Chapter Summaries


The prologue establishes the main character as a Mayor of Troy (Fowey) prior to the Reform Act of 1832. This Act abolished Troy’s Mayor and Corporation, along with two Members of Parliament. It identifies the narrator as the Chairman of the Harbour Commission, which Q was at the time of writing.

The tone of the prologue is satirical which is appropriate for the first part of the novel, but less so for the second.

Chapter I

Date: From 1803, 16 May

Location: Troy

Chapter I is dated to the period following the rescinding of the Treaty of Amiens which had brought a year of peace to Europe. It describes the establishing of voluntary companies, particularly the Troy Gallants and the Looe Die-hards, to counter the possibility of invasion by the French forces gathering at Boulogne. The Troy Gallants are commanded by Major Solomon Hymen and the Looe Die-hards by Captain AEneas Pond (Thomas Bond).

Gunner Sobey, who takes centre stage in Chapter X, is introduced.
The life and beliefs of Solomon Hymen are described.

The reader is introduced to the minor characters: Miss Pescod, Miss Sally Tregentil, Cai Tamblyn, Scipio, Miss Marty Hymen, Lavinia and Miss Jex.

Chapter II

Date: 1803, May to June

Location: Troy

Story:  The kings of England and Portugal.
            John Polkinghorne and the scoding of dung.
            Sarah Mennear of the Three Pilchards inn.

The establishment at Troy of the Emergency Committee and other preparations for the return of war with France, including the Port Hospital.

The first mention of a Guernsey merchant who appears in Chapter V as M. Cesar Dupin.

Chapter III

Date: 1803

Location: Troy

Story: The University Extension Lecturer.

In Solomon Hymen, Aristotle’s idea of tragedy as the fall of a great man through one weakness, is identified as an inability to laugh.

Date: Sunday, January 5, 1800

The Vicar of Helleston (Helston) preaches a sermon on the Millennium.

The controversy between the vicars of Helleston and Troy on the subject of the Millennium.

Date: 1804, Sunday, March 25
The Vicar of Troy involves the Mayor of Troy in the controversy, which then becomes a general in the town.

Chapter IV

Date: 1804, March to April

Location: Troy

The correspondence between Hymen and Pond regarding the state of readiness of their respective companies, followed by a decision to effect a landing by the Troy Gallants on the territory of the Looe Die-hards at Talland Cove on the night of the 30 April, a Monday.

Story: The miller of Talland

Chapter V

Date: From Sunday 15 April to Saturday 21 April, 1804

Location: Troy

Hymen awaits the arrival of Mr. Pennefather, Collector of Customs, and Dr. Hansombody, an admirer of Miss Marty, for drinks on the terrace of his house. M. Cesar Dupin, a smuggling agent from Guernsey arrives unexpectedly to arrange for a shipment of contraband (from France to Guernsey on Friday, 27 April or Saturday, 28 April), for a landing in Cornwall on Monday, 30 April. When informed of the proposed destination as Talland Cove, Dupin, who also deals through Pond at Looe, suggests that the two events could happen consecutively, although not at the same place.

Chapter VI

Date: 1804, April

Location: Custom House, Troy
Date: April 1804

Biographical details relating to Mr. Pennefather, the Collector of Customs, and Mr. Smellie, the Riding Officer.

Smellie has seen Dupin and has heard of the proposed landing of the Troy Gallants at Talland Cove. He harbours suspicions about Hymen and Pond.

Location: Troy, various

Preparations proceed for the landing of the Troy Gallants and for May morning celebrations at Lerryn, a traditional event.

Dr. Hansombody is requested by Sir Felix Felix-Williams of Pentethy estate, near Lerryn, to be prepared for a summons to Pentethy to deliver a child, which Sir Felix hopes will be a boy.

The reader is introduced to Couch of Polperro, the second lieutenant of the Looe Die-hards. This is Jonathan Couch, although Jonathan was only 15 in 1804 and probably held no senior position.

Major Solomon Hymen has a new will drawn up by Chinn the solicitor, with Hansombody as executor. (The will is read out by Chinn in Chapter XVIII).

Apparently, Smellie has refused to warn the Preventive cutter of his suspicions, as he does not wish to share any success, but is in touch with the Dragoons at Plymouth.

Hymen’s plan is for the contraband craft from Guernsey to mingle with the Mevagissey fishing fleet on the night of Monday, April 30, in Fowey Bay. He informs Hansombody that the contraband will be landed at Talland during the assault, when he is actually arranging for it to be landed at Lerryn during the May morning celebrations. He hopes Smellie will hear a rumour, which indeed he does, instructing the Dragoons to Talland.

Date: Monday, April 30, night

Location: Troy quayside

The Troy Gallants embark for Talland with the Mevagissey fishing fleet riding in Fowey Bay. Arrangements are finalised for the transport of the contraband from the Guernsey boats to three Fowey craft and for it to be sailed up the River Fowey to Lerryn Creek and secreted in Pentethy woods. The following morning, having successfully landed at Talland, the Troy Gallants are to follow the Devil’s Hedge from Looe to Lerryn for a rendezvous with the May revellers.

Chapter VII

Date: 1804, Monday, April 30, night

Location: Talland Cove

The Looe Die-hards surround Talland Cove in expectation of the Troy Gallants.

Story: Squire Buller and Israel Spettigew at the time a combined French and Spanish fleet moored off Plymouth (15 to 18 August, 1779).

Mr. Clogg, senior lieutenant of the Looe Die-hards, tells Captain Pond of another force stationed in Little Park, up the valley from the cove. These turn out to be Mr. Smellie and the 5th Dragoons under Captain Arbuthnot. The Dragoons break cover at the moment the Troy Gallants run their boats on to the sand. Two preventive boats then seal the cove entrance. The boats of the Gallants are searched for contraband but only casks of rotting pilchards are discovered. The voluntary companies are allowed to proceed to the Sloop inn in Looe, while the Dragoons endeavour to find their way to temporary barracks at Bodmin but quickly lose their direction and end up heading for Lerryn.

Chapter VIII

Date: 1804, Tuesday, May 1, from 2 am to 10 am

Location: Troy, Troy River and Lerryn Creek
The day prior to the expected Millennium

Cai Tamblyn rows Miss Marty and Scipio from Broad Slip to the entrance of Lerryn Creek, where Miss Marty follows the ancient custom of turning to the east and washing her face in dew from a riverside meadow.

The longboats conveying M. Dupin’s contraband, which have sailed from the Mevagissey fishing fleet into the Troy estuary, and had picked up the revellers from Troy quay, deposit their kegs below the trees of Pentethy woods. The kegs are hidden in a woodpile while the Troy maidens row up to Lerryn bridge.

Cai subsequently arrives at the bridge and Scipio walks up Lerryn River to the conclusion of the Devil’s Hedge, along which the Gallants are expected from Looe. Seeing a black man, the Looe Die-hards flee back to Looe, a providential retreat as it turns out.

Chapter IX

Date: 1804, Tuesday, May 1

Location: The entrance of Lerryn Creek

A romantic scene involving Miss Marty Hymen and Dr. Hansombody, about which Solomon Hymen is never informed.

Cai Tamblyn calls Dr. Hansombody away to deliver a daughter to Sir Felix Felix-Williams at Pentethy. The returning Gallants discover the contraband in the woods and in an intoxicated state misbehave outside of Pentethy House, with deleterious consequences, as it puts Sir Felix in bad temper.

Chapter X

Date: 1804, night of Monday, April 30, and  morning of Tuesday, May 1

Location: Talland Cove, the Polperro road to Polruan, and Troy

Gunner Sobey, under the impression of a French invasion, rides to Troy on a borrowed mare and proceeds to carry out the instructions given by the Major in the case of such an eventuality, with the vicar implicated in his activities.

Chapter XI

Date: The night of Monday, April 30 to mid-day on Tuesday, May 1

Location: Lerryn and Troy

The Dragoons leave Talland for temporary barracks at Bodmin but get entangled in the lanes around Lanreath and eventually arrive at Lerryn, where they discover the intoxicated Gallants and an enraged Sir Felix. In an act of revenge Sir Felix tells the Dragoons to search the woods, whereupon they discover some of the contraband and some of the Gallants, who are arrested by Smellie and marched off to Bodmin jail.

Major Hymen, who as a Magistrate is safe from arrest for smuggling, returns to Troy to discover the damage done by Gunner Sobey in obeying the instructions in case of invasion.

Date: Wednesday, May 2, am

Major Hymen travels to Plymouth in Boutigo’s Van so as to take legal advice.

Chapter XII

Date: Wednesday, May 2, evening

Location: Plymouth

Hymen arrives in Plymouth where he is accommodated by two former London friends, Mr. and Mrs. Elihu Basket.

After the Baskets depart for the Theatre Royal, where Orlando B. Sturge of London is playing the leading role, Hymen writes out a proposal of marriage to Miss Martha Hymen, informing her of his intention to return to Troy on the fourth. Stepping into the garden he loses his latchkey in the pond and is forced to proceed to the theatre to contact the Baskets. On entry he is diverted by two sailors of the Vesuvius, Ben Jope and Bill Adams, who are leaders of the press-gang.

Chapter XIII

Date: Wednesday, May 2, late evening

Location: The Theatre Royal in Plymouth

The press-gang capture Hymen and the cast of the play, all of whom find themselves aboard the Vesuvius catamaran, which departs in the early morning up channel.

Chapter XIV

Date: 1804, Thursday, May 3

Location: Aboard the Vesuvius between Plymouth and Portsmouth

Hymen and the cast protest at their imprisonment aboard the Vesuvius.

Chapter XV

Date: 1804, Thursday, May 3

Location: The English Channel near Portsmouth

The captain agrees to release the cast but not Hymen.

Chapter XVI

Date: 1804, Friday, May 4

Location: Off Spithead

The cast are transported to Portsmouth while the Vesuvius, with Hymen on board, sails across to join the Gallo-Batavian flotilla off Boulogne.

Date: Saturday, May 5
The Vesuvius catamaran is converted into an exploding craft and fire ship.

Story: Captain Bligh of the Bounty

Date: Friday, June 8, 1804

Location: Off Boulogne

9.30 am. The Vesuvius is towed towards Boulogne pier.

9.45 am. The French open fire. The Vesuvius explodes prematurely and Hymen is taken prisoner.

Chapter XVII

Date: 1804, Thursday, May 3

Location: Troy and Plymouth

Mr. Elihu Basket travels to Troy with Hymen’s letter for Miss Marty to open.

Miss Marty and Dr. Hansombody accompany Mr. Basket back to Plymouth. The pond is searched, revealing the latchkey and Hymen’s snuff box.

Date: Friday, May 4

The Chief Constable of Plymouth blames the disappearance of Hymen on the press-gang and a reward is offered.

Chapter XVIII

Date: Tuesday, May 8, 1804

Location: Troy

Following the return of Miss Marty and Dr. Hansombody on Saturday May 5, on Tuesday, May 8, the Town Council elect Dr. Hansombody Deputy-Mayor pending Hymen’s reappearance.

Story: Richard of Cornwall, King of the Romans


Date: 1804, Monday, July 2

Location: Plymouth

The Chief Constable writes to Hansombody regarding information gathered at the Theatre Royal.


Date: 1804, Tuesday, July 3

Hansombody travels to Plymouth with a miniature of Hymen but it is not recognised. The Chief Constable arrives at Basket’s house with a copy of the Sherborne Mercury. This provides an account of the naval operations off Boulogne on Friday, June 15. It describes the explosion of the Vesuvius and the death of Solomon Hymen.

On Mayor-choosing day Dr. Hansombody is unanimously elected, with news of his engagement to Miss Marty following six weeks later.

Lawyer Chinn reads the will, with monies left to various individuals, including Cai Tamblyn and Scipio Johnson, but most generously towards the founding in the town of the Hymen Hospital.

Chapter XIX

Date: 1814, Saturday, July 2

Location: Troy

The Plymouth and Dock Telegraph details the victory celebrations at Troy for the week from Monday, June 12, in which Sir Felix Felix-Williams, the Mayor and Mayoress, Dr. and Mrs. Hansombody, and the disbanded Troy Gallants play an important part.

Following ten years of imprisonment in France, Solomon Hymen, physically and mentally scarred from his ordeal, approaches Troy to the sound of revelry. He discovers that members of the former company, including Bugler Opie and Gunner Sobey, fail to recognise him.

Chapter XX

Date: From 1814, Thursday, June 16

Location: Troy, the Hymen Hospital

An extract from the Telegraph describes the unveiling of the bust of Solomon Hymen at the Hospital.

An account of Hymen’s imprisonment appears in two flashbacks.
Cai Tamblyn gives a character sketch of Solomon Hymen and an account of who benefited from the will, before realising that the patient is Hymen. He is sworn to secrecy.

Chapter XXI

Date: 1814, June 

Location: Troy

Hymen views a plaque inscribed to him in Troy church, speaks to Scipio, who does not recognise him, and returns to the hospital. He realises that his former popularity was spurious and his associates insincere.

Chapter XXII

Date: August, probably Whit Monday, Regatta Day

Location: Troy

Hymen admits to Tamblyn that he would not wish again to be the man he was in the town. Cai departs on honeymoon, leaving Hymen in charge of the hospital.

At 5pm Sir Felix Felix-Williams arrives, gives a short speech and is confronted by Hymen regarding the betrayal of the Gallants ten years before.

Hymen puts on his old uniform in order to smash his bust. Returning to his former attire he digs up a cash hoard in his garden and discovers Ben Jope amongst the Regatta crowd. He leaves Troy for good in the company of Ben Jope, who promises to secure a place for him on board ship in Plymouth.