This navy list was published by Steel’s in February 1799.
What is a navy list?
A navy list is a record of officers who served in the navy, usually listed alphabetically and according to rank. It might include other information, such as the names of officers who had recently died while serving, the state of boats, naval establishments on land, pay scales and uniform regulations.
Steel’s Original and Correct List of the Royal Navy
Many publishing houses produced naval lists. During Jane Austen’s lifetime, Steel’s was one of the most popular and prolific.
Who used navy lists?
Although navy lists were useful for officers, they were also read by non-naval men and women. Those who had friends, family or acquaintances in the navy could use the lists as a way of keeping informed about officers they knew. Because navy lists usually listed officers by rank, readers could find out not only whether particular men were still alive and serving, but how far they had progressed within the navy.
Navy lists in Jane Austen's novels
In Persuasion, Anne looks in navy lists and newspapers to find out about Wentworth’s progress after she has broken off their engagement. This is how she finds out details of the enemy ships that Wentworth has captured, and the fact that he has been promoted from commander to captain. Through these documents, she discovers that Wentworth has become rich, since captains were entitled to a significant proportion of the value of captured ships and their contents.
Two of Jane Austen’s brothers, Francis and Charles, were in the navy. It is very likely that Austen would have used navy lists as well as letters from her brothers to find out about their progress. Austen’s letters show that she, like Anne Elliot, also looked to newspapers for naval news, and especially for news of those she knew. In 1801, she wrote to her sister Cassandra that ‘Mr Holder’s paper tells us that sometime in late August, Capt: Austen & the Petterell were very active in securing a Turkish Ship (driven into a Port in Cyprus by bad weather) from the French’.