FORESTER” (1820–1895). An influential publisher of American periodicals, Maturin Murray Ballou was born in Boston. He traveled extensively
and entered the literary world by writing descriptive letters of his adventures
for publication in local newspapers. The editor and/or publisher of ten periodicals, including the Boston Globe (1872–1874) and Ballou’s Pictorial
Drawing-Room Companion (1854–1859), Ballou was a pioneer in producing the kind of popular genre material that would eventually flourish in
dime novels. As the author of forty-two books, more than half of them
under the pseudonym “Lieut. Murray,” Ballou specialized in exotic locales,
dangerous situations, and broadly drawn characters. He circumnavigated the
globe in 1882, and the trip provided much of his material.
Under his own name, Ballou’s work was mostly straightforward travel:
Due West; or Round the World in Ten Months (1884) and Under the Southern Cross; or Travels in Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Samoa and
Other Pacific Islands (1888) are examples. Among the nautical romances he
wrote as “Lieut. Murray” are Fanny Campbell; or, The Female Pirate Captain (1844); Red Rupert, the American Buccanier (1845); Roderick the
Rover (1847); The Cabin Boy; or, Life on the Wing (1848); The Adventurer;
or, The Wreck on the Indian Ocean (1848); The Naval Officer; or, The Pirate’s Cave: A Tale of the Last War (1849); The Sea-Witch; or, The African
Quadroon: A Story of the Slave Coast (1855); The Pirate Smugglers; or, The
Last Cruise of the Viper (1861); and Captain Lovell; or, The Pirate’s Cave;
A Tale of the War of 1812 (1870). He also apparently wrote two books
under the pseudonym “Frank Forester,” including Albert Simmons; or, The
Midshipman’s Revenge: A Tale of Land & Sea (1845).
Ballou’s nautical romances are informed not only by his own extensive
sea travel but also by knowledge he gained as a young man when he was
employed as deputy navy-agent in the Boston Custom House. Ballou sometimes positioned the pseudonymous Murray as a historical personage, and
the confusion he generated has continued for a century and a half. The
heroine of Fanny Campbell, for instance, who could “row a boat, shoot a
panther, ride the wildest horse in the province, or do almost any brave or
useful act . . . and could write poetry too,” is still described by some scholars
as a historical figure. The illustration of Fanny on the cover of the book was
ideal in size and subject matter for transfer to a sperm whale’s tooth, consequently becoming one of the most popular subjects of nineteenth-century
whalemen’s scrimshaw.