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Never intended for publication, these revealing memoirs by an adventurous Irish surgeon were written to satisfy the curiosity of a younger brother back home and have remained in the hands of James Lowry's descendants for the past two centuries. They are being published now for the first time because today's readers are certain to find Lowry's account of life in Nelson's Mediterranean Fleet both enlightening and entertaining. Sent to join Nelson's victorious fleet in 1797 after the battle of the Nile, the young surgeon experienced plenty of naval action and saw more foreign shores than he anticipated, putting him in contact with a variety of cultures. In addition to taking part in the campaign against the remnant of Napoleon's army in Egypt, he was particularly attracted to the relaxed social mores of Neapolitan society.
The title of this book is a reference to Nelson's famous description of Naples as "a country of fiddlers and poets, whores and scoundrels." This world was eagerly embraced by the young Irish doctor, and while his reminiscences may include an element of boasting, Lowry's descriptions of naval life in the Mediterranean of Nelson's day ring true. Many of the seemingly unlikely events that he describes have been confirmed from other sources, notably the surfacing of the corpse of an executed rebel alongside Nelson's flagship to terrify the visiting Neapolitan king. Equally interesting is Lowry's description of the "wooden world" of the navy, which he chronicles with the slightly bemused eye of an outsider.