Frederick Chamier

Frederick Chamier (1796 – 29 October 1870) was an English novelist, autobiographer and naval captain born in London. He was the author of several nautical novels that remained popular through the 19th century.[1]


Chamier was the son of an Anglo-Indian official, John Ezechial Chamier and his wife Georgiana, daughter of Vice-Admiral Sir William Burnaby.[2]

He entered the Royal Navy in 1809, joining the frigate Salsette as a midshipman. [3] In May 1810, while serving on Salsette, Chamier watched Lord Byron swim across the Hellespont at the second attempt. He described the episode in his autobiography.

After service on the 74-gun Fame, he was transferred to Arethusa fighting the slave trade, followed by another transfer to Menelaus. He briefly commanded the 10-gun brig Britomart in 1827, but thereafter was very soon paid off.[4] He took no further employment, and in 1833 was placed on the retired list of the navy, on which he was promoted to be captain on 1 April 1856.[3]

Retiring in 1827, he wrote his autobiography, The Life of a Sailor, which was serialised in The Metropolitan Magazine (1831–32). He also wrote nautical novels somewhat in the style of Marryat, including The Unfortunate Man (1835), Ben Brace, the Last of Nelson's Agamemnons (1836), The Arethusa (1837), Jack Adams, the Mutineer (1838), The Spitfire (1840), Tom Bowling (1841) and Jack Malcolm's Log (1846). In addition, he continued William James's Naval History and wrote some books of travel.

Frederick Chamier claimed to be descended from the 17th-century French Huguenot politician Daniel Chamier. He died on 29 October 1870 in Paris and was survived by his wife.[5]


Chamier's most popular books were:

  • Life of a Sailor, reprinted six times between 1832 and 1873,[6]
  • Ben Brace, reprinted eleven between 1836 and 1905,
  • Tom Bowling, reprinted five times between 1858 and 1905, and
  • The Spitfire, reprinted three times between 1840 and 1861.

In 1870 The Times described Chamier as "a veteran novelist, one, indeed, whose sea novels some quarter of a century ago were almost as universally popular as those of Captain Marryat."[7]


  1. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chamier, Frederick" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 825.
  2. "The Chamiers of Epsom". Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  3. Laughton 1887.
  4. Nelson's Navy in Fiction and Film. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  5. J. K. Laughton, "Chamier, Frederick (1796–1870)", rev. Roger Morriss, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 Retrieved 1 March 2015. Pay-walled.
  6. A new edition appeared in 2011: The life of a sailor: Frederick Chamier, edited and introduced by Vincent McInerney (Barnsley: Seaforth).
  7. The only detailed publication on Chamier's life and works is a PhD dissertation by P. J. van der Voort, The Pen and the Quarterdeck (Leiden University Press, 1972).

Further reading

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons via Wikisource.

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