The Sea Is My Element

The Eventful Life of Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm, 1766-1838

Paul Martinovich

The life of an important but little-known naval officer seen through his personal letters, and exploring the naval and social history of the late Georgian era.
Date Published :
June 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
33 b/w illustrations, 21 color illustrations, 8 b/w maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781913336578
Pages : 386
Dimensions : 9.21 X 6.14 inches
Stock Status : Available


The life of Pulteney Malcolm, a Royal Navy officer active during and after the Napoleonic Wars, is now all but forgotten, except perhaps for his role in guarding Napoleon on St Helena. However in his time he was famous, celebrated for his daring and seamanship. For six years Malcolm commanded the ship of the line Donegal, fighting in the Battle of San Domingo and blockading French warships in their ports. He was involved in the aftermath of Trafalgar and the events surrounding Waterloo, and came to know many of the great men of his time, including Nelson, Wellington and Napoleon. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he spent his entire active career afloat, justifying his proud claim that the sea was his element. His achievements in over 40 years of war and peace were all the greater, given his modest origins in the Scottish Borders.

This biography is based in large part on Malcolm’s personal letters to members of his family, particularly to his wife Clementina. The several hundred letters reveal a man who was at once a humane commander, a brilliant seaman, a convivial friend, and a loving husband. While the book offers a portrait of a man devoted to his service, the letters range over far more than naval activity, illuminating an eventful life in a turbulent age. Thus Malcolm’s story demonstrates not only the growing professionalism of the Royal Navy, but also the social and economic pressures changing British society.

About The Author

Paul Martinovich had a 25 year career as a museum planner in Canada, the United States and Ireland. During that time he devised the interpretative approach and wrote or edited the text for dozens of museum exhibitions, with topics ranging from ancient mammals to Irish folk life, and including a number of military subjects. Now he spends his time pursuing a long-held interest in the Napoleonic Wars, particularly its naval aspects. He has contributed a number of items to the Navy Records Society’s on-line magazine, but this is his first book.


"...a beautifully researched and produced book and should be a ‘must’ for any serious student of the Royal Navy in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Highly recommended."

- The Napoleon Series

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