The frank and revealing memoirs of James Lowry, a young surgeon in Nelson's Mediterranean fleet 1797 to 1804.
This is his hand-written journal, never intended for publication, describing his rugged life afloat and fascinating (often erotic) adventures ashore.
As one reviewer wrote, it is a "fantastic primary [historical] source and is full of firsthand accounts of several conflicts in His Majesty's Navy. While he describes details of battles hitherto unknown or lost to legend, personal details give a fuller understanding of the period's culture and daily life. These things are priceless and most often lost [when] over edited or in fictional accounts of history."
Lowry, classically educated in Ireland, apparently went to sea for no better reason than to satisfy his sense of adventure. He experienced plenty of naval action from just after the battle of the Nile, but what seems to particularly engage his interest (and enthusiasm) was the relaxed sexual mores of Italian society. Intended only for the eyes of his younger brother in Ireland he recounts his land-based escapades with relish, and perhaps in rather more detail than then was proper.
In addition to his liaisons with lissome ladies, Lowry faced a number of life-and-death situations. Once, while calmly treating a wounded marine during a land battle a cannonball took off the head of a good friend right beside him, temporarily blinding Lowry with gore. During his enlistment he survived a terrifying shipwreck as well as an assassin's stiletto. He also had a guided tour of an Arab potentate's harem. All in all, quite a varied and interesting life.
The modern reader is fortunate to have Lowry's fascinating narrative and personal anecdotes that have remained hidden in the hands of his descendants for more than two centuries.