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Marriage at Sea - A Romantic Novelette - 1890

Marriage at Sea

This Novelette entitled "Marriage at Sea" by W. Clark Russell [Note 1] was published in the Lippincott Monthly [Note 2] in 1890. While the characters were entirely of Russell's imagination, we suspect that there is some basis in fact.

Comprised of ten chapters, the titles derived from the content, plus an epilogue, this 109-page love story will take most readers 90 minutes or so to read. If marriage at sea sounds like a romantic setting, you will likely find this story an enjoyable read -- even with the occasional "Old English"[Note 3] prose.

The Beautiful Yacht near the Harbor.

Chapter 1: The Elopement

My dandy-rigged yacht, the Spitfire, of twenty-six tons, lay in Boulogne harbor, hidden in the midnight shadow of the wall against which she floated. It was a breathless night, dark despite the wide spread of cloudless sky that was brilliant with stars.


Couple on the Promenade Deck

Chapter 2: "The Spitfire"

"Sweet" is the best word to express her girlish beauty. Though she was three months short of eighteen years of age, she might readily have passed for twenty-one, so womanly was her figure, as though indeed she was tropic-bred and had been reared under suns which quickly ripen a maiden's beauty.


Young Couple Discuss Their Options on Deck.

Chapter 3: Romance at Sea

She colored a rose-red, but bade him good-morning, nevertheless, accompanying the words with an inclination of her form, the graceful and easy dignity of which somehow made me think of the movement of a heavily-foliaged bough set curtsying by the summer wind.


Chapter 4: Stormy Weather

Chapter 4: Stormy Weather

I likewise noticed that she neither plunged nor rolled with greater heaviness than I had observed in her before I lay down. The sensation of her motion was as though she was slowly rounding before the wind and beginning to fly over a surface that had been almost flattened by a hurricane-burst into a dead level of snow.


A Sailor Braves the Storm.

Chapter 5: Shipwreck and Rescue

"Mr. Barclay," he answered, "if the weather do but moderate I shall have no fear. Our case ain't hopeless yet, by a long way, sir. The water's to be kept under by continuous pumping, and there are hands enough and to spare for that job. We're not in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but in the mouth of the English Channel, with plenty of shipping knocking about.


Calm After the Storm

Chapter 6: The Carthusian

There was nothin to be seen but the Carthusian rolling solemnly and grandly to windward, and the glancing of white heads of foam arching out of the thickness and running sullenly, but with weight, too, along the course of the wind.


A Ship is not a Church ...

Chapter 7: A Ship is Not a Church

"Why do you wonder?"

"If there is a parson on board he might be able to marry us."

She colored, smiled, and looked grave all in a breath.

"A ship is not a church," said she, almost demurely.


The Sea Captain

Chapter 8: But the Captain is In Charge

Until we have been joined by a clergyman in proper shipshape fashion, as Captain Parsons himself might say, we shall not be man and wife; but then, my darling, consider this: first of all it is in the highest degree probable that a marriage performed on board a ship by her captain is legal.


The Captain Discusses the Wedding with his senior staff.

Chapter 9: The Mermaid

"No, sir," answered Captain Parsons, with true sea-grace, and putting his hand on my arm he carried me right aft. "The hour's at hand," said he. "Who's to be present, Do you know? for if it's to be private we don't want a crowd."


The Ship Is Homeward Bound.

Chapter 10: Homeward Bound

Now that we were fairly going home, being driven towards the English Channel at a steady pace of some twelve or thirteen knots in the hour by the steady resistless thrust of the propeller, we could find heart to abandon ourselves to every delightful sensation born of the sweeping passage of the beautiful steamer


Well, he sat with me for half an hour, talking over the dandy and our adventures


Well, he sat with me for half an hour, talking over the dandy and our adventures, then left me, and I went into the town to make a few necessary purchases, missing the society of my darling as though I had lost my right arm.


Note 1: William Clark Russell (24 February 1844 – 8 November 1911) was an English writer best known for his nautical novels. At the age of 13 Russell joined the United Kingdom's Merchant Navy, serving for eight years. The hardships of life at sea damaged his health permanently but provided him with material for a career as a writer. He wrote short stories, press articles, historical essays, biographies and a book of verse, but was known best for his novels, most of which were about life at sea. He maintained a simultaneous career as a journalist, principally as a columnist on nautical subjects for The Daily Telegraph.

Note 2: Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a 19th-century literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915, when it relocated to New York to become McBride's Magazine. It merged with Scribner's Magazine in 1916. Lippincott's published original works, general articles, and literary criticism.

Note 3: Some of the Old English words have been altered for improved readability and comprehension.

Note 4: Marriage at Sea was published without images. Our images used to illustrate this story were sourced from:

  • Various issues from the year 1890 of The Quiver Illustrated Magazine for Sunday and General Reading, Cassell & Company, Ltd., Published from 1866-1907.
  • The 15 June 1901 Issue of The Sphere: An Illustrated Newspaper for the Home and, later, The Sphere: The Empire's Illustrated Weekly, was a British newspaper, published by London Illustrated Newspapers weekly from 27 January 1900 until the closure of the paper on 27 June 1964.
  • January 1916 issue of Woman's Home Companion, an American monthly magazine, published from 1873 to 1957. It was highly successful, climbing to a circulation peak of more than four million during the 1930s and 1940s. The magazine was headquartered in Springfield, Ohio, and discontinued in 1957.
  • The April 1901 issue of The World's Work (published 1900–1932), a monthly magazine that covered national affairs from a pro-business point of view. It was produced by the publishing house Doubleday, Page and Company, which provided the first editor, Walter Hines Page. The first issue appeared in November 1900, with an initial press run of 35,000.


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