Author Patrick O'Brian dies in Dublin


Patrick O'Brian, author of some 33 books including a celebrated Napoleonic seafaring series, has died in Dublin, aged 85.

The British novelist-historian, whose real name was Richard Patrick Russ, died suddenly on Sunday evening in a hotel in the city centre. He had been staying in Trinity College over the winter. Mr O'Brian had lived in a southern French village, Collioure, with his second wife, for almost 50 years.

Although best known for the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels, based around a collection of seafaring characters, O'Brian's many novels also include Testimonies, The Golden Ocean and The Unknown Shore. He also wrote a number of short story collections and biographies of Pablo Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks, and translated many works from French.

The Aubrey-Maturin series comprised some 20 novels and is about Capt Jack Aubrey RN and the physician-naturalist-spy Stephen Maturin, his close friend in the long struggle against Napoleon.

Though rarely on the bestseller lists, the series has a devoted following. Mr Sean McGowan of Waterstone's bookshop in Dublin said O'Brian's books were very popular.

O'Brian was born in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, in 1914. He was one of nine children and his older brother, Sidney Michael Russ, is thought to have been the model for his Aubrey character.

Many readers of the series assumed the half-Irish, half-Catalan Catholic character, Maturin, was based on the author himself, O'Brian being assumed by most to have been half-Irish.

Russ invented his Irish persona. He was of German origin, the grandson of a Leipzig furrier.

O'Brian's body will be removed from Massey's funeral home in the Coombe in Dublin this morning before being flown from Shannon to France. He is survived by his son from his first marriage, Richard Russ, his second wife, Ms Mary Tolstoy-Miroslavska, and his stepson, Nikolai Tolstoy-Miroslavska.