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Kettle, Captain. Captain Kettle was created by C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne (John Bryn-Scarlett, Mr. Horrocks, Commander McTurk) and appeared in forty-one stories and seventeen novels and short story collections from 1896 to 1938; his first appearance as a central character was in “Stealing a President” (Pearson’s Magazine, Jun. 1896).

Captain Owen Kettle is an English ship's captain without a ship. He hires himself out to anyone who will pay him and who owns a ship--Kettle has a wife and children who he loves, and he has to support them in whatever way he can. The payment is the thing, for Kettle; the morality of the job itself does not bother him. He is even willing to run a blockade shipping arms to rebels in Cuba, as long as he gets paid. But Kettle is unfortunate in his choice of ships, and his best efforts usually go unrewarded.

Kettle is a short, cigar smoking, red bearded, pugnacious, brutal character but not entirely without a conscience. He says of himself

I quite well know the kind of brute I am; trouble with a crew or any other set of living men at sea is just meat and drink to me, and I'm bitterly ashamed of the taste. Every time I sit underneath our minister in the chapel here in South Shields I grow more ashamed. And if you heard the beautiful poetical way that man talks of peace and green fields, and golden harps, you'd understand.

Kettle has a conscience, but the only way he knows to rule a crew is through fear, and he must be brutal to do that. When faced with a mutiny he is willing to kill the mutineers. When confronted with a blockade ship that he wants to pass, he contemplates boarding it and taking it by “sheer hand to hand fighting.” When appointed king by the Cubans he is willing to shoot rebels. Raven a harsh anti-hero. And yet he is not unlikable. He has his own sort of charisma and he is given to writing poetry in tight spots.

* I'm including the Captain Kettle stories and novels in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because they're enjoyable reads. C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne was a moderately talented writer, but he struck gold with the Captain Kettle stories, which allowed him to indulge his enthusiasm for sea stories and his wish to imitate William Hope Hodgson's sea stories, which were very popular. The Captain Kettle stories became similarly popular--good for Hyne!--which is understandable--they are, as mentioned, enjoyable reads, well-told and sometimes rollicking nautical adventures which haven't aged much. 

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