At the age of 75, Elijah Cobb wrote this memoir for his grandchildren. In it, he describes his “avenchures,” telling of his captures and escapes as he dodges the English and the French who close each other’s ports, hoping to starve one another into submission. The confiscation of his ship and cargo by the French, his meeting with Robespierre (whose name he cannot spell), smuggling, creating alternative trade routes, beating the Embargo of 1807, being captured by the British as the War of 1812 opens—these are recounted with wry humor and a certain flair.
Deborah Hill uses these recollections as the point of departure for her epic novel, This is the House. Cobb’s writing lends historical and personal authenticity to her fictional captain, Elijah Merrick, whose wife “ran him in debt for a Cape Cod farm” just as Cobb’s did.
125 years after Cobb left an account of his career, Hill wrote the first edition of her novel. She was living on Cape Cod at the time, and had access to ancient town and church records and, of course, the first edition of Cobb’s recollections. “It was too great an opportunity to pass up, with the bi-centennial of the Revolution coming along,” she tells us. “Now, with the bi-centennial of the War of 1812 starting this year, it seems like a good time to issue second editions of both.”