  • Daniel Roberts (18 February 1789 – 18 February 1869) was an officer in the Royal Navy. He is most remembered for making a series of cameo-like appearances in the lives of Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edward Ellerker Williams, and Edward John Trelawny. Most significantly, Roberts designed and supervised the construction of Shelley's schooner, Don Juan, and Lord Byron's yacht, Bolivar.

    Robert's father Captain Henry Roberts died when Roberts was seven. By the age of ten, he had enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Volunteer 1st Class.
    On enlisting in July 1799, he was briefly assigned to the 64-gun HMS Overyssel, however he was discharged from the ship in November 1799, probably on account of his age as the Navy typically preferred new enlistees be at least thirteen years old. Once of age, Roberts was ordered aboard HMS Blenheim, on 13 June 1802, where he served as a midshipman.
    After eight further months ashore, he was assigned, on 28 June 1803, to the recently launched HMS Euryalus, a 36-gun frigate. It was here, under a prominent naval personality, Captain Henry Blackwood, that at the age of 15, Roberts first experienced naval warfare in an assault on French vessels off Boulogne pier, in October 1804. After serving for almost two years under Captain Blackwood, and five months before Euryaluswas to make a significant contribution to Nelson's fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, Roberts was again on shore for three months. On 8 April 1805, he joined a hospital ship, HMS Trent for one month, returning to Euryalus for just two weeks and five days until on 23 August 1805 he joined another 36-gun frigate, HMS Penelope, stationed off the French coast in the Bay of Biscay. This ship did not join in the Battle of Trafalgar; instead she was part of the fleet, which was blockading the French coast and almost captured Napoléon Bonaparte's younger brother Jérôme Bonaparte, captain of the Vétéran in August 1806.
    Roberts served aboard Penelope until 26 May 1807, when Captain William Robert Broughton took command of HMS Illustrious, a larger 74-gun Ship of the Line. It is not known how many members of his crew Captain Broughton took with him; that Roberts, at the age of 18, was one of them is proof that his Captain valued his service. Upon joining Illustrious, Roberts was made a Master's mate. Roberts was again on a ship that was to enter into combat. On the night of 11 April 1809, a British fleet of 25 ships attacked a powerful squadron of French ships anchored in the Basque Roads, a sheltered bay on the Biscay shore of France, bounded by the Ile d'Oléron to the west and Île de Ré to the north. The Battle of Basque Roads was initiated when the British sent several explosion ships into the Roads to blow holes in a mile-long boom of heavy spars and chains the French had placed to prevent enemy vessels from reaching their warships.

    In the attack all but two of the French ships were driven ashore. Although the engagement was to last three days, the British failed to destroy the French fleet; however, one result of the engagement was that on 12 July 1809, Master's mate Daniel Roberts, age 20, was promoted to Lieutenant. For the next two years he was on board HMS Phoenix, a 36-gun frigate. On 10 January 1810, Roberts' ship successfully chased the 14-gun French privateer Charles, In this engagement Roberts was in charge of one of the boats that carried marines and seamen who boarded the Charles, finding on board two English masters and 13 seamen who had been taken out of vessels a few days previously.
    This event led to Roberts' court martial. His conduct during the battle was criticized by a marine officer of Phoenix, Lieutenant William Murray, who wrote a letter of accusation to the captain of the ship. Consequently, a commission to judge Roberts' professional behaviour was formed. On 17 April 1810 not only were all the accusations discharged, his behaviour was considered worthy and honourable while Murray's accusation was labelled as "totally unfounded and subversive of the discipline of the Service." After a year in service in the West Indies, Roberts rejoined HMS Illustrious as officer. Three months later, his ship was engaged in combat with the enemy in the invasion of Java. By 20 September 1815 he was posted to a ship of his own, HMS Hydra.
    Roberts commanded his troopship for two years before returning to England from Canada in September 1817; from there he retired to the South of France.

    As well as an illustrious naval career, Daniel Roberts is also recognised as being responsible for the design and construction of Shelley's schooner, Don Juan, and Lord Byron's yacht, Bolivar. A week before Shelley and Williams were drowned in a storm off of the coast of Italy (8 July 1822), Roberts had sailed with them in the Don Juan on the exact reverse course they were taking when the tragedy occurred. In June 1823, Byron asked Roberts to join his entourage, which was to sail to Greece. Roberts declined the invitation, preferring to remain in Genoa; he did however join with Byron's banker in locating and arranging for the charter of the merchant brig Hercules, the vessel that took Byron to Missolonghi, where he died in 1824. Throughout his life, Roberts maintained a close friendship with Edward Trelawny. It was Trelawny who asked Roberts to design the boats for the poets. A year following the fatal accident, Roberts purchased the remains of the schooner Don Juan and after making repairs, he sailed it single-handed for several years. After losing the Don Juan, Roberts purchased the Bolivar, which Byron had sold prior to going to Greece. These voyages are fully covered in his Journals. Roberts also continued corresponding with other members of the Pisan Circle, such as Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont.

    In 1857, when Edward Trelawny was preparing to publish his Recollections of the last days of Shelley and Byron, he asked Roberts to make a sketch of Casa Magni, where Shelley had been living at the time of his drowning. Trelawny not only included Robert's sketch, but he also published a number of extracts from Robert's letters.
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