Cover image for Caliban's shore : the wreck of the Grosvenor and the strange fate of her survivors
Caliban's shore : the wreck of the Grosvenor and the strange fate of her survivors
Taylor, Stephen, 1948-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2004]

Physical Description:
xvi, 297 pages : illustrations, ; 24 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


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DT1813 .T395 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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What became of the castaways was stranger than fiction...and more than decent Englishmen could bear. In the summer of 1783 the grandees of the East India Company were horrified to learn that one of their finest ships, the 741-ton Grosvenor, had been lost on the wild and unexplored coast of southeast Africa. Astonishingly, most of those on board reached the shore safely91 members of the crew and 34 wealthy, high-born passengers, including women and children. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest European outpostand they were not alone. "They surveyed one another with mutual incomprehension: on the one hand the dishevelled castaways; on the other, black warriors with high conical hairstyles, daubed with red mud...." Drawing upon unpublished material and new research, Stephen Taylor pieces together the strands of this compelling saga, sifting the myths from a reality that is no less gripping. Full of unexpected twists, Caliban's Shore takes the reader to the heart of what is now South Africa, to analyze the misunderstandings that led to tragedy, to tell the story of those who returned, and to unravel the mystery of those who stayed.

Author Notes

Stephen Taylor grew up in South Africa and now works for The Times of London

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the summer of 1782, an East India Company ship, the 741-ton Grosvenor, ran aground and sank off the southeast coast of Africa, the shore about 100 yards away; 91 crewmen and 34 British passengers survived. Taylor describes in detail what he was able to learn of the survivors' lives and recounts the vessel's structure and the calamitous weather that led to the disaster. For the castaways, the natural world of Africa might have been another planet, Taylor writes, describing its plants and animals, rivers and insects. Some of the passengers and crew eventually returned home, but others stayed. The author visited the coast three times in the course of writing this book, and his research included nearly 80 sources. This incredible, true story reads like the wildest fiction. --George Cohen Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Grosvenor's passengers and crew feared shipwreck and death, but "shipwreck and survival was not a possibility that anyone had much considered." When the England-bound mercantile ship ran aground in heavy seas off Africa on August 4, 1782, death would have been easier for the 125 who made it ashore. Drawing primarily on two contemporary reports, British historian Taylor reassembles the Grosvenor's story with precision and vision, making each passenger a character and each incident a fate twist. Merchants and children, Anglicans and Muslims, officers and gentlewomen were stranded without weapons or food on shores inhabited by the Pondo tribe in present-day South Africa. Fearful that the peaceful natives would turn hostile, the survivors struck out along the coast for known European settlements. But the bad decision-making that had resulted in shipwreck produced more disaster, and, by the end, only 13 survivors of the wreck are accounted for. Over the years, as news of the fate of the Grosvenor and its passengers drifted back to Britain, the ship and its fate became legendary, even Dickens contributing. The book may not resonate for Americans as much as for more direct descendants of the British Empire, but Taylor has brought the ship and its survivors to modern eyes with this commendable work. Photos. Agents, Caroline Dawnay and Peter Matson. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Raised in South Africa, British and U.S. newspaper correspondent Taylor (Shaka's Children) acts on his lifelong interest in the famous 1783 wreck of the 741-ton Grosvenor, an East India Company trade ship, off the far southeast coast of Africa. The result is an engrossing account of the truth behind the event. Most of those on board reached the shore safely, including 91 crew and 34 wealthy passengers, among them women and children. Once ashore, the tale takes intriguing twists and turns, and Taylor digs deep into formerly unpublished material and newfound stories left by some of the survivors to reveal their fate. Taylor nicely pieces together the various parts of this story, providing a solid analysis of the origins of the tragedy, relating the full story of those who returned, and unraveling the mystery of those who stayed. In the end, he provides more background on those who came to grief in the disaster than found in Percival R. Kirby's The True Story of the Grosvenor. Highly recommended for all nautical and South Africa history collections in academic and larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/04.]-Dale Farris, Groves, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Mapsp. x
Prologuep. xiii
1 'A Man of High Character'p. 3
2 Lord Macartney's Displeasurep. 20
3 Island of Oakp. 33
4 A Light in the Darkp. 53
5 'Nothing but Confusion and Dismay'p. 67
6 The Caliban Shorep. 79
7 Pondo's Peoplep. 94
8 A Fatal Dreadp. 104
9 'Never After Together Again'p. 115
10 Faultlinesp. 125
11 Habberley's Missionp. 135
12 'A Sacred Charge'p. 145
13 Caliban Transformedp. 157
14 The Fate of William Hoseap. 170
15 'The Vilest Brutish Prostitution'p. 180
16 African Crusoesp. 195
17 The Questp. 207
18 'Our Fathers Are Come'p. 219
19 Gquma's Tribep. 230
20 'When the Long Trick's Over'p. 243
Epiloguep. 253
Acknowledgementsp. 261
Sourcesp. 263
Notesp. 269
List of Illustrationsp. 285
Indexp. 287